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Canucks Goalie Shuffle, Martin, Trade? Try Back to Reality

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Vancouver Canucks, Spencer Martin
Vancouver Canucks goalie Spencer Martin postgame in Winnipeg on Thursday night.

Trade a Vancouver Canucks goalie?!

Whoa. Are we trading the newly discovered 26-year-old Spencer Martin with a grand total of one National Hockey League win or are we trading 36-year-old Jaroslav Halak who has a no-move clause in his contract? Did I miss something? Is it mid-March? Are the Vancouver Canucks now five-deep in NHL calibre goalies?

Didn’t think so.

What a wonderful week for Martin, who ran his career NHL record to 1-2-and-3 with a shoot-out loss to the Florida Panthers, an overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers and a victory over the Winnipeg Jets in which his teammates out-worked an often flat-footed Jets squad.

Martin’s three previous NHL starts came with the Colorado Avalanche back in the 2016-’17 season with a record of 0-2-and-1. Thursday night’s 33 save performance in Winnipeg earned him his first NHL victory.

“It’s incredibly special, just even to get an opportunity to play,” Martin told the media postgame, “having it go well and to get a win is, I don’t know if it’s sunk in yet, but hopefully I just keep building off of it and it’s a really special day for me.”

Fantastic, but settle down kids before you start a goaltending controversy. You’ve got a star in Demko and a veteran stalwart in Halak back-stopping this team normally, and depending on the playoff race considerations and the future of the roster, they’re not going to toss aside either of those for a goalie who’s played six NHL games over a five-year period.

Unless someone offers a relative king’s ransom, which they’re not, or if Halak suddenly decides for some reason he wants to play in Buffalo.

Oddly enough, Halak, the regular Canucks back-up who would have typically started Thursday night with number-one goalie Thatcher Demko out of the line-up in Covid protocol, sat on the bench as Martin’s back-up. Halak was literally just back from protocol after being off the ice for two weeks.

When the game concluded, Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau pulled back on the reins.

“We know we have another goalie in the system that we can call up and have confidence in, anytime,” Boudreau said. “He played great, but we’ve also got Demko and Halak who’ve proven that they’re great goaltenders. There’s not going to be a decision, it’s going to be a decision that when we do have the two healthy goalies, we will know we have a third just waiting to get, just itching to get to the NHL.”

Martin’s soft goal against Edmonton started the Oilers third period comeback. A big blip in just a three game sample, despite the excellent play otherwise.

“He’s been consistent for three games,” Boudreau added, “I’m sure he’d be consistent if we had to play him a fourth.”

But not consistent enough at this point to completely gut the organization’s limited netminding depth by moving one. The Canucks would then be going from the best one-two punch in the division to being one injury away from a potential goaltending catastrophe. We’re not sure they’re ready to do that at this juncture.

This team’s near and mid-term future plans, its management’s mandate, remain cloudy and under evaluation. It would seem there is a strong desire from ownership to somehow find a way to get this team to the 2022 postseason and the revenue that comes with it. February becomes the pivotal month. Most importantly, the roster – knock on wood – should finally be Covid free.

For now, things are settling and the pecking order is being re-established. Michael DiPietro has already been transacted from the taxi squad back to the Abbotsford Canucks of the AHL. Momentarily, Demko and Halak will be the NHL Vancouver Canucks goalies again and Martin will be on the taxi squad.

VHN Managing Editor Rob Simpson has been covering the NHL for three decades on live TV, radio, and as a journalist. He worked his first ever game getting postgame sound as a teenager; it was Vancouver vs. Detroit.

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