The Canucks explored trading for additional goalie depth after veteran Richard Bachman suffered a season-ending Achilles’ tear last month, GM Jim Benning acknowledged to Postmedia’s Patrick Johnston. However, they weren’t able to find a deal they liked at the time. They hoped that the acquisition of Mike McKenna earlier this week would give them a boost with AHL Utica but those plans were put on hold with Philadelphia claiming McKenna off waivers earlier today. All of a sudden, their depth between the pipes is extremely thin.
Vancouver has just one remaining healthy goalie on an NHL contract behind Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko, their new tandem. That’s prospect Michael DiPietro who just came off a strong showing at the World Juniors but he isn’t eligible to play in the AHL this season (at least until the conclusion of his OHL campaign). While that makes him eligible to be an emergency recall to the Canucks should one of Markstrom or Demko go down with an injury, it doesn’t help their situation on the farm.
Utica has Belarusian netminder Ivan Kulbakov on a minor league contract and while the 22-year-old was supposed to spend most of the season at the ECHL level, he’s now thrust into the top job with the Comets. In a pinch, they could convert his deal to an NHL entry-level pact to give them another recall option but that would require a commitment beyond this season which they may not be willing to do given how he has fared thus far.
With that in mind, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Benning reprise his efforts to get another goaltender that’s on an NHL contract to supplement their depth and give them another recall option in case of injury. They could wait to see if they can reclaim and demote McKenna if the Flyers eventually make him available but with there being a few teams with goalie injuries at the moment, it has been difficult to get goalies through unclaimed this season. In the meantime, they’ll be using the minor league PTO route for the time being to give them a second AHL goalie but that’s not a feasible long-term strategy. Sooner than later, Vancouver will need to make a move of some sort to give themselves some depth between the pipes.