The Vancouver Canucks have several restricted free agents to get under contract before next season, but they’ve managed to get a prominent one done early on this off-season. The Canucks announced today that they have signed goaltender Thatcher Demko to a two-year contract extension. The new deal carries a $1.05MM AAV in each of the two seasons, a value that could prove to be a bargain for the promising netminder. On top of that, the 23-year-old will again be an RFA at the conclusion of this contract, making this very much a risk-free move by Vancouver.
Demko, a second-round pick out of Boston College in 2014, has been slow to come along, but has finally started to live up to his draft stock. The talented young keeper appeared in only on NHL game in 2017-18 (and struggled), but made nine appearances this year to the tune of a .913 save percentage. That alone is good for a rookie goalie, but even more promising when paired with three years of strong AHL numbers. While Demko has good size at 6’4″, he is first and foremost and athletic goalie. He doesn’t need to use his reflexes to compensate for his stature, but has those next-level instincts all the same. Yet, he also has composure that stands out against other young goalies. With continued coaching, Demko could be a top goalie in the NHL
Demko has been a rising star since Boston College through AHL Utica and will now take on a full-time roll in Vancouver. The question remaining is how soon he will be expected to be the starter. Despite his ample ability, Demko’s window may be small. Current starter Jacob Markstrom is signed through next season; given Demko’s reasonable salary, the team may opt to extend Markstrom as well if Demko cannot assume starter duty in 2019-20. On the other end of the spectrum, if Demko can’t take over the reins in the next few years, prospect Michael DiPietro could be gunning for the starter’s job before too long. DiPietro, 19, was a third-round pick in 2017 and has quickly risen to elite status among goalie prospects. DiPietro was forced into an unfortunate NHL debut this season, but has otherwise been remarkable in the OHL and at the World Juniors. Demko will have a fire under him to play at his best and prove himself to be starter material as soon as possible, so that the Canucks don’t get any ideas about Markstrom, DiPietro, or anyone else as a better long-term solution in net.