The Vancouver Canucks went further in the 2020 playoffs than many expected, coming within a single game of the Western Conference Final. GM Jim Benning and head coach Travis Green spoke with the media today (audio via TSN radio) about where the team goes from here, with Jacob Markstrom’s future front and center. The goaltender is a pending free agent who is coming off an excellent season but was injured in the second round leading to Thatcher Demko’s coming-out party. Even with Demko’s performance, Benning was clear about his desire to bring back the more veteran goaltender:
We’re going to try and figure out a way that makes sense for us and makes Jacob and his agent happy. Try and figure out a deal to get him signed. We want him back. We’re going to start working on that this week.
Markstrom, who could potentially hit the free agent market as the best available goaltender depending on some other situations, is coming off his best season in the NHL. Through 43 appearances he went 23-16-4 with a .918 save percentage, a performance that made Benning call him the team’s MVP. Demko is signed for next season at just a $1.05MM cap hit and Benning pointed out multiple times the fact that the Canucks believe they need two strong goaltenders to handle the tough travel schedule of the Western Conference.
- As for another pending free agent, Jake Virtanen, Benning was a lot less impressed. The 24-year old forward is going to be a restricted free agent for the second time as his two-year bridge deal comes to an end, but failed to make much of an impact in the postseason for Vancouver. Virtanen had his best regular season performance with 18 goals and 36 points in 69 games but scored just three points in 16 postseason matches. Benning was on Sportsnet radio and explained that he was expecting more from Virtanen in the playoffs. Add that to the GM saying that he might have to move on from some young players this offseason in order to recover some draft picks and you can see why the speculation regarding Virtanen’s future in Vancouver instantly exploded.
- In terms of creating salary cap room, Benning won’t be moving draft picks to do get rid of some of the more onerous contracts on the books. Vancouver is already without their first and second-round picks this year and it’s clear the front office wants to add, not subtract ahead of the draft in early October. Remember, though they have quite a bit of cap room for next season, the Canucks are staring down a 2021 offseason that will see Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Demko hit restricted free agency all at the same time.