Roberto Luongo

Markstrom clears waivers, Canucks cut 11

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Goaltender Jacob Markstrom, who was a part of the Roberto Luongo trade, cleared waivers Saturday.

Markstrom, 24, who appeared in four games for the Canucks last season following the trade, will now likely report to the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League.

Four teams were reportedly interested in the Swede’s services, but he was not claimed prior to the noon eastern time deadline.

Following the Canucks 3-0 victory over the Calgary Flames Friday night, general manager Jim Benning announced the team had reduced its’ roster by 11.

First rounders Brendan Gaunce (2012) has been assigned to the American Hockey League’s Utica Comets while Jake Virtanen (2014) was returned to the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League.

Vancouver also sent defenesmen Henrik Tommernes, Kent Huskins, John Negrin and Kane Lafranchise to Utica. Additionally, forwards Ronalds Kenins, Alex Friesen and goaltender Joe Cannata are headed to the Comets.

Forwards JT Wyman and Carter Bancks were released from their camp tryouts with the Canucks and will attend Utica Comets camp.

Update: According to Renaud Lavoie, the Canucks placed six players on waivers Saturday.

Canucks waive Markstrom as Shinkaruk, Jensen continue to impress

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The Vancouver Canucks have crossed their fingers and placed goalie Jacob Markstrom on waivers, with the likely intention of assigning him to AHL Utica.

Markstrom, 24, joined Vancouver in the Roberto Luongo trade between the Canucks and Panthers. As it stands, he’s No. 3 on the team’s goaltending depth chart, behind Ryan Miller and Eddie Lack.

Why wouldn’t some team pick him up? Well, he’s not quite the hot prospect he once was in Florida. Also, he has a one-way contract that pays him $1.4 million this season, regardless of where he plays.

The move to waive Markstrom comes at the same time as a couple of Canucks youngsters that entered training camp as likely AHLers are making a case to stay with the big club. Forwards Hunter Shinkaruk and Nicklas Jensen each scored last night in Calgary. This after they each scored Tuesday versus San Jose.

Per the Vancouver Sun, coach Willie Desjardins said of Shinkaruk: “You have to give him credit. Goals are hard to come by in the league and he has been able to find the back of the net. Whenever you can do that it gives you a chance and that is what he has to do with his game. He has to be good around the net and he has done what he can and we’ll have to keep watching him.”

Desjardins had similar praise for Jensen: “He has got good speed, he can skate and he is a guy that whenever we have given him a chance he has responded. So we have to keep looking at him.”

Combine that with a lackluster performance last night from Zack Kassian — a player Desjardins had hoped would be a fit on the second line with Alex Burrows and Nick Bonino — and GM Jim Benning clearly wants to keep his options open.

Both Shinkaruk and Jensen can be sent to the AHL without waivers. To make a spot for one of them on the opening-day roster, the Canucks would have had to expose a player to waivers, which they’ve now done.

Update:

On carrying three goalies, and which teams might be forced to do it

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Few things cause more hand-wringing in the goalie world than a team that carries three.

In fact, you rarely see the phrase “carrying three goalies” without the word “comfortable” attached, because most teams are forced to publicly claim they’re OK with a logjam in goal — even though they really aren’t.

Why? Well, having three goalies isn’t beneficial outside of crease insurance: Only two can dress for games and only two can practice at a time, so the third goalie really just wastes a roster spot. But there are, at times, certain circumstances that force an NHL club’s hand — in fact, a few teams currently find themselves in such a position.

VANCOUVER

Goalies: Ryan Miller, Eddie Lack, Jacob Markstrom

The Canucks have written the book on how not to handle goalies (granted, lead author Mike Gillis is now gone), so it’ll be interesting to see what transpires in the wake of new head coach Willie Desjardins saying he was “comfortable” carrying three. Miller is the unquestioned No. 1, a role he inherited from Lack, who briefly held the role after Roberto Luongo was dealt to Florida last season. That starting experience has put Lack, 26, in the driver’s seat for the No. 2 gig… which leaves a bunch of question marks around Markstrom, the once-touted prospect who’s been re-working his game under Canucks goalie guru Rollie Melanson.

Here’s more, from The Province:

The Canucks are currently carrying three goalies because they’re not sure what’s the best Markstrom option.

Trying to move the stopper and his expiring $1.4-million-US one-way contract ($1.2-million cap hit) to the minors means avoiding a waiver claim. Trying to trade him means Joacim Eriksson and Joe Cannata suddenly move up the ladder if injury strikes.

And how do you gauge the trade return on a goalie that the Florida Panthers gave up on, despite the work coach Rollie Melanson has done to make Markstrom’s game more NHL-ready? Imagine keeping three goalies here.

Further confusing things? It’s unclear what Markstrom’s really worth an as asset. Despite possessing tremendous size (6-foot-6) and pedigree (the 31st overall pick in 2008), he didn’t just fall out of favor in Florida — he plummeted.

“The Panthers were really not impressed with him. I mean, they really thought that he nosedived as a prospect,” ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun said, per TSN 1040 Radio. “And it’s why they were more than happy to include him in [the Luongo] deal.”

MONTREAL

Goalies: Carey Price, Peter Budaj, Dustin Tokarski

The real question here is who’ll be Price’s backup — Budaj, the 10-year veteran with nearly 300 games under his belt, or Tokarski, who performed admirably in the Eastern Conference Final after getting thrown into a near-impossible situation? (A starting gig he got ahead of Budaj, remember.)

According to GM Marc Bergevin, Montreal might wait a while before making that decision. From TSN:

“That’s why you have training camp and we’ll see what happens,” [Bergevin said]. “We have depth in that position now.”

So much depth in fact that since either [Budaj or Tokarski] would have to clear waivers to be sent down to the minors, dealing one of them or even beginning the year with both backups on the roster are both in the realm of possibility.

“If we feel one guy is really ahead of the other guy, we will make a decision. Maybe a trade might be a possibility, but at the end of the day, also starting with three goalies might be a possibility. I leave it open, but again, I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out during training camp.”

Money could play a role here. Budaj isn’t expensive, but will make $1.4 million this season — Tokarski, meanwhile, carries a $562,500 cap hit.

MINNESOTA

Goalies: Niklas Backstrom, Darcy Kuemper, Josh Harding, Ilya Bryzgalov

The Wild’s situation has been downgraded from “the entire building is on fire” to “there’s smoke coming out of that garbage can,” but still remains a problem. Harding’s suspended after breaking his foot by (allegedly) kicking a wall; Kuemper returned to the club after (acrimoniously) hammering out a new deal; Backstrom’s healthy (at least at the time of writing) and looks to be the No. 1 while Bryzgalov (amazingly) is back in the mix on a PTO.

The easiest (and simplest) solution here would be to part ways with Bryzgalov after training camp and roll with a Backstrom-Kuemper combo until Harding’s foot is healed. But that, of course, would require a tremendous amount of faith in Backstrom being able to stay healthy — which has been a problem — and an equal amount of faith in Kuemper being able to carry No. 1 duties should Backstrom get hurt. The Wild might be best served to keep Bryzgalov around as an insurance policy, though it’d be a costly one both in terms of salary and the tied-up roster spot.

Luongo’s ‘mind is at ease’ in Florida

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Roberto Luongo’s tenure with the Vancouver Canucks was a roller coaster. He won the Jennings Trophy, earned a couple Vezina Trophy nominations and came tantalizingly close to winning the Stanley Cup. He fell short though and in his final years in Vancouver, he was in the middle of a goaltender controversy between Cory Schneider and him, which led to persistent trade rumors.

All that’s in the past now as Vancouver shipped him in March to Florida, where he spent five seasons before his stint with Vancouver began. Luongo has high hopes for the Panthers, but beyond that he also sees the appeal of being in a less intensive hockey market.

“For sure my mind is at ease and I can focus on one task, and that’s stopping pucks,” Luongo told the Sun Sentinel. “There was a lot of that stuff going on in prior years and I was still able to do that. It’s nice to just not have that worry sometimes when you’re away from the rink or about your future.”

In addition to getting a full season out of Luongo, the Panthers are hoping that veteran additions like Willie Mitchell, Shawn Thornton, Jussi Jokinen, and Dave Bolland will compliment their young core and help lead them back into the playoffs after they finished with a 29-45-8 record in 2013-14.

Panthers owners say they’re committed even though team has lost ‘tremendous amounts of money’

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Yes, the Florida Panthers have “lost tremendous amounts of money” during the last decade-plus, but their still-relatively-new ownership group aims to change that.

At least, that’s the unusually candid message that Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu expressed in an open letter to Panthers fans on Wednesday:

As we close in on the one-year anniversary of our ownership of the Florida Panthers, we want to reiterate our commitment to Broward County, South Florida and our Panthers fans and business partners. As we said at the press conference when we bought the team, we view ourselves as stewards of the team for the community and our plan is to build an organization that makes South Florida proud and to win the Stanley Cup in South Florida. Despite media speculation to the contrary, we have no plans or intentions to move this franchise.

We made a commitment to the Panthers and to South Florida when we bought the team to build a successful organization on and off the ice. We have been working hard to live up to that commitment. Starting with the trade to bring Roberto Luongo, one of the world’s top goaltenders, back home to South Florida, and continuing with our committing over $80 million to new players, including bringing six talented veteran free agents to South Florida and resigning all of our restricted free agents, we have dedicated ourselves to improving the team. Off the ice, we continue to expand our community outreach initiatives and look forward to continue to contribute to the quality of life for residents.

It is no secret that the Panthers and BB&T Center have lost tremendous amounts of money over the last dozen years. We are working hard to address this situation, which we believe we can do with the support from our loyal fans, our business partners, the business community and our community-at-large.

We look forward to a winning season and bringing a Stanley Cup to South Florida.

With Warm Regards,

Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu, Co-Owners

Interesting.

Consider this something of a “vote of confidence” after Cifu expressed concern about the team’s long-term viability considering such losses.

Back in January, the team asked the county to offset $20-$30 million in annual losses, which didn’t go over too well at first. Broward County is reportedly researching a request which might swell to $80 million when various losses are added up.

Long story short, there are a lot of questions surrounding the future of the team and the intentions of its owners, so it’s easy to see why they’re trying to generate goodwill with fans.

Naturally, the best way to fill seats is to do something that’s been easier said than done for the Cats: win games.