Tag: Ryan Miller

Benning: Canucks waiting ‘for the domino effect’ in goalie market


In 2013, the Vancouver Canucks, then under former general manager Mike Gillis, had goalies Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo and decided to send the former to New Jersey for the ninth overall pick.

In 2015, Jim Benning, entering his second year as the Canucks’ GM, is facing a similar decision in the goaltending department with the first round of the NHL Draft now just six days away. It’s not a Schneider-Luongo situation, but with Vancouver needing draft picks, and three goalies with varying degrees of NHL experience and success in Ryan Miller, Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom, a decision looms.

The Canucks select 23rd overall, but as of right now, they don’t have another pick until the fourth round in what is considered to be a deep draft.

Benning made it known immediately after the trade deadline that he’d like to recoup picks for the draft.

Markstrom, who was the backbone for the Utica Comets in their run to the AHL championship series, is a pending restricted free agent. Lack has one year remaining on his current deal, which is cap-friendly at $1.15 million.

Ben Kuzma of The Province reported this week that Benning has taken trade calls from other teams on both Markstrom and Lack.

Any potential move the Canucks make at this position might be dependent on what, if anything, happens with New York goalie Cam Talbot. Previous reports had as many as six teams having “some interest” in Talbot.

“There’s good depth in the second round and I’d like to have a second-round pick but it’s a balancing act for us,” Benning told The Province newspaper in Vancouver.

“It might not be a pick but a way of making our team better — we’re looking at all options. But I think I’ll be able to figure something out on that (draft pick) because when one goalie goes, they’re going to move on to the next guy. We’re waiting for the domino effect.”

Related: Canucks might move a goalie, but it won’t be Ryan Miller

Canucks might move a goalie, but it won’t be Ryan Miller

Ryan Miller

The Vancouver Canucks have some decisions to make. Jacob Markstrom, who is coming off of a superb season in the AHL, is a restricted free agent while Eddie Lack has just a year left on his deal. Throw Ryan Miller into the mix and the Canucks have a bit of a logjam between the pipes.

It’s entirely possible, if not outright probable, that Vancouver will trade one of its netminders this summer, but Canucks GM Jim Benning has confirmed that Miller won’t be the one shipped off, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Miller, who has two seasons left on his contract with an annual cap hit of $6 million, is coming off something of a rough season as he was plagued towards the end of the season with a knee injury. He finished the campaign with a 2.53 GAA and .911 save percentage in 45 contests.

Lack did a fine job filling in for him for the most part, posting a 2.45 GAA and .921 save percentage in 41 regular season games. Part of the reason why he might be moved, as Benning previously noted, is because he’s too good to risk losing on the free agent market. So if the Canucks don’t believe he fits into their long-term plans, then it might be better to trade him now while there’s likely a market for him thanks in part to his affordable $1.15 million cap hit for 2015-16.

That would leave Markstrom as Miller’s understudy. Markstrom struggled at the NHL level last season, but it’s hard to read much into that as he only got 78 minutes worth of ice time. In the minors he played a key role in the Utica Comets reaching the Calder Cup Final.

Vancouver is also looking to get a second-round selection in the upcoming draft as they gave theirs to Calgary. It’s possible that the Canucks might ultimately trade a goaltender for a pick, but they’re “also looking to make hockey trades,” per Benning, so there’s no guarantee that a pick will be involved.

Need a goalie? No shortage of options out there


Don’t underestimate the importance of the backup goalie. In today’s NHL, where parity reigns, it can be the difference between making and missing the playoffs.

Think that’s overstating things? Give Jim Nill a call in Dallas. The Stars’ GM gambled on Anders Lindback this season, and it cost his team big time. With a capable backup, the Stars wouldn’t have had to lean so heavily on a struggling Kari Lehtonen. Dallas went on to finish with the NHL’s second-worst team save percentage (.895). Also, seven points back of a playoff spot.

Meanwhile, remember what Andrew Hammond did for the Senators? And Eddie Lack for the Canucks when Ryan Miller went down with an injury? Do either of those teams make the playoffs without such solid play from their backups?

Having one capable goalie is nice. Having two is even better. Heck, in the Senators’ case, it was three.

Remember that on July 1 when unrestricted free agents are expected to include Antti Niemi, Karri Ramo, Michal Neuvirth, and Jhonas Enroth. (As of today, Devan Dubnyk can become unrestricted as well, but it would be a surprise if he doesn’t re-sign with Minnesota.)

And then there’s the trade market. The Senators are trying to trade Craig Anderson or Robin Lehner. The Canucks are expected to deal one of Lack or Jacob Markstrom. The Blackhawks have three goalies under contract; what could Antti Raanta fetch them? Would the Leafs trade James Reimer? They’d listen to offers, that’s for sure.

So yeah, lots of options out there.

In spite of all the supply, Canucks GM Jim Benning is confident there’s enough demand that he’ll be able to recover something for either Lack or Markstrom.

“I think there’s enough teams that need goalies that if we decide to move someone that we won’t have a problem doing it,” he said recently in a radio interview.

And according to a report in the Ottawa Sun, there are seven teams interested in the Senators’ goalies.

The Edmonton Oilers are probably one of those seven teams. They finished the season with the NHL’s worst team save percentage (.888).

“I’ve had discussions on teams with goalies,” GM Peter Chiarelli said yesterday. “We’ve got a goalie under contract in Ben Scrivens.”

We’ve speculated that the Oilers may have interest in a veteran like Anderson, but Chiarelli refused to get into specifics.

“Obviously I’m not going to comment on any discussions with specific teams,” he said.

So, expect plenty of goalies to change clubs this summer. And when the 16 playoff teams are finalized for 2016, don’t be surprised if we’re looking back at one or two moves that made a difference between making and missing.

Related: If Anderson is available, should the Oilers be interested?

Benning trying to figure where Markstrom ‘fits in’

Columbus Blue Jackets v Vancouver Canucks

Jim Benning is trying to figure out what he’s got in Jacob Markstrom.

The Canucks GM was in Utica this past week to watch Vancouver’s AHL team, the Comets, advance to the Western Conference Finals, in which they’ll take on the Grand Rapids Griffins (featuring Dylan Larkin).

On Wednesday, Benning saw another good AHL outing for Markstrom, who stopped 35 shots in a 1-0 Game 7 shutout win over Oklahoma City. The 25-year-old now has a .930 save percentage in 12 playoff games this year. His save percentage was .934 during the regular season, earning him second-team all-star honors.

But whether Markstrom can succeed in the NHL is still to be determined. He hasn’t so far, with an .896 save percentage in 50 games with the Canucks and Panthers.

“That’s part of why I’m down here now — to get a good look at Jacob Markstrom and see where he fits in,” Benning told the Vancouver Sun. “That’s what I’m trying to figure out right now. He showed me a lot last night, playing a real good game in a high-pressure situation.”

If Benning believes Markstrom is capable of backing up Ryan Miller next season, it likely means that Eddie Lack, one year away from becoming an unrestricted free agent, will be traded.

If not, Benning will try and trade Markstrom. (Though that may be easier said than done.)

Related: Canucks ‘know what it’s going to take’ to keep Lack, whose future might be elsewhere

Canucks ‘know what it’s going to take’ to keep Lack, whose future might be elsewhere

Ducks Canucks Hockey

You can add Eddie Lack to the list of goalies that might come available this summer.

Lack, who took over the No. 1 gig in Vancouver after Ryan Miller’s injury and backstopped the team to the playoffs, has one year left on his deal but could be moved if the Canucks decide he’s not in their long-term plans.

From the Vancouver Sun:

Canucks general manager Jim Benning said Tuesday the team will make a decision on its goaltending before the entry draft in June and if Lack isn’t part of the long-term plan, the club will try to trade him rather than risk losing him as an unrestricted free agent after next season.

“We’ve had preliminary talks with Eddie’s agent and we know what it’s going to take to get him signed,” Benning said. “We’re bringing in all our pro scouts and we’ll meet here in the next couple of weeks … and as a group make that decision.”

Asked if Lack, having played 41 NHL games each of the last two seasons, is too good to risk losing to free agency if the Canucks don’t re-sign him, Benning said: “I think you’re right with that.”

Lack, 27, emerged as a legit No. 1 and fan favorite this season, going 18-13-4 with a .921 save percentage and 2.45 GAA while winning over the Rogers Arena faithful with his easygoing personality and affinity for tacos.

The Swedish ‘tender has said he likes playing in Vancouver and wants to stay. But with Ryan Miller under contract for two more years — at $6M per — and Jacob Markstrom posting All-Star calibre numbers at the AHL level, Lack could be the guy on the move.

Of course, he’s not ready to just accept his departure — just ask his mom, who received some media attention herself this year for her exploits on Twitter:

All that said, Lack — who carries an affordable $1.15 million cap hit — may eventually welcome a move if it affords a better opportunity to start.

“I kind of feel like I’m almost coming up to that age where I’m really ready to compete, you know?” he explained. “To be honest, I don’t really care if it would have been me and [Markstrom] like it was before or me and Ryan; I come to the rink every day to do my best. I’m always going to hope and expect to play.

“I have one year left on my contract and I love the city and love the fans. Obviously, there’s a business side and if they want to get rid of me, I can’t really say anything. But I want to spend more time here.”