The Vancouver Canucks roster has been in a seemingly constant state of flux since Jim Benning took over as the team’s general manager two years ago. Another sign of the change will be in net next season.
On Thursday, the Canucks announced the signing of 26-year-old goalie Jacob Markstrom to a three-year contract extension with a cap hit of $3.67 million.
Ryan Miller is 35 years old and has one more year left on his deal before he’s a free agent. Miller has been the incumbent starter for two seasons in Vancouver, but that could change substantially next season with the division of playing time expected to be tilted more in Markstrom’s favor as he transitions into the No. 1 role.
Last season, as the Canucks plodded along toward the 28th position in the overall standings, Markstrom made 30 starts — a career high for him. Same goes for his 33 appearances. He posted a .915 save percentage.
In Vancouver, playing time among goalies is always a kickstarter for debate and discussion, so how many games Markstrom starts and plays in this season will be a key storyline.
The three-year, US$11-million extension he signed Wednesday means the Canucks believe he can start at least 55 games, as soon as now. That may, or may not, be how coach Willie Desjardins sees it. But with Markstrom locked up for four more years and Miller just one, the expectation will be that the 26-year-old starts more than half the games, to help him transition from a 30-starts-a-year-guy to 55 to 60. If Markstrom does that well, and that’s a significant step, the contract will look like a very good one.
In an interview with TSN 1040 in Vancouver, Markstrom didn’t set a specific figure on the number of games he expects to start. But he was able to gain some momentum in the Canucks crease — despite the team’s disappointing results — last season and he’s hoping to build on that.
Following free agency, when Vancouver inked forward Loui Eriksson, Markstrom described the Canucks as “an interesting team.”
“It was a good year for me, personally, and it was a tough year for — obviously it’s never fun to lose hockey games and last year we lost way too many of them,” he said.
“As for right now, when I look back, I feel like last year … right now, it felt like a tease. I can’t wait to get going and get started.”