Minnesota Wild’s Jordan Greenway (18) is pushed over by Vancouver Canucks’ Christopher Tanev (8) as Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom (25) looks for the shot during second period NHL qualifying round game action in Edmonton, on Friday Aug. 7, 2020. Markstrom is a pending free agent. THE CANADIAN PRESS file photo/Jason Franson

Minnesota Wild’s Jordan Greenway (18) is pushed over by Vancouver Canucks’ Christopher Tanev (8) as Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom (25) looks for the shot during second period NHL qualifying round game action in Edmonton, on Friday Aug. 7, 2020. Markstrom is a pending free agent. THE CANADIAN PRESS file photo/Jason Franson

‘We want him back’: Canucks trying to re-sign goalie Jacob Markstrom

Vancouver GM Jim Benning has long list of NHL off-season tasks

Canucks general manager Jim Benning has a long to-do list this off season and one of his first tasks is a real challenge — find a way to keep goalie Jacob Markstrom in Vancouver.

The 30-year-old Swede is a pending unrestricted free agent who was crucial in a campaign that saw the Canucks post a 36-27-6 regular-season record, good for third in the Pacific Division before the NHL season was halted in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When hockey restarted, Markstrom and his teammates beat the Minnesota Wild in the qualifying round and then knocked off the reigning Stanley Cup final St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs in Edmonton. They Canucks fell just short in their Western Conference semifinal, losing to the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 7 to end Canada’s Stanley Cup hopes.

“Jacob’s an important guy in our group because he’s a leader and he was our MVP over the course of the regular season,” Benning told reporters on Tuesday, noting that he spoke with Markstrom’s agent on Monday.

“We’re going to try to figure out a way that makes sense for us and that makes Jacob and his agent happy to get him signed. We want him back and we’re going to start working on that this week.”

Markstrom was on pace for a career-best regular season before play was halted with a 23-16-4 record and a .918 save percentage.

However, speculation about his future in Vancouver grew after he went down with an apparent groin injury during the Vegas series.

Backup goalie Thatcher Demko stepped into the crease for the final three games. The 24-year-old stopped all but two of the 130 shots he faced through the post-season, carrying the team to a pair of wins over the Golden Knights to push the series to a seventh game.

“(Demko) was excellent in all three games. He gave our team a chance to win each game, even the last game. He made a lot of incredible saves,” Benning said.

Ideally, the GM would like to keep both netminders in Canucks jerseys next season.

“With the travel schedule we have during the regular season, I believe we need to have two good goalies,” he said.

READ MORE: Game 7 heartbreak for Vancouver as Vegas bounces Canucks from NHL playoffs

Keeping both Markstrom and Demko on the roster could be expensive, however, and with a flat salary cap next season, Benning will have to do some creative juggling to keep the tandem intact.

He also needs to consider the futures of other Vancouver players on expiring contracts, including right-winger Tyler Tofolli and defenceman Chris Tanev.

Other factors complicating the situation include next year’s Seattle expansion draft, the need to save cap space for the large contracts that will soon be due for young stars Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, and the fact that the team doesn’t currently have a pick in the first or second rounds of this year’s draft.

Benning said he’ll meet with the Canucks’ coaches, management staff and ownership in the coming days to dissect the season that was and plan for how to move forward.

He knows his colleagues from around the league are already working hard, too.

“I’ve had some calls from other general managers here this morning now that we’re out,” he said Tuesday. “We’re going to get a good read, a good feel for what the marketplace looks like this summer going into the draft and free agency. And we’ll react to that.”

For now, the Canucks are still digesting their playoff run, the team’s first trip to the post-season in five years.

The Game 7 loss to Vegas is still fairly fresh and upsetting, coach Travis Green said Tuesday.

It’s also an “invaluable experience” for a team stocked with emerging talent, he said.

“It’s one thing to play three or four playoff games,” Green said. “It’s another thing to play as many as we did and understand the importance, the value of how hard it is to win at many different levels.”

Vancouver’s young stars shone in the playoffs.

Captain Bo Horvat, 25, entered Tuesday’s play leading the league with 10 post-season goals. Twenty-one-year-old Pettersson was sixth in post-season scoring with seven goals and 11 assists. Hughes led the rookie scoring race in both the regular season, where he had eight goals and 45 assists, and the post-season, where the 20-year-old defenceman added another 16 points (two goals, 14 assists).

Not only is the young group going to continue to develop both physically and mentally from the experience, Green said they also now know what it takes to chase the Stanley Cup.

“That’s part of the exciting part of our group — they’ve got a strong desire to win. They’ll do whatever it takes to win,” Green said. “They’ve shown that and they’re going to continue to develop and get better.”

Comprehensive Canucks coverage here

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

CanuckshockeyNHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
Local COVID-19 cases unknown amid second wave

The Elk Valley Physicians have again reminded locals to comply with public health orders to stay safe

The famous band calls Fernie home. (Photo Contributed)
Shred Kelly gets creative with pandemic performances

CBC Radio recently promoted the band, highlighting their recent virtual tour and upcoming plans

A woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 uses walking sticks while walking up a hill, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Interior Health reports 83 more COVID-19 infections overnight

46 cases are now associated with a COVID-19 community cluster in Revelstoke

Green spaces have offered many a sense of peace throughout the pandemic. (Photo Contributed)
Nature Conservancy of Canada matches all donations on Dec. 1

The initiative honours Giving Tuesday, an initiative created to combat Black Friday’s consumerism

Signs are posted at the entrance of newly deactivated roads. (Photo Contributed)
Teck hosts virtual Annual Outdoor Recreationalist Meeting

The Dec. 2 meeting will touch on biodiversity, reclamation, and road rehabilitation

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

An RCMP cruiser looks on as a military search and rescue helicopter winds down near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
B.C. Mountie, suspect airlifted by Canadian Armed Forces from ravine after foot chase

Military aircraft were dispatched from Comox, B.C., say RCMP

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

BIG SALMON ranch in Washington State. (Center for Whale Research handout)
Non-profit buys Chinook ranch in hopes of increasing feed for southern resident killer whales

The ranch, which borders both sides of Washington State’s Elwha River, is a hotspot for chinook salmon

Gaming content was big on YouTube in 2020. (Black Press Media files)
What did Canadians watch on Youtube during isolation? Workouts, bird feeders

Whether it was getting fit or ‘speaking moistly,’ Canadians had time to spare this year

(Needpix.com)
Fraudsters projected to use pet scams to gouge over $3M from customers: BBB

The pandemic heavily contributed to the number of puppy scams

A teacher places the finishing touches on the welcome sign at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Hindsight 2020: How do you preserve a year many Canadians would rather forget?

Figuring out how to preserve the story of the pandemic poses a series of challenges

Most Read