By John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press
FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – It’s a matter of when, not if, the Vancouver Canucks will trade Eddie Lack or Jacob Markstrom.
Canucks general manager Jim Benning said on Thursday that the two backup goalies are on the trading block ahead of the NHL draft with both of them in their primes and their contracts expiring. Although he expects there will be a flurry of trade activity during Friday’s draft, he’s willing to wait for the best available deal.
“We don’t have to move either one of them. We have until the start of the year,” said Benning, indicating he can wait until as late as September to make a deal. “If nothing makes sense for us, where we think we’re not going to get good value for moving one of them, we don’t have to move them.
“I don’t think with all the interest we’re getting in them that’s going to be a problem.”
At 27 years old, Lack has more time in the NHL, earning a 34-30 record for the Canucks in 82 games over the past two seasons. He has a .917 save percentage in that time with a 2.45 goals-against average. Most importantly, he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.
Markstrom is two years younger and has only played in 50 NHL games split over five seasons between the Florida Panthers and Vancouver. He has a career 13-28 record with a .896 save percentage and 3.08 GAA. With Lack and starting goaltender Ryan Miller solid in net for the Canucks last season, Markstrom spent most of his time with the American Hockey League’s Utica Comets where he earned a 22-7 record with a .934 save percentage and 1.88 GAA. He’ll become a restricted free agent this off-season.
Vancouver’s depth at goal doesn’t end there, with 2014 second-round pick Thatcher Demko progressing nicely at Boston College.
The only sure thing is who will start in net for the Canucks when the season kicks off.
“We want to keep Ryan Miller because we want to keep a veteran goalie,” Benning said at a news conference in his hotel lobby. “I think a big part of our team last year was we had two good goalies. Ryan is a proven No. 1 goalie in the league so we want to keep Ryan and we have to make a hard decision on the other two guys.”
Vancouver holds the 23rd overall pick on Friday, but Benning says he will not be drafting by need in the first round, instead simply taking the best available player.
“I think at the 23rd pick we’re going to pick the player with the biggest upside,” said Benning. “A player that we can work with, that we can develop into either a top-six forward or a top-four defenceman. There’s enough depth that I think we’ll be able to do that.”
Vancouver’s attention will turn back to the net on Saturday in the draft’s middle rounds, presumably to backfill the space created by trading either Lack or Markstrom.
“In the mid-rounds, we like some goalies,” said Benning. “We might pick a goalie in the mid-round but we’re not going to pick a goalie high.”
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