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Thoughts on Jacob Markstrom’s contract negotiations

The Canucks reportedly offered him a deal. The reported offer was a low-ball, but Markstrom might be hard-pressed to get what he desires.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Carolina Hurricanes
Feb 2, 2020; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Vancouver Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom (25) looks up before the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 in the shootout.
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

While not as diverse as Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts, and nowhere near as prolific as Westy’s thought column on this fine website, these upcoming thoughts will nonetheless be pertinent to anyone following the Canucks.

Here are my thoughts on Jacob Markstrom’s contract negotiations, including the reported comparables, one intriguing comparable from the past, and why he’s going to be in tough to break the bank.

Canucks reportedly offer contract to Markstrom

It was reported during Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday that the Canucks offered Jacob Markstrom a two-year contract, based on deals for two “comparables” in the division.

Before we get to my thoughts, here was Friedman’s thought on the situation. So many thoughts to get to...

“If there’s any frustration, it’s not in the dressing room — it’s in the front office at the fascination with contract talks involving Jacob Markstrom and amateur scouting director Judd Brackett, a huge part of what they’ve accomplished.

19. Mikko Koskinen was months away from his 31st birthday when he signed a three-year, $4.5-million AAV extension with Edmonton. That contract filtered into Darcy Kuemper, who will be 30 when his two-year, $4.5-million AAV extension kicks in with Arizona. Markstrom just turned 30.Chris Johnston reported on Headlines last week that the Canucks offered a two-year extension, and, based on those previous moves, it didn’t come as a surprise.

That’s not going to do it for Markstrom, who has been phenomenal and is not afraid to bet on himself. But, like Nurse, it doesn’t mean the negotiation is over. Just means it is going to be challenging. It’s a tightrope, and you don’t want it to affect your room. GM Jim Benning isn’t saying much beyond the fact that they want to get it done, because, in such a rabid market, one wrong word throws gasoline on the fire.”

This was wishful thinking by Jim Benning and Canucks management if they thought they were getting Markstrom for $4.5 million per season. You can’t fault Markstrom’s camp in the slightest for turning their nose up at that offer. In fact, you couldn’t blame them for being downright offended by the paltry ask.

For starters, Koskinen’s name shouldn’t be brought up as a comparable in negotiations for goaltender contracts. It was a bad contract handed out by Peter Chiarelli, before the player earned those kind of dollars.

Also, here are there numbers compared since the beginning of the 2018-19 season.

The Darcy Kuemper comparable is an interesting one. The soon to be 30-year-old has posted better numbers than Markstrom since the beginning of last season. However, his ascension into becoming one of the best goaltenders in hockey was surprising, and that was reflected in his contract.

Kuemper was largely a career back-up, and he even assumed that role when he first joined the Coyotes. He only became the starter after filling in admirably for the injured Antti Raanta. The $4.5 million reflected a strong performance, but other factors that went into that deal (that don’t compare to Markstrom) include:

  • The fact that Raanta was already signed to be the starter at $4.25 million per season. That’s not an issue in Vancouver.
  • Kuemper signed his deal after less than one season as a starter.

This is Markstrom’s third year as a starter and despite the less gaudy numbers, Markstrom has been more consistent over a longer period of time.

Why Markstrom will be hard-pressed to cash in

Now, the market for goaltenders is shaky, and for the most part guys aren’t cashing in like they used to (unless you’re Sergei Bobrovsky or Carey Price).

Robin Lehner, a Vezina finalist last season, had to settle for a one-year, $5 million deal. Both him and Markstrom turned their careers around last season as well. If you’re Benning or any other NHL team, why would you give Markstrom a significant bump over a guy like Lehner?

Just to highlight how rare it is to see goaltenders sign for the big dollars, here’s a list of goaltenders over the age of 25 who signed for more than $5 million per season since Benning came to power six seasons ago.

  • Sergei Bobrovsky: four-year, $7.4 million/year in 2015 (26 years old), seven-year, $10 million/year in 2019 (30 years old)
  • Marc-Andre Fleury: four-year, $5.75 million/year in 2014 (29 years old), three-year, $7 million/year in 2018 (33 years old)
  • Carey Price: 10-year, $10.5 million/year in 2017 (29 years old)
  • Martin Jones: six-year, $5.75 million/year in 2017 (27 years old)
  • Ben Bishop: two-year, $5.9 million/year in 2014 (27 years old)
  • Cory Schneider: six-year, $6 million/year in 2014 (28 years old)
  • Ryan Miller: three-year, $6 million/year in 2014 (33 years old)

Of that list, you have three goalies in Bobrovsky, Price and Fleury who had either won Stanley Cups or Vezina’s. Then, you have two regrettable deals for Jones and Schneider which have likely made general managers second guess goalie contracts in the years since.

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Tampa Bay Lightning
There are parallels between the Canucks current goalie situation, and the ones that the Lightning faced in 2014.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most interesting comparables might be Bishop. At the time, he signed a two-year contract worth $5.9 million per season. Of course, Tampa had Andrei Vasilevskiy in waiting. While Thatcher Demko might not be on Vasilevskiy’s level, there are parallels between that and the Canucks current situation.

Finally, you have to wonder if the Miller contract might come back to hurt Benning in negotiations. Miller was much more established at the time, but he was also older than Markstrom. The cap at the time was also $69.5 million, compared to $81.5 million now.

Again, it’s the fickle market for goaltenders that’s probably going to hurt Markstrom the most in these negotiations. However, as you can see from this exercise, both sides have solid points while they go back and forth in negotiations.