Over the next couple of months, we’ll be looking at possible free-agent fits for the Edmonton Oilers. Today, we have Jacob Markstrom.
Jacob Markstrom might have played his last game as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.
The team got eliminated from the playoffs on Friday night after dropping Game 7 to the Vegas Golden Knights by a score of 3-0. Markstrom will soon be eligible to hit unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career and the Canucks might have to let him walk.
Markstrom had a great showing for Vancouver in his first-ever crack at playoff hockey. He posted a .926 save percentage in the play-in round against the Minnesota Wild and a .930 save percentage in the Canucks’ upset of the St. Louis Blues in the first round. He was the biggest reason that Vancouver went as far as they did.
In the third round against Vegas, Markstrom wasn’t quite as incredible. He posted a .894 save percentage in four games and then suffered an injury, resulting in rookie Thatcher Demko taking over the net. Demko was amazing for the Canucks, stopping 128 of the 130 shots that the Golden Knights threw his way.
It looks like this might have been a passing of the torch in Vancouver.
The Canucks have themselves a difficult salary cap situation. Markstrom, as we know, is a UFA, along with trade deadline pick-up Tyler Toffoli and veteran defender Chris Tanev. They also have Troy Stetcher and Jake Virtanen in need of new deals as restricted free agents and Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, the cornerstones of their franchise, will have their entry-level deals expire after the 2020-21 season.
Affording Markstrom will be a challenge in itself, but there’s also the Seattle Expansion Draft wrinkle. If the Canucks sign Markstrom, he’ll surely seek a no-movement clause so that he isn’t eligible to be selected by the Kraken next summer. That would then leave Demko as a prime candidate to become Seattle’s goaltender. Losing a promising young goalie in Demko in order to keep a goalie over the age of 30 doesn’t seem like the best play.
So, with all that in mind, it’s pretty reasonable to assume that Markstrom will be playing for a new team come 2020-21. Could that team be the Oilers?
Markstrom might be the best name on the free-agent market for goalies this fall. While Robin Lehner and Anthon Khudobin posted better numbers, they haven’t shouldered a true starting load like Markstrom has.
The .918 save percentage that Markstrom put up this season was the best of his career. In the two years before that, Markstrom established himself as a solid starting goalie, posting a .912 save percentage across 60 games in back-to-back seasons. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider Markstrom played with some pretty underwhelming Canucks teams in front of him.
But as good as Markstrom has been, there’s also some risk associated with signing him to a long-term deal. Markstrom had his season cut short this year after undergoing a procedure on his knee.
Given his showing in the playoffs, it doesn’t appear as though there was any lingering issue due to the procedure, but the fact that Markstrom suffered another injury (this time to his groin) that forced him out of the Vegas series is a little bit worrying. It’s not like Markstrom has a major injury history, or anything, but it’s something to think about before handing out a big contract.
Markstrom would obviously be a big upgrade to Edmonton’s goaltending situation, but it might not be the right fit. The Oilers are in the market for a 1B type goalie who can split the net with Mikko Koskinen, while Markstrom is surely looking for a team where he can continue to be the starter.
If the Oilers trade Koskinen, then sure, Markstrom would be an ideal option. But signing Markstrom to a big contract in free agency to have Koskinen become a $4,500,000 backup doesn’t make much sense.