Throughout every offseason, teams go up and down their roster and try to address the areas that are in need of improvement. As we’ve seen with the Vancouver Canucks, talks for both their forward and defensive groups have been a topic of conversation slowly building, both through the draft and free agency. However, with goaltenders Thatcher Demko and Spencer Martin locked up for the next couple of seasons, the Canucks’ goaltending is the one area that doesn’t need to be addressed.
Since the 2006-07 season, the Canucks haven’t had too many issues in the crease in recent memory. With names that include Hockey Hall Of Fame inductee Roberto Luongo, Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom. Now, with Demko as the de facto starting goaltender for the future, Vancouver can focus on re-signing or re-structuring its offense while upgrading the defence simultaneously. With Demko’s yearly improvement, the emergence of Martin, and the incredible cap-friendly deals they’re on, there is little to worry about in goal.
Demko’s improvement Every Year
Even when Markstrom was starting in Vancouver, there were flashes of Demko’s potential, particularly in the 2020 Playoff bubble against the Vegas Golden Knights. When Markstrom went down to injury, Demko was brilliant in his four appearances, three of which were starts. He posted a ridiculous .985 save percentage (SV%), and a goals-against average (GAA), of 0.64. That’s right, 0.64. He also owned a goals saved above average (GSAA), of 8.8, which is calculated by the league’s average save percentage with the number of shots a goalie has had. No, these numbers weren’t sustainable over the course of an entire regular season, but as he’s become the guy in Vancouver, and his numbers have only improved every year.
Demko’s stellar play was on full display in his first full campaign as Vancouver’s starting netminder. Not only did he start nearly twice as many games as his previous high (35), with 64, he tied a career-high in SV%, posting a .915 SV% while having a career-best 2.72 GAA. To show how truly valuable Demko was to the Canucks, he posted 35 quality starts which ranked seventh in the NHL, a 14.94 GSAA which was top-10, and had 12.4 goalie point shares (GPS), which is an estimate of the number of points contributed due to his play in goal, which was top-four.
The numbers don’t lie, Demko proved to be worth every penny he received.
Spencer Martin’s Impression
The Jaroslav Halák experiment did not go over particularly well. He managed to start just 14 games, posting a 4-7-2 record with a .903 SV% and a 2.94 GAA. While it wasn’t horrendous, they are a far cry from his career totals of a .916 SV% and 2.49 GAA. It was also the first time in Halák’s 16-year career that he posted a winning percentage below .500. This prompted Martin a few extra starts, and a contract extension, signing a two-year, $1.525 million deal back in January. Despite his limited action this past season, Martin impressed.
In just six starts for the Canucks this season, Martin did not lose in regulation, going 3-0-3, while putting up very impressive numbers. He owned a .950 SV% to go with a 1.74 GAA, but what’s even more impressive are his number playing with the Abbotsford Canucks of the American Hockey League (AHL). He went a ridiculous 19-4-2 with a 2.43 GAA and a .914 SV% during the regular season while sporting a .938 SV% in two starts in the playoffs.
Even if it is in a limited capacity, Martin has earned the chance to prove he can be the Canucks backup next season.
No Cap Constraint On Vancouver
We see it across a multitude of teams around the league, but paying a goaltender a significant amount can really limit what a team can do upfront. The Florida Panthers have this with Sergei Bobrovsky ($10 million), the Montreal Canadiens the same with Carey Price ($10.5 million), though they reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2021, and even teams like the Ottawa Senators are paying Matt Murray $6.25 million and unfortunately wasn’t available to start the majority of games. There is one outlier to the rule, and that is the Tampa Bay Lightning and goaltender Andrei Vasilevsky. Outside of that, paying a goaltender can be quite restraining on the cap, but the Canucks luckily don’t have to worry about that.
Between both Demko and Martin, for the next two seasons, the Canucks combined cap hit will be just $5.75 million. Demko is in the second season of a five-year contract that pays him $5 million AAV, while Martin will be in his first year of a two-year deal paying him $762,500 AAV. Outside of the Nashville Predators with Juuse Sarros and Connor Ingram ($5.73 million AAV), there isn’t a for-sure tandem set to make less than the Canucks’ duo in the 2022-23 season.
There is a window when an elite goaltender is outplaying his contract, and the Canucks have that for four more seasons with Demko locked up. Now it’s time for general manager Patrik Allvin and company to surround him with the talent in front of him and get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
I’m a London, Ontario based broadcaster and sports writer for the Vancouver Canucks. I’ve done work in the past reporting on the NHL, NBA and MLB. I’ve also covered the OHL including the Owen Sound Attack and am currently involved with the London Knights.