Canucks General Manager Jim Benning said all along he was confident that the team and star Boston College goalie Thatcher Demko would agree to terms on a contract. Benning put the somewhat overblown worries in the fan base to bed with the team’s announcement on Wednesday, one that is a step for the future.
#Canucks sign Thatcher Demko, 2014 2nd round draft pick, to entry-level contract.
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) April 20, 2016
Demko had until August 15, 2017 to sign with the Canucks before he could’ve became an unrestricted free agent. Just imagine how dramatic this could’ve been.
Above all, the fan base’s concerns to locking up Demko is a testament to how valuable the second round pick in 2014 is seen to be to the franchise. And yes, don’t look now, but the Canucks may actually have their ducks in a row in terms of a succession plan in the crease.
Markstrom, Demko the Duo in 2017-18?
Both of the Canucks current netminders, Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom, are set to become unrestricted free agents after the 2016-17 season. Miller will be paid $6 million next year and will be 37-years old when his contract runs out. Markstrom, a decade younger in age, will be paid just north of $1.5 million. The two should coincide as a 1-A/ 1-B tandem once again. Markstrom is undoubtedly the more likely option to be re-signed, and could potentially earn a contract extension based on his performance next season.
Demko, meanwhile, would be on pace to earn his spot with the Canucks in 2017-18 as a result of this progression outlook. Not bad, considering goalies develop in ‘dog years’, as Benning has called it (and he’s certainly not wrong).
The 20-year-old will likely get a good chance to backstop the AHL’s Utica Comets in a lot of games next year. He may split time with depth netminder Richard Bachman to start the season, but expect Demko to take the reins and eat up lots of minutes in the Comets crease. Demko, as he’s shown throughout his college hockey career, is simply too talented and too driven to not find a way to excel in his opportunity.
Cloutier on Demko’s pro potential: “I like his competitiveness and net presence and the way he doesn’t give up.” #Canucks
— Ben Kuzma (@benkuzma) April 20, 2016
Add it up, and the Canucks organization feels the NCAA sensation Demko could be fast tracked to an NHL job in as soon as two seasons.
Things to Consider/ Possible Miller Trade?
In his three seasons with Boston College, Demko continued to improve his stats, and had a phenomenal 27-8-4 record in 2015-16, with a sparkling 1.88 goals-against average, .935 save percentage, and school-record 10 shutouts (previously held by Cory Schneider). The modified-butterfly goalie defied the odds after double hip labrum surgery, as he was a Hobey Baker Award Finalist and named the best collegiate goalie in the country as well.
It’s yet to be seen if these accomplishments will speak volumes to his transition to pro hockey, but he clearly has the work ethic to carry his game to the next level. For goalies to earn an NHL chance so early in their career is uncommon, but Demko could get his shot as soon as this season, in theory.
It may be a long shot, but if the team feels that he’s capable and deserving at getting his chops with the big club, it’s possible that the Canucks could try and trade Miller ahead of next year’s deadline. However, getting a return on an aging Miller and his large contract is a long shot of even greater proportions for the Canucks.
But giving Demko a full season to gain experience in the AHL is simply the best option for both sides. Even when Markstrom put up Demko-like numbers in the AHL in 2014-15, the team didn’t rush in calling him up to the NHL. One year later, there’s no doubting that was the best decision.
As the cliche goes, anything worth having is worth waiting for. We’ll see how this pans out for Demko and the Canucks in the coming times.
Canucks contributor for The Hockey Writers. Maple Ridge, BC native. Contact: email@example.com or @ColtonnDavies on Twitter.