After the 12:00 P.M. PST trade deadline passed on Monday afternoon, it seemed as if the Vancouver Canucks weren’t going to make a move. It wasn’t until 20 minutes after the deadline when TSN’s Bob Mckenzie tweeted out the Canucks had traded for goalie Louis Domingue.
The trade was an unexpected one, as the Canucks weren’t in the market for a goalie due to Jacob Markstrom’s stellar performance this season and the presence of Thatcher Demko, who has played well as a backup. The trade didn’t make sense until the Canucks announced that Markstrom would likely be out for two to three weeks.
Markstrom has been the MVP for the Canucks this season, stealing quite a few games for the team. A recent example of this is the game on Feb. 12 against the Chicago Blackhawks where he had a 49-save shutout in a 3-0 Vancouver win. That game prompted THW’s own Landon Kapusianyk to build a strong case as to why the goaltender should be considered a candidate for both the Vezina and Hart trophies.
Markstrom suffered a lower-body injury in the Canucks’ 9-3 win against the Boston Bruins on Saturday night, which puts his potential Vezina and Hart season in jeopardy. Markstrom flew back to Vancouver as the Canucks are on a four-game road trip, which starts on Tuesday in Montreal. His injury comes as a big blow to the team and may cost them a chance at making the playoffs.
The only upside of Markstrom missing time is that Demko will get an opportunity to start. He can gain quite a bit of experience in the next two to three weeks and the Canucks will play around 7 to 11 games without their starter. This is a big opportunity for the 24-year-old, who was drafted in 2014 with the 36th overall pick. The injury gives Vancouver fans a chance to get a look at the player who will likely be the starting goalie in the future. He’ll have big shoes to fill as Markstrom has carried the load for the team throughout the season.
Demko has a 10-6-2 record this season and has been strong at home where he is 7-1-1. His last start came in his first regulation loss at home this season against the Anaheim Ducks.
Adding Louis Domingue
The Canucks swapped goalies with the New Jersey Devils as they traded Zane McIntyre for Domingue. He will serve as the backup to Demko until Markstrom returns. He has played in 16 games for the Devils this season and has a record of 3-8-2 with an .882 save percentage and a 3.79 goals-against. The upcoming schedule for the Canucks seems tough and the team has four sets of back-to-backs next month. If Markstrom doesn’t return within the two-to-three-week timeline, Domingue will need to step up in back-to-back games.
Injuries Piling up
Markstrom’s injury adds to the list of players the Canucks will not have in the lineup. The team announced last week that forward Brock Boeser will miss eight weeks with a rib injury.
They also announced that forwards Micheal Ferland and Josh Leivo are done for the season. The injuries to the forward group prompted general manager Jim Benning to trade for Tyler Toffoli last Monday. The injuries couldn’t come at a worse time as the Canucks are in a tight race for the playoffs and only have 21 games remaining in the regular season.
Pacific Division Rivals Make Big Trades
The Canucks sit in third place in the Pacific Division and are four points behind the Vegas Golden Knights with three games in hand and are behind the Edmonton Oilers by one point with a game in hand. Although they are in the hunt for first place in the division, after the trade deadline it seems as if it will be far more difficult for them to capture first. While the Canucks have been derailed by injuries, other teams in the division have added weapons before the trade deadline.
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Not only did Connor McDavid return for the Oilers, but the team made a few big trades at the deadline. They acquired Andreas Athanasiou, adding speed in a trade with the Detroit Red Wings, and also picked up Mike Green from Detroit, adding depth on the defensive end. They traded for Ottawa Senators’ forward Tyler Ennis for a 2021 fifth-round pick.
The Golden Knights have been hot as of late winning six straight games and have a record of 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. They acquired Robin Lehner, strengthening their goaltending with one of the bigger trades made before the deadline. They added Alec Martinez to strengthen the back-end and added forward depth in Nick Cousins.
The Calgary Flames are two points behind Vancouver but have played two more games. They have struggled without Travis Hamonic and captain Marc Giordano, but traded for Erik Gustafsson and Derek Forbort. The Flames are hoping those two trades will help them reach the playoffs while key pieces of their defense are still out. They may be able to pass the Canucks if they find success with the additions on defence.
Opportunity for Others to Step up
As other teams in the division have strengthened their roster at the trade deadline, the Canucks have a weaker roster coming out. Markstrom’s injury comes at a tough time for them but it gives an opportunity for young players to step up. Now is the time for key players to shine, with the division race being as tight as it is. Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes have been great for Vancouver this season but will have to be at the top of their games for weeks to come. Demko will be heavily relied upon and will show if he is ready to take over as the starting netminder for the team.
The next few weeks should be very interesting as the Canucks continue to battle for a playoff spot. If they manage to secure a spot in the playoffs, the returning players will add a boost to the team in the postseason.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.