Jacob Markstrom clears waivers; what will happen now in Utica?

There was a lot of hand-wringing in Canucks nation yesterday when Jacob Markstrom was put on waivers. After all, he was part of the return for Roberto Luongo, a return that was already panned by many fans as being insufficient value for the best goaltender in franchise history. Take away Markstrom and the return becomes just Shawn Matthias.

We’ll ignore for the moment that Luongo had been labeled untradeable because of his contract; there’s plenty of cognitive dissonance among hockey fans. Let’s just admit that losing Markstrom to a waiver claim would not have been ideal, which is why the Canucks were entertaining the thought of keeping him on the Canucks roster.

Let’s all take a deep breath and relax: the Canucks’ third-string goaltender cleared waivers. Everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.

Except now the Canucks have three goaltenders on their farm team, one of whom could bolt to Sweden if he’s unhappy. Nothing’s ever easy for the Canucks, is it?

Markstrom has superb AHL numbers, which is why he still has people believing he could become a solid NHL goaltender. While he’s struggled in the NHL so far, it’s tough to judge his numbers due to a small sample size. Hockey fans don’t have a great track record when it comes to evaluating goaltenders, but neither do coaches or general managers, simply because it takes so long for randomness to even out.

What we do know is that Markstrom is good enough to be an AHL starter — at that level he’s an all-star talent. Here’s the difficulty: Joacim Eriksson proved last season that he’s also good enough to be an AHL starter.

Eriksson had a solid rookie campaign in Utica, getting better as the season progressed. At times he was nigh-unbeatable, particularly in late December and January. At the AHL level, however, he’s not better than Markstrom. At best, he can be expected to split starts with Markstrom; at worst, he’ll be a backup.

That complicates matters, because Eriksson has a clause in his contract that allows him to go back to Sweden if he’s unhappy with the situations in Utica. He’d still be in the Canucks system, but unavailable for call-ups and far away from Canucks coaching and management.

Meanwhile, Joe Cannata, who has put up reasonable numbers as an AHL backup and is just a few years removed from his superb college career, is stuck in a tough spot. If Eriksson stays in Utica and forms a tandem with Markstrom, that doesn’t leave many starts available for Cannata.

That likely means Cannata heads to the ECHL with the Kalamazoo Wings, but that doesn’t make things any easier, as the K-Wings also have an affiliation with the St. Louis Blues. If the Blues also send a goaltender to the ECHL, things can get political in a hurry.

Overall, this is good news. The Canucks get to hang on to Markstrom and hope that he develops into a decent NHL goaltender while still in their system. It’s likely that neither Markstrom nor Eriksson are too happy with this situation, but it was an inevitability when Jim Benning signed Ryan Miller this summer.

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4 comments

  1. Johan
    September 27, 2014

    Funny thing is both of these guys are likely unhappy with being no 3 :) . We might lose both because being no 3 behind Läck and Markström looked a whole lot better for Ericsson than being stuck behind Miller and Läck. Season in europe is already started and most rosters are set so it might not be that easy to find a job.
    And that clause is pretty much standard for swedish players.

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  2. Austin Wallace
    September 27, 2014

    What are the chances of a cross-AHL loan? I’m sure there is an AHL team that would love Markstrom and whose parent club doesn’t have an AHL-starter ready prospect.

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  3. BBoone
    September 28, 2014

    One way to look at things is it was Luongo for Miller, Mathias and Markstrom ( since the cap space made the Miller singing possible). I know we are all disappointed that Gillis could never trade Roberto for , say , Crosby ,but in reality things have finally worked out OK.

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    • JDM
      September 29, 2014

      Luongo cap relief: 4.5M

      Miller + Matthias + Markstrom cap hit: 8.1M (with Jacob in the AHL)

      How did trading Luongo allow for the signing of Miller, other than by freeing up a potential starter’s job (that should’ve gone to lack anyway)?

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