Playoffs are over with Canucks making off-season news
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
The 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final ended on September 28 in the NHL bubble in Edmonton. Tampa Bay Lightning won their second cup in 16 years, defeating Dallas Stars four games to two. Once again, it was strange to watch a championship being awarded in an empty hockey arena—but that is what 2020 has been like.
Yes, hockey did return, but it is just not the same experience that watching hockey on a television was prior to the pandemic. Overall, the series had moments of good hockey. There was the excitement of game five going into double overtime with Dallas’ Corey Perry scoring the winner at 9:23. The win kept the Stars alive as they forced a game six. But ultimately Tampa Bay would prevail in game six with a 2-0 victory—and the cup celebrations had begun.
Overall, Dallas and Tampa Bay made for a pretty uneventful and anticlimactic final. However, it is better than having no hockey to watch at all. Who knows when the next NHL season will resume? Time can only tell. The NHL season always starts in October, so it shows how out of the ordinary this season has been due to COVID-19. The next agenda for the NHL is the 2020 draft, which will be held via video conference on October 6 and 7 from the NHL Network Studios in Secaucus, New Jersey.
Locally, the Vancouver Canucks are looking to sign goaltender, Jacob Markstrom. TSN 1040’s Rick Dhaliwalhas reported that Markstrom and the Canucks are not close to reaching a new contract. Markstrom, who is 30 years old, is in the last year of a contract worth $11 million and the Canucks do have in salary-cap room space to work with for the next season—whenever that begins. Markstrom was playing some of his best hockey as a Canuck. He had a 23-16-4 record with a .918 save percentage—and was on pace for a career-best regular season before the NHL ended their season in March due to the pandemic.
Canuck GM, Jim Benning, spoke to reporters on September 8, disclosing that he had also spoken to Markstrom’s agent the day before. Benning made it clear that he wants to resign Markstrom. “Jacob’s an important guy in our group because he’s a leader and he was our MVP over the course of the regular season,” Benning said. “We’re going to try to figure out a way that makes sense for us and that makes Jacob and his agent happy to get him signed. We want him back and we’re going to start working on that this week.”
Also, Canuck veteran defenseman, Chris Tanev, is generating interest from other teams—one of those is the Pittsburgh Penguins. Tanev will be an unrestricted free agent and Pittsburgh may be an ideal place for him to play. As well, Tanev has another incentive to play in Pittsburgh. His younger brother, Brandon, plays for the Penguins and signed a six-year contract with Pittsburgh last season.
Importantly, for hockey fans, the NHL finished their playoffs—albeit in the most unconventional way. But it proves that despite a global pandemic, professional sports such as hockey can still resume—as long as strict health protocols are being enforced and adhered to.
Finally, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in an interview with Hockey Central that he is proud of everyone involved with the success of the revamped NHL playoffs in the bubble cities (Toronto and Edmonton). “We always believed that if we could get into the bubble, we would have a really good chance of keeping everybody healthy,” Bettman said. “And I don’t want to jinx it because we’re not done yet, but it has been a real testament to the vigilance that the players and the other team staffs have adhered to with respect to the protocols that we developed. This was the ultimate collaborative effort with us and the Players’ Association and the players really committing to what had to be done to get through this,” he said.