NHL free agency sweepstakes underway
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
The NHL free agent frenzy is well under way. This is the pandemic version; normally free agency starts on July 1. This year, it began on October 9. Players are moving from teams faster than people trying to move into a line up at the “nine items or less” checkout counter at the grocery store.
Jamie Fitzpatrick’s article, “Fundamentals of the NHL’s Free Agent System” on liveaboutdotcom, outline portions of the 2013 NHL collective bargaining agreement—explaining the rules of free agency. NHL players who turn 27 years of age or those who have played a minimum of seven years in the NHL can declare themselves an unrestricted free agent. Players who are restricted free agents need the current team to extend a “qualifying offer” to that player in order to maintain negotiating rights to that player. Thus, the player will become an unrestricted free agent if the team does not extend a qualifying offer. Also, if a player declines to accept a qualifying offer, he will remain a restricted free agent.
Unfortunately for Canuck fans, the Canucks lost four players to free agency. Popular goaltender Jacob Markstrom signed a six-year 36-million-dollar contract with the Calgary Flames. Also joining Markstrom is Chris Tanev, who signed a four-year contract worth $18 million. In addition, Richmond native Troy Stecher signed a two-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings worth $3.4 million. Sniper Tyler Toffoli inked a four-year 17-million-dollar contract with the Montreal Canadiens. However, the Canucks made a trade on October 12 to acquire defenseman, Nate Schmidt, from the Vegas Golden Knights. Schmidt comes to Vancouver in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.
In spite of this, some Canuck fans may not agree with the team not resigning Markstrom. He proved last season that he could be a solid dependable number one goalie. Markstrom had set career high numbers for himself before the pandemic interrupted the NHL season in March. Markstrom had a 23-16-4 record with a goals-against average of 2.75—including a save percentage of .918. In addition, Markstrom was playing with a very heavy heart as his father, Anders, passed away from cancer at age 59 in November 2019.
Furthermore, during the 2020 playoffs in Edmonton, Markstrom’s record was 8 wins and 6 losses, with a 2.85 goals against average. He had a .919 save percentage and one shutout. Unfortunately, Markstrom was injured during the second round against the Vegas Golden Knights. Thatcher Demko took over goaltending duties for the last three games of the series. Demko played well, despite the Canucks losing the series to Vegas in seven games.
Nevertheless, Markstrom was a fan favourite especially with his fiery competitiveness and nature. As the old cliché states, one does not “suffer fools gladly.” Markstrom did not suffer letting in bad goals gladly as he was always hard on himself and accountable after letting in a bad goal or having a poor game. On the other hand, Markstrom is now 30 years old, and he was injured during the Vegas series—making him expendable.
Lastly, the Canucks now have a decent goaltending tandem with Thatcher Demko and the recent signing of Braden Holtby from the Washington Capitals. Holtby signed a two-year 8.6-million-dollar contract. It is a good contract for both sides, as Holtby will provide solid goaltending for the Canucks with his experience. Plus, he has a Stanley Cup ring as a member of the Capitals in 2018. It will be interesting now to see what Canuck GM, Jim Benning, will do to replace the void left by the departure of the four now former Canuck players.