A Long-Term Look at the Canucks Crease

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 1:31 am by Ryan Biech

With a pair of games in the books, it’s been interesting to see certain players in their first taste of meaningful hockey for the 2016-17 season.

Looking specifically at the Canucks crease, Ryan Miller already has a sort of shutout but wasn’t actually credited with one. Jacob Markstrom looked shaky in his first start but fought through to keep his team in it and get his first ‘w’ of the season.

Back on the farm, Richard Bachman and Thatcher Demko suffered the Toronto Marlies borderline NHL quality roster, and needless to say, it didn’t go well. Both goalies surrendered five goals in their respective appearances.

Inspired by Flames Nation, I think it’s time we take stock of what the Canucks will do for the next couple years in the crease.

The Goalies

  • Ryan Miller, 36-years-old: His contract ends at the end of this season, where he will become a UFA
  • Jacob Markstrom, 26-years-old: His contract expires at end 2019-2020 season, where he will become a UFA. He is currently paid $1.55M, but will be paid $3.66M per season for the following three seasons
  • Thatcher Demko, 21-years-old: In the first year of his ELC, which concludes after the 2018-19 season. He will become an RFA at the end of the term.
  • Richard Bachman, 29-years-old: Has a cap hit of $575,000 this season, and then $650,000 next season (at the NHL level). Will be a UFA at the end of next season.
  • Michael Garteig, 25-years-old: On one year ELC and will be an RFA at the end of this season.

This season

The Canucks will be relying on their goaltenders for much of the season. Specifically Miller and Markstrom. If one of the two suffers an injury, Bachman will likely be recalled in their stead.

General Manager Jim Benning’s already established that Miller is the ‘number one goalie’ but it’s logical to assume given Miller’s age that he’s likely going to be splitting starts with Markstrom. That makes sense on a number of levels. It grooms Markstrom for the starting role and keeps Miller fresh.

At this moment, Bachman and Demko are holding down the fort in Utica, and as soon as they don’t have to deal with the Marlies, it’s likely they’ll yield better results. Both played reasonably well this past weekend despite the final score.

Garteig was assigned to the Alaska Aces of the ECHL, where he will be the starter.

If the aforementioned injury in the NHL occurs, and Bachman goes up, then Garteig would be recalled from the ECHL. Demko would likely be given the bulk of the starts in Bachman’s absence, but given the AHL schedule which usually has games in back to back situation, Garteig would still see some time.

If the Canucks fall out of the playoff race in the new year, Miller could be moved to a contender looking for depth in the crease. But that would require a team looking for that type of insurance, and the Canucks would have to be really out of it to consider moving Miller. If that happens, they would either acquire a backup to Markstrom, or Bachman would assume the backup role for the remainder of the season.

Expansion Draft

Unless something changes between now and June 2017, Bachman is the goaltender who will be exposed in the expansion draft. The Canucks have to expose one goaltender that meets the requirements below:

Screen Shot 2016-10-17 at 2.17.40 PM

Bachman was extended for another season for this exact reason.

The Canucks would be allowed to protect one goaltender, which would be Jacob Markstrom. Demko and Garteig are exempt for the expansion draft as they would have less than 2 years of professional experience at the conclusion of this season. First and second year professionals are automatically exempt.

If Miller wasn’t move, he would technically be exposed as he would still be under contract until July 1, 2017. That would apply to any other goaltender the Canucks acquire to replace Miller, if he is moved.

The Canucks are in a solid position to not lose a goaltender in the expansion draft, one because of how they positioned themselves and the other talent that will be available around the league.

Next season and beyond

Here’s where it gets interesting.

The Markstrom extension suggests that he would become the number one guy next year, but I would suspect the Canucks would want to insulate him with a veteran backup. That could be re-signing Ryan Miller to a one year term at a much lower cap hit then his current $6.0M cap hit. However Anaheim might be interested in Miller as a backup for next year.

It’s not fair to speculate who they will target, but that acquiring a veteran backup seems like the logical plan. Bachman is an option, but I don’t think you can comfortably rely on him at the NHL level.

If the Canucks do acquire another goaltender to share the net with Bachman, that means they are crowded there again. Garteig will be an RFA, and depending on how he performs would be in the mix again. Bachman and Demko would be back in Utica, handling that workload. I would expect more of a transition to Demko being the #1 guy in Utica next year.

If Garteig does come back, then he would likely be ECHL bound unless the Canucks can find an AHL team to loan Bachman to.

In two years time (2018-19 season) – I would expect Demko to be challenging for NHL time with Markstrom. If he is unable to do so, the Canucks would likely just sign a one year stop gap. Bachman’s contract would be done, and I would be surprised if they retained him. Garteig may still be in the mix as the number three goalie.

During the 2019-20 season, Demko would be starting his new deal and Markstrom would be entering the final year of his deal.


The Canucks are well setup for the next couple of seasons, and the paths of Markstrom and Demko are clear. Markstrom starts to take more of the net over the course of this season, with hopes that he seizes the net for next year. Demko follows that same path in the AHL, then in 2018-19, you hope he is ready to be the backup in Vancouver.

Bachman and Miller fill the veteran leadership roles in their respective leagues. Garteig is the wild card who can provide depth in the AHL.

It will be interesting to see how the three younger guys trend over the season and into next training camp. But it’s obvious due to the paths that are currently in pencil, there is no goalie controversies in Vancouver. Well, for now anyways.