Ben Kuzma: Loyalty a two-way contract avenue for Canucks, Markstrom


The Vancouver Canucks are banking on long-standing belief to assist safe netminder Jacob Markstrom to a contract extension

Loyalty is a two-way avenue void of purple lights and cease indicators.

Because the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to push a potential resumption of the NHL season into July — creating difficult scheduling and host metropolis web site situations to play in empty arenas to recoup misplaced revenues — the Vancouver Canucks are banking on long-standing belief to assist safe netminder Jacob Markstrom to a contract extension.

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And despite the fact that the wage cap ceiling may stay at US$81.5 million, and never enhance to $84-$88 million as forecast two days earlier than the season was positioned on pause March 12, mutual admiration and respect between the Canucks’ goaltender and the franchise has by no means wavered.

Can that assist get a deal completed with the 30-year-old unrestricted free agent, who has been the Canucks’ most beneficial participant this season and is absolutely recovered from a February knee damage?

“It performs a component,” common supervisor Jim Benning mentioned Wednesday. “We’re making an attempt to ascertain a tradition right here and we’ve taken steps in the precise route. And Jacob is a giant a part of that with how onerous he competes and the way properly favored he’s within the room.

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“It’s been a troublesome 12 months for him together with his father getting sick and having to go away the crew after which going again house once more when (his father) handed. And taking part in out the final 12 months of his contract isn’t straightforward and that claims lots concerning the individual and his character.”


Jacob Marksrom is resting and rehabbing in Sweden in the course of the stoppage.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck /

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Beneath regular circumstances, Markstrom’s expiring $Three.6 million cap hit would get an even bigger increase right here or in free company, however in the present day’s NHL is much from regular. If the season is completely scuttled, the $1 billion in misplaced income will escalate escrow for gamers and put many groups in cap hell.

Markstrom ranks with Robin Lehner, ($5M cap hit) and Braden Holtby ($6M), however cash-strapped groups can’t buck up for prime UFA stoppers. Even the term-for-salary trade could be moot. Who would need to signal longer for much less cash after which see the league’s hockey-related income rebound?

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What’s seldom unsure is being in the precise place on the proper time.

Within the AHL, Markstrom was usually labelled the very best goalie not taking part in within the NHL. In Utica, N.Y., he backstopped the Comets to the 2015 Calder Cup Ultimate. In Vancouver, he received the roster nod over Eddie Lack, who wanted a brand new contract and was dealt on the 2015 draft.

Markstrom has embraced steerage from goalie coaches Rollie Melanson, Dan Cloutier and Ian Clark and has matured as a participant and individual. His once-prickly relationship with the media transitioned right into a unanimous choice because the membership’s Masterton Trophy nominee final season because the participant who finest exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication.

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All that was examined Feb. 18. The Canucks and Markstrom’s camp agreed to desk extension talks till the tip of this season. In an ideal world, a deal would have been completed earlier than the season was paused.

“I’d have wish to have a long-term deal and know what I’m going to do for a couple of years,” Markstrom mentioned Wednesday throughout a video convention name from his native Sweden. “However that’s not the case proper now and hopefully we get again taking part in.

“It’s been some time since I’ve been left and not using a contract, however I’ve been on this state of affairs earlier than. There are clearly uncertainties now with what no one may predict.”

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One certainty is mutual respect.

“Each participant needs to play on a crew that helps you as you come up within the system and the league, so clearly, you need to play for someone who needs you,” mentioned Markstrom. “I feel Ian Clark is likely one of the finest on the earth.

“To work with him on daily basis is a privilege. He expects lots from you, however I actually like that. That’s after I push myself to turn out to be higher.

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“I’m very comfy in Vancouver for certain. In my thoughts I need to keep — that’s my purpose. And this season isn’t over but. We need to push to the playoffs and provides the folks one thing to cheer for and that’s 100 per cent of my mindset. I’m nonetheless a Canuck and happy with that.”

Nevertheless, empathy for the COVID-19 disaster dominates Markstrom’s mindset. Sweden initially took a extra open method to bodily distancing — eating places, faculties and pubs remained open — however positive-test circumstances have spiked.


Jacob Markstrom makes a save on Nashville Predators ahead Nick Bonino (13) in February.

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Bob Frid /

USA TODAY Sports activities

Markstrom isn’t skating, however works together with his coach to remain mentally and bodily sharp. And being a very good international citizen is as vital as being a standout goalie.

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“With all the opposite stuff, hockey has not turn out to be that vital and is type of secondary,” mentioned Markstrom. “Seeing the hospitals and what all of the front-line employees do and I particularly observe Vancouver very intently.

“Companies are struggling and individuals are shedding relations, so it (contract) is certainly taking a again seat with all the pieces that’s happening. I need everyone to come back out of this.”

Markstrom’s countrymen have been skating in Sweden, however he believes there’s sufficient understanding to maintain COVID-19 numbers from fast escalation. That has been the mantra in Vancouver since distancing edicts have been put in place final month.

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On Wednesday, B.C. well being officers reported 71 new positive-test circumstances to spice up the provincial whole to 1,795. There are 46 sufferers in intensive care and three new deaths have raised the full to 90. On the encouraging aspect, 1,079 have absolutely recovered from COVID-19.

“With the principles of the lockdown, they (residents) have a little bit longer leash than different international locations,” mentioned Markstrom. “Persons are nonetheless working right here and also you do see folks out and about. However everyone is sensible about it. We’re all grown up and professionals. Everyone must be accountable.”

Markstrom took the identical method with a meniscus tear suffered in a wild 9-Three conquer the Boston Bruins on Feb. 22 at Rogers Area.

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In an early first-period breakaway, David Pastrnak scored on a deke that compelled Markstrom to stretch in an prolonged trend. He felt some knee discomfort within the second interval and extra within the third.

“I felt it was a little bit stiff and with 10 or 15 minus left, I informed the fellows to begin blocking some photographs as a result of the knee wasn’t feeling too good,” recalled Markstrom, who completed with 34 saves and was operating on post-game adrenalin. “I wasn’t certain what it was, but it surely wasn’t something main that we couldn’t repair. The timing wasn’t the very best going for the playoffs.”

Nevertheless, on an extended flight to Montreal the following day, the knee tightened proper up.

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“I didn’t get higher in any respect,” mentioned Markstrom. “I awakened the following day and felt like we wanted to take a picture to be sure that we don’t destroy it anymore. I hoped it was nothing and one thing I may play by means of.”

Markstrom didn’t practise on the Feb. 24 NHL commerce deadline and the crew referred to as it a upkeep day. He flew again to Vancouver for an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) after which had a minor process to stabilize the knee. The restoration purpose was 4 weeks.

“All the things went easy and I didn’t have a nasty day in rehab,” mentioned Markstrom. “My purpose was to play in California in a type of back-to-back video games (March 20-21).”

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OVERTIME — Benning had exploratory discussions with Colin Campbell, NHL director of hockey operations, on Wednesday about Vancouver being a potential web site to host video games ought to the season resume in July. Reviews have listed Edmonton as the popular Pacific Division location.

bkuzma@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/benkuzma

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