Tanev, Markstrom & the Postseason

In this edition of Vancouver Canucks News & Rumors, I want to share news about two players who have been with the team for a while – Chris Tanev and Jacob Markstrom. Both are set to become unrestricted free agents and it will be an interesting and difficult offseason to see if and how the organization negotiates new deals.

Related: Vancouver Canucks News & Rumors: Pettersson, Rathbone, Miller & More

In the meantime, there’s a postseason ahead that Tanev and Markstrom will be a big part of.

Item One: Will Chris Tanev Re-Sign With the Canucks? He’s Willing.

Tanev has been a warrior for the Canucks and I’m certain he and the organization would love to come to terms; however, his $4.45 million contract is ending at a time when the team is against the salary-cap limit and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the cap remains unknown.

Because Tanev’s heading into free agency in such a complex time, he’s in a bit of a bind. He’s not alone, many free agents have decided it might be better to sign a one-year contract and wait to see where things settle. If Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre is correct, Tanev is one of those players. He seems ready to sign a short-term deal even though he’s made it clear he has no desire to play anywhere else. He’s a team guy.

Christ Tanev would like to retire a Canuck. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Tanev knows salaries are tight for the Canucks, who have already committed $63 million to 14 players for next season. However, it’s hard to imagine Tanev playing anywhere else. However, at 30 years old, the team might feel they can’t afford him and let him go.

I can’t imagine he will make huge contract demands because he’s been clear he wants to stay in Vancouver: “I’ve been here now for 10 years and I’ve loved every minute of it. There’s definitely a trust between me and management and the ownership group, which has been awesome to me.”

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Tanev has been even clearer about where he wants to end his career: “Whether it’s one year or many years (on the next contract), I’d love to play my whole career here … I love it here, I want to stay here, I think the team is going in the right direction, and if we come back to play this year, I think we’re going to have a real good shot at competing and going far. I’d like to be part of that in the future.”

That’s not a strong negotiating position, but it suits his personality – straight forward and honest. General manager Jim Benning has also been clear about his thoughts on the hulking defenseman: “There are guys who really help other players along, and I would say Chris Tanev is one of those guys. I’d like to try to figure out a way to bring Chris back because I think he’s a good leader and our younger players look up to him.”

Quinn Hughes Vancouver Canucks
Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

I hope Tanev signs with the Canucks. He’s one of the good guys, and his presence is helpful for rising-star Quinn Hughes.

Item Two: Jacob Markstrom Gets No Respect Outside of Vancouver

Last week, the NHL’s Super 16 issued a power ranking of the goalies on the 24 teams that will play in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. The Canucks’ Markstrom ranked 13th. He deserves better.

In a post written a few days ago on CanucksArmy, Chris Faber said he agrees. Markstrom is a better goalie than he’s given credit for outside of Vancouver, especially given his play this season.

Jacob Markstrom Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

Anyone who watched Markstrom play this season would have difficulty ignoring some glaring statistics. As Faber pointed out, of the 22 NHL goalies who played more than 40 games, Markstrom ranked first in shots against per game and saves per game.

In short, that’s the Canucks playing like the Canucks. They’re a high-flying offensive team that creates and also gives up many chances. They trust Markstrom to keep them in games, and by and large, he does. In fact, he’s on top of his game when he faces a lot of shots.

Related: The Vancouver Canucks’ Top Three Defensemen of All-Time

I bet it didn’t take head coach Travis Green long to figure out that Markstrom was good after he built his team’s offensive philosophy around that fact. This Canucks team plays wide-open hockey that pushes the puck up ice all the time. That style causes mistakes, and Markstrom is expected to cover for them.

With Markstrom is in net, the Canucks were outshot 1420-1317. However, the team also outscored opponents 130-117 when Markstrom played.

His career-high 49-save, 3-0 shutout of the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 12, 2020, the night the organization retired Daniel and Henrik Sedin’s numbers is a case in point. Those saves were the most by a Canuck goaltender since Kirk MacLean’s 45-save win over the Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 4, 1991.

No other Swedish goalie has made as many saves in a shutout in NHL history. The New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist and Ottawa Senators’ Anders Nilsson have both earned 45-save shutouts.

Markstrom, who’s a team-oriented player like Tanev, noted after that game, “They were throwing a lot of pucks from bad angles, kind of from everywhere. It was a battle…There is nothing more I like than to battle for 60 minutes with these guys.”

Markstrom had a great but difficult season, but he was as good as any goalie in the NHL. He did it under difficult circumstances and was rewarded for it with a Bill Masterton Trophy nomination. He spent part of the season in Sweden because his father died. Even facing the weight of such a tragedy, he helped his team into the postseason.

After he returned from Sweden in early December, his record was 15-9-1 through the end of the season, his save percentage was .920 in those 25 games.

What’s Next for the Canucks?

The Canucks will soon be engaged in a postseason play-in series to see if they will make the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Unless the team’s personality changes for the playoffs, which I hope it doesn’t, the series will be fast, offensive, and will show off the team’s skills.

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Expect to see Quinn Hughes with his regular partner, Tanev, in the series. Fans will also probably see Markstrom making tons of stops. That’s what makes Canucks hockey fun (and sometimes frustrating) to watch.

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