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Vancouver Canucks Trade Deadline: No Big Deal

Vancouver Canucks Trade Deadline

The Vancouver Canucks had a relatively quiet NHL Trade Deadline. On Monday, they only made one move: dealing for Louis Domingue in the wake of an injury-scare with Jacob Markstrom. A  week prior, they also traded for Tyler Toffoli from the Los Angeles Kings. These two moves marked their only two during the 2020 Trade Deadline season.

This lack of moves could raise a few eyebrows among Canucks fans. The team is fighting strong in a very close Pacific Division and could’ve been pushed ahead with a few notable additions. Yet, they stayed put. This could only mean one of two things: they didn’t need to make a deal, or they couldn’t make a deal.

The Vancouver Canucks Trade Deadline Shouldn’t Worry

Set to Go

If fans of the Canucks are disappointed by the quiet Vancouver Canucks Trade Deadline, it is because of what would go, not come. Problems with the salary cap are coming for Vancouver, and everyone knows it. (In fact, problems are already here, but more on that a bit later.)

GM Jim Benning provided the team some relief this year when he moved Tim Schaller in the Toffoli deal. He wasn’t any part of the core return for the Los Angeles Kings, getting just two games before hitting waivers.

More importantly, that deal addressed a need for the Canucks before the deadline. Toffoli has been a great addition for Vancouver with four points in two games. He won’t maintain that level, of course, but with Brock Boeser and Josh Leivo out a deal was needed. The Pacific Division remains stupidly close, and any change with just 20 games left carries a risk with it.

The rest of the wheeling and dealing by Benning was finished months ago. J.T. Miller is a huge addition, far better than expected. Which is a good thing, given the criticism the deal brought with it. Many fans saw the team as rebuilding, and that conflicts with trading away high draft picks. Contrast him with the Micheal Ferland story if you want, but the reasoning behind getting Ferland is obvious. Likewise with Oscar Fantenberg and Jordie Benn.

So, all the deals – even the emergency ones – were done. Everything the team needed was wrapped up and sealed tight. Increased depth on defence, added firepower up front, some more bite team-wide… What more could the fans want? Sure, the salary cap is going to be a problem next season, but that’ll be dealt with after the playoff run here in 2020.

Oh, Just One More Thing…

They even learned from the ridiculous comedy of errors that happened around their goaltending last year. Remember that? When the team didn’t use their signed veteran backup until Jacob Markstrom broke himself playing every game? Then they used a prized rookie who wasn’t ready for it? This year the team signed a fistful of goalies before they got caught again.

None of whom, apparently, they trust enough to back up Thatcher Demko.

Yes, the big Canucks trade deadline deal this year was Domingue. The team picked him up after flying out to face the Montreal Canadiens at the start of their four-game road trip. They got Domingue by trading away former Boston Bruins prospect Zane McIntyre who the Canucks signed last summer. McIntyre had been backing up Michael DiPietro in Utica and was acquired as a backup in case things went sideways with the goaltending in Vancouver again.

Then they changed their minds when things did go sideways, deciding on the slightly more expensive Domingue. Why?

Yes, Why?

I’m getting to that.

Louis Domingue is not well known now but started his career in high regard. His first two seasons with Arizona were quite good, getting a 2.74 GAA and .912 SV% over 48 games. He couldn’t keep that pace, however, and was traded off to the Tampa Bay Lightning after a very average 2016-17 season and a poor start to 2017-18. With the Lightning, he played around league average, but that wasn’t good enough to keep him. Tampa Bay tossed Domingue to the New Jersey Devils for a conditional seventh-round pick.

Never a great sign for any career, that.

His travails with the Devils are less his than they are the Devils’. He stacked up a lot of losses between his first start late in November and his final game with them on Tuesday – but in between also picked up wins against the Lightning and Washington Capitals when both teams were dominating the league.

Is That Good?

Better than losing to them.

There are advantages to signing Domingue. He has 138 games in the NHL compared to McIntyre’s eight or DiPietro’s two. DiPietro can stay where he is, as the starter for the Utica Comets, and work on his pro game. He doesn’t need the disruption just to play a half dozen games between now and possibly the end of March. It’s much better for him to be the leader for the Comets and get them to the playoffs.

Okay, so why not an NHL goaltender instead? There are plenty around, and the Canucks trade deadline was not exactly action-packed. Surely someone else could have been found…?

There were goalies available at the NHL level, certainly. But what would the team do with them once Markstrom came back? If they were sent down, even clearing waivers, they could not be used in the AHL playoffs. No one in the NHL at the time of the trade deadline is allowed. So there would be an NHL vet eating popcorn and getting paid at the NHL level, which the Canucks can’t afford, or doing so in the NHL and not available for anything.

Domingue was already in the AHL, so will back up DiPietro there when Markstrom returns. And while he’s down there, he’ll cost almost nothing against the cap. Which is about as much space as Vancouver has.

And there is the matter of cost. Not his paycheque, but that he only cost the Canucks an AHL goaltender. That’s affordable, without working in his cap hit. They didn’t lose any roster players. No draft picks went out the door. McIntyre wasn’t a prospect any more at 27 years old. It was an affordable move in every way.

What About the Playoffs?

Okay, yes, maybe not EVERY way. No doubt the team would have preferred to bring in someone like Ryan Miller or maybe enter the bidding for Robin Lehner. But they couldn’t afford either. If they had room, the Canucks’ trade deadline would have looked very different.

As it is, they are going to ride Thatcher Demko into the busiest month of the year – they play 16 games in March – while just three points above the playoff line. They are in as good a position as anyone in the Pacific Division, but that’s not saying much.

The good news is that their new backup plays better behind a good team, and Vancouver is much, much better than New Jersey. The bad news is their starter has just average numbers playing behind that much better team.

The Canucks have been a great watch this year, with a lot of wildly entertaining games. The goaltender they had who could handle it is now on the sidelines. We’re going to find out if that puts the Canucks on the sidelines, too, come April.

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