Analyzing How Spencer Martin Can Cure the Canucks Goaltending

Spencer Martin
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On Friday, the Vancouver Canucks announced goaltender Spencer Martin agreed on a two-year, one-way extension with the team. This signing is a panacea to all of Vancouver’s goaltending problems (in the short-term, anyway). And maybe he won’t solve all of them exactly, but some in a really specific way. Let’s talk.

NHL free agent frenzy

Spencer Martin Signing Solves Some of the Canucks Problems

The former Colorado Avalanche player got his first NHL win earlier this season, eight years after being drafted. As mysterious as goaltending success is, not much was expected of the minor deal. The trade that brought Martin to the Canucks from the Tampa Bay Lightning cost them the ever-popular “future considerations”. In other words, nothing.

He’s played three games with Vancouver in January – doubling his career NHL starts – and has been phenomenal. He’s made 113 saves against 118 shots and saved nearly six goals above average in those three games. He suffered through a shootout loss, then an overtime loss, before finally getting his first career NHL win. Those are likely his only games with the big club this year, but signing his first multi-year deal since his entry-level contract all but guarantees his sticking in Vancouver for 2022-23.

Maybe for the season after, too, but let’s take it one season at a time. Much like Spencer Martin himself.

Taking It Slow and Steady

Martin was taken in the third round of the 2013 NHL Draft, 63rd overall by the Avalanche. He won the starter’s role for a weak Mississauga team in 2013-14 and it was obviously appreciated. His workload increased massively the next year and finally got a winning 2014-15 season in his final OHL season. After a bit of time in both the ECHL and AHL, he got his shot in Colorado.

Unfortunately for Martin, it was an Avs squad that only managed 22 wins on the season. Three games, three losses, then a five-year wait until he saw the NHL again. Vancouver was happy to get him, having learned a harsh lesson about running out of goaltenders a couple of years earlier. Martin was going to establish a veteran presence for the youngsters Michael DiPietro and Arturs Silovs in the minors. And he has, with Silovs getting extra work in ECHL Trois-Rivières.

Bad Decisions Ask For Makeup Moves

The ridiculousness of DiPietro being placed on the Taxi Squad for the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season has come back to bite the team. Without any actual playing time, his development was delayed for an entire year. While he’s been solid in the AHL, the expectation was that DiPietro would have the bulk of the season’s starts. With the veteran Jaroslav Halák signed, there was no room for either of the young goalies and likewise no will to bring them to the NHL. But the Canucks weren’t interested in only having two non-NHL goalies signed, either.

Martin got his fourth one-year, two-way deal and the Canucks got their veteran goaltender for their minor team in Abbotsford. And a good thing, too, as DiPietro and Silovs both had a bit of a rocky start. That’s not a great feature for a new location, especially with the NHL Canucks off to a similar lurch. Martin’s steady play eased the team through and eventually led to his getting his three-game run in January.

Run, Spencer Martin, Run!

Starting with a shootout loss against the Florida Panthers was one way to impress your employers. His next game was lost to the Edmonton Oilers in overtime and where Martin stopped 47 shots. He completed the set with a solid 5-1 win against the Winnipeg Jets, getting more than two goals in support for the first time in his six-game NHL career.

He continued his strong play in the AHL when he was returned to Abbotsford. Vancouver wasn’t going to carry three goalies, and Halák was on a one-way deal. But that one-way deal includes a bonus structure that made it difficult to move him. So the only option was Martin continuing his career in the minors. But not for long.

Halák isn’t going to be returning to the Canucks next year, and his bonus payments mean the team will want to reduce costs. While it’s a bit of a risk, one way to do that is to put what is very close to a league-minimum deal in the net as backup. And the new deal for Silovs – his first one-way contract – is a two-year deal with a cap hit of $750,000.

This Works For Everyone

Martin isn’t going to get the bulk of work come next year, but he shouldn’t need to. While Demko isn’t the most durable goaltender in the league, he’s still going to start around 60 games assuming he remains healthy. That will leave something like 20 games for Martin. In the meantime, the AHL will have DiPietro and Silovs close by.

Any casual Canucks fans may be a bit surprised by the visible online celebration with Martin’s signing. Between his underdog story, the apparent unpreparedness of DiPietro, and the reasonable, low-cost, low-risk contract? What’s not to like from the new management team’s second free-agent signing? Especially coming after the Arshdeep Bains deal.

No, those deals aren’t Stanley Cup guarantees. But they are efficient. And that’s more than enough for a fan base that needs the good news.

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