With Ryan Miller’s contract completed this off-season, Jacob Markstrom as the expected starter, and Thatcher Demko heating up but not quite there yet, the Canucks are left with a question: who will be their back-up goaltender for the next year or two?
First up: Ryan Miller.
Re-signing Ryan Miller is the simplest option. He brings a good presence both in the game (as he did with defending Troy Stecher against Matt Martin) as well as outside of it (as he did with Nikolay Goldobin). With leadership qualities and solid goaltending, Miller won’t take away from the rebuild much but will help with developing young players. Miller would likely take up $3-4 million in cap space – a pay cut from the last two seasons, but still a hefty amount.
Another easy option for the Canucks, Bachman is under contract for another year at $650,000. Typically a third-string goaltender, Bachman has shown flashes of brilliance while called up to Vancouver, but isn’t and won’t be world-breaking – especially behind a Canucks squad that could and likely will be pushing for the opportunity to draft defensive wonder Rasmus Dahlin.
Coming off a downright terrible season, Brian Elliott is a half-decent goaltender who would come at a bargain bin price, perhaps somewhere between $1.5 and 2 million for a year or two. At this point, the Canucks would be conceding any hopes of the playoffs and completely accept the rebuild. However, if Elliott starts looking somewhat good again, he could be used as a) trade bait for a playoff team, or b) the back-up for Thatcher Demko.
While Canucks fans may be skittish towards Russians outside of Goldobin after Nikita Tryamkin’s exit, Zagidulin would be an interesting experiment. He’s 21, 6’2, and about 10 lbs heavier than Ryan Miller. His numbers in both the KHL and VHL have been nothing to sniff at either – 0.78 GAA / .962 S% in four games with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, 1.47 GAA/ .947 S% in six games with Kunlun Red Star, and 1.62 GAA / .934 S% in nine games with Yuzhny Ural Orsk of the VHL.
Again, Zagidulin would be purely an experiment, but one that could pay off in the future.