The Vancouver Canucks will leave the 2015 NHL Draft a worse team than they were when they arrived.
After a quiet first day at the draft, the Canucks made a splash early on Day 2, kicking off a flurry of activity with a controversial goalie trade, which is something of an organizational specialty at this point.
Popular, personable and very good at stopping pucks launched at him by NHL shooters, Eddie Lack was dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes for a couple of draft picks, one of which the Canucks used to select QMJHL defenceman Guillaume Brisebois early in the third-round.
The other pick is a seventh-round selection in 2016, a pure lottery ticket.
Lack was Vancouver’s best goaltender, even if the organization – at least under new management – never regarded him as such. In two years of NHL action Lack has posted an impressive .917 save percentage and his AHL results also suggest he’s a goalie with star potential. When pressed into workhorse-starter duty for two-and-a-half months following a knee injury that sidelined Ryan Miller, Lack started essentially every game for the Canucks, and stole a large handful of them.
And on Saturday he was gone, dealt for a relatively meager return when compared with what the New York Rangers netted for Cam Talbot.
“It's all about what the market will bear,” Canucks president Trevor Linden said on the draft floor Saturday morning.
“Trust me, we've worked on this, (general manager Jim Benning has) been on the phone for the last three weeks gauging the landscape of the goaltending market, and it was hard to judge with Talbot being there and Lehner,” Linden continued.
“I think with one year until free agency, that plays a part in that. Talbot seemed like he was the guy that had the most interest from various teams. That's just the market.”
The claim that Lack went for roughly market value holds up under closer scrutiny. A handful of recent trades featuring roughly comparable goaltenders such as Jhonas Enroth, Ben Scrivens, Devan Dubnyk and Michal Neuvirth netted the trading teams a package based mostly around a third-round pick.
Understandably, it’s a tough pill for fans in Vancouver to swallow though. Lack was a fan favourite, as the constant chants of “Eddie! Eddie!” in the usually low-decibel confines of Rogers Arena can attest. It doesn’t help that of the four teams that dealt a goaltender this weekend, the Canucks netted by far the most pedestrian return.
“We recognize this won't be a popular decision and we're going to have to live with that, but we feel it was the right decision at the end of the day,” Linden explained.
Linden is the most popular player in franchise history, and it isn’t all that close. He’s Vancouver royalty. That he was the one facing the media scrum on the draft floor and attempting to spin this deal to the masses indicates the club is well aware this is a tough decision to explain to a skeptical fan base.
So what Linden stressed was that, although the return was a third-round pick, at least it was a high third-round pick. He explained that Lack was going to require a significant contract extension – reports suggest he was looking to sign for about $4 million per season – and that the Canucks weren’t prepared to make that commitment. He emphasized Lack had much more value on the trade market than third-string goaltender Jacob Markstrom, and that the club desperately needs to accumulate young assets.
That’s all well and good, but the Canucks are a weaker team on the ice and a less likable team off of it following the Lack trade.