Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning is hoping to sign pending unrestricted free-agent goaltender Jacob Markstrom to a contract extension and add a top-six winger before the Feb. 24 trade deadline, he told Sportsnet's Iain MacIntyre on Wednesday.
"Yes, that's my plan," he said. "That's our goal. Jacob is an important guy in our locker room. He was a player we thought we could develop into a No. 1 goaltender. We've seen him get better and better every year. He's had some interruptions this year with his father, but we're past that now. We need him to be kind of where he left off last year."
The 6-foot-6 Swede has been remarkably consistent, owning a .912 save percentage for the third straight season.
However, 24-year-old netminder Thatcher Demko, who owns a .906 save percentage and a 3.00 goals-against average in 12 games this season, is also in the fold. If Markstrom re-signs, the Canucks would have to choose between the 29-year-old veteran and the former highly touted prospect when it comes to protecting just one goaltender for the 2021 Seattle expansion draft.
"There's a lot of time between now and the expansion draft," Benning said. "We'll figure that out as we get closer. Thatcher is a young goalie in this league and he's learning what it takes to be competitive and consistent every night. I think this is a good learning experience for him and we think he'll get even better down the road."
Even though the Canucks are three points out of a playoff spot, Benning is also looking to add a top-six winger.
"I try to keep in contact with all the other general managers in the league, and if there's something that fits and makes sense, we'll look at it," Benning said.
Benning attempted to complement his lethal one-two punch down the middle in Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat by adding a pair of wingers during the offseason. He traded a conditional first-round pick, a third-round pick, and goalie Marek Mazanec to the Tampa Bay Lightning for J.T. Miller. He also signed free agent Micheal Ferland to a four-year contract with a cap hit of $3.5 million.
The addition of Miller has worked beautifully, as the 26-year-old is enjoying a career year with 31 points in 31 games. However, Ferland has been a disappointment, tallying just five points in 14 games while missing time due to injury.
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