Spencer Martin’s time as a Vancouver Canuck may be coming to an end.
The NHL team placed Martin on waivers Thursday, saying they intend to reassign him to AHL Abbotsford should he go unclaimed.
But you have to think the Canucks hope the 28-year-old goalie will be claimed by another NHL club, given the logjam of goalies they now have after trading for Casey DeSmith last week.
According to reports, the Canucks have been trying to trade Martin, who they signed to a two-year deal before the 2022-23 season, hoping he would prove to be a solid backup to No. 1 netminder Thatcher Demko.
Obviously they’ve found no trade takers, at least not yet, so general manager Patrik Allvin has turned to a process that would return a pittance of cash to the Canucks, were another team to put a claim in on Martin.
Martin, forever putting on a brave face, said last week after the Canucks picked up DeSmith from the Montreal Canadiens he’s just here to play.
“Since last February, I feel like I’ve been on a journey to get my game feeling as good as possible. I felt great at the end of last year and had a great summer. I’m in better shape than ever and my goal is to come here and play in the NHL, and that doesn’t change,” he told reporters last Friday.
If the Canucks can’t find a new team for Martin, they’ll be in a bit of a roster pickle. They’re already likely to start the season with three goalies in Abbotsford — top prospect Arturs Šilovs is slated to be the starter, backed up by AHL veteran Zach Sawchenko, plus giant Belarusian project Nikia Tolopilo — and it’s hard to fathom them putting a fourth goalie out there.
Conceivably they could look to loan him to another AHL team, but there are few obvious landing spots as it is.
Martin first signed with Vancouver before the 2021-22 season to be one of the team’s goalies in Abbotsford. His game progressed very well but he was unexpectedly pressed into service when both of the Canucks’ NHL goalies — Demko and then-backup Jaroslav Halák — were stricken with COVID-19. Martin ended up playing three games and stood on his head in all of them. He then played three more times late in the season, impressing again.
He won a two-year contract because of his play, with the Canucks hoping the development he’d shown in just his first season with the organization would deliver consistency at the NHL level. In the early going last season, he proved steady, though unspectacular. But after Demko was injured in early December, the starter’s load fell on Martin.
He staggered, then crumbled under the weight of being an NHL starter, eventually ceding the backup job to Collin Delia and Šilovs. Martin rebuilt his confidence in Abbotsford and became a quality starter again as the AHL Canucks progressed to the Calder Cup playoffs.
He’s in the second year of his contract, which pays him US$775,000, with a slightly lower cap hit of $762,500. Because he is on an NHL deal — and it isn’t an entry-level deal — Martin can’t be assigned to the ECHL without his consent.
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