SUNRISE, Fla. – Trevor Linden is arguably the most popular player to ever suit up for the Vancouver Canucks. But on Saturday, at the NHL Draft, he knew he was going to help make one of the most unpopular decisions in recent Canucks history:
Trading away goalie Eddie Lack.
“I know Eddie was popular. He was a great person. Well-liked,” said Linden, the team’s president, and he’s right: From the Tumblrs dedicated to him to the petition to save him from a trade, few players were as beloved as Lack by their fan base.
I mean, look at his going away message.
I want to thank @VanCanucks for the past 5 years! Everyone in and around the team are first class and I've made friends for life👍
— Eddie Lack (@eddielack) June 27, 2015
“I know this is hard for our fans. This is difficult,” said Linden.
The trade that sent Lack to the Carolina Hurricanes netted Vancouver a third-round pick in Saturday’s draft and a seventh-rounder next year; the then drafted QMJHL defenseman Guillaume Briesbois with the fifth pick of the third round, No. 66 overall.
“We talked about the circle of life. Getting younger. And one of the ways we were going to do that was through the draft,” said Linden. “It’s a difficult day.”
It’s made more difficult because the return for Lack, who is 27 and has another year on his contract before UFA status (with a $1.15 million cap hit), wasn’t what fans expected.
Linden said the waiting game for Rangers goalie Cam Talbot, who was moved hours after the Lack deal to the Edmonton Oilers, affected the market.
“[Canucks GM Jim Benning] has been on the phone for the last three weeks, gauging the goaltending market. It was tough, with Talbot being there,” said Linden.
“We thought Talbot would be the first domino to fall. Perhaps for a couple of second-rounders. Lehner’s situation was interesting. Maybe there was a relationship with the manager that knew him well, and that’s who they wanted. And then it went real quiet.”
The meant the trades would come on Day 2, and as it turns out, the Canucks settled for a third-rounder for Lack. “It’s all about what the market will bear,” he said. “There’s 30 picks in the third round. And we got the fifth one. And it’s a player that we coveted.”
The other issue is that Lack’s roster slot will be filled by a much less beloved player: Jakob Markstrom, who is younger (25) but has shown little at the NHL level to inspire confidence that he’s the Canucks’ goalie of the future.
“Eddie’s contract was expiring, and we were going to have a big commitment to him in the next few months. And we felt good about Jakob Markstrom’s progress, where he was headed,” said Linden of Ryan Miller’s backup.
“We’re going to have good goaltending this year. We think Jakob will continue to develop. We’ll have him for two more years, and hopefully longer.”
Yet Linden admitted that Lack was traded because he had more value than Markstrom. “No question. And we need as many assets as we can get,” he said.
Even if it means giving up a fan favorite.
“We had to make the decision, to the best of our knowledge. And we knew it was going to be unpopular.”
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