One of the biggest challenges Jim Benning will face this summer is what to do with Jacob Markstrom.

Over the past few seasons, Markstrom has finally established himself as a top-tier starting goaltender in the NHL. He posted a career-best .918 save percentage in 43 this season for the Canucks, an improvement on the already-solid .912 save percentage he posted in 60 games in back-to-back seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Very clearly the team’s MVP in 2019-20, Markstrom will be able to become an unrestricted free agent this summer (or this fall, whenever free agency ends up going down) for the first time in his career. He’s due to get paid a raise on his current $3,666,667 annual salary.

That said, Markstrom wants to remain a Canuck long-term. He appeared on a conference call from his home in Sweden and said that he’s feeling fully healthy after undergoing knee surgery and that his goal is to eventually work out a new deal to stick around in Vancouver. You can listen to the interview here.

The Canucks already have roughly $63 million committed against the salary cap next season and all signs are pointing to the ceiling remaining flat for the next few years due to the revenue lost in 2019-20 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, teams getting a compliance buyout or two as they did after the 2012 lockout would make life a lot easier, but we don’t know yet if that’s going to be the case.

The one thing going for the Canucks when it comes to keeping Markstrom around is the fact he would be entering a saturated market. Teams are going to be skeptical of handing out big dollars to free agents this summer because of the inevitable flat cap and there are a handful of quality goalies set to hit free agency. Markstrom would be hitting the open market along with quality names like Braden Holtby, Jaroslav Halak, Anton Khudobin, and Robin Lehner.

Markstrom has worked incredibly hard to become a key part of the Canucks’ success. It would be unfortunate to see him move on just as he hit his stride.