Even when the Vancouver Canucks are winning, it is not hard to find an argument regarding the team. Except over their most valuable player this season.

Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are game-changers, literally and for the outlook of the National Hockey League franchise. But no one has been as important to the Canucks this season as goalie Jacob Markstrom, whose save percentage (.917), wins (19) and minutes-played (2,072) heading into Saturday’s matinee against the New York Islanders do not fully reflect the impact of the Swede who turned 30 on Friday.

Markstrom has evolved into a top-10 starter in the NHL, a galvanizing leader on a team that plays high-event hockey and has needed its goaltender to be its best player on many nights this season. Markstrom’s salary will reflect his status when he signs his next contract on or before July 1.

Although negotiations between Markstrom and the team remain in the early stages, Canucks general manager Jim Benning has publicly pledged to keep his starting goalie, who has made it clear that he loves Vancouver and wants to stay.

"He likes the guys on the team and the guys like him," Benning told Sportsnet two weeks ago. "We’re going to get that figured out so he can remain playing for us."

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VANCOUVER – Even when the Vancouver Canucks are winning, it is not hard to find an argument regarding the team. Except over their most valuable player this season.

Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are game-changers, literally and for the outlook of the National Hockey League franchise. But no one has been as important to the Canucks this season as goalie Jacob Markstrom, whose save percentage (.917), wins (19) and minutes-played (2,072) heading into Saturday’s matinee against the New York Islanders do not fully reflect the impact of the Swede who turned 30 on Friday.

Markstrom has evolved into a top-10 starter in the NHL, a galvanizing leader on a team that plays high-event hockey and has needed its goaltender to be its best player on many nights this season. Markstrom’s salary will reflect his status when he signs his next contract on or before July 1.

Although negotiations between Markstrom and the team remain in the early stages, Canucks general manager Jim Benning has publicly pledged to keep his starting goalie, who has made it clear that he loves Vancouver and wants to stay.

"He likes the guys on the team and the guys like him," Benning told Sportsnet two weeks ago. "We’re going to get that figured out so he can remain playing for us."

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Canucks' Markstrom stacks the pads to make save on Sharks

The goaltender market is always tricky, and the free-agent class of 2020 could include A-list starters Braden Holtby and Robin Lehner, as well as reliable (and more affordable) B-listers like Jaroslav Halak, Anton Khudobin and Thomas Greiss.

And, of course, the situation in Vancouver is especially intriguing because backup goalie Thatcher Demko, under contract next season at just $1.05 million, is only 24 years old and shows every indication of developing into a star. Too bad he has played only 27 games in the NHL.