Canucks: Spencer Martin claimed on waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets

Spencer Martin started last season as the Canucks’ No. 2 goalie, but opened this season as the team’s likely fourth choice.

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Spencer Martin’s time as a Vancouver Canucks is over.

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The veteran goalie was claimed on waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets Friday, a day after the Canucks had put him in front of the rest of the league, essentially asking for nothing in return.

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Columbus only had two goalies with NHL experience on their depth chart — starter Elvis Merzlikins and his backup Daniil Tarasov — so they needed a third goalie and Martin obviously fits the bill. Columbus do have 34-year-old Aaron Dell in camp on a professional tryout, but obviously preferred Martin to be their next-in-line goalie.

Tarasov has missed all of pre-season so far with a knee problem, so in the short term Martin seems likely to serve as Merzlikins’ backup, unless the Blue Jackets want to go with Dell. (Notably, Merzlikins struggled with injury last year as well.)

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If and when Columbus want to send Martin to the minors, he’ll have to be waived again by Columbus. NHL teams rarely carry three goalies on their NHL roster, even if they know they need to go three or even four goalies deep most seasons now.

Whether he stays in the NHL or does end up back in the minors, either way it’s a fresh start for Martin. He played hero during the Canucks’ COVID-19 goalie crisis in 2021-22, standing on his head and keeping the Canucks in a far-fetched playoff chase after No. 1 Thatcher Demko and backup Jaroslav Halák fell ill.

He’d signed with the Canucks so he could work with goalie coach Ian Clark, who rebuilt his game. Martin credited Clark’s guidance for his success.

The Canucks then signed Martin to a two-year NHL deal and had him start 2022-23 as the team’s backup. He started the season all right, but when Demko injured his groin in early December, Martin was thrust into the starter’s role and he ended up crumbling under the weight of a rigorous playing schedule and a porous defence in front of him.

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His run turned so sour that his save percentage over his 27 starts last season in the NHL — 87.1 — was the worst save percentage for a goalie with at least 10 starts since Maxim Lagace’s 86.7 for Vegas in 2017-18. Interestingly, Columbus’ Merzlikins posted a 87.7 save percentage over 27 starts last season and one of his backups, Michael Hutchinson, post the same save percentage but in just 10 starts.

Anyway, Martin’s season was going so poorly he was demoted to the minors in February and remained with AHL Abbotsford through the remainder of the season, where he rediscovered his confidence and his game, helping Abbotsford make the Calder Cup playoffs.

But with Arturs Šilovs’s stock rising after a strong run with Abbotsford last season — he also made some solid starts in the NHL and finished the season on a high, guiding Lativa to their best-ever finish at the World Championships — the off-season signing of Zach Sawchenko to play in Abbotsford and then the Canucks trading for Casey DeSmith last week, the writing was on the wall.

It wasn’t a surprise to hear last week that perhaps the Canucks would look for a trading partner for Martin, or yesterday that they were simply going to waive him.

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