Jacob Markstrom will be the Vancouver Canucks' No. 1 goalie, although how soon remains to be seen, general manager Jim Benning said Wednesday.
"Eventually," Benning told The Province. "We've been grooming him the last couple of years to be, at some point, be our No. 1 goalie, and I've been saying that for the last couple of years. I don't know when that happens, but at some point that's what our goal is."
Benning's statement likely means Markstrom will be protected in the upcoming NHL Expansion Draft that will provide the Vegas Golden Knights with their players. Richard Bachman is the only other goalie on the roster who qualifies to be exposed to the draft.
The 30 other NHL teams must submit their list of protected players by 5 p.m. ET June 17. Vegas will be given the lists at 10 a.m. on June 18 and will have until 10 a.m. on June 21 to submit its selections.
Teams must protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender; or eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender. All first- and second-year professional players, and unsigned draft choices, are exempt from selection and do not have to be protected.
Video: VAN@BUF: Markstrom robs Reinhart with sprawling save
Markstrom, 27, was 10-11-3 with a 2.63 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage in 26 games (23 starts) this season. He missed the final 21 games with a knee injury. He signed a three-year contract extension this season that runs through 2019-20.
Markstrom split goaltending duties with Ryan Miller in each of the past two seasons. Miller, 36, can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, but Benning had said he would like Miller to remain in Vancouver.
"Ryan and Jacob have a healthy relationship because they're competitive and respect each other," Benning said. "We have something to offer Ryan that he already knows. We've got some positives for him and if that's the route we go, that's why we're doing it."
Markstrom is 36-53-12 in seven NHL seasons and had career highs in games played (33), starts (30) and wins (13) in 2015-16.