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Tight Goalie Market Indicates Strong Potential Return for Jacob Markstrom

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Jacob Markstrom Flames Daily

General Manager Craig Conroy may have yet more sweet sorrow to deal with.

In the wake of a 2023-2024 campaign where the rookie Flames exec sold off high-value roster players such as Chris Tanev, Noah Hanifin, Elias Lindholm, and Nikita Zadorov; more core contributors may be packing their bags for a new city.

Andrei Kuzmenko, who lifted the Calgary powerplay to a league-leading 35% conversion rate from March 20 to April 18, is set to become a UFA on July 1 of next offseason. 

Likewise, 31 goal scorer Yegor Sharangovich needs a new deal if he is to stay in Calgary beyond next season. The same goes for dark horse fan favorites Andrew Mangiapane and goaltender Daniel Vladar. 

While the will they, won’t they drama of pending UFAs is a certainty for next season, but there may be no more polarizing of a topic than the trade status of a goaltender that is signed for two more seasons. That being 1A netminder Jacob Markstrom. 

  

Coexisting

 

Markstrom and the Flames currently exist in what may be the most awkward current possession of player rights in the NHL. With the 2024 trade deadline steadily approaching, league insiders began reporting that Conroy had found a landing spot for the 6-foot-6 goaltender. 

“My understanding, and this is a belief I’ve had for three weeks or a month now, is that the Flames and Devils had agreed to a trade on Markstrom, Said Frank Seravalli on the DFO Rundown Podcast in early March. “They had gone to Markstrom and said ‘we’re thinking about trading you to New Jersey. What are your thoughts?” 

As tension grew and Markstrom’s rights continued to remain with the Flames, it came out that ownership had nixed a deal that included multiple seasons of salary retention. 

“Don Maloney, on behalf of ownership, is believed to have nixed this trade.” 

These sentiments were echoed in Markstrom’s post-season media availability.  

 

Eric Francis: “Did you have a good talk today about your future here?” 

Jacob Markstrom: “I think the season just ended, and I saw Conny, and I’ll leave it at that. “

Eric Francis: “You expressed some frustration with how things were handled up above you said. How better could that have been handled?” 

Jacob Markstrom: “Well, in my mind, it could have been obviously, you know, I’m here now so – all of the rambling, it could have been not happening,” 

 

So here we are. Arguably Calgary’s most valuable player in 2023-2024 continues on as a Flame — at least for the time being. 

Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic found that winter-dormant hornet’s nest of controversy and kindly gave it a tap with his loafer last week in an article that poked and prodded league GMs about the current status of the trade market at the Draft Combine.  

A quick blurb from Devils General Manager Tom Fitzgerald stood out as notable from a Calgary market perspective. 

“It’s talking to the market and getting the pulse of where people are at with their goaltenders and what they want to do,” said Fitzgerald. “But there are situations … I’ve got the pulse of what’s going on. There are a few guys that I’m in on.” 

In other words, goaltenders are back on the menu. 

 

Notable Netminders 

 

The 34 year old Markstrom isn’t the only solution available for Fitzgerald. Anaheim’s John Gibson, Jeremy Swayman or Linus Ullmark in Boston, and Karel Vejmelka of the newly formed Utah organization are other viable targets for buyers looking to upgrade in net.

Nashville’s Jusse Saros has been a rumoured option, although LeBrun reports that Barry Trotz is working on an extension for the 5-foot-11 goaltender. 

Of the 2024 UFA class, pickings are slim. The LA Kings will likely see Cam Talbot testing free agency. Polarizing Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov will also likely be hitting the market.   

Beyond those two, pickings are slim. Kevin Lankinen and Laurent Brossoit have been pushing for starting role consideration for the past few seasons and may get a shot with a new team.

Calvin Pickard may also have proven that he can hold an NHL role with his work in Edmonton this postseason. The Moncton, New Brunswick product posted a .915 save percentage and a 2.21 goals against average in three games during the 2024 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.  

While all quality goaltenders, there simply aren’t that many options for teams looking for a tender that can steal a game, a series, or serve as a driving force down the stretch like Markstrom has shown that he can.   

 

A Bidding War for Markstrom

 

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman added fuel to the fire this weekend when he weighed in on his and Jeff Marek’s 32 Thoughts: The Podcast. 

“There definitely is something going on,” said Friedman. “I mean New Jersey. Fitzgerald is on record as saying he will consider moving his 10th overall pick and I know lot of people are looking at in goal. A couple of other teams I wonder about there too. Anybody looking for a goalie, but a couple of things I wonder about. Toronto, and I know deals with Toronto and Calgary are kind of complicated, but the GM in Toronto was the guy who signed Markstrom in Calgary, and just on paper a Markstrom/Woll combination is a pretty good combination.”  

Spicy indeed. It looks like Conroy may have a bidding war to manage when it comes to the services of Jacob Markstrom.  

“So, I could understand whether it would be a lot of interest in Markstrom, but obviously, a lot of people are suspecting New Jersey, and there’s a few teams that suspect Toronto and Ottawa as well.”

Let’s take a look at the three listed destinations that Friedman believes are in the mix.  

 

New Jersey Devils

 

The most frequently rumoured destination for the Gavle, Sweden native, Pierre LeBrun weighed in on potential trade talks between Conroy and Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald early last week in a segment with Jay Onrait.  

“Those conversations with the Flames have taken up again. We know that those two teams almost had a deal done before the trade deadline earlier this year before March 8.” Said LeBrun. “It fell apart, but the Devils remain interested in Jacob Markstrom and as importantly, Jacob Markstrom has a full no-move, but my understanding is he’s willing to go to New Jersey.” 

Certainly enough smoke to call it a fire.

The 10th overall pick at the draft on June 28 is one asset that may be involved in a return. 2020 7th overall pick Alexander Holtz has also been rumoured to have been discussed. Holtz has struggled to establish a permanent spot in the top six in his first 110 games with the organization.  

A fringe rumour has been the desire to pry Dawson Mercer out of New Jersey, with Markstrom serving as the main piece. The 22 year old from Carbonear, Newfoundland, saw his production drop from 56 to 33 points season over season, but he can explain most of that drop due to injury. The 6-foot-0 power forward remains a valuable member of the Devils core moving forward.

Fitzgerald has $19,123,603 in cap space this offseason to re-sign Dawson Mercer, fill out their forward ranks a bit, and find another goalie to platoon with Jake Allen.  

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

 

It’s hard to imagine that Brad Treliving will back up the Brinks Truck in the same manner that Tom Fitzgerald is rumoured to be. Players such as Nicholas Robertson (22) and Timothy Liljegrin (25) certainly fit into Conroy’s target age grouping, but neither of those two compare to a pedigreed, top-ten draft pick.

Prospects such as London Knights star forward Easton Cowan and or 6’2” rangy Saskatoon Blades center Fraser Minten may be enticing targets for the Flames to pursue if Treliving and Conroy are trying to find a deal that works for both sides.  

The Leafs currently projects $18,830,333 in cap space and have 16 of 23 Toronto roster spots signed into next season.  

 

Ottawa Senators

 

The caveat on Marstrom joining the Senators is that he wants to go to a contender. Ottawa has the talent, but has struggled in net and has a blueline on the younger end. Including Travis Hamonic, who has played only 166 games over the last four seasons, Ottawa has a defence with an average age of 26.  

Senators General Manager Steve Staios has $12,465,953 in cap space to get four forwards and possibly add a veteran or two this offseason.  

As to what Conroy might ask for in return? Joonas Korpisalo, signed for four more years at $4,000,000 per season or Anton Forsberg, signed through next season at $2,750,000, would likely be a part of the deal. It’s possible that Staios dangles the 7th overall pick at the 2024 NHL Entry Draft in the hopes that the Flames will take on Korpisalo’s rough contract as well. 

 

The Waiting Game

You might compare it to a couple that you heard had agreed to break up, but then when you next saw them, they were still splitting on takeout and living together. Maybe they’ll find an amicable way out that works for all parties involved. That seems to be Craig Conroy’s calling card when it comes to trading a veteran that might be ready for a change.  

With 18 days to go before the 2024 NHL Entry Draft, the will they, won’t they, Ross/Rachel waiting game continues.  

 

Additional Reading: [Which Goalie is Worth a Devils Trade for the 10th Overall Pick]

 

More from CHN:

[Five high speed players for the Calgary Flames to target this offseason]

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