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Four Realistic Potential Deals for Jacob Markstrom

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Jacob Markstrom

It’s a strange time to be alive for supporters of the Calgary Flames.

The concept of “let Conny cook” is certainly one way to approach it. As the summer carries on and the playoffs draw towards an end, Flames fans have been without for a full two months as of June 18.

Like any other offseason, whispers of trade follow the team as they prepare for the NHL Entry Draft in late June. This time around, the buzz around Jacob Markstrom has once again picked up, and it’s hard to blame the media for going after it.

On one side of it, surely there is some fire to that smoke. Pierre LeBrun, Frank Seravalli, Elliotte Friedman—all saying that talks have resumed with New Jersey. Ottawa and Toronto have thrown their hats into the ring. LA is perfectly placed to try to run as a dark horse in that race, given that they only have David Rittich for one more season, and Cam Talbot is hitting the UFA market.

Two of those four teams have a top-ten pick at the 2024 NHL Entry Draft. Jersey General Manager Tom Fitzgerald has been quoted as saying that the tenth overall pick is in play. That could simply be the 55 year old exec letting the public know that a deal could be made and if Conroy plays ball, that pick might be involved.

Or it may be the classic bait and switch.

Underwhelming Returns

It would be so very in character for the deal to be announced and, lo and behold, no high pick. The consolation prize is a player in the 22-25 age range — as well as a pick that doesn’t exactly excite the fanbase with it’s perceived potential.

Don’t shoot the messenger.

Nikita Zadorov appears to be getting auctioned off following a trade request?

A 2026 third round pick and a 2024 fifth. Zadorov ended up a fan favourite with four goals and four assists for eight points in 13 post season games. Not to mention a highlight reel of big hits and quality chirps.

Chris Tanev, a certified game breaker is one of the better rentals of 2023-2024?

A 2024 second round pick and a former second round pick in Artem Grushnikov. A solid return, but no first round pick. No blue chip prospect.

Tanev went on to help the Dallas Stars reach the Western Conference Final. He even garnered some MVP speculation prior to their elimination.

Elias Lindholm may be the only instance of fans seeing the return that they wanted for one of their vaunted pending unrestricted free agents. Once part of the most dominant line in hockey, the 29 year old brought back struggling star winger Andrei Kuzmenko, a late first round pick in 2024, a conditional fourth round pick in 2024, OHL hot shot defenceman Hunter Brzustewicz and big bodied blue line prospect Joni Jurmo.

Add the return for all of those departing players together, and you have yourself a haul, but likely not the sum of each piece, given the playoff impact that each ended up providing.

So, now the public waits and watches in the hopes that Calgary’s MVP in 2023-2024 will bring back a vaunted top-ten draft selection. The same general expectations that Conroy and the Flames had to manage when 2022-2023 top scorer Tyler Toffoli made it known that he wasn’t entirely on board with sticking around to finish his contract.

Conroy turned that situation into somewhat of a win. The centrepiece of the return, Yegor Sharangovich potted 31 goals and 28 assists to beat Toffoli by 14 points on the year. The additional third round pick heading to Calgary in the deal was used to draft power winger Aydar Suniev, who had a strong first season in the NCAA.

What can we learn from the four aforementioned trades made by Conroy?

Don’t get your hopes up when it comes to landing the publicly perceived golden goose for goaltender Jacob Markstrom.

With that said, what are some targets that follow Conroy’s model of “under-appreciated, semi-matured pro asset” if the Postdam, New York product were to find a trade partner in a deal that sends Markstrom to a new team?

 

Grinding Out a Deal With the Toronto Maple Leafs

We’ll start with the most laborious of trade partners. Two factors are no secret to Flames fans when it comes to dealing with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

One. Brad Treliving is the former general manager of the Calgary Flames and the man who originally signed Markstrom to a six year, $36,000,000 contract.

Two. Treliving is a brutal negotiator to deal with.

He will grind” until the blade is microscopically thin when it comes to extended trade talks. At one point last season, Elliotte Friedman claimed that he believed that Treliving was trying to offer a late 2024 first round pick as the centrepiece for both Nikita Zadorov and Chris Tanev.

To add to that situation, the Leafs don’t have any high-value futures to exchange beyond Easton Cowan, who may have played his way into being too coveted to be traded following a strong performance at the Memorial Cup. While the organization may value its assets as future game-breakers, the Toronto prospect cupboard has experienced years of attrition following multiple high-expectation trade deadlines and standings finishes.

With that pointed out, here are a few mock trades that CHN came up with, given the nature of five NHL general managers.

 

To Toronto:

Jacob Markstrom

 

To Calgary:

Nick Robertson
2024 first round draft pick (23rd overall)
2025 fifth round draft pick

 

Robertson, 22, has potential to do more on an NHL roster. With 17 goals and 17 assists for 34 points in 87 regular season games, he certainly shown that he has the talent to earn a more significant role on an NHL roster.

The former Peterborough Pete has a smaller frame at 5-foot-9, but plays a shifty game that includes plenty of intangibles. A strong forechecker, an active trash talker, and has solid finishing skills; perhaps he shines in a larger role. Getting Treliving to even agree to that cost will make even the worst jobs enviable in the eyes of Craig Conroy, but if we’re talking a comparable return to a top-ten pick, that may be what it takes to get it done.

 

Pushing the Senators into Contention

We head to the other end of the prospect cupboard spectrum for Calgary’s next potential dance partner.

The Ottawa Senators have an abundance of former high draft selections to exchange in a potential Jacob Markstrom swap. Their issue is primarily a lack of veterans on the blue line and the fact that Joonas Korpisalo served as a liability in net over 82 games of the 2023-2024 season.

For the Senators, it’s gotten to the point where the team simply can’t find the sum of their high-value parts. Their blue line averages the age of 26 if you include Travis Hamonic, 33, who usually plays less than a full season in any given year.

Supposing that the seventh overall pick on June 28 isn’t a part of the deal, here is a trade that brings in a player that needs a fuel-injected turning point in exchange for a goaltender that has proven he can steal games for extended stretches.

 

To Ottawa:

Jacob Markstrom

 

To Calgary:

Erik Brannstrom
2024 first round pick (Boston – 25th overall)

 

Traded out of Vegas at 19 as the centerpiece of the Mark Stone deal, Erik Brannstrom has struggled to find a place in Ottawa.

Now 24, the results aren’t there yet —  14, 16, and 17 points in his last three seasons. Factor in that the 5-foot-10, 185-pound offensive defenceman has been stuck on the third pairing and you start to get the picture.

In terms of his game, Brannstrom has the tools to be an aggressive puck mover from the back end. When healthy, his skating is a major strength at both ends of the ice. The Eksjo, Sweden product has the quick edges and acceleration to succeed within Ryan Huska’s zone defence system, as well as a quick initiative on the breakout to fit Calgary’s transition offence.

Brannstrom needs to get stronger to play a top-four role in the NHL more adequately, but that will come with time. Corner battles and boxing out the front of the net remain a work in progress.

 

Finally Giving New Jersey Their Goalie

Whether Fitzgerald is serious about being willing to move the 10th overall pick is up for debate. You have to wonder why a trade hasn’t already been completed if he is. The Devils badly need a tried and trusted starter to back up their powerhouse speed game and Jacob Markstrom is exactly that.

With that said, here is an offer that may be closer to reality.

 

To New Jersey

Jacob Markstrom

 

To Calgary

Alexander Holtz
2024 third-round draft pick (75th overall)

 

A bit of a fixer-upper, Alex Holtz has experienced a similar lineup situation to Erik Brannstrom. Stuck in a depth role, his opportunities to play alongside elite talent are few and far between.

16 goals in 2023-2024 certainly imply that Holtz might have more to contribute. Much of his chances are off broken plays or jumping on the aftermath of chaotic sequences.

As much as Flames fans may begrudge a deal that doesn’t involve a top-ten pick in 2024, Holtz fits Conroy’s model of younger players with big shots. The Stockholm native is a pure sniper with a lethal release. Much like his former teammate, Yegor Sharangovich, it may be that the seventh overall pick in 2020 simply needs an increase in deployment to start putting up serious numbers.

 

Completing a stacked Los Angeles Kings Roster

Of the four teams listed, LA general manager Rob Blake may have the most to gain from bringing in Markstrom, a goalie who can dominate a game on any given night. Cam Talbot (.913) and David Rittich (.921) both posted exceptional save percentages in 2023-2024, playing behind the aggressive, demanding defensive structure that head coach Jim Hiller had the team working towards.

Jump forward to the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs. The team had lost steam down the stretch drive and, needing a netminder to insulate the struggling group, both Talbot (.861) and Rittich (.872) struggled against the star power of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisatl.

It’s debatable whether a goalie stealing a game or two in the playoffs would have pushed the Kings over the top against a team that made it past Vancouver and Dallas to reach the Cup Final, but having a reliable presence in net can change the entire dynamic of a group that already knows how to check all the boxes in the D-zone.

A reliable starter in October and November leads to an easier December-February, which leads to being more rested in March-April and on into the playoffs.

The what-ifs are a challenge from an LA perspective. The Kings lost round one on the penalty kill. Many will argue that your best penalty killer is often in net. The matter could be chicken or the egg in nature, but one certainty is that they need to bring in a goalie this summer. Here is an offer that may make sense for both sides.

 

To LA

Jacob Markstrom

 

To Calgary

Arthur Kaliyev
Koehn Ziemmer
2024 first round pick (21st overall)

 

Another pure shooter, Kaliyev, 22, hasn’t quite found his place in LA. The Tashkent, Uzbekistan native with American citizenship is a triple threat in the slot in that his wrist shot, snap shot and slap shot are all considered among within the upper echelon in the NHL.

The draws on his game? Urgency is an issue. Skating is a work in progress. There are questions about his health, given that he posted a career-low 6.9 shooting percentage this year, but there is plenty of runway to get all of that back on track.

The 6-foot-2, 209-pound left shot right winger took a step back this season with just seven goals and eight assists for 15 points in 51 games. The season prior, Kaliyev put up 13 goals and 28 points in 56 games at the age of 21.

Despite his offensive skills, the results aren’t there yet for the former Hamilton Bulldog powerplay ace. You can cite his age and lack of experience. The average prospect doesn’t have 188 NHL regular season games on their resume by the time they turn 23 something that Kaliyev will do later in June.

Another early career reclamation project, but one with the tools to succeed in a top-six role in the NHL. Kaliyev is a restricted free agent this offseason and will need an $874,125 qualifying offer.

Also involved in the would-be transaction is right winger Koehn Ziemmer, who put up 41 goals and 89 points in 68 games with the Prince George Cougars in 2022-2023.

To say that Ziemmer plays an aggressive game is an understatement. The 6-foot-1, 203-pound power winger has a sublime sense for catching pursuers unprepared. Reverse hits, cross-checks, and slashes are all commonly brought out along the boards and in transition. Koehn is a player that may one day translate into an impact playoff performer. His abrasive style led to the 19 year old only suiting up for 23 games this season.

Ziemmer was a third round pick in 2023.

 

Adjusting Expectations Around a Markstrom Deal

The term “too good to be true” comes to mind when you see an NHL general manager publicly dangle a high value asset like Tom Fitzgerald is currently doing with the 10th overall selection at the 2024 NHL Entry Draft.

Is he doing it to garner interest? To put pressure on Craig Conroy (Markstrom) or Nashville GM Barry Trotz (Saros) to find a deal for their available goaltender as their respective fanbases continue to ruminate on such a high potential asset? You would have to be in the room where it happened to truly know the motive, but there is one certainty here. Everything Tom Fitzgerald disclosed to the speculation-starved public was intentional.

 

More from CHN:

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

Kapanen Flames Markstrom

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Additional Reading

New Jersey Hockey Now: [Devils Trade Talks for Jacob Markstrom at a Standoff?]