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Markstrom, Flames non-committal on goaltender's future following difficult season


Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom isn’t sure if he sees himself as part of the organization long-term–and nor does the organization. The 34-year-old spoke to reporters on Friday as the team cleaned out its lockers following a second consecutive non-playoff season. 

“I don’t know,” Markstrom replied when asked where he saw himself next season, given the Flames’ retool.

“What I do know is I love winning hockey games. I think that’s the competitive side of me. Every time I lace up the skates, that’s something I want – to win hockey games.”

“Time will tell,” general manager Craig Conroy responded when asked about Markstrom’s future.

The Flames have goalies Dan Vladar and Dustin Wolf also in the fold for next season. 

Markstrom was the subject of trade speculation until the trade deadline, including a reported deal with the New Jersey Devils that came close to an agreement. He has two years left on his contract at a $6 million cap hit and owns a full no-movement clause. Days before the deadline, he said he felt management should have handled his situation better. 

On Friday, he elaborated on the noise around him this season. 

"Obviously, I'm here now,” he said. He went on to say that he addressed his teammates as a group after reports of a potential deal with the Devils became public. 

“All the rambling could've been not happening. All the talks and stuff going on throughout the season, starting early in the season till the [trade] deadline day, they pretty much could've been not happening and me just focusing on hockey. That's what I would have appreciated because obviously I'm still here."

Conroy didn’t appreciate the constant speculation about his No. 1 netminder either. 

“Marky explained where he was at and I talked to him about where we were at,” Conroy said.

“It was cordial. It was good. He was a great pro.”

Markstrom pushed back on the notion that his relationship with the organization is now strained after that trade noise. However, he did make it clear he despised the conversation about his future.

“I would say no,” he responded, when asked if the relationship was strained.

“I love every single player in the team. I love the coaching staff and the medical and strength and conditioning [staffs] and trainers. This has been my home for four years and I’ve got great relationships.”

While Markstrom was non-committal, other Flames veterans made it clear that they want to remain with the organization during a transition period where development of young players will be prioritized over competing for the Stanley Cup.

“It’s just an easy way out, to leave here,” blueliner MacKenzie Weegar, who became the first-ever NHLer to score 20 goals and block 200 shots in a single season, said.

“It’d be a lot more rewarding to stick this through and come out of this and see it on the other side. When you go through tough times and sacrifice yourself through the tough times, you’ll get rewarded for it. I truly believe that this team has a lot of potential.”

Forward Nazem Kadri led the team in points this season with 75 and spoke highly of the organization.

“I get asked all the time about Calgary and what I think about playing here,” Kadri said.

“I’ve got nothing but good things to say. The city has really grown on me. I was a free agent that chose to be here and I know how great a city and fanbase that Calgary can be…we truly get treated like NHLers, which is great. I think it’s a great organization with a great family dynamic. I know if they ask me, I know what I’m saying.”

Those vets said they’d be patient, but emphasized that they want to improve the roster right away. 

Kadri pointed out the team’s ample cap space (roughly $18.7 million, according to Cap Friendly) going into the off-season and that he hopes the club upgrades its roster this summer.

Head coach Ryan Huska stated that playoffs next season are the clear expectation. Conroy, however, said that he won’t be using that cap space on long-term deals. He has one area specifically he wants to address–finding a forward to play with Jonathan Huberdeau, who had just 52 points this season after notching 55 in his first season in Calgary.

“I’d like to get him a player with chemistry,” Conroy said.

“That’s something I have to try to figure out this summer.”

The Flames will now be watching the postseason from afar, but Conroy mentioned the Dallas Stars–who lost to the Flames in the 2022 playoffs–as an example he wants to follow as a team that didn’t do a full rebuild and instead had good drafts and made smart free agency bets. 

The Stars missed the playoffs in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. Since then, they have made the playoffs in all but one season and are now considered a perennial Cup contender. 

“We’re saying, ‘Okay, look at that Dallas model,’” Conroy said.

“I guess that’s a retool. They made draft picks. They brought in players. They added a few veterans here and there…I think you look at that team and they’re right in that win-now mode. And they did that over a short period of time. And they had a great draft. It might take time. But we have some very good players on this team, young guys that are taking steps and we need to continue to take another step.”

It’s clear a third straight non-playoff season in Calgary won’t be tolerated. “I don’t have any expectations of missing the playoffs again,” forward Blake Coleman said.