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Markstrom excited to finally join Devils

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It happened later than anticipated, but goalie Jacob Markstrom is now a member of the New Jersey Devils

The Calgary Flames and Devils announced a deal Wednesday that sends Markstrom east in exchange for blueliner Kevin Bahl and a conditional 2025 first-round draft pick that is top-10 protected. Should the pick be deferred, it becomes an unprotected 2026 first-round pick. Calgary is also retaining 31.25 per cent of Markstrom’s remaining contract.

Markstrom was nearly traded to the Devils around the trade deadline, but the deal stalled. He expressed frustration with how the process played out at the time, saying that it “could have been handled a lot different from up top.”

Now, Markstrom, who has a full no-move clause and two years at $6 million left on his deal, will be the starting goalie with the team he preferred to be dealt to all along as the Flames embark on a retool.

“The team has something really good going on with the players and the roster and skillset,” Markstrom said of the Devils Wednesday afternoon. “Obviously, they really wanted me to come [to the team]…I’m super happy and excited about joining the Devils.”

Markstrom said that he was open to options beyond New Jersey, but the Flames found a deal with the Devils that they liked.

Calgary general manager Craig Conroy emphasized that the team wants to remain competitive, despite dealing one of its most important players.

“Today’s trade demonstrates our focus on the infusion of young, talented players into our roster as well as acquiring important draft capital, while maintaining our commitment as a playoff competitive team,” he said. “We thank Jacob for his professionalism and understanding of our decision to make this trade now and at this stage in his career.”

Conroy also spoke about Bahl’s importance in the deal.

“For quite some time, we had identified Kevin Bahl as a priority player,” he said. “He is a strong defender with size who plays an assertive game with tremendous presence. …Kevin fits our identity, and we are excited to acquire him now as he can continue to grow with our group.”

Markstrom ends his tenure in Calgary fifth in franchise wins (105), third in shutouts (15), and fifth in save percentage (.907). 

The Flames dealt blueliner Chris Tanev and forward Elias Lindholm, both close friends of Markstrom, last season in an attempt to get younger, open cap space, and accumulate draft capital. It was clear that, at this stage, a $6 million, 34-year-old starting goalie didn’t fit with the Flames’ plans.

“Where we're at, we're trying to retool and bring in that youth movement," said Conroy. "Thirty-four years old with two years on his contract – we could've definitely kept Markstrom, but what is the best thing for the future of the team and where we want to go as soon as possible?”

Markstrom looked frustrated at different points during the season, smashing sticks in practice and being evasive with media at times. 

He admitted Wednesday that the trade speculation did have an effect on him. 

“When I was on the ice, it was the easiest time of the day, almost,” he said. “It’s frustrating when you see and read stuff that’s incorrect and not true. You almost want to give that person a call or post something [on social media] and get involved with it and you can’t really do it. I just tried to let it be water off my back and not put any thought to it, but it’s tricky for sure…it’s a public job and [that’s] a part of it.”

The Flames’ identity changes with the deal.

Dustin Wolf, 23, will get a full-time NHL opportunity, and the team has goalie Dan Vladar under contract for next season as well.

Markstrom was a vocal leader in the locker room and someone teammates often said dragged them into the fight.

The Flames have now opened up cap space, a roster spot, and an opportunity for others to join the leadership group of a team in transition. Calgary currently has $23 million in cap space and two first-round picks in each of the next three drafts. 

Markstrom’s legacy in Calgary is mixed.

He was among the league’s best goalies in 2021-22 and led the team to the Pacific Division title and a first-round win over Dallas. He also struggled mightily versus the Edmonton Oilers in the second round and never found his game the following season.

In what was his final campaign in southern Alberta, Markstrom re-established himself as one of the better goalies in the league. 

On Wednesday, he reflected on a chapter of his career that, after months of speculation, is now over. 

“My son was born there, so that’s obviously the biggest thing I will remember,” he said. “But also, the playoff run we had and that whole season, how good we were as a team…we won almost every game. It felt like you couldn’t lose, and that’s a feeling I want to have again.”