Calgary made an early exit from the playoffs this season when they bowed to the Stars in six games but is hoping that their most recent signings will morph this pretender into a contender. The biggest offseason splash the Flames have made is the signing of former Canucks’ goalie, Jacob Markstrom, a 30-year-old netminder who is among the new wave of giants in the crease to a six-year, $36 million pact.
Standing 6’6” tall, the Swedish native ended last season with a 23-16-4 record and a 2.75 goals-against average complemented by a .918 save percentage over 43 regular-season appearances. He also backstopped the Canucks to two series victories before Vancouver was ousted in seven games by the Golden Knights.
Markstrom commented in a conference call after his signing, “I believe that the Calgary has got something really big going and can’t wait to be part of it. Talking to the staff and the management, they really wanted me. I really wanted to go somewhere [where] they believe in me. They really did that and gave me a great contract.”
Calgary general manager, Brad Treliving, was under pressure to sign a stalwart goaltender after watching 11 goaltenders start during his six-year reign as the Flames’ personnel decision-maker.
“To me, this was the best player at his position that was available to us today,” Treliving said. “It was a need that we wanted to address not only for now but moving forward.
“He’s big, he’s athletic, he’s competitive. We think he’s a top NHL goaltender. He’s certainly being paid like one.”
But that wasn’t the only move the Flames made as they added another Canuck to their roster in the form of, Christopher Tanev, who was paired with rookie sensation, Quinn Hughes, as the team’s No. 1 defensive unit.
Tanev signed a four-year deal and was a big fan of his new team signing Markstrom, “I think [Markstrom is] the best goalie in the League,” Tanev said. “He stood on his head for us in Vancouver in the last few years. He works extremely hard and he’s been the MVP of our team over there the last two or three seasons.”
With Markstrom in, and last season’s playoff starting goalie, Cam Talbot, inking a three-year deal with Minnesota, it remains to be seen how Talbot’s platoon-mate, David Rittich, will take the news after appearing in 48 games between the pipes for the Flames last year. The 28-year-old Czech registered a 24-17 record with a 2.97 GAA and a .907 save percentage. Many suggest he could be dangled as trade bait which would allow the Flames to look for a more affordable and younger backup.
Nevertheless, the Flames are long shots on the futures board but if they can find the chemistry they lacked last season, this dark horse could be galloping across the finish line before all the others after next season is through.
Could There be More Moves?
When GM Brad Treliving was asked if the Flames were done after making a series of smaller signings, he stated, “We have taken steps. But if I can do something to make our team better, I’ll act on it. We haven’t made a deal because we haven’t found one that’s made us better yet. But at the same time, it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re done. It’s a hard question to answer. I think it’s a very close-knit group, but I’m not going to sit here and not make a deal because they’re tight-knit.”
Whether or not the Flames continue to wheel and deal is uncertain but what we do know is that they had their eyes on the prize in this past NHL Draft, occurring in early October. The 6’0, 180-pound, center iceman, Connor Zary, of the Kamloops Blazers (WHL) was the 24th overall pick in the draft and at 19-years-old, is considered an older prospect.
“He’s full of skill, hockey sense, and competitiveness. You can use him in any situation, and he won’t disappoint you,” an NHL scout told The Athletic’s Pronman. “The skating will need to come, but it will get there with strength.”
“Zary is a very smart offensive player. He can make the seam passes and find teammates very well, but also makes plays happen through unconventional ways,” Pronman said. “He scored a lot of bad angle goals this season, and he finds teammates in situations where there doesn’t seem to be a play.”