After months of talking negotiations with the Vancouver Canucks, Jacob Markstrom has signed on with Calgary following the opening of NHL unrestricted free agency at the beginning of October. They negotiated the deal at a whopping $36 million, a significant pay raise for Markstrom, and one he arranged easily as a coveted goaltender.
Although the Canucks were eager to keep Markstrom on after seven seasons, it seems like they couldn’t reach an agreement with the Swedish player, opting to sign former Capitals goalie Braden Holtby for the next two years instead. The Calgary Flames were more than happy to shell out for top-notch talent, however, in the hopes that a player like Jacob Markstrom can lend some stability to the position. In a year where stability has been hard to come by, between season delays and tenuous industry bargaining, maybe Markstrom is exactly what Calgary needs for a solid 2020-21 comeback.
Markstrom is coming off of one of his strongest seasons yet with a .918 save percentage, a 23-16-4 record, and 2.85 goals-against-average with the Canucks in the Playoffs. The delays that were announced in March due to coronavirus saw the league restarting in August, which is when Markstrom was able to make his Playoff debut.
Even though Vancouver ultimately faced defeat during their game series against the Vegas Golden Knights, it certainly wasn’t for lack of Markstrom’s work as a goaltender. He averaged nearly four saved goals above expectation before bowing out due to an injury. General Manager of the Flames, Brad Treliving, believes that Jacob Markstrom can bring that same energy to Calgary.
In the six seasons that Treliving has spent managing the Calgary Flames, they have gone through as many as 11 different goalies and still haven’t had much success finding their stride. Last season, Cam Talbot and David Rittich took turns swapping inconsistencies and play time, while the Flames struggled to figure out how to balance their goaltender problems. Years prior have been much the same, with Calgary unable to find their footing–or a goalie that could do it all.
The pressure was put on Treliving to fix the issue, and Markstrom is, hopefully, the answer. “To me, this was the best player at his position that was available to us today,” Treliving said about the contract. “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.”
A different kind of investment
The contract with Calgary has a curious complexity to it, spanning six-years at around $6 million annually and carrying a host of payouts, bonuses, and back loads because of the new collective bargaining agreement guidelines. Despite how elaborate it seems, it’s a good deal for both Markstrom and Calgary, not to mention an extraordinary amount of money. But Markstrom says that for him, that’s not the only draw to joining the Flames.
“I believe that Calgary has got something really big going and can’t wait to be part of it,” Markstrom commented, talking about the agreement while on a conference call from his hometown in Sweden. “Talking to the staff and the management, they really wanted me. I really wanted to go somewhere they believe in me. They really did that and gave me a great contract.”
A two-way street
Historically, the Calgary Flames have struggled to establish themselves as a team, a result of unfit leadership, bad coaches and a lack of synchronization. Currently, their odds for the 2020-21 season put them in the middle-range as reported by BetMGM, an online sports betting company, but the start date is still uncertain. Maybe the addition of Jacob Markstrom, a team player who is “always smiling,” according to fellow Canuck-to-Calgary transfer Chris Tanev, could be part of the fresh foundation the Flames need to succeed.
Pro league mentality
Regarded as an elite goalie, Markstrom is admired for more than just his stats or his ability on the ice. Calgary Flames goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet, who researched Markstrom’s potential as a player, spoke openly about the pro-league caliber he believes the former Canuck will be bringing to Calgary: “I think he leads a lot by example. You hear a lot about his work ethic in practice, how he leaves it all on the table, and how bad he wants to win. You do all your research and talk to different people to make sure you’re getting a good character guy. And it sounds like we’re getting a great one.”
Photo by: Rich Lam/Getty