After Jacob Markstrom’s departure, where do the Calgary Flames go from here?

Photo credit:@nhlflames on X
Ryan Pike
1 month ago
There’s an old saying in hockey that goes something like this: if you’ve got goaltending, you’ve got a lot. That is to say, when you have a reliable goaltender that can backstop your team night-in and night-out, it can provide a lot of peace of mind and make long nights a little bit easier.
On Wednesday morning, the Calgary Flames traded Jacob Markstrom – a goaltender two years removed from being a Vezina Trophy finalist – to the New Jersey Devils.
Markstrom’s arrival in 2020 was Brad Treliving’s big move to try to solidify the Flames’ netminding after years of band-aid moves – names like Brian Elliott, Mike Smith, Chad Johnson, Jonas Hiller and Cam Talbot come to mind. But if we’re being honest, a goaltender with Markstrom’s particular capabilities is a luxury. And with the Flames having lost many prominent pieces from a team that had goals of contention as recently as two seasons ago, Markstrom was a luxury the Flames could no longer justify holding onto.
Now, with the club’s last game-breaking talent wearing another team’s jersey, the Flames’ re-whatever – refresh, rebrand, rebuild, retool, strategic retreat – can now begin in earnest.
So… now what? Where do the Flames go from here?
Looking at the club’s roster on paper heading into the 2024 NHL Draft, it’s natural to have anxiety. On paper, the Flames look appreciably weaker than a team that finished ninth from the bottom in the NHL standings in 2023-24. And yeah, it’s probably fair to conclude that the Flames shouldn’t be expected to be a contender or even a post-season qualifier in 2024-25.
But in a lot of ways, the 2023-24 Flames were a team experiencing the pains of a transition year, with Markstrom’s departure representing the final significant piece tumbling from the house of cards that previous general manager Brad Treliving built as the Flames entered their contention window. (This isn’t meant as a slight to Treliving; pretty much every contender does this to some extent, but few teams have seen their window slam shut and the cards tumble to the floor in recent memory as rapidly or dramatically as the Flames have.)
I’ve compared the 2023-24 Flames to a plane, where key pieces of the plane were being removed and replaced mid-flight – it’s a minor miracle things went as smoothly as they did. Well, the 2024-25 Flames are set to be a less impressive aircraft than last year’s edition, but you can also expect less chaos to surround the team, which could contribute to them being more than the sum of their parts. This coming season’s team likely won’t win a ton of games, but the hope is likely that they’re at least a tough night at the office for their opponents and they show some progression from Game 1 to 82.
Some roster tweaks will probably be made to fill some gaps and ease potential growing pains. The only “big” pieces of business left for Craig Conroy is determining the fates of pending 2025 free agents Yegor Sharangovich, Andrew Mangiapane and Andrei Kuzmenko. Oh, and he should probably try to hammer out a new contract with pending 2024 free agent Oliver Kylington.
With the house of cards now disassembled, it’s time to start building a new one.
In previous years, the goal of the Flames has been to win a Stanley Cup – or at least make the playoffs and make some progress towards that goal. And yeah, even if the team’s far away from the promised land, winning a championship is still the goal… but in keeping with the concept of intellectual honesty (as coined by former GM Jay Feaster), the timeline for that goal has changed.
The Flames aren’t going to win a Stanley Cup in the next few seasons, so shipping out Markstrom and giving Dustin Wolf an opportunity to become a regular NHL goaltender could be an important step towards winning in the future. The Flames likely weren’t going to win a championship in the near future with Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev and Nikita Zadorov on their roster, so moving them and bringing in younger players like Daniil Miromanov and Kevin Bahl (and their many blueline prospects) could be a step towards that future goal. The departures of Tyler Toffoli and Elias Lindholm and arrival of young forwards and the team’s top prospects could serve a similar purpose.
Tearing things down can be done fairly quickly and, often, brutally. Building is often a longer, messier and more deliberate process. A block north of the Saddledome, a groundbreaking is expected this summer and a foundation will soon be laid. A similar process will be occurring within the Saddledome. It may take some time, and there may be some bumps along the road, but over the next couple of years the hope is that in both locations something can be built that Flames fans can be proud of and enjoy for years to come.
The teardown is fundamentally complete. It’s time to start building.

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