Jacob Markstrom was traded for a far better return than most 30-plus goalies

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Gould
29 days ago
When the Jacob Markstrom trade was first announced, fans and media alike bemoaned the fact that the Calgary Flames were unable to secure the No. 10 overall pick in this year’s draft as part of the return from the New Jersey Devils.
The instant reactions and “Trade Grades” from various outlets almost all ruled in favour of New Jersey, which coughed up its own 2025 first-round selection and defenceman Kevin Bahl to receive the final two years of Markstrom’s contract.
Making matters worse, the Flames retained just over 30 percent of Markstrom’s cap hit for the remaining balance of his deal. To some, this made it incomprehensible that the Flames couldn’t land another top-10 pick in exchange.
To be clear, it is perfectly valid to like or dislike any trade for whatever reasons one sees fit. Markstrom is a talented goaltender who should be a big help to a Devils team that narrowly missed the playoffs last year. He was a good Flame.
Yes, New Jersey’s 2025 first-rounder could very well be a late one, especially if Markstrom reverts to his Vezina candidate form in the 2024-25 season. That’s the risk all teams take when they trade for future picks.
But it’s of the utmost importance to retain a sense of perspective in any discussion about the quality of the return the Flames received in this deal. It’s fine to be disappointed that the No. 10 pick wasn’t included. It’s also imperative to realize it was almost certainly never going to be.
Over the last 15 years, goalies aged 30 or older have been traded for first-round picks just three times. Ryan Miller and Darcy Kuemper were the first two; Markstrom was the third. All three were traded in retained salary transactions.
Here’s a quick overview of each of those three trades — and remember, every other veteran goalie traded over the last 15 years went for less:
Feb. 28, 2014: Buffalo Sabres trade Ryan Miller (20% retained) and Steve Ott to St. Louis Blues for Jaroslav Halak, William Carrier, Chris Stewart, 2015 1st (No. 25 overall), 2016 3rd (No. 89 overall).
July 28, 2021: Arizona Coyotes trade Darcy Kuemper (22.2% retained) to Colorado Avalanche for Conor Timmins, 2022 1st (No. 32 overall), 2024 3rd (No. 89 overall).
June 19, 2024: Calgary Flames trade Jacob Markstrom (31.3% retained) to New Jersey Devils for Kevin Bahl, 2025 1st (Top 10 protected).
(It’s worth noting that shortly after the Miller trade, the Sabres dealt Halak and a 2015 3rd to the Washington Capitals in exchange for Michal Neuvirth and Rostislav Klesla).
The Flames did about as well in their trade as the Coyotes and Sabres did in theirs. Unlike the other two clubs, the Flames made their trade with a non-playoff team (albeit one with much greater aspirations); there’s a chance that the 2025 1st they receive ends up being higher than No. 25 or 32.
The Miller trade was a deadline deal in 2014. Miller himself was arguably the top target on the entire trade market that year and had the iron-clad reputation of being the best U.S.-born goaltender in the league at the time. He had posted a superb .923 save percentage in 40 games with the awful 2013-14 Sabres.
Meanwhile, Kuemper was regarded similarly during his time in Arizona as Markstrom was in Calgary. He twice posted a save percentage of .925 or higher with the Coyotes but was inconsistent and often injured, with his final year in the desert falling short of his previous ones. With one year left on Kuemper’s deal, the Coyotes pulled the trigger.
Although the Sabres received more roster players in their deal, the pick they got was nowhere near No. 10. Given Miller’s pedigree at the time, it isn’t too surprising that the Sabres managed to get more for him than the Flames did for Markstrom … but, then again, did they?
Halak was a pending UFA who never played a game in Buffalo, Stewart was overpaid and past his prime, and Carrier was a B-level prospect — and, don’t forget, the Sabres also gave up Ott, their captain, in the deal. All things considered, the raw value Miller commanded wasn’t far off at all from what Markstrom returned for the Flames.
The Kuemper deal was much more streamlined, with only one piece going to Colorado in exchange for three: Conor Timmins, a 1st, and a 3rd, the latter of which Arizona would not have received had Kuemper not backstopped Colorado to the Stanley Cup in 2022. That pick was conditional on that one specific outcome.
Timmins had already cultivated a reputation for being injury-prone by the time Colorado traded him to Arizona. Over the following two seasons, Timmins appeared in just eight total NHL games with the Coyotes while dealing with a seemingly constant stream of bad injury luck.
Kevin Bahl, the main “now” piece the Flames received in the Markstrom trade, skated in all 82 games with the Devils last year and was elevated to their top pairing by the end of the season due to injuries sustained by other players. The Devils generally fared well in Bahl’s minutes last season; according to Evolving-Hockey’s Goals Above Replacement model, Bahl ranked sixth on the Devils (and led all their defencemen) with +8.5 total GAR in the 2023-24 regular season.
From a pure value standpoint, Bahl surpasses what Timmins had to offer back in 2021. He’s also worth more than Stewart or Carrier were a decade ago. Defencemen who stand 6’6″ and skate well hardly grow on trees, and Flames GM Craig Conroy wasn’t off base when he compared Bahl to Nikita Zadorov. Bahl turning into a suitable Zadorov replacement would be a coup for the Flames.
Of course, the real prize in the Markstrom deal is the draft pick. The Flames now have multiple first-rounders in each of the next three drafts, a staggering achievement for a club that has only made more than one first-round pick in one previous draft since relocating from Atlanta in 1980.
Picks of that magnitude almost never change hands in deals involving goaltenders aged 30 or older, and, at 34, Markstrom is the oldest goaltender to be traded for a 1st since the Edmonton Oilers acquired Dwayne Roloson from the Minnesota Wild in 2006. Deals like this just don’t happen.
Goaltending is a strange, volatile position. It is exceedingly rare for goalies to be moved for anything of significant value, and when they are, it’s usually younger guys who are touted as future starters — think Freddy Andersen from Anaheim to Toronto, or Cory Schneider from Vancouver to New Jersey. Veterans like Markstrom typically change teams in free agency or are moved for collections of mid-tier prospects and picks.
Remember when the Flames acquired Mike Smith from the Coyotes in 2017? Smith, then 35, was coming off back-to-back strong seasons in the desert and, like Markstrom, had two years left on his contract. The Flames also got the Coyotes to retain 25 percent of his cap hit. The price? A third-round pick and prospect Brandon Hickey, who never made the NHL.
There’s also the case of Marc-Andre Fleury, who was also linked to the Flames at one point in time. Fleury is Vezina Trophy winner and a future Hockey Hall of Fame inductee. Since 2017, he has been exposed in an expansion draft, traded for an ECHL prospect, and traded again for a late second-round pick.
Getting the No. 10 pick in a Markstrom deal would have been out of line with basically all noteworthy precedent. If anything, the Flames getting any first-round pick at all qualifies as a departure from recent trends. They did well.
It’s impossible to say for certain whether the Flames would’ve been able to extract more from the Devils had the two sides consummated a deal ahead of the 2024 trade deadline. But remember: Markstrom posted a save percentage above .905 in just one out of his four seasons in Calgary. One year ago, he was coming off a career-worst .892 in 59 games. It’s hard to believe the Flames would’ve been able to get a first-rounder for him then.
Rebuilds don’t happen overnight, and they don’t end when the teardown does. Even if the Flames are done subtracting core pieces — and they likely aren’t — they won’t go anywhere if they can’t find star players at the draft. But after trading Markstrom, the pieces are starting to fall into place for the Flames to build toward a bright future.

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