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What would a potential Jacob Markstrom trade mean for Dustin Wolf?

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Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
4 months ago
Over the last little while, there has been some pondering across social media regarding the Calgary Flames possibly trading star goaltender Jacob Markstrom. That pondering was thrown into overdrive on Saturday night, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman mentioned on his Headlines segment that the Flames and New Jersey Devils had some discussions regarding Markstrom.
A potential Markstrom move would have a lot of ramifications for the hockey club. But right now, let’s ponder what impacts his departure would have on top prospect Dustin Wolf.
First, some preamble: Markstrom is really good. He’s alternated between weaker and stronger seasons with the Flames, but he’s been very good this season. With the Flames headed into a bit of a retool – all indications are their intentions are to rotate in young faces and cycle out some older players on expiring deals over the next few seasons – having a strong goaltender would allow them to paper over some holes in their roster during that process.
One young face fans have been clamouring to see on a regular basis is Wolf. Originally a late-round pick in 2019, Wolf has been a flat-out fantastic goaltender. In the four seasons he’s completed since being drafted, he’s been named the Western Hockey League’s top goaltender twice and the American Hockey League’s top goaltender twice. Simply put, aside from playoff success there’s nothing really left for Wolf to accomplish in the AHL. It’s time for him to move into the NHL.
In an ideal world, the Flames would find a new home for backup Dan Vladar, and then the remaining two seasons on Markstrom’s current contract would feature the Swedish veteran mentoring Wolf, and eventually handing over the reins to him by the time Markstrom’s deal expires at the end of 2025-26. But the performances this season by Markstrom and Vladar have probably contributed to the Flames getting more calls on Markstrom than Vladar. (The scuttlebutt from our insider pals is that there’s far more trade buzz around Markstrom than Vladar right now.)
If you’re a team that has designs on being a contender, having a strong goaltender like Markstrom can be crucial. And if you’re a team heading into a retool, having a goaltender like Markstrom is a luxury. And while having Markstrom as a mentor for Wolf would be ideal, if a team offers a king’s ransom for Markstrom’s services, the Flames probably have to consider it.
Markstrom agreeing to waive his full no-move clause and heading to a new home would probably result in a regular goaltending tandem of Wolf and Vladar. We say “probably” because, quite simply, roster logistics and sheer salary cap math would potentially result in a goaltender headed back to Calgary in such a swap. And if they don’t, suddenly the Flames’ pro depth takes a big hit at that position.
(We challenge you: go to Cap Friendly and try to put together a scenario that lands Markstrom in New Jersey without Vitek Vanecek headed to the Flames to make the math work, especially for next season.)
If you’re the Flames, you want to send Markstrom to somewhere he’ll be able to have success. He’s very well respected by the Flames organization – management, players and coaches alike – and if he’s going anywhere, it’s going to be somewhere he’s excited about. In an ideal scenario, the Flames are able to balance Markstrom’s needs while helping to give Wolf an expanded opportunity.
But moving a player of Markstrom’s calibre would be, in a word, complicated. And the specific contours of what that trade would look like, especially if the Flames get a goaltender back in the swap, would have pretty huge implications on what happens with Wolf going forward.
Maybe nothing happens. Markstrom has a well-earned and negotiated no-move clause. If he doesn’t want to leave Calgary, he simply won’t. But if such a move does come to fruition and Markstrom leaves the Flames, the implications and knock-on impacts of such a swap would be fascinating. And potentially massive.
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