Flames hoping for quiet, but Markstrom rumours heating up … again

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It seemed like an off-season inevitability — more Jacob Markstrom rumours. The speculation never really stopped.

Word is, the Calgary Flames are once again shopping their big-name netminder. Yeah, the same guy who was on the block in the lead-up to the trade deadline, who had reportedly even agreed to waive a no-move clause to approve a deal to the New Jersey Devils.

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Shhhhhh.

“The thing here is that it was so crazy during the season, Calgary is trying to do this as quietly as possible,” said Sportsnet’s ace insider, Elliotte Friedman, during a weekend edition of 32 Thoughts: The Podcast. “And that’s not going to be easy. I mean, good luck with that at this time of the year.

“They just know what a rollercoaster it was for everybody involved, including the player and themselves, and I think they’re really, really trying to avoid it. But there’s definitely something going on.”

That sound, much too loud for Craig Conroy’s liking, is the engine revving on the rumour mill.

Again.

Friedman certainly isn’t the only one hearing whispers that Markstrom, fresh off a bounce-back campaign with the Flames and still under contract for two more seasons at US$6 million per, could soon be searching for real estate in a new city and custom-ordering gear to match a new colour scheme.

During an appearance last week on Sportsnet 960 The Fan, goaltending analyst Kevin Woodley indicated he believes the 34-year-old has essentially ruled out a return to Calgary.

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“I think the ship has sailed on that. As a matter of fact, I think the Flames know that there is no intention of coming back,” said Woodley, a Vancouver-based writer for NHL.com and InGoal Magazine. “Obviously they control his future, but I believe that request has been made — that he wants to play somewhere else, preferably for a team that has a chance to compete.

“At the end of the day, there’s a reason his name is out there, and it’s not just because it was out there at the trade deadline,” Woodley continued, adding he wasn’t sure if Markstrom’s stance stems from lingering frustration or if he is simply angling for a better shot at a championship ring. “It’s out there because I don’t believe he has any intention of playing for the Calgary Flames again.”

In this case, a split probably benefits both sides.

While the higher-ups at the Saddledome are chasing the same ultimate goal as Markstrom, the timelines don’t sync up. Conroy realizes there is some retooling to do, a process he started in his first year as general manager.

As the Flames commit to going younger, their most promising prospect just happens to be a puck-stopper. Moving Markstrom would open up a full-time roster spot for Dustin Wolf, who turned 23 this spring and capped an encouraging end-of-season audition with four straight victories at the NHL level.

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So does that mean that ‘Marky,’ who has been between the pipes for 70 percent of Calgary’s contests over the past four campaigns, is guaranteed to be a goner?

Just remember that back in March, when the annual trade deadline passed with no changes in the crease, Conroy wasn’t satisfied with the offers for his No. 1 netminder. The asking price should remain steep. We are, after all, talking about a previous Vezina Trophy finalist and a proven workhorse.

The Devils are still looking for a stalwart, and GM Tom Fitzgerald has even expressed a willingness to trade away his first-round pick — No. 10 overall — in the upcoming draft to bolster his current crew. (The Flames, no doubt, would leap at the opportunity to land another first-rounder, especially in that range.)

The Toronto Maple Leafs should also be in the market for a masked man. It’s easy to connect these dots, since Brad Treliving was the head honcho in Calgary when Markstrom signed this six-year, US$36-million pact.

What were Fitzgerald and Treliving thinking on Saturday night as they watched Sergei Bobrovsky’s brilliant performance in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final? With 32 saves, several of the highlight-reel variety, Bobrovsky proved yet again that great goaltending can make all the difference in those marquee moments.

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The Ottawa Senators have also been linked to Markstrom, although they wouldn’t necessarily fit the criteria of a could-be contender and the fiery competitor would need to give his stamp of approval.

Conroy has likely been reminding rival GMs that there aren’t any standout ’stoppers available in free agency this summer. Presumably, they counter by mentioning that Boston’s Linus Ullmark and Nashville’s Juuse Saros could also be options in a swap. They won’t come cheap, either.

The wheeling-and-dealing will begin soon, and there will be a bright spotlight on the goaltenders. When that happens, it’s tough to keep anything quiet.

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