Jacob Markstrom trade an important, necessary step into future for the Calgary Flames

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Craig Conroy kicked off the summer trade season by moving Jacob Markstrom for a 2025 first-round pick and 23-year-old defender Kevin Bahl this week.

After persistent rumours of a failed trade to New Jersey around the trade deadline, Conroy didn’t even wait until the end of the playoffs to finally push the agreement through.

The move is a good one for the franchise, in part due to the return and in part because it fits perfectly with the team’s new direction.

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Although the deal did not involve the Devils’ first-round pick this year (10th overall), the addition of their 2025 first-rounder adds to a growing stockpile of picks that Conroy is building.

The Flames now own six top-30 picks over the next three drafts, as well as four second-rounders and five third-round choices. That is 15 selections inside the top 90 between now and 2026.

Adding the 10th-overall choice this year would have been ideal given the high quality of the top 12 prospects in the 2024 draft, but that was likely never a realistic expectation. Although Markstrom is coming off of a strong rebound season, the goalie only has two years left on his deal and he will turn 35 in January.

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New Jersey essentially is renting two seasons of (hopefully) stable goaltending as they try to take the next step into their contention window, but it comes with some level of risk given the player’s age.

Goalies in general don’t tend to demand much in trades, outside of the young and undeniably elite guys. Calgary managing to extract a first-rounder in this deal is quality work.

Kevin Bahl isn’t quite the marquee prospect some would have preferred, but like the 10th pick, that was not a realistic expectation for a return.

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A former second-round pick, Bahl is monstrous, standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing 230 pounds. Last year was his first full season in the NHL and results suggest he already is an above-average shot and chance suppressor in his own end.

Although he likely has no offence of his own to speak of, many defencemen have built long careers around just being difficult to play against south of the redline.

At 23, Bahl is at an age where he could not only improve, but settle in as a useful veteran for the Flames as they rebuild. However, even if he doesn’t prove to be a fit long-term, Bahl represents a flippable asset for Calgary since NHL GMs always are on the lookout for large, physical blueliners.

Perhaps most importantly, the Markstrom trade is another important step on this transitional path the team finds itself on. Conroy and Co. had the option to keep Markstrom for another year in a vain effort to continue to compete or to drive more trade offers.

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That tactic would have come with the significant risk of injury or performance regression, however, so getting out in front of the issue as early as possible was the responsible move — especially since the club received a first-round pick and a young, roster player (which was likely the extent of their wish list for this deal).

Now that Bahl joins a long list of young defensive prospects, it will be interesting to see what the organization prioritizes in the coming draft on June 28-29.

Does Conroy and the Flames scouting team start to pile up some talented forwards? Or will they add more size and skill to the blueline?

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