Rumors of trades, a couple of assists and now recognition as the best player in the league since the All-Star break… It’s been a great effort for Jacob Markstrom.
The Calgary Flames’ stalwart puck stopper was hailed Monday as the NHL’s first star of the week.
He was a perfect 3-0 in that span, with a stingy stat line highlighted by a .939 save percentage and a 2.00 goals-against average.
He even contributed offensively, getting a helper on Noah Hanifin’s power-play score in Boston and another on MacKenzie Weegar’s first of three touchdowns in Long Island.
Monday’s first star recognition certainly won’t quell rumors that Markstrom could be an ideal trade target for a contender with concerns in the area. He would be a major upgrade for several Stanley Cup contenders.
While it’s no secret that the Flames are willing to accept offers for any of their pending free agents, their preferred goaltender is signed for two more seasons with an annual cap hit of $6 million. That deal includes a full no-movement clause, giving Markstrom the right to block any potential trade, but the 34-year-old insisted last week that Flames management will determine his future. He knows Dustin Wolf, currently serving as a backup while Dan Vladar recovers from a lower-body injury, is knocking on the door for a full-time role.
“It’s up to Calgary what they want to do,” Markstrom told Sportsnet’s Eric Francis in his first comments on the trade talks. “I don’t control it. Whatever direction they want to go and whatever they want to do, I’m not going to force anything… I’m also not going to go meet and ask for a trade. I’m here to play. “I am enjoying every day and we have a great group.”
In that same interview, Markstrom told Francis that Flames general manager Craig Conroy, nor any other member of the Saddledome staff, had approached him to wave his no-movement protection.
That was, it’s worth noting, before expert Elliotte Friedman reported during Saturday’s conference. Hockey night in Canada relayed that the New Jersey Devils had called to evaluate the asking price and inquire about the Flames’ willingness to retain some of his remaining salary.
“When they send an email saying I have to sign something to remove my no-movement clause, then we need to have a different conversation,” Markstrom told Francis. “But I’m just playing.”
And playing very well.
Monday’s first star recognition was just the latest proof of that.
PRAISE THE KING
Last month, during the Flames’ parents and mentors trip, Tim Markstrom introduced his younger brother as “the second-best goalie in our family.”
Soon, Jacob will become the second-best goaltender Sweden has ever brought to the NHL.
Heading into Monday’s matchup against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, Gavle’s fierce competitor had racked up 209 career wins. With his next victory, he will tie Tommy Salo for second place among Swedish puck stoppers.
The top spot, as Markstrom has stressed on several occasions, is probably out of reach. Rangers legend Henrik Lundqvist capped a brilliant career with 459 victories on the big stage.
“That’s the number if you want it to really matter,” Markstrom told reporters shortly after becoming just the third Swedish goalkeeper to reach 200. “I saw that (Nikolai) Khabibulin just signed at 51. I think, with 51 years old, I won’t be there. I can’t get it either, so I have to play maybe until 60 to get the record.”
Those who frequent the Saddledome are well aware of Markstrom’s reverence for ‘King Henrik,’ now enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Jacob comes from a soccer family (Tim recently hung up his cleats after scoring those open goals at the professional level), but when he focused on stopping pucks, Lundqvist was among his idols.
“Obviously, there were some Swedish goalies before, but he was the one who really took the starting job from the beginning in New York,” Markstrom told Postmedia before the Flames’ current trip. “And then he got the Olympic gold medal (in 2006) that all the Swedish hockey players, practically all the Swedes, saw.
“His career has been incredible. And I had the pleasure of playing with him in some tournaments. It’s all about him. It’s how he carries himself, how he takes care of himself, how professional he is on and off the ice… And at the same time, we have a very good relationship now, so he’s helped me too.”
ICE CHIPS: While Markstrom earned the top spot, Florida Panthers masked man Sergei Bobrovsky was listed as the NHL’s second star of the week on Monday, while Montreal Canadiens forward Nick Suzuki rounded out the selections … It’s been a rough patch lately for the Calgary Wranglers, who have stumbled to a 2-7-1 record in their last 10 games. The Flames’ farm clubbers will try to get back on track Tuesday-Wednesday when they host the Manitoba Moose for a two-game set at the Saddledome.