Markstrom’s honest bombshell muddies his future with Flames

Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom let his feelings be known regarding having his name swirl in trade rumours, saying that he respects everyone in the locker room but that he's unhappy with the way the front office has handled the situation.

CALGARY — Craig Conroy said the day he was hired as Calgary Flames general manager, he only wants players in town who want to be here.

It’s hard to believe Jacob Markstrom falls into that category anymore.

The only question now is whether he’s made that official with a trade request.

If so, Conroy isn’t saying, as he declined to comment.   

At the conclusion of a scrum focused largely on the trade of his pal Chris Tanev, and the admiration he has for Miikka Kiprusoff, I asked the Flames netminder Friday if he had parked all trade talk and was resigned to being here past the March 8 deadline.

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He chose to drop a bomb.

“Everyone in here I really respect everything that has been going on, and not going on, and how everyone in this room has handled everything,” he began.

“And then the whole situation and everything, am I happy about that? 

“No, I’m not.

 “I think it could have been handled a lot different from up top.”

Players who want to be part of a team don’t often take public shots at their GM, especially when they have two more years left on their deal.

This was a message to Conroy following all the very public trade speculation over a potential deal to send the 34-year-old netminder to the goalie-starved New Jersey Devils.

Understandably, he doesn’t seem happy his name was dragged through the rumour mill despite the fact he has a no-move clause that could’ve made the possibility moot, had he wanted.

It goes much deeper, though, as his source of frustration is more likely directed at the minutiae of how things were handled throughout negotiations with the Devils on a possible deal.

One report last week suggested Markstrom was asked to waive his no-move clause, and did, only to see a deal fall through because the Flames refused to retain salary in the swap.

If true, you can understand his unhappiness with being resigned to being out the door, only to have his course reversed.

There are other suggestions Markstrom was never officially asked to waive the NMC, but was simply asked if he’d be willing to consider the possibility of a deal to Jersey.

Some believe he never gave his blessing at all.

Communication breakdown or simply frustration, the question now is whether the toothpaste can be put back in the tube.

Or is the relationship fractured so much that a trade sure to happen by summertime, at the latest, will now be hastily cobbled together?

If so, that would be a shame for an organization that should decide on Markstrom’s trade fate based on return, not pressure.

In the absence of a bidding war, trading him now won’t maximize the return on the team’s undisputed MVP, who is a sizable asset the team needs to fully cash in on.

The club is better served waiting until the summer, when there are far more bidders and cap space, including contenders that realize their playoff loss might have been avoided had they employed a proven netminder.

The added benefit of waiting is the team’s ability to keep the No. 1 reason the Flames remain on the fringes of a playoff race.

But if Markstrom is unhappy, and wants out, he has to go, as per Conroy’s policy.

None of this is to criticize Markstrom for answering honestly, airing his frustration at a time when he has plenty of reasons to want to force the issue.

His childhood friend, Elias Lindholm, was traded last month.

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His favourite teammate of all time, Tanev, was sent to Dallas Wednesday, leaving him without the most dependable defender he’s ever played with.

Noah Hanifin, another prized defenceman, will be gone within days.

As happy as he’s been in Calgary most of the season, it’s not hard to see why Markstrom’s desire to stay with the retooling team is on the wane.

We’ll find out within the next week if the desire to keep him here has changed too.

His comments Friday sure muddied the water on that.

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