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Flames trade goalie Jacob Markstrom to Devils for 1st-round pick, defenceman Bahl

The rumblings became reality with Wednesday’s announcement that the Calgary Flames traded veteran goaltender Jacob Markstrom to the New Jersey Devils.

The Flames got 23-year-old defenceman Kevin Bahl and a 2025 first-round pick in return.

Calgary retained 31.25 per cent of Markstrom’s remaining contract, which has two years left on the $36 million US deal ($6-million average annual value) he signed Oct. 9, 2020. It works out to $1.875 million annually.

Markstrom, 34, was the subject of trade rumours as Calgary (38-39-5) hovered outside playoff position for most of the 2023-24 season.

Fuelling that chatter was 23-year-old Dustin Wolf, who was twice American Hockey League’s goaltender of the year, waiting in the wings and 26-year-old Dan Vladar a capable backup to Markstrom, who at the conclusion of the season said he missed more time and games than he wanted to with various injuries.

The Flames trading centre Elias Lindholm and defencemen Chris Tanev and Noah Hanifin leading into the March trade deadline signalled a retooling and a youth movement afoot in Calgary.

“Today’s trade demonstrates our focus on the infusion of young talented players into our roster as well as acquiring important draft capital, while maintaining our commitment as a playoff competitive team,” Flames general manager Craig Conroy said Wednesday in a statement. “We thank Jacob for his professionalism and understanding of our decision to make this trade now and at this stage in his career.”

Markstrom waived his contract’s no-move clause to join the Devils.

“[New Jersey] has something really good going on,” he said Wednesday from Sweden during a virtual media conference call.

“Most of you guys knew they made a push [for a trade] and there was a lot of talk throughout the year last year. Nothing happened there. After the season, it kind of picked up again.

Career-high 37 wins in 2021-22 season

“They really wanted me to come and it’s always exciting to join a group, a team and an organization like the New Jersey Devils [which] has a lot of history. Can’t wait to make it my home.”

Markstrom posted a 23-23-2 record with a .905 save percentage and 2.78 goals-against average for the Flames this past season.

His best season as a Flame was 2021-22, when he recorded a career-high 37 wins, a career-best 2.22 GAA and .922 save percentage.

Markstrom led the league with nine shutouts and finished second in voting for the Vezina Trophy. He backstopped Calgary to the second round of playoffs and their longest post-season run since 2015.

“My son was born there. That’s the biggest thing I will remember, but also the playoff run we had and that whole season, how good we were as a team,” Markstrom said.

The goalie wasn’t pleased with the public trade buzz surrounding him. Markstrom said in March “it could have been handled a lot different from up top” and repeated on his final day as a Flame in April that he didn’t like the distraction.

But the goalie struck a conciliatory tone Wednesday.

“Connie called me right when it was done today and wished me good luck. There’s no bad blood there,” Markstrom said.

“This was a trade that Calgary liked and wanted to do. There were more teams interested, but Calgary made this trade.

“I had the last say with the no-move clause and when they agreed on the deal with Jersey, I’m super-excited to start this journey.”

Career .909 save percentage

Markstrom will be coached by former Toronto Maple Leaf head coach Sheldon Keefe, who was hired by the Devils in May, and will share goaltending duties with Jake Allen.

Markstrom owns a career 215-196-57 record with a .909 save percentage and 2.73 GAA with Florida, Vancouver and Calgary since he was selected in the second round, 31st overall, by the Panthers in the 2008 NHL draft.

Bahl, who is six foot six and 230 pounds, had a goal and 11 points in 82 games with the Devils this past season.

“He is a strong defender with size who plays an assertive game with tremendous presence,” Conroy said.

“He uses his body intelligently, has good mobility and makes smart puck decisions. Kevin fits our identity, and we are excited to acquire him now as he can continue to grow with our group.”

Bahl has 25 points and 127 penalty minutes in 148 career games over four seasons with the Devils. He had an assist and 31 penalty minutes in 11 playoff games in 2023.

He was Arizona’s second-round pick (55th overall) in 2018 before he was dealt to the Devils in December 2019.

Bahl was born in New Westminster, B.C., but grew up in Mississauga, Ont.

He played four seasons for the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s and won a gold medal with the Canadian junior men’s hockey team in 2020.

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