After taking a puck off the hand at practice on Monday, Calgary Flames starting netminder, Jacob Markstrom, will be sidelined for some time. According to head coach Ryan Huska (via Salim Valji of TSN), Markstrom’s injury is “not as bad as it seemed” and the fracture will not require surgery. Week-to-week status indicates that the earliest return for the go-to goalie is about a week out, although a 2-4 weeks could be more realistic.
Markstrom has been good for the Flames this season and in the opinion of some fans, is even a frontrunner for MVP at the 24-game mark:
Missing Markstrom during a stretch of games against tough opponents could be a major blow to a team that’s currently flirting with the .500 barrier.
However, there are three noteworthy opportunities for the Flames with Markstrom absent from the lineup.
1. Dustin Wolf will have an extended opportunity
This first one is probably obvious. With only two NHL games under his belt, Dustin Wolf needs time with the big boys. The 22-year-old top prospect holds a .920 save percentage and 2.50 goals against average through 13 games with the Wranglers so far this season.
With Markstrom likely out of the lineup for a minimum of five games (including a back-to-back) over an eight-day period, Flames faithful will almost certainly see Huska give the starters nod to Wolf at least once (probably twice), in the very near future. Patience with Wolf’s development on the part of the Calgary Flames organization has been admirable, but the next step for the AHL’s back-to-back top goaltender has to be NHL starts with increasing regularity.
Wolf’s opportunity comes as a result of a very unfortunate injury to Jacob Markstrom, but it doesn’t mean we can’t be excited to see a young goalie with a heap of potential take the cage.
2. Dan Vladar showcase and trade value pump
Like Dustin Wolf, Calgary Flames backup goaltender will have an increased workload, beginning with his start tonight when the Flames host the Minnesota Wild.
If Vladar is able to perform well, perhaps general managers and pro scouts around the league will take note, boosting his trade value.
As the deadline draws nearer, the Flames may elect to trade a goaltender in order to set Dustin Wolf up for continued development with a permanent roster spot and to collect as many future assets as possible along with their returns for other trades (such as Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev). Vladar is the obvious trade candidate due to his lower cap hit and fewer remaining contract years.
3. How do the Flames fair without Jacob Markstrom?
Lastly, if the Calgary Flames are able to compete with quality starts out of both Wolf and Vladar, there’s opportunity for the Markstrom injury to highlight what the team looks like without him. Despite a higher AAV and two more seasons remaining on his deal, Markstrom is certified NHL starter and could be a highly coveted asset for Cup-aspiring teams at the trade deadline.
If I’m Craig Conroy, I’m watching what this club looks like without Markstrom very closely. Even if he’s a locker room leader and a heartbeat-of-the-team kind of guy, pulling in first round picks and/or top prospects should be priority number one.