It's been a tumultuous past few months for Jacob Markstrom.
The Calgary Flames goalie enjoyed a stellar 2021-22 campaign, posting a .922 save percentage and 2.22 goals-against average in 63 games as he finished as the runner-up for the Vezina Trophy. While the regular season was a smashing success, his postseason performance was an utter failure, surrendering 24 goals to the Edmonton Oilers in the Flames' five-game playoff loss to their heated rivals.
Markstrom then watched the Flames' two franchise forwards skip town this summer, as Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk left for Columbus and Florida, respectively. But despite those enormous losses, Calgary still looks like a solid team on paper after adding Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar in the Tkachuk trade, then signing coveted free agent Nazem Kadri.
In fact, Markstrom thinks the reigning Pacific Division champions actually improved from last year.
"I think it's a better team than we had before," Markstrom said in an interview with NHL.com's Dan Rosen. "It's an unbelievable job by the front office and everybody working on that. It makes us as players really excited to come back and get back into it.
"Obviously, the feeling is because those guys that are there, you have both Huberdeau and Kadri sign long-term deals, they want to be there. That means a lot for anyone, whether you're a hockey player or you do something else... With that being said, it's sad to have two teammates that I had for the past two years that I got along with well, leave. I wish them luck with almost every game this season except when they play us."
Markstrom is particularly excited about reuniting with Huberdeau, who he played with as a member of the Panthers nearly a decade ago. The 32-year-old texted Huberdeau immediately after the trade and shared some information about the city of Calgary and the team to help his old friend adjust to his new situation.
Huberdeau is a different player than he was when the two last wore the same uniform and has developed into one of the best forwards in the NHL over the past several seasons. It's his size and strength that impress Markstrom the most.
"He's an old man now," Markstrom joked. "No, but he's grown into his body and he matured. Same with me, too. I was in my early 20s the last time I spent time with him and was his teammate. We both grew into our positions as NHL players, and him being one of the best in the world it's great to have him back as a teammate. He looks bigger. He's thicker. He's stronger. That was the big thing I noticed.
"But as a guy, he's an unbelievable guy, great teammate. I'm excited to share a locker room with him again."
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