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Roberto Luongo's Future is in Jacob Markstrom's Hands

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Many of you may not have even heard of him, but Jacob Markstrom could be the most important dynamic in any possible Luongo trade. That’s right. Luongo’s future is planted firmly in the hands of a twenty-three year old with only ten starts in the NHL. Only two of them were wins.

It is becoming less and less likely by the day that Luongo will be traded this season. The Maple Leafs have been getting great goaltending from Ben Scrivens and James Reimer which leaves Toronto at a loss for urgency to upgrade via trade. The Florida Panthers season is all but lost and this will likely result in an annual fire sale at the trade deadline. They will be getting rid of contracts, not adding long ones. As for everyone else, mystery team that Mike Gillis alluded to included, they just don’t make much sense as trade partners. At least not this season. I could go into detail team by team... But I won’t.

Just as it becomes less likely Luongo gets dealt this year, it seems more likely, nearly inevitable, that he will be dealt to his last team the Florida Panthers. Just as he had originally hoped for when requesting a trade last April.

And they might have traded for him already were it not for that darned Jacob Markstrom. There lies the problem though. The traditionally thrifty Panthers just can’t justify taking on the final eight ish years and accompanying thirty eight plus million in financial commitment. Not until they find out what they have in young blue chip prospect Jacob Markstrom at the very least.

Up to this point in his career, Markstrom has certainly done enough to deserve the Panthers due diligence in determining his role with this club in the future. His numbers in the Swedish Elite League are definitely solid. In his eighty five games in the Elitserien he had a respectable .920 save percentage 2.25 goals against and eight shutouts. Those stats don’t exactly jump off the page, but according to HockeysFuture.com he essentially saved his club, Brynäs from relegation. This proves he is more than capable of handling the onerous workload of a great goalie on a horrible team. Something that could come in handy for years to come in Florida.

His transition to playing in North America however was anything but smooth. His first year on Florida’s farm team in Rochester he split reps with Tyler Plante. In thirty seven games with the club he had a 16-20-1 record with a 2.98 goals against and a .907 save percentage. That was on a last place team though, so those stats shouldn’t be looked into too much. His next season in the AHL he played thirty two games and had a 17-12-1 record sporting a .927 save percentage and 2.32 goals against. His second season in the AHL is equally difficult to draw a conclusion from based solely on statistics. The Panthers had infused that team with several great young prospects. As a matter of fact they rank in the top five of almost every prospect pool ranking I’ve read in that time period forward...

It’s hard to tell just where Markstrom’s game is at. His stats are either great with great teams or average with horrible ones. Not very telling. He has also had his development slowed down by a series of knee injuries since coming over from Sweden.

Fortunately for Markstrom - not so much for Luongo - the Panther’s are doing right by their young goaltender. They’ve given him ample time to adjust to playing in North America with their farm teams and have used him sparingly in the NHL. As bad as they are at this winning thing they appear to be just as good with grooming prospects. Theodore’s contract with the Panthers expires at the end of this season and he’s done little to give the Panthers any reason to offer him an extension. Markstrom will be with the big club in some capacity next season, the only question is whether it’s as a backup or the starter. His play this season, at either the NHL or AHL level will go a long way in determining which. I know Luongo’s hoping he tanks and becomes his new Cory. A player of his caliber on an entry level contract as the backup is golden for a financially strapped team like the Panthers. As the starter, it’s a dream come true. Just not Luongo’s dream, since it will effectively take Florida out of the Luongo sweepstakes.
 

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