Jacob Markstrom Trade is underwhelming news for Nashville Predators, Juuse Saros

Goalies just aren't pulling the big trade returns right now, but Juuse Saros does remain the top prize at the position if the Predators decide to pull the trigger.
Vancouver Canucks v Nashville Predators - Game Four
Vancouver Canucks v Nashville Predators - Game Four / Brett Carlsen/GettyImages

Aside from Juuse Saros, Jacob Markstrom was considered one of the top goalies on the trade block this offseason and he was just dealt by the Calgary Flames to the New Jersey Devils for a rather uninspiring return.

This naturally makes you wonder what this means for Saros' trade value and what the Nashville Predators can get for him if they decide they don't want to fork out the possible $8 million per year long-term that it might take to keep him.

For Markstrom, the Flames received a 2025 first-round pick and defenseman Kevin Bahl. The first-round pick is the sweet part of the deal that the Predators would undoubtedly expect as well in a trade of Saros, but not getting a full-time NHL starter makes you wonder.

The Flames also had to retain 30 percent of Markstrom's $4 million salary. Not a huge amount, but worth noting. Saros makes $5 million for one more year, an enormous bargain for a team who could acquire him this offseason. Not a chance that Trotz should retain any salary of Saros in a trade because you're already getting him for a bargain as it is.

Can Saros demand a bigger trade return that Markstrom just got?

Now most would agree that Saros holds slightly more value than Markstrom, but exactly how much remains to be seen. And the list of teams who need a goalie is running dry with the LA Kings also getting their goalie in a trade of Pierre-Luc Dubois.

The Kings trade for Kuemper is a one-for-one swap sending the embattled, but talented, Dubois to the Capitals. Hard to even compare that trade to a potential Saros trade. The Markstrom trade is a better measuring stick for Trotz.

You're not trading Saros away for a borderline NHL starter and a draft pick, even a first-rounder. Trotz expects, and rightfully so, a legit NHL starter with star potential to trade Saros. Otherwise, you forge ahead and pay Juice his well-earned money.

I've always held firm that if the deal makes sense and you can't walk away from it, then you pull the trigger on Saros. But you can't trade him just for the sake of moving on. Saros has been the cornerstone of this franchise since taking over for Pekka Rinne, and it would be a tragedy to move on from him for such a modest return that the Flames just got for Markstrom.

Only one team realistically remains as a trade partner for Saros

The bigger issue is who is left that would want Saros and be willing to offer what Trotz wants? I only see one realistic team and that's the Toronto Maple Leafs. They only have one goaltender currently on the books for 2024-25, Joseph Woll. They have three goalies becoming unrestricted free agents; Ilya Samsonov, Martin Jones and Matt Murray.

The Leafs could make a serious inquiry for Saros with nearly $20 million in projected cap space. The issue for them is they have other vital pending free agents to find money for, including Tyler Bertuzzi.

This is where Mitch Marner is coming into play. How desperate are the Maple Leafs to move on from Marner and get Saros in return? The Fourth Period reported before the Kuemper trade that the Kings and Leafs were the top two suitors for Saros.

So if a climactic trade of Saros is to happen, go ahead and throw the Toronto Maple Leafs up there as your top contender, and maybe only contender. Unless Trotz is just 100 percent on wanting to keep Saros long-term, then you need to be pursuing a deal with the Maple Leafs for Saros. They just might be willing to give you way more than what the goalie market is suggesting.

Even with that, I'm starting to think that the Predators missed the boat on getting the lucrative return they want for Saros and now the focus has to shift to working out a contract extension. I just don't see Trotz getting anything close to what he actually wants to justify trading away his franchise goalie.

It would be very underwhelming to trade Saros away for just a first-round pick, which is never a guarantee to work out in the future, and a project player. You need a proven starter that fills a need to justify trading Saros at this point.

There is another chance down the road that the Predators could trade Saros at the 2025 trade deadline, only if the Predators forego a contract extension this offseason. That will be your last chance to avoid catastrophe and front office malpractice of letting a franchise goalie walk for nothing. Virtually zero chance that happens.

All signs point to General Manager Barry Trotz announcing a contract extension for Saros before the puck drops on the 2024-25 season. He'll get close to $8 million per year at least, and the next offseason building around Saros a team with more scorers to provide the goal support.