Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Florida Panthers: Is Jacob Markstrom the answer in net?

For years now, the Florida Panthers and their fan base have waited to get another franchise goaltender that they lost when they traded Roberto Luongo to the Vancouver Canucks in 2006.

Two years later the organization thought they may have found the answer when they drafted big Jacob Marktsrom out of Sweden in the second round (31st overall) of the 2008 draft.

Standing at 6’6, Markstrom was a monster in the net and after staying in Sweden to play in the Swedish Elite League for two years; by the time he left he was dominating the European league.

But since he has made the transition to the North America in 2010, he has struggled to find a solid footing and three seasons later has yet to make an impact at the NHL level.

So is now the time to pack up on the Markstrom experiment, and look to ship him elsewhere to be another team’s problem?

I wrote a piece last playoffs on the proper way to groom a goaltender, using the remaining goalies left as my case studies. It showed that the most common age for a goalie to take their first share of full-time duties in the NHL was 26 (again, of the goalies left in the playoffs).

At 24-years old, and without a sturdy season or any signs of progression it would be easy to cast Markstrom aside – but if the most common age for a starting goaltender in last year’s playoffs was 26-when they took over starting goaltender duties, should the Panthers give Markstrom more time?

Markstrom is showing signs of waking up this month, in 244-minutes played this month – he has a 1.47 GAA to go with a .950%. Great numbers over a small period, but the question with Markstrom will be is if he can continue this for the rest of the season.

Certainly not at that pace, but if he wants to stay in the Panthers plans beyond when his contract runs up – he will want to build up momentum heading into next season.

I talked yesterday on how Dale Tallon didn’t want to blow up the team, and how that was the best idea for the team both this year and in the future. But with talks of an extension with goaltender Tim Thomas, could this be the perfect time to trade Markstrom for a future piece?

The return wouldn’t be great, but there is no doubt that there are some teams who could get desperate for a young goaltender with some potential, leaving the door open to overpay for him given the right situations.

If I was the Panthers, I would answer phone calls on Markstrom from now until the deadline, and if the perfect trade presents itself (maybe a high-risk high-reward puck moving defenseman) I would pull the trigger.

Goalies may be the most important position on the roster (Carey Price proved that yesterday) but if Markstrom doesn’t show any signs of progression it should be time to re-evaluate who the team needs to place the most focus on in developing.

Prospects like Michael Houser and Evan Cowley are long shots, but sometimes the goalies that take the longer to develop turn out to be better options.

You can follow me on Twitter: @AMurphyTRT

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Tags: Evan Cowley Florida Panthers Jacob Markstrom Michael Houser

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