Being patient is the right approach for Craig Conroy to take
Photo credit:Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
14 days ago
Labour Day has come and gone which means that hockey season is almost upon us. The Calgary Flames had a quite off-season from an on-ice perspective. They moved out Tyler Toffoli in exchange for Yegor Sharangovich and a third-round pick in the 2023 draft. They also signed defensemen Jordan Oesterle and Brady Lyle to one-year contracts.
But that’s it.
Fans were expecting more to happen. Especially after hearing Craig Conroy talk about how important asset management is and how he doesn’t want to go into the season with seven 2024 UFAs.
A large chunk of the Flames fan base has not been happy with the lack of activity. And they have every right to be. But it makes sense why not much has happened to this point.
2023 draft picks were incredibly valuable
It was pretty obvious that NHL teams valued their 2023 picks the week of the draft. There wasn’t a single trade made on the draft floor for the first round in Nashville. The 2023 draft class was regarded as one of the best in a couple decades. Some experts compared it to the 2003 draft which was known for being one of the best in NHL history.
It was going to be difficult for Conroy to move out players with one year left on their contract in exchange for a first-round pick that has the potential to change the course of an NHL franchise. Had an Elias Lindholm or Noah Hanifin had 3-5 years left on their contracts, the Flames might have been able to get a 2023 first-round pick in return for them. But the uncertainty around an expiring contract probably had teams hesitant to make a deal in Music City.
No cap space
Very few competitive teams in the NHL have cap space to work with right now. There are not a lot of teams that can fit a $4+ million salary into their lineup at the moment. This has made it nearly impossible to make a futures-based trade for the Flames.
According to CapFriendly, 23 teams have $2 million or less of cap space as of Sept. 6. There are only five teams that could take on Hanifin’s $4.95 million cap hit right now: Anaheim, Chicago, Buffalo, Nashville, and Detroit.
Waiting until the 2024 trade deadline to move players out is the smart thing to do because it will allow teams to accrue cap space through out the year. Or they can utilize LTIR (long term injury reserve) if they run into injury troubles.
The Flames will have a lot more teams that they can work with on a trade for some of their 2024 UFAs which will create a more competitive market for those players.
Trade deadline creates urgency
The trade deadline is when stuff gets done around the NHL. The market for rental players heats up dramatically starting a month before the deadline. That is when the Flames will be able to get maximum value for their 2024 UFAs. Just look at some of the deals from last seasons trade deadline for rental players.
There is nothing wrong with the Flames waiting until the trade deadline to move players if this is the kind of returns that they are able to get.
Other GMs trying to take advantage of Conroy
It’s been talked about on various podcasts and radio shows that it is likely NHL GMs will try to take advantage of a new general manager in Conroy who is in a tough position. I can’t imagine Conroy’s counterparts were offering him fair trade packages for his 2024 UFAs. It might take some time for Conroy to show his peers that he won’t be taken advantage of.
The key for Conroy is to have the discipline to actually trade some of these assets by the 2024 trade deadline. This Flames team is going to be competitive next season. They’re too good not to. It’s incumbent on Conroy to do what’s best for the long-term future of the Calgary Flames by moving out the likes of Lindholm, Hanifin, Backlund, Tanev, and Zadorov despite being in the middle of a playoff race. That’s if he is given permission to do so by those above him on Flames the org chart.
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