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Craig Conroy continues Calgary Flames’ focus on asset management with Elias Lindholm trade
By Ryan Pike25 days ago
When Craig Conroy was named general manager of the Calgary Flames back in May, he inherited seven major players poised to become unrestricted free agents following the 2023-24 season. At the time, he pledged both to focus on asset management and to give youngsters a chance with the big club.
Nearly nine months later, his work on those fronts continues unabated, with the most recent development being the departure of forward Elias Lindholm to the Vancouver Canucks.
Conroy and his staff examined recent trades featuring similar players and developed their asking price for Lindholm after contract talks with the forward stalled at the beginning of the season. While several teams were in talks, eventually they ended up going with Vancouver’s offer. (It’s just the eighth-ever trade between Calgary and Vancouver since the Flames’ arrival in 1980, but the second such deal Conroy’s put together in the past two months.)
The immediate impact on the Flames’ roster is adding Andrei Kuzmenko, an offensive-minded Russian winger just a year removed from a 39-goal rookie season, but the loss of Lindholm up the middle leaves the club a bit lean on established NHL centres.
“Power play, right shot,” said Conroy regarding how Kuzmenko slots. “We don’t have many right shot guys here, so to have him come into the power play. He can play both wings, though.”
“It’s a huge loss at centre to not have Lindy here. Everybody’s going to have to step up a little bit. We’re going to have to figure out the centre position, but y’know, that’s part of what we’ve gotta do. It’s never quite as easy as we want, but we’ll figure that out here in the next few days.”
Obviously Conroy isn’t going to lay out his entire master plan while he’s conducting it. But after discussing asset management regarding the club’s pending UFAs at his introductory press conference, he’s made four prominent moves:
- Tyler Toffoli was traded to New Jersey the day before the draft in June.
- Mikael Backlund was re-signed in September and named captain.
- Nikita Zadorov was traded to Vancouver at the end of November.
- And now, Lindholm is also headed to Vancouver.
It’s hard not to notice a trend.
“Obviously I didn’t want to go to the deadline with… imagine if I had all of those still on the table, it’d be even more stressful than it is now,” joked Conroy.
Laying out the major asset inflows and outflows since June makes the pattern even clearer.
|F Yegor Sharangovoch
F Andrei Kuzmenko
D Hunter Brzustewicz
D Joni Jurmo
2023 third-round pick (Aydar Suniev)
2024 first-round pick
2024 fourth-round pick
2024 fifth-round pick
2026 third-round pick
|F Tyler Toffoli
D Nikita Zadorov
F Elias Lindholm
The Flames received a couple controllable assets in Sharangovich and Kuzmenko that fill lineup roles in the short term as the team evaluates their fits, then either locked in long-term or flipped. They received a couple prospects to shore up a fairly thin defensive reserve list. And they received five draft picks (so far). All of that for three players that were expiring assets.
As a bonus, these departures have opened up prominent roles for prospects, which players like Connor Zary and Martin Pospisil have taken advantage of already to establish themselves at the NHL level.
Four pending UFAs have been dealt with. And while Oliver Kylington’s a bit of a unique case given his recent return to pro hockey after 20 months away, the situations of fellow blueliners Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev have yet to be resolved.
“Everybody’s got a different situation, so I wouldn’t want to lump everyone into one kind of pool,” said Conroy. “But we said we were going to do it, started with Toffoli, Big Z, being able to get Backlund signed was really big for us, to have his leadership in the room and him being the captain. And we’re just going to continue forward here until the trade deadline.”
The Flames return to game action on Tuesday when they visit the Boston Bruins to kick off a four game road trip.
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