Craig Conroy on the Calgary Flames’ direction: ‘I think it’s a retool’

Photo credit:@NHLFlames on Twitter
Ryan Pike
1 month ago
Since he took the job last May, Calgary Flames general manager Craig Conroy has been grinding. He’s been working on resolving the situations of seven pending 2024 unrestricted free agents.
On Friday, following the conclusion of the NHL’s 2024 trade deadline proceedings, Conroy spoke with the media to reflect on the process and provided a bit of a glimpse of his philosophy going forward.
Conroy admitted that he tried to get his pending free agents signed, but when that wasn’t able to happen, the Flames had to move on.
“Even if you’re in a situation where maybe right now hey we’re battling for the playoffs,” said Conroy. “But to be able to get assets, to kind of regroup, we had to do it. To let those guys go just didn’t make any sense.”
When Conroy became GM, the club had seven prominent pending 2024 UFAs: defencemen Oliver Kylington, Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev and Nikita Zadorov, and forwards Elias Lindholm, Tyler Toffoli and Mikael Backlund.
  • Toffoli was traded to New Jersey in June in exchange for Yegor Sharangovich and a 2023 third-round pick (used to select Aydar Suniev).
  • Backlund was re-signed to a two-year extension and named captain in September.
  • Zadorov was traded to Vancouver in November in exchange for a 2026 third-round pick and a 2024 fifth-round pick (subsequently traded to San Jose on Friday for Nikita Okhotiuk).
  • Lindholm was traded to Vancouver in January in exchange for a 2024 first-round pick, a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick, Hunter Brzustewicz, Joni Jurmo and Andrei Kuzmenko.
  • Tanev was traded to Dallas in February in exchange for a 2024 second-round pick, a conditional 2026 third-round pick and Artem Grushnikov.
  • Hanifin was traded to Vegas on Wednesday in exchange for a 2026 first-round pick, a conditional 2024 third-round pick and Daniil Miromanov.
Six down, one to go, with the lone remaining piece of business being Kylington. Conroy noted that his situation is a bit different given his lengthy absence from hockey due to mental health challenges that ended with his return in January.
“You know, I wanted to make sure Oliver felt comfortable,” said Conroy. “It’s been a long year and a half. We’ve reached out to his agent just to see where he feels and if he wants to continue to do this. It’s a little bit different than everyone else because you’re really just thinking about him right now, you just want to make sure he’s happy, he wants to continue to play, and you look how well he’s playing. Hopefully we’ll work forward and hopefully get something done.”
One player that was definitely not traded prior to Friday’s deadline was goaltender Jacob Markstrom. Markstrom was the subject of a lot of trade rumours over the past month or so. Conroy declined to get into specifics about how close Markstrom was to being moved, and downplayed any notions that his relationship with the netminder needs to be mended.
“Well the one thing I know: Jacob’s a competitor and he cares about these guys,” said Conroy. “And as you’ve seen, I know there’s been noise, but all he does is play well. All he does is play well. Jacob and I are going to be fine. I’m obviously not on the road trip, but the one thing I know, he cares about this team, he cares about this organization, and he is going to be exactly what he’s been, one of the best goalies in the league.”
In answering a question about the team’s new acquisitions, Conroy spoke a bit about giving players expanded opportunities that may not have existed for them elsewhere – he referenced how well Sharangovich has taken advantage of his chance with the Flames when chatting about some of the newly acquired defenders.
A couple times during his remarks to the media, Conroy praised the coaching staff and the leadership group for how well the season has gone amidst all the changes and chatter, and referenced the strong play of young players like Connor Zary and Martin Pospisil when discussing his vision for getting the club back to prominence.
“I think it’s a retool,” said Conroy. “Bringing in young guys, with our veteran players that we have here, we believe we can turn this thing around. And I think they believe in the same thing.”
The Flames are back in action on Saturday afternoon when they visit the Florida Panthers.
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