FlamesNation Mailbag: Decompressing from the draft and free agency

Photo credit:Mike Gould
Ryan Pike
22 days ago
Friends, the 2024 NHL Draft and the opening of free agency have come and gone! And the Calgary Flames have been busy: trading Andrew Mangiapane to Washington, making 10 draft selections, and signing seven players to new contracts and one to a contract extension.
As the dust settles, let’s dive into the mailbag!
The mission for the draft was adding players with high offensive ceilings that could fill in gaps in the big club’s roster eventually. Zayne Parekh and Henry Mews are blueliners with offensive ceiling. Andrew Basha, Matvei Gridin and Luke Misa have forwards with offensive ceiling. Heck, Trevor Hoskin had a great season in the OJHL and perhaps he can port that over to his college season. Anyway, the Flames made 10 picks and added a lot of players with potential. I’ll give them an A.
In terms of free agency, they didn’t give anybody crazy amounts of money. If every single one of their signings goes sideways on them, they’re fine. Would it have been better if they landed a bigger fish? For the short-term, yeah, as their roster is lean. But in the bigger picture, it might be for the best. So let’s give them a B.
Samuel Honzek – their 2023 first-round pick – is eligible to go back to the WHL’s Vancouver Giants or to play pro hockey in the Flames’ system. He’s coming off an injury-riddled 2023-24 season, so I think the Flames are going to wait and see with him. I’m sure they would love to have him suit up for the Wranglers next season and get adjusted to the rigours of pro hockey. But if he’s not ready, they don’t want to throw him into a situation that he’s not ready for, so we wouldn’t take a return to the Dub off the table.
Zayne Parekh – their first 2024 first-round pick – seems likely to head back to the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit. He’ll play a ton and probably play at the World Juniors, too. He needs to round out his game and mature physically a bit, and the OHL may be the best place for that.
Matvei Gridin – their second 2024 first-round pick – is a unique case. He’s eligible to return to the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks. He’s also committed to the University of Michigan for the fall. But, as Sportsnet’s Pat Steinberg noted on social media the other day, he seems likely to be selected in Wednesday’s CHL Import Draft. So we’ll probably get some clarity over the next month or so where Gridin lands for the fall.
I agree on the blueline improvements. The Flames have pretty much entirely overhauled their defence since Craig Conroy’s arrival at the NHL level and in terms of their prospect pool. They have a pretty good mix of offensive-minded guys and defensive-minded guys, and probably the plan is to see who develops into pros (and develops chemistry with others) as they move forward.
In terms of centres, nobody tends to let good young centres walk in free agency, so it’ll be trades and the draft. The upside is that the Flames have oodles of picks and oodles of cap space, so they have the ability to manuever to try to nab one over the next while. But until that pans out, they might just be trying to see if some of their existing young players can cut it at centre.
So here’s kind of how I see it right now:
The established NHL blueliners right now are MacKenzie Weegar, Daniil Miromanov, Kevin Bahl, Rasmus Andersson, Jake Bean, Brayden Pachal and Joel Hanley.
The AHL group seems to be Artem Grushnikov, Jeremie Poirier, Hunter Bruzstewicz, Joni Jurmo, Jonathan Aspirot, Ilya Solovyov and Yan Kuznetsov. Probably the player who has the best case to break out of the AHL group and push for an NHL slot, with a good camp, is Solovyov.
Behind the pro group is a really interesting mix: Etienne Morin, Zayne Parekh, Axel Hurtig, Henry Mews and Eric Jamieson.
The offensive-minded guys in the system look to be Poirier, Brzustewicz, Aspirot, Morin, Parekh and Mews. The defensive-minded ones look to be Grushnikov, Solovyov, Kuznetsov, Hurtig and Jamieson. It’s hard to really handicap who’s better or worse, but it’s easy to look at the offensive upside of Brzustewicz and Parekh and get excited about what they could become.
Got a question for a future mailbag? Contact Ryan on Twitter/X at @RyanNPike or e-mail him at Ryan [at] TheNationNetwork.com! (Make sure you put Mailbag in the subject line!)

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