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FlamesNation Mailbag: Discussing training camp, goaltending and more!

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Photo credit:Mike Gould
Ryan Pike
6 months ago
Folks, it’s mid-August. If you look at the calendar, the Calgary Flames will assemble in a month for prospect training camp and a trip to Penticton, BC for the Young Stars Classic tournament. Enjoy your remaining weeks of summer, because things will get busy very quickly.
In the meantime: onto the mailbag!
As of Monday morning, the Flames have 44 players under NHL contracts for the 2023-24 season. One of them, Samuel Honzek, is junior-aged and so if he’s returned to the Western Hockey League’s Vancouver Giants, his deal won’t toll for the coming season (and won’t count against the 50 contract limit).
The Flames have another eight players on AHL deals with the Calgary Wranglers, all of whom will likely attend the NHL camp on try-out deals. And the Flames will probably invite a few of their try-out players from development camp to fill out their roster for the Penticton tournament.
In summation, there don’t appear to be very many needs they need to meet with additional signings.
So here’s the thing: there are more than enough players under NHL and AHL contracts to fill out the rosters for the Flames and Wranglers. Additionally, new general manager Craig Conroy has repeatedly said he’s going to leave spots open for young players to grab. Heck, he’s explicitly mentioned how signing players on pro try-out (PTO) deals boxed out young players from getting chances.
In other words: considering Conroy said he’s leaving spots open, don’t expect very many PTOs to be invited to camp.
By all accounts, the Flames have been exploring the trade market. But the offers they’ve gotten so far, notably for Noah Hanifin and Dan Vladar, have been fairly underwhelming. Unless the offers get better, don’t expect the Flames to trip over themselves to make trades for the sake of making trades. (But if anybody is moved, Hanifin and Vladar are probably the most likely.)
I expect the Flames will try out Matt Coronato all over the place. The two most obvious places are alongside Nazem Kadri or Mikael Backlund. Coronato looked good with Kadri in his Game 82 audition last season, and everybody looks good on Backlund’s wing. If they want to set him up for success, those seems to be the most obvious spots.
Dustin Wolf’s NHL appearances in 2023-24 entirely depend on whether the Flames get good offers for Vladar or not. (And when.) Right now, we’ll bet on the under. (But we’d be shocked if Wolf plays fewer than five games.)
Let’s be clear: 31 teams have their seasons end in disappointment. Everybody wants to win the Stanley Cup, only one team succeeds.
But we also have to make a distinction here: NHL clubs are businesses, sporting entities and public trusts all at once. It’s tough to make the correct moves from a hockey standpoint, a business standpoint, and a public relations standpoint simultaneously.
It’s easy to say you want to tear a team down to the studs. But from a business standpoint and a public standpoint, you need to keep enough fans on board with the plan to keep your club financially viable during the rebuild process – we hate to tell you this, but fans usually don’t want to shell out NHL ticket prices to watch a team that aggressively, purposefully sucks.
Oh, and there’s no guarantee that tearing it down succeeds. Yes, Chicago managed to get Connor Bedard by being really, really bad. But how many teams have been not particularly good for awhile and haven’t converted that into being good? Buffalo, Detroit, Ottawa and Arizona, to name a few, have been bad for awhile.
The Flames will potentially be forced to make some significant changes in a year since they have so many potential unrestricted free agents on expiring contracts. But if you look at the bones of the Flames’ roster, they have a few roster areas – defence and goaltending in particular – that could provide the basis for a pretty good hockey club. The challenge, as it always is, is surrounding their core group with the right complimentary pieces.

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