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FlamesNation Mailbag: The post-Heritage Classic edition

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Photo credit:Mike Gould
Ryan Pike
5 months ago
The 2023 edition of the Heritage Classic has come and gone. The Calgary Flames were not victorious over Edmonton, and have run their losing streak to five games.
As the dust settles and the Flames prepare to host Dallas on Wednesday, let’s dive into the mailbag!
The short answer is that they simply didn’t need to use the cap space. The Flames ran a pretty lean ship in 2022-23 from a salary cap perspective. Because Oliver Kylington’s contract was being tolled and he was considered a part of the team’s roster – he was on their non-roster/injured list – his deal counted against the cap ceiling.
When a player’s out 10 (or more) games and 24 (or more) days, they’re eligible to be placed on the long-term injury reserve (LTIR) and depending on how much cap space a team has when that happens, their team gets cap relief. But because of how salary cap relief is structured during LTIR situations, teams need to run as close to having zero cap space as possible before enacting LTIR to maximize their space.
In short: LTIR is a lot like a piggy bank; you don’t want to smash it unless you have no other options.
Disclosure: I think Connor Zary and Matt Coronato are really good prospects. The only difference, to me, between Zary and Coronato these days is that there’s an obvious need for somebody like Coronato in the line-up (and a clear role for him) and I don’t think that’s the case for Zary. At least, not quite yet.
Simply put, who would Zary replace in the current Flames’ line-up? It’s tough to find an obvious spot for him, even with Adam Ruzicka and Jakob Pelletier unavailable right now. (And yes, comments section, “Dryden Hunt” would be an acceptable answer except for the fact that Hunt is only really up as high in the lineup as he is because others have struggled.)
Similarly, if you wanted to send Coronato to the AHL to tear it up offensively and gain some swagger, who replaces him as the right-shot offensive player in the Flames’ lineup? Coronato hasn’t played poorly enough, in my opinion, to merit a demotion, but the “Well, who else can do that job?” question would need to be answered if you wanted to entertain the notion.
Nazem Kadri has one goal, two points and a minus-11 rating through nine games. He makes $7 million against the cap. Jonathan Huberdeau has two goals, five points and a minus-10 rating through nine games. He makes $10.5 million against the cap. Neither has really found a regular niche in the forward group at five-on-five quite yet.
If you look at game impact (using game score, via Hockey Stat Cards), Huberdeau is tied for 12th among Flames skaters (with Matt Coronato) and Kadri is 15th. Considering their levels of seniority, offensive acumen and their compensation relative to the rest of the team, they need to be leading the way on a nightly basis.
So far, that hasn’t been the case. That needs to change. Quickly.
Here’s an example: Ilya Solovyov has been quite good in a couple appearances for the Flames, especially relative to his level of experience. He might be ready to be an NHLer. The Flames likely didn’t want to throw him in without knowing if he’s ready, hence the acquisition (and/or retention) of guys like Dennis Gilbert and Jordan Oesterle. But now that the Flames know what they have, or at least feel like they know a lot more about how good he is, they can start to plan around Solovyov a bit more.
The same thing happened to Jakob Pelletier, pre-injury, and Matt Coronato; the Flames tested them out, saw how good he was, and then started to make definitive plans to work them in. It’s not an instantaneous process, which can be challenging when a veteran-filled team is under-performing, but that sort of transition takes some time.
You probably prioritize specific areas to work young players in more than others, but the general idea is likely that as players age out of their contracts, there will be opportunities to work younger players in.

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