FlamesNation Roundtable: Calgary Flames off-season and playoff predictions
Photo credit:Mike Gould
7 months ago
We thought it would be a great time to once again get the team at FlamesNation together for a roundtable article as we head into the first round of the playoffs and the Calgary Flames off-season. Let’s see what our writers and personalities have to say about some key off-season decisions that the Flames need to make and also give some predictions for the playoffs.
Will Brad Treliving return as General Manager?
Boomer: The rumour mill suggests Treliving has been offered a contract to stay on as general manager. If that’s the case, I’m curious as to his perspective on things. As other GM jobs become available around the league I wonder if Treliving is tempted to find out if there would be interest in his services. It would be a hell of a dice roll to leave Calgary in the hopes of landing a job in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia or elsewhere and potentially end up without a gig. Failing that, it’s clear Treliving and Sutter weren’t on the same page. Maybe that’s normal for a lot of GM/head coach relationships, but this scenario seemed untenable from the outside looking in.
Mike: I can’t see it. I feel like we would’ve already heard about it. Whatever Tre ends up doing, I wish him well — I think he’s a solid executive with a decent eye for talent. I think it’ll probably be Craig Conroy. He’s served under three Flames GMs now (two permanent, one interim) and his name pops up from time to time related to vacancies around the league. We’ll see what happens, but I can totally see them promoting from within.
Paige: Yes. I believe he will want to see his moves from last summer through and while there have been ups and downs in his tenure, he has managed this team in a way that have made the Flames a contender in select years.
Pike: Coin toss. I think Treliving has done a very good job as GM, but after nine years in the same spot, maybe he’s looking for a different challenge in a different work environment?
Pinder: I honestly don’t have a strong feeling either way here. I would understand if the organization and Treliving are ready for a change. I would guess Treliving has had to deal with less autonomy than he would want – that Sutter extension wasn’t his idea, was it? From the organization’s perspective, the ‘Summer of Brad’ was followed by maybe the most disappointing regular season in the whole league, with a team that’s already dealing with cap issues for the coming season. That said, word is Treliving has an offer to return. There’s only 32 of these jobs, so I’ll say Treliving is back.
Robert: Brad Treliving will not be returning as general manager of the Flames. And I think it will be his decision to leave the organization. He has been with the team for nine years and has gone through a lot of difficult times. The lack of playoff success. The Gaudreau and Tkachuk debacle. The Bill Peters situation. Budding heads with Darryl. Dealing with a difficult owner. Brad might be worn out and look to start fresh in a new organization or join the family business. Two names that come to mind as replacements are Mike Futa and Bob Murray. Both have ties to Darryl Sutter and have a lot of experience in NHL front offices.
Shane: I sure hope so. I’ve always thought Brad has done a fantastic job – there’s no guarantee his successor would be any better.
Will Darryl Sutter return as head coach?
Boomer: Unless something changes, I’d say that Sutter will be back. I’m sure he is plenty frustrated, but is he SO frustrated as to walk away from millions of dollars? Seems doubtful. And unless some sort of a buyout agreement could be reached I don’t imagine ownership would want to pay out that kind of money simply for him to go, which I’m not convinced they want to do at all. Sutter has probably taken an unfair share of the blame for the failures of the team this year, but certainly had a hand in it. In the days leading up to season’s end and shortly thereafter it seemed like anything was possible when it came to the coach. I can’t help but wonder if everyone takes a deep breath and tries to run it back with Darryl behind the bench.
Mike: I think he will, although I’m not convinced that he should. When it comes to firing a guy before the clock even starts on his contract extension … the optics just aren’t great. And I actually think that might be a bigger factor in the decision than the monetary cost. The Flames have proven themselves more than willing to eat money. But how does it reflect on the organization to change course at the head coaching position less than a year after they extended him? Even if it’s the right call (and I think it is), I can’t see them doing it.
Paige: I am leaning towards no. I have a sneaking suspicion that there is quite a disconnect between a good portion of the players and the coach in the new-age hockey style we are transitioning into. He hasn’t been a fan favourite and the way in which prospects have been handled this season is not ideal. It’s going to be a hot topic this summer and I am interested to see how it shakes out.
Pike: Coin toss, leaning yes. A lot of different, weird stuff went wrong, to the point where I think Nazem Kadri’s “bizarre” label for the season is incredibly apt. I don’t think the owner wants to sign a cheque and wave goodbye to Sutter just yet, and there’s no guarantee a new face behind the bench would necessarily solve anything except the occasional odd deployments that Sutter utilized. I think Sutter’s back, but with a very short leash.
Pinder: If history has taught us anything, the Calgary Flames have great disdain for paying two coaches at the same time. When Bob Hartley was paid to not be there they went cheap first time head coach with Glen Gulutzen. When Bill Peters was still on payroll (assuming he indeed was) they went cheap first time coach with Geoff Ward. With Darryl Sutter owed a rumoured ~$4 million per season over the next two years, it would make sense that THIS OWNER and THIS TEAM loathe the idea of paying him to not work. Many other organizations would pivot after a season like this. It’s now been two and a half seasons with Sutter back at the helm, call me crazy but it feels like the best before date has passed for Darryl with this group. See Bruins, Boston with Cassidy, Bruce – sometimes a coaching change and a more positive environment can work like magic.
Robert: Yes. Darryl Sutter will return as head coach. He has a new two year contract extension about to kick in worth a reported $4.2M a season. That is a lot of money to pay someone to stay away from your organization. Sutter also has a great relationship with the Flames ownership group. There is a lot of goodwill built up by both parties. I don’t see Murray Edwards firing his friend and confidant this off-season.
Shane: That depends on what the roster is going to look like. The Flames have way too many UFAs to just go through the whole off-season without some extensions or trades. Will they be roster changes Darryl likes? We’ll see.
Will the Flames re-sign Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin to long term contract extensions?
Boomer: I find it difficult to gauge Lindholm’s interest in remaining in Calgary based off of what we saw this season. He centered one of the best lines in hockey last year, then lost both of his line mates. His numbers plummeted, the team struggled and unless you’ve gone through having a new baby you cannot fully comprehend how upside down your life gets turned. So with all of that said, Lindholm didn’t seem to be a happy camper for much if not all of this year. From the team’s perspective, I’d guess there would be a strong desire to get a long term extension done. He’s a center who’s used in all situations, has proven to be relatively durable and plays a style that seems conducive to him being a valuable piece for many years to come. If I’m the team, I’m not very comfortable going into the season without a Lindholm extension. Even coming off the subpar season, I’d bet there would be no shortage of teams willing to ante up if Lindholm were made available in trade. Now obviously, you could go into the season and see how things play out and then if things go south trade him at the deadline but there is inherent risk involved. Of all the players on expiring contracts after 2023-24 I believe Lindholm is at the top of the Flames priority list, so I’ll suggest the two sides get a new deal done.
Noah Hanifin has become one of those players I think you can take for granted. He’s a terrific skater, can log a ton of minutes, doesn’t take a lot of penalties and has never missed much time to injury. Sometimes you wonder why he doesn’t provide more offense or isn’t a great fit for the powerplay or why he makes the mistakes he does, but there are many things he quietly does very well. He isn’t perfect, but would be very tough to replace. To me, it hinges a bit on what happens with Oliver Kylington, but there’s a strong chance the team might not have much clarity in his situation anytime soon. The Wranglers have had a terrific season, but they don’t have anyone on the blueline who’s knocking on the door to make the jump. It was encouraging to see MacKenzie Weegar’s play improve post All-Star Game, but that doesn’t diminish the Flames reliance on Hanifin. However, my guess here will be that Hanifin starts the season without an extension and will hope that a bounce back season for the Flames results in the same for him to boost his value in Calgary or in the UFA market next summer.
Jeff: I think re-signing Elias Lindholm is more likely than Noah Hanifin, but I’m not sure they do either, especially given Lindholm’s comments in exit interviews about his future being up in the air. It sounds like management is going to have to prove to him that they’re going to be playing meaningful hockey next season.
Mike: Lindholm, yes. Hanifin, no. I think Lindholm comes in somewhere between $8-9 million per year. Hanifin screams “draft day move” to me.
Paige: I think one of these two won’t be back next year. The way things have gone it really could be either of them. My guess would be Hanifin decides to move on from the Flames and they work on their defensive depth over the off-season. Lindholm hasn’t quite been the same since losing his all-star linemates but the skill is still there.
Pike: I’m thinking yes on Hanifin and no on Lindholm. Hanifin seems to really fit the system the Flames want to play and even with a lot of stuff going wrong this season, the coaching staff seemed able to find partners, usage and deployments that helped Hanifin keep chugging along. Meanwhile, Lindholm seemed to have trouble finding a stable left winger, and his play was much more up and down than it was a season ago.
Both players are important for the team’s success, but based on exit day comments and how they’re both progressing, it feels like we’ll be waving goodbye to Lindholm eventually. (But I don’t think he gets moved this summer.)
Pinder: I don’t think Lindholm or Hanifin will sign extensions this off-season. Players only gain leverage the closer they get to UFA status. Also, there hasn’t been enough winning or a superb cultural setting that would make it enticing enough to pass up their first UFA opportunity. This ain’t a Pastrnak re-upping in Boston situation. Now if the Flames are in first place in December and all is well in Flames land, then MAYYYYBE I can squint and see an extension for one/both.
Robert: If the mandate for next season and beyond is to continue to do everything you can to make the playoffs, then I think the Flames will make an effort to get both Lindholm and Hanifin locked up long term. The big issue with that is you’re committing a lot of salary cap space on long term deals for an old, slow, declining core group of players. Overall, I think the Flames will do everything they can to get both signed long term. But I don’t think they will have success with either.
Shane: Re-signing as a UFA involves two interested parties. Are Lindholm and Hanifin interested in staying or do they want to see what they can get on the open market. With the contracts some recent top 4 defenceman have received… no doubt it’s tempting. Same goes for 40-goal Selke finalists that plays first line center.
Name one player who you think could be traded this off-season.
Boomer: Dustin Wolf is NHL ready. He did just turn 22 years old so it’s not as though his development is being stunted, but it doesn’t feel like Wolf has anything more to prove at the American Hockey League level. Jacob Markstrom has three years remaining on his deal at $6 million per season, and Dan Vladar has a new two year extension kicking in next season paying him $2.2 million per. Markstrom has a no move clause, Vladar does not. I think the discussion of “trade Markstrom, keep Vladar” is a juicy one, but if I had to guess I’d say the Flames find a new home for Vladar and graduate Wolf.
Jeff: I think trading Noah Hanifin may be in the best interest of the Flames this off-season, or if it seems like another player like Lindholm (or Lindholm himself), who didn’t express a ton of interest in staying long term, is not going to want to stay and there’s a good offer for him, I would definitely look at moving them.
Mike: Although I think they should try to sell high on Tyler Toffoli and Nikita Zadorov while their respective values are at their highest, I think it’s far more likely we see the Flames try to unload Andrew Mangiapane’s contract. I don’t necessarily think they’d be wise to move 88 while his value is in the tank, but they desperately need to create flexibility. Even after a 17-goal season, Mangiapane will have suitors. Again, I’d rather they not, but…
Paige: I don’t expect to see Nick Ritchie back next season. He didn’t have a very prominent role on the team down the stretch and I think there is other internal and external talent they can be utilizing better in this spot in the lineup.
Pike: I think Dan Vladar will really enjoy playing somewhere in the Eastern Conference, allowing the Flames to open up a roster spot for Dustin Wolf for the 2023-24 season (and beyond).
Pinder: The Flames will be deep on defence if Oliver Kylington returns to the club and also if they extend an offer to UFA D Troy Stecher who looked like a great fit on the 3rd pair with the club. The entire top 5 D are under contract and you could add Kylington, Stecher and the evergreen Michael Stone September PTO. This summer would be a great opportunity to move a defender for assets and the much needed cap relief. I’ll suggest they move Nikita Zadorov who has authored the best two seasons of his NHL career here in Calgary. Selling high on his 14 goal season wouldn’t be the worst move if there’s a strong market for his services. Honourable mention Dan Vladar. Dustin Wolf will have nothing left to prove at the AHL next season come next Fall. He’s ready for the NHL challenge. Vladar likely garners more interest with his age and contract than Markstrom would.
Robert: Mikael Backlund. It is pretty clear that Backlund is not thrilled with the direction of the Flames organization. There were “whispers” last summer that he had asked for a trade. He also just had his exit interview with the media last week where he was very noncommittal about staying in Calgary long term. It might be time to sell high on the 34 year old centre who is coming off a career high in points.
Shane: I don’t know which one will get picked, but one of the Flames pending UFAs should be moved.
Pick the winners of each first round series.
Boomer: Colorado. Dallas. Vegas. Edmonton. Boston. Toronto. Carolina. New York Rangers.
Jeff: Colorado. Dallas. Vegas. Edmonton. Florida. Toronto. Carolina. New Jersey.
Mike: Colorado. Minnesota. Vegas. Edmonton. Boston. Tampa Bay. New York Islanders. New Jersey.
Paige: Colorado, Dallas, Winnipeg, Edmonton. Boston. Tampa Bay. Carolina. New York Rangers.
Pike: Colorado, Dallas, Vegas, Edmonton. Boston. Tampa Bay. Carolina. New Jersey.
Pinder: Colorado. Minnesota. Vegas. Los Angeles. Boston. Toronto. New York Islanders. New York Rangers.
Robert: Colorado. Minnesota. Vegas. Edmonton. Boston. Toronto. Carolina. New Jersey.
Shane: Colorado. Dallas. Winnipeg. Edmonton. Boston. Toronto. New York Islanders. New York Rangers.
Pick who you think will be in the Stanley Cup final and choose a champion.
Boomer: Dallas Stars vs Boston Bruins. Boston wins the Stanley Cup.
Jeff: Colorado Avalanche vs Carolina Hurricanes. Colorado wins the Stanley Cup.
Mike: Colorado and New Jersey, with the Devils taking it in six.
Paige: Colorado Avalanche vs Boston Bruins. Boston wins the Stanley Cup.
Pike: Colorado Avalanche vs. Boston Bruins. Boston wins the Stanley Cup.
Pinder: Colorado Avalanche vs Boston Bruins. Boston wins the Stanley Cup.
Pinder: Colorado Avalanche vs Boston Bruins. Boston wins the Stanley Cup.
Robert: Edmonton Oilers vs Toronto Maple Leafs. Edmonton wins the Stanley Cup. (Please don’t hate me for this prediction)
Shane: Dallas Stars vs Boston Bruins. Dallas wins the Stanley Cup.
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