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How do the Calgary Flames look a month before prospect camp opens?

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
8 months ago
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The Calgary Flames held their year-end press conferences back in mid-April. We’re four months removed from those proceedings and a lot has happened. With a month left before the club reconvenes for their prospect training camp – and their participation in the Young Stars Classic tournament in Penticton, BC – here’s where things are at with the club.

The big storylines

The magnificent seven
When the Calgary Flames announced Craig Conroy as their new general manager back on May 23, he made a simple observation regarding the club’s roster: “Obviously we can’t go into a season with seven UFAs. It just doesn’t make sense.” The idea was that the Flames would need to get a handle on their pending free agents and attempt to extend or maximize their return as assets.
Well, after Tyler Toffoli’s departure to the New Jersey Devils, the Flames now have six pending unrestricted free agents, so Conroy has fulfilled his declaration of not going into the season with seven UFAs. The remaining six are Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin, Mikael Backlund, Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov and Oliver Kylington.
As mentioned this week on Sportsnet 960’s Flames Talk by our pal Pat Steinberg, the Flames remain waiting for Lindholm’s decision. You see, they sure would like him to be with the club long-term, and they’re willing to shell out the necessary compensation to keep him around. But Lindholm hasn’t yet decided if he wants to extend with the club. (Last word was the Flames had tabled an eight-year contract offer to Lindholm, with the annual cap hit somewhere around $8.5 million. Per various insiders, they’re aware they will probably need to offer a deal similar to what Bo Horvat got from the NY Islanders to lock him down.)
The Flames aren’t waiting for Hanifin’s decision. He’s reportedly respectfully told the club that he won’t be re-signing when his deal expires, and so the team is exploring the trade market. So far, the offers have been “underwhelming” (to steal Steinberg’s verbiage). The team is reportedly also listening on backup goaltender Dan Vladar but, again, they haven’t received any offers that have impressed them. To paraphrase Conroy: they’re not going to make trades just to make trades, they have to make sense.
There hasn’t been much chatter out there regarding Backlund, Tanev, Zadorov or Kylington contract-wise, aside from Backlund playing “wait and see” regarding re-signing with the club at the end of his current deal.
The return of Kylington
Way back in 2021-22, the Flames had a great regular season. One of the bright spots was Kylington, who finally carved out a full-time NHL role for himself after a couple of seasons of being around the team but not quite being a full-timer. Paired with Tanev, Kylington was the player the Flames hoped he could be when they drafted him back in 2015.
But some personal challenges, explained by Kylington recently in an interview with a Swedish outlet as mental health issues, kept Kylington from playing in 2022-23. But Kylington has seemingly gotten to the other side of those challenges and he’s expected back for the coming season and is excited to return.
As good as Kylington was in 2021-22 – and he was very good – imagine how good he could be with his mental health challenges behind him. Kylington’s return to the Flames’ lineup, and how quickly he gets up to speed, is a storyline to keep an eye on.
The youth movement
In 2022-23, the Flames opened up with a pretty veteran-laden roster. The only players that made the team that could be called “prospects” were Adam Ruzicka and Connor Mackey, both of which were old enough to require waivers to go to the AHL and both of which were healthy scratches for much of the season.
Conroy has indicated that he wants the Flames to have some youth in their lineup. Don’t expect many players to be added to the training camp group on pro try-outs (PTOs), which should allow the likes of Jakob Pelletier, Walker Duehr and Matt Coronato to make serious pushes for the opening roster on Oct. 11. And the absence of additional veterans would allow Ruzicka to carve out a more defined role on the NHL roster.

The roster as it stands

As of this morning, here’s the probable opening day roster, assuming no further signings or trades.
LWCRW
Huberdeau [$10.5 M]Lindholm [$4.85 M]Sharangovich [$3.1 M]
Dube [$2.3 M]Kadri [$7.0 M]Coronato [$925K]
Mangiapane [$5.8 M]Backlund [$5.35 M]Coleman [$4.9 M]
Pelletier [$863K]Ruzicka [$763K]Duehr [$825K]
LDRDG
Weegar [$6.25 M]Andersson [$4.55 M]Markstrom [$6.0 M]
Hanifin [$4.95 M]Tanev [$4.5 M]Vladar [$2.2 M]
Kylington [$2.5 M]Zadorov [$3.75 M]
Extra: Oesterle [$925K]Buried: Rooney [$150K]
With this roster – 21 players, giving them just a single extra body to sub in for injuries – the club has $82.95 million committed. That leaves them with $550,000 for in-season wiggle room. For reference, a league-minimum salary player costs $775,000. So… that could cause a big challenge if literally anything happens in terms of significant in-season injuries.
Coronato and Pelletier are waiver exempt this season, so in theory the Flames could assign them to the AHL roster on off-days (when the team is at home) in order to stockpile salary cap space for later use. But that’s not an ideal solution, so it seems likely that the Flames will look for some types of moves to open up a bit more cap space.
As it stands, the Flames are looking like they’re going to run it back with last season’s roster, albeit with a few minor changes:
  • In: Kylington, Pelletier, Coronato, Duehr, Sharangovich
  • Out: Stone, Toffoli, Lewis, Lucic, Ritchie
The team looks like it could be a little younger and a little faster than they were in 2022-23. But how much better will they be? We shall find out in the fall.

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