It sounds like the Calgary Flames are pumping the brakes on contract talks

Photo credit:Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
8 months ago
Pals, way back on September 23, the Calgary Flames signed respected veteran Mikael Backlund to a two-year contract extension and named him captain. The likely hope at the time was that Backlund’s signing, combined with the good vibes of a new-look front-office and coaching staff, and a good start to the season, would lead to other key pending free agents re-upping rather than bolting to the open market.
A month after Backlund’s signing, things haven’t quite turned out that way.
On Oct. 21’s edition of Headlines on Hockey Night in Canada, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that the Flames and Noah Hanifin were closing in on an extension – though he cautioned that it wasn’t a done deal. On Oct. 23’s 32 Thoughts podcast, Friedman said “I think the best way to put it is it’s going to be a surprise if it doesn’t happen.” (This progress came on the heels of a report earlier in October from Friedman that the club was talking to Hanifin and Chris Tanev about extensions.)
Since Friedman’s original report on Headlines, the Flames lost four games in a row, and that’s seemingly led to a change in approach by the Flames. During the week leading up to the Heritage Classic, Sportsnet’s Pat Steinberg urged a bit of caution from the club, noting on Friday’s Flames Talk “I just don’t think now is the right time to be making franchise-defining choices or signing franchise-defining contracts.”
On Monday’s edition of the 32 Thoughts podcast, Friedman returned to the Hanifin topic:
“Well I can tell you coming into this weekend now we’re starting to get a little bit of a ‘hang on here a second…’ And those were pretty far along. I just think that everybody right now is taking a deep breath and a long look at what the start of this season could mean for the Calgary Flames.”
On Monday’s Flames Talk, following on the heels of the Heritage Classic, Steinberg reported that he believed that both sides – the Flames and their pending UFAs – were “in a wait and see situation.”
Finally, on Tuesday morning, Sportsnet’s Eric Francis reported that contract talks for Hanifin and Elias Lindholm – and presumably the other pending UFAs, Chris Tanev and Nikita Zadorov – were paused.
“Sportsnet has learned all contract talks are now on hold for an organization that may be on the precipice of having to take a radical new approach. Not a tear-it-down rebuild as most are clamouring for, but a significant re-tooling that would almost certainly involve trading the aforementioned Flames pillars.”
The vibes around the Flames are definitely better than they were a year ago. But improved on-ice results haven’t yet materialized, which has led to some understandable caution around locking down additional players to long-term deals.
If the Flames were rattling off win after win, it would be easy to feel confident in doubling down on the existing big pieces of the hockey club. With things currently tilted in the other direction, confidence is seemingly waning for the time being. We’ll see if they can right the ship in the near future and have a more comprehensive understanding of what the big pieces of the team can do, and whether or not they fit in the team’s puzzle long-term.

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