The Calgary Flames could see off-season changes as key players weigh their futures

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
1 year ago
The Calgary Flames finished their 2022-23 season with 26 players on their roster. The simple reality of a salary cap environment is that not everybody will be back when the club regroups in the fall for training camp, something that was referenced by several players at Friday’s exit interviews.

The five pending free agents

Five players are pending restricted free agents: defencemen Michael Stone and Troy Stecher, and forwards Milan Lucic, Trevor Lewis and Nick Ritchie. Four of the five spoke with the media – Ritchie didn’t partake – and all four were asked about their future plans.
Stone (six goals, 11 points, plus-2 in 48 games) spent much of the season as the club’s seventh defenceman but played quite a bit due to injuries on the back end. He made no sweeping pronouncements about his future, though when asked he did note that his options would likely be limited to Calgary due to his family situation – he explained he didn’t want to move his family around, nor does he want to play away from them.
Stecher (three goals, seven points, minus-3 in 20 games) was enthusiastic about potentially returning to Calgary. He noted he has family in the area and was able to adjust to the system quickly. Stecher added a good amount of speed and energy after being acquired at the trade deadline from Arizona, something that was previously missed on the blueline due to the season-long absence of Oliver Kylington.
Lucic (seven goals, 19 points, minus-13 in 77 games) intends to continue his playing career. He’ll “weigh out” his options and expressed both relief that his hefty seven-year, $42 million contract was behind him and gratitude to Flames fans for helping make it fun to play in Calgary. (Yes, he heard and very much appreciated the constant “Luuuuuuuuu” chants from fans over the years.)
Lewis (nine goals, 20 points, minus-7 in 82 games) also intends to continue his playing career.

Eligible to sign extensions on July 1

In addition to those five players on expiring deals, another eight regular players are on deals that expire at the end of the 2023-24 season and would be eligible to sign extensions as of July 1. Those include one potential restricted free agent (Dillon Dube) and seven potential UFAs with a combined cap hit of $30.15 million – Mikael Backlund, Elias Lindholm, Tyler Toffoli, Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov and Oliver Kylington.
When the topic was broached, three players expressed openness to talk contract: Toffoli, Hanifin and Zadorov. Toffoli said he “definitely” wanted to have discussions and “hopefully I can get something done.” Zadorov expressed the most enthusiasm of anybody asked: “I told my wife I’d like to be a Calgary Flame forever.”
On the other end of the spectrum, three Flames seemed to downplay contract talks:
  • Alternate captain Mikael Backlund: “I’m 34 years old. I want to win the Stanley Cup. I don’t know, this summer, what’s going to happen… I might want to see what this group could do before I make a decision.”
  • Alternate captain Chris Tanev: “I’m not really thinking about that right now. I’ve played a lot of hockey on one-year deals, that’s not really going to bother me. My biggest thing is to go out and be the best player that I can be for the team when I come back in September.”
  • Alternate captain Elias Lindholm: “We’ll see what happens. I’ve got one more year and I kind of look at it that way. I’ve got one more year, and that’s all I can say.”
The Flames have made the playoffs twice in their past four seasons and have advanced past the first round twice since 2015.
Coming off a disappointing season without a playoff appearance and facing some challenging salary cap realities heading into the 2023-24 campaign, the Flames have some decisions to make. Those decisions will inevitably centre around which key players they can lock up to long-term contracts, and which may intend to head to the market when their current deals expire.
We’ll have more on the team’s salary cap and contract situation throughout the off-season.

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