The Calgary Flames have done an excellent job of reshaping their defence for the future

Photo credit:Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Gould
29 days ago
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The Calgary Flames have made six trades in the last six months. They’ve acquired at least one defenceman in five of them.
On top of that, the Flames picked up two more defenders for free via the waiver wire during the back half of the 2023-24 season, bringing their total over that timeframe to eight. Joel Hanley is 33, but the rest are all 26 or younger.
In the weeks after January 31, when they added Hunter Brzustewicz and Joni Jurmo in the Elias Lindholm trade with the Vancouver Canucks, the Flames went on to acquire Hanley, Brayden Pachal, Artem Grushnikov, Daniil Miromanov, and Nikita Okhotiuk in various transactions with the Dallas Stars, Vegas Golden Knights, and San Jose Sharks.
Now, the Flames have made yet another deal, and, in typical fashion, Craig Conroy went back to a familiar well to do it. Less than a year after striking a deal with New Jersey Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald that revolved around Yegor Sharangovich and Tyler Toffoli, Conroy sent goaltender Jacob Markstrom to the Devils in exchange for defenceman Kevin Bahl and a 2025 first-round pick.
Conroy seemingly has a knack for making deals with certain GMs. During his year on the job, he’s now made multiple trades with Vancouver, Dallas, and now New Jersey. And while the Flames undoubtedly got the better end of the Toffoli/Sharangovich deal with the Devils, it remains to be seen which side will come out ahead this time around.
The first-round pick is the main prize for the Flames in the Markstrom trade. It gives them multiple first-round selections in each of the next three drafts, uncharted territory for an organization that has only made more than one first-round pick in one draft (2013) since relocating from Atlanta in 1980. Despite all their proclamations and assurances to the contrary, this Flames team is staring down a long (and necessary) rebuild.
With many years of work still ahead of them, it’s more than fair to question how many of the players on this Flames roster will still be in the organization by the time this whole rebuilding process has run its course. But one thing is for certain: Conroy has put together an impressive stockpile of young defenders to populate this team during its transition period, and perhaps even into its next contention window.
Consider, for a moment, what the Flames’ three defensive pairs currently look like on paper as we slowly approach the end of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final. Assuming they keep Rasmus Andersson (for now) and eventually agree to terms with Oliver Kylington, the Flames could start the 2024-25 season with an arrangement like this on their blue line:
MacKenzie Weegar – Daniil Miromanov
Oliver Kylington – Rasmus Andersson
Kevin Bahl – Brayden Pachal
Joel Hanley
Even after the Flames spent the last year making subtraction after subtraction to their lineup, it’s probably fair to say that six out of the seven players in that defensive group are slotted properly.
Weegar is the engine of that group. He’s a bona fide top-pairing defender who just scored 20 goals and 52 points in 82 games. He’s undoubtedly in the right spot. So, too, is Andersson, who would be at least a No. 3 defenceman on basically every team in the league. Hanley is basically the textbook definition of a No. 7.
Kylington is more difficult to place, particularly after missing more than a year of action while focusing on his recovery from mental health challenges, but at his best, he’s easily been a No. 4-type player. And then there’s Bahl and Pachal, both of whom showed plenty of promise playing bottom-pairing roles at young ages.
That leaves Miromanov, who is decisively not a top-pairing guy at this point in his career, even considering that he looked pretty comfortable playing next to Weegar in the latter stages of the 2023-24 season. The 6’4″ righty will be 27 next month and has just 49 career NHL games under his belt. Who knows what he’ll become, but he’s fun to watch and will be interesting to track over the next few years.
What separates the Flames’ defensive group from the ones deployed by many other tanking or rebuilding teams is that, with the exception of Hanley, each and every player on their depth chart has something to differentiate him from the pack. Miromanov, Kylington, Bahl, and Pachal are all relatively young and they each have legit top-four upside. They’re also not being asked to play roles that exceed what they can currently handle.
Conroy has made a smart play in consistently opting for relatively seasoned, pro-ready defencemen in trades. It’s far easier to project what an 18-year-old forward will most likely become than an 18-year-old defender, especially one who plays a more shutdown-oriented game. Not too many players who profile like Bahl did in junior make the NHL — but Bahl himself already has.
With a wide variety of different elements now present in their defensive pipeline, the Flames also have additional freedom to swing for the fences at the draft. At this point, they have more than enough steady hands in their system. What they need now is the star quality that prospects like Tij Iginla, Berkly Catton, Zeev Buium, Cayden Lindstrom, and many others provide in spades.
Even with Bahl, Miromanov, and the others all slotted into the Flames’ projected opening night roster, it bears repeating that they also have a ton of different intriguing call-up options on the blue line, including Jeremie Poirier, Ilya Solovyov, Yan Kuznetsov, and the aforementioned Grushnikov and Brzustewicz. Defencemen typically take longer to develop than forwards, and it’s safe to say the Flames now have a much stronger group of young rearguards than they’ve had for the better part of the last decade.
The Flames have a lot of work left to do, but all of their actions over the last year have signalled their clear intent to follow a path seldom trodden by this organization. The teardown is far from complete, the rebuild has barely begun, and the draft is still a week away, but the Flames are on the right track.

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