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The Calgary Flames opted for depth moves on busy opening day of free agency

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
21 days ago
The Calgary Flames celebrated Canada Day – and Jarome Iginla’s birthday – in the customary way the hockey world does so: the opening of free agency. When the dust settled, the Flames signed seven players to new contracts and also threw in a major contract extension, too.
Here’s a quick rundown of the business of the day:
(We haven’t done full posts for the Kirkland or Aspirot signings. Kirkland had 30 points in 43 AHL games with Tucson last season, while Aspirot had 33 points in 66 AHL games with the Wranglers. They’re both seemingly moves to shore up the Wranglers’ roster.)
Speaking to Flames general manager Craig Conroy after all the dust had settled and ink had tried on the new deals, he felt positive about the day’s work.
“You know I think we filled some needs for sure,” said Conroy. “With Anthony Mantha, you have a guy that scored 23 goals last year. Brings offence. Great shot. Top six type forward. Good on the power play. Just a guy that’s going to help us offensively, which, if we put him in the right spots, we think those goal totals can grow, for sure.”
On paper, the moves seem designed to insulate the club’s young players with some veteran depth but not to block their progression towards the NHL roster. Conroy noted the attributes of a key signing, Lomberg, in explaining their philosophy.
“We still want to talk about opportunity and giving young guys the opportunity, but not forcing anyone into a position where they’re there and they fail and it sets them back years,” said Conroy. “So to be able to bring in guys… and the one thing we talk about culture and locker room and work ethic, and what we’re trying to build here, and I think Ryan Lomberg, he’s a perfect guy. Comes to the rink, brings the energy, brings that juice every day. Just won a Stanley Cup and, you know, he’s a heart and soul guy. He’s not the biggest guy but he’s fearless. Those are the type of guys you want your young guys to watch and follow, because he’s done it all. And to just win a Cup is pretty, pretty special, for sure.”
Now, obviously the Flames have sent some established players out of the organization as they’ve embarked upon their retooling process – they received assets, a mixture of draft picks and younger players, in exchange for most of them. While adding an established scorer like Mantha will help fill the void, Conroy acknowledged that younger players in the organization will need to step up to help bridge the gap and alluded towards creating a competitive environment to help young players progress.
“You want to make competition,” said Conroy. “You want to make it where it’s the NHL, it’s not easy to do it, but when you get there you have to produce. If you’re there to score goals or put up points, that’s what you have to do. I do think all these guys are going to push each other and really compete for those spots, which is what it’s all about. And they’re all young, even on the goalie side.”
Conroy noted that the Flames are likely done adding… for now. He didn’t rule out looking for value additions later on if opportunities emerge.
“We just didn’t wanna go and sign a million guys,” said Conroy. “We wanted to also see if there’s something that makes sense moving forward in a value deal. Is there a positional need that we can fill through a trade rather than through free agency. A little bit sometimes we’re looking for that different age group so you almost have to do it through a trade rather than through free agency.”
When Conroy was hired as GM in May 2023, he inherited seven prominent pending 2024 free agents and mentioned not wanting to have players walk into free agency. One of them, Mikael Backlund, was re-signed. Five of them – Tyler Toffoli, Nikita Zadorov, Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev – were traded for assets.
The seventh, Oliver Kylington, left the organization as a free agent on Monday. Conroy noted that the two sides just couldn’t get on the same page to hash out a deal, and indicated that the door is likely closed on Kylington’s time with the Flames.
“You know, I think with signing Jake [Bean], they’re very similar players so… probably, I never want to say it’s 100% closed, but probably slim chances at this point,” said Conroy.
The Flames may be done dabbling with unrestricted free agency, they have six restricted free agents to work on deals with, including top prospects Dustin Wolf and Jakob Pelletier.

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