What should the Calgary Fames do with their core group of players?

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Munnich
11 months ago
The Calgary Flames are at a crossroads as a franchise. What direction are they going to go in? Will they stick with this core group of players and sign the likes of Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli to long term contracts? Could they re-tool and move on from a few 2024 UFAs? Will they blow it up and rebuild?
If the Flames decide to commit to this group, they run the risk of committing a lot of term and salary cap space to an old core group of players who might not be good enough to win a Stanley Cup.

The current core

The Flames core group of players currently consists of Jacob Markstrom, MacKenzie Weegar, Rasmus Andersson, Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri, and Blake Coleman. Those are the players who are locked in for three or more seasons.
They have a group of prospects who will become important pieces of their core in a couple seasons in Dustin Wolf, Matthew Coronato, and Jakob Pelletier.
The Flames could add the likes of Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, Tyler Toffoli, Andrew Mangiapane, Dillon Dube, Chris Tanev, Noah Hanifin, and Oliver Kylington to that group if they decide to sign them to long term deals.
Here are some questions I want to pose to Flames fans about this team moving forward.

Does it make sense to commit term and salary cap space to this core group of players?

The Flames have already committed $34,650,000 in salary cap space to Huberdeau, Kadri, Coleman, Weegar and Markstrom for the next three seasons. That is 42% of the Flames salary cap (assuming the cap will be $83,500,000 next season). That is a lot of money already tied up in players who are on the wrong side of 30.
PlayerAge to start the 2024-25 season
Jonathan Huberdeau31
Nazem Kadri34
Jacob Markstrom34
Blake Coleman32
MacKenzie Weegar30

How many 2024 pending UFAs do you want to bring back on long term contracts?

The Flames have seven players who are set to be UFAs in the summer of 2024. Here are the ages of the seven UFAs to start the 2024-25 season, which is when their hypothetical contract extensions would kick in.
PlayerAge to start the 2024-25 season
Mikael Backlund35
Chris Tanev34
Tyler Toffoli32
Elias Lindholm29
Nikita Zadorov29
Noah Hanifin27
Oliver Kylington26
Outside of Kylington and Hanifin, this is an old group of players. Ten of the most important players on this roster will be 29 years old or older come the start of the 2024-25 season. Can you win in the NHL with such a large group of older, expensive players with lots of term on their contracts? And keep in mind that this is not a core group with any superstar level players.

Can this existing group of players win the Stanley Cup?

This is the question the Flames organization should be asking themselves every day and answering it honestly.
Not “can this team make the playoffs?” or “can they win a round if they get in?”
The whole point of playing in the NHL is to one day build a team good enough to win a Stanley Cup. And the best way to build a long-term contender is to build your team through the draft. You need to have high end young players on either entry level, or bargain contracts to win in the NHL.
There are very few, if any teams that have been able to consistently win in the NHL with an old team that has been built through free agency and trades. That is what the Flames are right now.

My two cents

To answer the question above, no. The Flames are not good enough to win a Stanley Cup with this group of players. Are they good enough to make the playoffs every now and then? Yes. Are they good enough to win a round, maybe two if they get in? Sure.
But I don’t think this team as currently constructed has the value contracts off the ice, and the speed and high-end talent you need on the ice to win a Stanley Cup in an extraordinarily competitive NHL.
If I were the Flames, I would do what the Washington Capitals and St Louis Blues did at the 2023 trade deadline. Trade some of your older, pending UFAs for draft picks and prospects. You could then start to rebuild your prospect system which is not deep in players who are age 18-20. And you could use some of those assets in a trade or two to bring in some younger players to your core group. And then sign 2-3 of those UFAs like Kylington, Hanifin or Lindholm.
It’s time for this team to re-tool their roster to make them more competitive for the long term, not just the short term which is what the Flames have seemed to only care about for the last eight or so seasons. This core is too old as is, and signing more 30+ year old players to long term extensions is a bad idea.
What do you think the Flames should do with their 2024 pending UFAs? Let us know in the comments section!

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