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What should the Calgary Flames blueline look like for 2023-24?

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Photo credit:Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
10 months ago
Heading into the 2022-23 season, the Calgary Flames had to be looking at their defensive group as a strength. Adding MacKenzie Weegar to a group that was only losing Erik Gudbranson looked, on paper, like a slam-dunk. But between injuries, adjustments, and the absence of Oliver Kylington, the Flames just didn’t get enough from their blueline to get where they wanted to go.
As they head into the meat of the 2023 off-season, we wonder: what should the blueline look like next season?

Scenario A: Status quo

In this scenario, the Flames keep everybody – or mostly everybody – from 2022-23 and add Oliver Kylington to the mix.
This would give them pairings that look something like this:
  • MacKenzie Weegar & Rasmus Andersson
  • Noah Hanifin & Chris Tanev
  • Oliver Kylington & Nikita Zadorov
Depending on the salary cap and other factors, you would have some combination of Michael Stone, Dennis Gilbert and Troy Stecher – maybe all of ’em – as depth. You’d probably have Stecher as the seventh defender on a cheap-ish contract and Stone and Gilbert in the AHL mix.
This approach would give the Flames a lot of depth, and it gives them the option to ease Kylington into NHL duty after a year away from the game. And once Kylington’s acclimated, maybe you can experiment a bit with moving him around the various pairings.

Scenario B: Top four Kylington

In this scenario, the Flames jettison a top four body – probably Hanifin or Tanev – to ease their salary cap pressures, moving Kylington up into that group. Everything else stays the same from Scenario A.
This would give them pairings that look something like this:
(If Hanifin is moved):
  • MacKenzie Weegar & Rasmus Andersson
  • Oliver Kylington & Chris Tanev
  • Nikita Zadorov & Troy Stecher
(If Tanev is moved):
  • Noah Hanifin & Rasmus Andersson
  • Oliver Kylington & MacKenzie Weegar
  • Nikita Zadorov & Troy Stecher
Your seventh defender would be either Stone or Gilbert.
The Flames would have less depth to their blueline group. But they’d also have pretty decent pairing balance, and they would still have the ability to mix and match with moving Zadorov (or Kylington) around as needed.
Depending on what happens in the rest of the roster, and the cap implications of those moves, at this point either scenario (A or B) seems likely. The challenge of committing to a course of action is based on how good Kylington looks when he returns to action. It’s unfair to a player – and tough for a team – to throw him into the deep end unless they’re sure he’s capable of being an everyday top four defender.
In other words: If Kylington’s on your third pairing, you probably feel pretty happy with your club’s depth. If he’s in your second pairing, you want to feel confident that his game has the speed, dynamism and swagger that made him so effective (and fun to watch) during his breakout 2021-22 season.
What do you think the Flames’ defensive group looks like in 2023-24? Is there a blueliner you feel the Flames can move out while maintaining a strong blueline group? Is there a blueliner you think they should never move? Let us know in the comments!

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