The offseason. It’s a time for teams to prepare and retool for the next season. For the Calgary Flames however, they could be facing the daunting prospect of something else, a rebuild?
With the Flames’ front office believing they can orchestrate the team’s return to form next season, some of the players who’ll execute the plans, have either recently been traded or are rumoured not interested in signing extensions.
Six players’ contracts are due to expire next summer of which three are certainly exciting the pundits because they’re still making their minds up.
So, sounds like they want out next summer and does it mean the Flames are going to look a whole lot different in 2024?
Retooling is an organisational preference.
It’s the normal toing and froing of players based on the stipulations of their contracts with ideally minimal impact on the core of the team.
Last offseason was a shock to the system for Flames. Both Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk were among the four that left the roster.
Instead of pulling in younger talent, they were replaced with the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar and Nazem Kadri.
The departure of Gaudreau and Tkachuk was evident in the next season and for some pundits, showed that the team never fully recovered.
Likewise, their replacements arrived on some eye-watering contracts, but couldn’t deliver Flames’ 2021/22 season performance.
At the time of writing, we’re knee deep in the NHL Draft and trade zone of the offseason and Tyler Toffoli has gone.
The winger was traded (June 27 2023) to the New Jersey Devils in return for a 2023 Third Round Draft Pick and the Center Yegor Sharangovich.
While Toffoli only had two seasons under his belt with Flames, the news of his departure does fan the flames of uncertainty surrounding the three other Flames that are making the headlines, some of whom are veterans of Calgary.
According to NHL reporters like Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Noah Hanifin, Mikael Backlund and Elias Lindholm, are all rumoured to be exploring options beyond the Flames.
They are just three of the six players who could enter UFA territory after next season unless extensions can be negotiated.
Given the collective value that these players give the Flames, it’s projected that their departure from the roster, gives Flames’ management gaping holes to fill.
Flames’ management will deal with each case differently. While some they are rumoured desperate to keep, others not so much and they present opportunities going forward.
Some pundits are picking up on the desperation to keep Lindholm. Insider Frank Seravalli has reported that the Flames are willing throw a lot of money at him.
His sources indicate that it could be for an extension of eight seasons for a figure of between $8.5 to 9M per season.
Lindholm hasn’t given Flames an answer yet.
If Seravalli’s sources are correct, Flames perhaps see longevity in the Center’s career. He’s only played five years with the Flames so far.
Overall, he’s racked up 139 goals, 186 assists and 325 points. Last season wasn’t his best performance however. He only scored 22 goals, 42 assists and a total of 64 points.
His shooting opportunities on goal were 50% less despite missing only two games last season.
This is one of the Flames’ veterans. He was drafted to the team in the 2007 NHL Draft and has forged his NHL career in the 15 seasons which followed with Calgary.
The two-way center told reporters following his acceptance of the King Clancy award on Tuesday (June 26) that his future with the Flames was not within his control.
‘It’s out of my hands. I’ve had discussions with Craig (Conroy) and my agent, and we’ll see what happens.
‘I still have one more year with Calgary, and it’s not my decision if I stay (next season) or not
‘We’ll see what happens.’’
Hanifin’s future does intrigue pundits and some claim that if he does decide to leave, it could work in Flames’ favour.
Friedman first claimed on Hockey Night in Canada back on June 11th that we would hear more about Hanifin and his future in the coming weeks. He added that there would be some serious interest from other teams about the two-way defenceman.
Hanifin is a solid blueliner that’s shown an exceptional performance as a top-pairing player in the past five years. Last season alone, he managed to rack up 38 points and seven goals in 81 games.
However, an extension of his contract which is already $4.95M a season, is going to be costly.
Pundits reckon it’s a good time to consider trade options because there’s enough talent in the roster that could eventually match what Hafinin delivers, and his experience would offer a decent return.
What of the others?
So far, little is understood of what Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov and Oliver Kylington want to do.
While they are also in the same extension bracket, it’s not felt that they would seek elsewhere yet.
Likewise, pundits also see their value in bolstering any losses which come of Hafinin departing.
If these three notable players go, it’s certainly going to mean extra work and a strain on the optimism of the Flame’s newest architects of next season.
Craig Conroy has recently replaced General Manager Brad Treliving and the softspoken Ryan Huska has taken over as Head Coach in the wake of Darryl Sutter’s firing.
Conroy has said that if there are players looking to leave, they won’t be going for nothing. He’s determined to get a return on them through the NHL trade market.
There’s a lot of pressure on the new GM to get the deals right and he’s optimistic.