By Cole Parkinson
It was certainly quite the offseason for the Calgary Flames, wasn’t it? Big names moved on and big names came in — and now with the season right around the corner, the Flames are hopeful those moves can not only successfully defend their Pacific Division crown, but also move them further into the playoffs.
Johnny Gaudreau elected to turn down more money and years from the Flames in order to move out east and he eventually signed with Columbus. Following that departure, Matthew Tkachuk rumours started to swirl that he wanted out. So, with arguably two of the biggest cornerstones on the team wanting to leave Calgary, it certainly didn’t seem like the Flames would be in any shape to contend in 2022-23. GM Brad Treliving had other ideas though and he swung one of the more creative trades the NHL has seen.
The Florida Panthers wanted Tkachuk and were more than willing to pay for the star winger, so much so that they swapped forward Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, prospect forward Cole Schwindt, and a conditional first-rounder. The Panthers also received a fourth-rounder. Even at first glance, it looked like the Flames won this trade hands down — and then Huberdeau signed a long extension. Sure, he may be older than Tkachuk, but the season he had last year was unbelievable and if he comes even close to replicating it, the Flames are in great shape.
Treliving wasn’t done there though as the Flames also made another huge splash in the form of signing Stanley Cup champion Nazem Kadri to a $7 million, seven-year deal. Kadri is a great option in Flames’ top six and I can guarantee Darryl Sutter will love sending Kadri over the boards this season. He’s skilled, he’s gritty, and he’s going to piss off opponents all season long. He’s a prototypical Sutter player and it seems like a great match for both coach and player.
Locking up Huberdeau to a $10.5 million, eight-year deal is a great bit of business. And like most other deals, it probably won’t look nearly as nice after year four or five, but he isn’t a banger and crasher, so he may be able to stay relatively healthy. So, with Kadri and Huberdeau added, the rest of the Flames forward core looks fairly similar with Andrew Mangiapane, Michael Backlund, Blake Coleman, Elias Lindholm, Tyler Toffoli, Dillon Dude, and of course, Milan Lucic. That’s a very solid core, and I think this team once again competes with that top spot in the Pacific.
Weegar only has one year left on his deal, but it sounds like the Flames are more than interested in bringing him back. Adding Weegar to the defensive core makes it one of the stronger defences in the league. Weegar joins Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson, Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov, and Oliver Kylington in the top six. That’s about as solid as it gets. They have some great defence first options as well as some two-way guys that can chip in offensively with Andersson and now Weegar.
Along with having Jacob Markstrom as your number one, I think the Flames are just as good, if not better with this roster. Losing the big two last year certainly hurts, but having solid D and goaltending is a great starting point — especially when Darryl Sutter is your coach.
Daniel Vladar is a great backup option as well and he posted a .906 save percentage last year in 23 games.
And I think Lindholm may be one of the most underrated players in the league and he’s got two more years on that deal that pays him $4.85 a season — that’s a steal. He had 82 points in 82 games last season and I could see him improving on that mark in 2022-23. Mangiapane is another Flame to look out for as he looks to improve on his 55 points from last season.
The Flames kick off their 2022-23 season with a matchup against defending Stanley Cup champs Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 13.