Calgary Flames

Flames Sunday Census: Calgary’s next course of action with Eichel off the market

The Calgary Flames were one of the teams that remained late in the mix in the Jack Eichel saga, and they walked out of it with no moves made. Well, in the spirit of not dwelling on what could have been, the Flames now have other matters of business to tend to. What should they be focusing on next? We asked, you answered.

The business at hand for Calgary

Now that Eichel is going to be playing for a division opponent, the Flames have to figure out what they should be doing next for both the near and far future. Their list of to-do items is broad and there’s far more things to do that can fit into a four option poll, but to split some of the focus between what’s to come for this season as well as beyond, the options were as follows.

Should the Flames look to re-signing Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, and Andrew Mangiapane next, or should they name a captain? Or perhaps they should turn to the trade market to look for either a non-Eichel forward that can score or add to their defence corps.

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The fans are clear in their wants, and it’s a landslide for what should come next: extending their star players.

Contract extensions should be the focus for the Flames

The Flames are going to have to carefully navigate the cap as they turn to re-signing the trio of Gaudreau, Tkachuk, and Mangiapane. They’re all playing at calibres that are worthy of hefty raises, and that’s going to make contract talks much more difficult come season’s end. Brad Treliving has historically been good at contract negotiations when it comes to extensions. A few seasons back, some of his tidiest work was keeping Gaudreau’s contract matching Mark Giordano‘s team-leading annual average value of $6.75M.

On top of these three, Oliver Kylington is looking poised for a big raise as well, as he’s playing the best hockey of his career right now. The Flames will have the contracts of Nikita Zadorov, Tyler Pitlick, and Erik Gudbranson as the three biggest expiring contracts of expendable players, among four other contracts at or near league minimum. It’ll take some handy work with the ledger to make it all fit, but this is definitely one of Treliving’s fortes as a general manager.

Flames acquiring more scoring talent

As good as the Flames have been so far to start the season, it’s still way too small a sample size. The team hasn’t seen much adversity and it’s not certain how sustainable their hockey system is in the long haul. One thing they can always use more of is getting more scorers, and if they deem themselves to be buyers, they can get on this train early.

The Flames could very well see this as a year to be in the market to acquire the services of some rentals. They have five 2022 draft picks, and all of their original seven picks for 2023 and 2024. They definitely have some of the pieces to make going all-in work if that’s what it costs to acquire scoring talent.

While it’s too early to tell which teams will commit to being sellers, there’s definitely going to be plenty of talent available. The thing is they will want to be sure that they’re adding someone who will be impactful. That’s where the list shortens. Their top-six is definitely good enough that adding a player would likely be someone who’ll slot in as a middle-six option.

Naming a new captain in Calgary

Another thing the Flames can do is name a new captain. While the team appears to be in no rush, a midseason captaincy isn’t out of the question either. The Ottawa Senators just named Brady Tkachuk as their captain ten games into their season. If the Flames follow suit, they’d be the first brotherly captain duo in the NHL since Saku Koivu was a captain for Montreal and Mikko Koivu a captain for Minnesota.

That said, the Flames have several leaders in the locker room and Tkachuk might not be the one to take the captaincy at the end of the day. The team’s leadership obviously changed with Mark Giordano’s departure, but so far, Calgary has been playing well to start the season. They’re more likely to be content with a cohort of alternate captains for the time being.

The Flames would want to see a long-term contract signed by Tkachuk if they’re considering him for the captaincy, but other players could be looked at for the role as well. Namely, Mikael Backlund should be shortlisted. The longest-tenured Flame who’s served as an alternate captain for season after season, it makes sense for Backlund to be a viable candidate as a captain.

While the Flames’ record is stellar so far, they still need to form a true team identity too. So far they’ve been a team that’s defensively stingy, which is not a mistake and very much a result of Darryl Sutter‘s hockey system. Not often does a team go from a fairly mediocre, if not awful preseason where their on-ice product resembled a team skating through sludge, to one that immediately executes the vision in the start of the season.

This will definitely play into who’s named a captain down the line too, as the Flames have yet to see any true struggles or frustration. They’ve fortunately come out with more favourable results so far and once the team inevitably goes through a stretch of less-than-stellar play, that’s when more insights on who can truly lead the locker room in the absence of Giordano will be learned. Maybe that’s when naming a captain will take higher priority for the Flames too.

Adding to the Flames defence corps

With virtually no votes, no one thinks adding a defenceman is necessary right now. Everything on the defensive side of Calgary’s game so far has been going well—not just for the defenders but for the forwards too. It’s hard to see a need to upgrade when things are clicking.

That said, not every player has fared well per se. Without pointing too many fingers, the Flames’ group of defenemen does have tangible room for immediate improvement. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything will happen as the group can definitely hold its own. A lot of the questions about the defence corps heading into the season were answered with good news.

Chris Tanev has been extending his great defence the Flames saw from last season, Noah Hanifin returned from his injury and hasn’t missed a beat, Rasmus Andersson has turned a complete 180° from last season, and of course, Kylington has more than cemented his role as a top-four defender to the surprise of everyone but himself.

Every defenceman on the Flames right now are seeing great results at 5v5, and the team is playing good hockey. Adding a defenceman might really be stirring the pot a little bit too much right now. Though, one can dream that Seattle Kraken might fall out of the playoff race and end up making a deal to send their captain back to a familiar city…

Acting on impulses

The Flames don’t necessarily have to do any of these things as soon as possible. They can wait and handle things with exercised patience instead of overreacting to the news. Treliving is a calculated manager and if there’s one thing he is, it’s patient. Despite all of these items being top-of-mind action items, none of them require promptness—at least not right now.

The Flames can —and likely will—continue on with their season first before anything needs to really happen. For the time being, they’re enjoying hockey and their fans are too.

Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images

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