Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames need to move money out to make the salary cap work

The Stanley Cup has finally been awarded, and now all eyes shift to the NHL’s offseason. Whether through trades or free agency, teams next season will look very different. However, teams will have to make it work with the flat cap. If all things stay the same with the Flames roster, they will only have $1.25M in cap space, and this is without filling out their bottom-six and bottom pairing defenceman. Money is tight for the team, therefore, money must be moved out.

Players the Calgary Flames can move

The team desperately needs to get younger and quicker. Players will likely have to be traded for the Flames to make the changes they need to while also giving themselves flexibility, so who could those candidates be?

Noah Hanifin

Hanifin has been a main target for offseason rumours, and it makes a lot of sense. Hanifin is on a very reasonable cap hit of $4.95M, and he is only 26 years old. Despite his age, Hanifin has played 598 games in the NHL, is a top-four defenceman, a former top-five pick, and he had the second-highest TOI out of all Flames last season.

He is a very steady defenceman, and based on his age and ability, he might just be the best defenceman out of the whole 2024 unrestricted free agent class. The Flames could get a monster return for Noah Hanifin, and with the trade, they would give themselves $4.95M of space to add to their team. A perfect amount of money for another top-six forward maybe?

Mikael Backlund

Seeing Backlund go would really hurt, but it might just be the smart thing to do. Given Backlund’s age and cap hit, the Flames might decide to get younger by trading Backlund to a Cup contender to give him a chance to win while giving themselves $5.3M in cap flexibility. Backlund is also a part of the 2024 UFA class, and at age 34, signing Backlund to a lengthy or expensive extension might do more harm than good for the Flames.

Teams will be willing to pay a good amount for Backlund, especially due to his elite two-way play. Backlund brings great leadership qualities as well that teams will most definitely not overlook. The Flames will probably give Backlund a choice as to whether he wants to stay in Calgary or go somewhere else to chase a Cup, however, if he decides that he wants to leave, look for the Flames to have Backlund near the top of their trading block.

Nikita Zadorov

Zadorov has been a very serviceable defenceman for the Flames. The problem though, is that $3.75M is too much money to pay for a defenceman who would be on the bottom pairing when the team is fully healthy. A bottom-pairing defenceman is not hard to find, and if the Flames trade Zadorov, it would likely be to a team who would want to play him in their top-four. The Flames depth at defence is just too strong to be having a $3.75M defenceman on their bottom pair, especially with Oliver Kylington coming back.

Elias Lindholm

Now this would be quite the trade. Lindholm would likely fetch the Flames the best return out of all the names we have discussed so far. A former Selke candidate, a sweetheart deal at $4.85M, a top-line centre, and a player known for a great two-way game—Lindholm has all the tools and reputation to fetch a massive return. The reason why the Flames need to really consider trading him is that he is due for a very significant raise before he hits free agency in 2024.

The Flames already have Huberdeau, Weegar, and Kadri locked up into their thirties, and extending Lindholm into his thirties around an $8M+ cap hit will really restrict the Flames ability to add anything substantial to their team in the future. Though the Flames will be missing a number one centre if they trade Lindholm, this might be one of the only trades where they are able to get back a younger centre who has the upside to become a number one centre in the very near future, if not now.

Tyler Toffoli

If there is any time to sell Tyler Toffoli, it is right now. Coming off a monster season putting up 34 goals and 73 points, there would be high demand for Toffoli, especially at his $4.25M cap hit. He is a great scorer and a very team-friendly deal until 2024. Toffoli would be due for a raise if he were to sign an extension with Calgary, and as Toffoli is already 31 years old, the Flames might just look at trading Toffoli this offseason to capitalize on the career year, and to get the best return possible before the age curve eventually hits.

Someone has got to go

Do I think all the names that I have listed are going to get traded? Absolutely not. However, one or two might—and should—be traded if the Flames plan on staying competitive for more than three years. The team needs more team-friendly deals but they also have to get younger. This gives them the perfect opportunity to play their prospects like Coronato, Pelletier, Duehr, Phillips (if he re-signs), and Zary.

Conroy has emphasized getting some youth into the lineup, and one of the best ways to save the team some cap space is to play the kids on the $800K-$925K entry-level deals. Don’t expect all these players to be shipped out, but do expect a trade, as the Flames need the cap space.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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