Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames could have massive roster holes to fill for the second year in a row

Reports from NHL insiders recently were not kind to the Calgary Flames. Two-time AHL Coach of the Year Mitch Love left the Flames organization to become an assistant with the Washington Capitals, and now several key pieces of the roster are apparently not interested in re-signing with the Flames after their contracts expire at the end of the 2023–24 season. All of Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin, Mikael Backlund, and Tyler Toffoli could be on the move due to this revelation. For the second year in a row, the Flames could see a massive roster overhaul, with several key pieces needing to be replaced this offseason.

Of course, these trades don’t necessarily need to happen before the season begins, as these players are all under contract for the 2023–24 season. However, at or before the 2023 NHL Draft would be the ideal time to trade them as this draft is one of the deepest in recent memory and getting additional picks this year is more preferable than more picks next year.

In trades for any of these players, the Flames need to consider the ramifications if they focus solely on returning futures. The Flames will have major problems if they don’t plug the holes left by these players, even if they enter into a rebuild-like year.

The Calgary Flames lineup without Lindholm, Toffoli, Backlund, and Hanifin

Last season’s roster, though a disaster on many fronts, looked pretty good at the beginning—at least on paper. With a new coach and new energy, it looked like this season would be a lot better, too. However, with the exodus of two thirds of their top line, their third centre, and second pairing defenceman, there are serious holes that need to be filled.

From this visual look at the roster and line combinations, several things pop out right away.

1. The Flame have a deficit at centre

With two of the Flames’ top three centres potentially gone, this leaves a massive hold down the middle, as expected. Nazem Kadri is the team’s only legit NHL centre without Lindholm and Backlund, which would force a player like Dillon Dube or Matt Coronato to slide to the centre position. In any trade for any of these players, it is paramount that the Flames get a top-six NHL centre back.

The center depth would go:

  1. Nazem Kadri
  2. Dillon Dube
  3. Adam Ruzicka
  4. Kevin Rooney

After that, it’s a collection of players who simply aren’t ready for full time centre duties in the NHL, like Connor Zary, or Coronato, or Cole Schwindt. There are no two ways about it—the Flames need an NHL centreman back.

2. No more right-shooting forwards

Last season, the only right shooting forwards on the roster were Lindholm, Toffoli, Trevor Lewis, Walker Duehr, and Matthew Phillips. If Lindholm and Toffoli are traded, and Lewis and Phillips move on in free agency, the only right shots in the forward corps is Duehr.

In fact, there are only two other right shot forwards signed to NHL deals next season: Schwindt and Adam Klapka, both of whom are unlikely to play many NHL games, if any next season.

The Flames simply cannot run three lines comprised fully of left shooting forwards. They will need to pick up some right shots either in trade returns or in free agency. This could open the door for a Phillips return to Calgary, as he would likely be the top RW on the team.

3. The defence looks okay

Without Hanifin, the Flames’ defence doesn’t look like it will be as drastically affected. With Oliver Kylington set to rejoin the team, he could slide into Hanifin’s spot and resume his place in the top-four next to Chris Tanev. With MacKenzie Weegar and Rasmus Andersson developing chemistry last year, this would give the Flames a solid top-four.

Add in Nikita Zadorov and potentially a re-signed Troy Stecher and the defence corps looks to be fairly intact.

Welcome to the NHL, Craig Conroy

If last offseason was the biggest in franchise history to date, this one could be even bigger. The Flames could see a huge roster overhaul once again and as last year taught us, it is so important to get this right. Whether Craig Conroy is able to fully maximize these trades remains to be seen, but expect the Flames to be in the headlines for the next little while. The 2023 NHL Draft is less than a week away and if history is any indication, it could be a very busy week for the Flames as they are firmly in the selling category right now.

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