Calgary Flames

A by-the-numbers look at the Calgary Flames’ slow start to 2023 NHL free agency

The Calgary Flames turned over a new leaf when they ushered Craig Conroy as their new general manager. After a disastrous season with deeply disappointing results, the franchise looked set to go into free fall. From the necessary firing of Darryl Sutter to core players openly unwillingly to sign with the team, Conroy’s first offseason as GM was going to be as difficult as any. However, Conroy’s been steady enough so far. While not all the moves he’s made have been home runs, he’s still hitting enough singles and doubles and getting on base where it matters.

Conroy’s start as Flames GM

The first major move was pre-draft trading, where the Flames were able to send Tyler Toffoli to New Jersey and got back Yegor Sharangovich and a third-round pick in return. At first, the trade looked weak, but then all 32 teams in the league revealed their hands on Day 1 of the draft as absolutely zero trades were made involving first-round picks. Suddenly the trade was much easier to digest. Not to mention Calgary was able to immediately sign Sharangovich to a two-year deal too.

Then came the draft itself, where the Flames selected players that on aggregate represent a fairly solid draft class. The team sought players who had both size and skill, and went and got said players. And the Flames weren’t the only team to do so either. Many teams also dialed in on healthy mixes of size and skill, which in a way represented a league-wide departure from just picking for one versus the other.

Now, the Flames have arrived at free agency. In Conroy’s first day with the keys to the car, the Flames made absolutely zero moves. It had been over a decade since that last happened for the franchise, where they stayed idle on Day 1 back in 2011. However, they went on and signed Jiri Hudler on Day 2, something that 2023 does not have any signing to parallel.

Let’s take a closer look at just how different the start to 2023 free agency has been for the Flames.

From free agent frenzy to free agent freezing

The Flames are opting to show patience to their signings. By not being a team that stampedes into the store as the doors open, Conroy is taking a much more measured approach to the team. Of course, a big part of this is due to their salary cap being nearly maxed out, but they’re also prioritising the pending UFAs they have on the roster as well. Of course tending to the likes of Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin, et al., first will dictate exactly what the Flames can actually do. But this approach of letting other dominoes fall may be costly as waiting too long can turn back to bite the Flames.

That being said, here’s how every open to offseason free agency has looked for the Flames over the past several years. All data is sourced from

OffseasonDay 1 ContractsDay 2 ContractsTotal Cap HitBiggest Signing
202304$3,250,000Jordan Oesterle
202290$10,575,000Nikita Zadorov
202161$9,600,000Blake Coleman
202061$14,025,000Jacob Markstrom
201940$4,825,000Cam Talbot
201842 $12,175,000James Neal
201711$1,300,000Marek Hrivik, Luke Gazdic
201620$6,200,000Troy Brouwer
201540$6,015,000Karri Ramo
201430$10,566,667Jonas Hiller
201360$8,500,000Karri Ramo
201202$4,750,000Jiri Hudler

As seen above, it’s been over 10 seasons since the Flames went without making a single signing on Day 1 of free agency. There have been instances where the Flames were prudent in their approach, as seen in 2017 where they handed out just two contracts in the first two days—however both of which were inconsequential. That said, there have been other years where free agency was pure shopping time for the Flames. From Jay Feaster to Brad Treliving, both GMs had seasons where spending seemed automatic and landing big names was the norm.

For Conroy to go as uneventful as he did so far this year, it’s already another sign that there is an organisational shift. Conroy will lead this team his way, even when he’s backed into a corner.

Freeing the Flames of their circumstance

It’s abundantly obvious that the Flames are in one of the toughest spots they’ve been in in years. Conroy is the least enviable GM in the league right now and he’s going to do what he thinks is best for Calgary. It clearly included not making major splashes during the opening days of free agency, but as mentioned, the longer he waits, the less options there will be.

It’ll be his job to rally the Flames into a team that can compete. Whether that’s for the Stanley Cup, just a playoff spot, or even the other end of the spectrum by going for the first overall pick, Conroy needs to make sure the Flames fully commit to a direction and not continue their mediocrity.

Good luck, Conroy.

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