Calgary Flames General Manager Craig Conroy has a lot on his plate this offseason. Naturally, every time he’s available for questions, reporters and fans alike are interested in the updates he might be able to provide. Conroy was a guest on Sportsnet 960 radio this morning and commented on seven players. Here’s what you need to know.
Oliver Kylington is back
We’ve known a bit about this for a while now, as Oliver Kylington has been skating in Sweden and donning his Flames gear. Conroy confirmed that the speedy defenceman has been skating for about a month now and is excited to rejoin the Flames for the upcoming season.
After a breakout campaign in 2021–22 where he spent time alongside Chris Tanev on the second pairing, Kylington missed the entire 2022–23 season for personal reasons. With the potential departure of Noah Hanifin, Kylington is a key figure on the Flames blueline next year.
While his contract is technically set to expire at the end of the season, there is speculation that the NHL will allow Kylington’s contract to slide because he missed the entire 2022–23 year. No extension talks have begun with Kylington just yet, potentially because of his unknown contract status.
Dustin Wolf could split time
Some fans are clamouring for a Dan Vladar trade solely to give AHL superstar Dustin Wolf a shot in the NHL. However, Conroy said that he will not be trading a goalie just for the sake of it, and is perfectly comfortable swapping Wolf between the AHL and NHL next season.
Wolf could be the best goalie outside the NHL based on how he’s absolutely torched the AHL the past two seasons. In 2021–22, Wolf was named to the AHL all-rookie team, won the AHL goalie of the year award, and was named to the AHL first all-star team. In 2022–23, he was the AHL stats leader in GAA, SV%, wins, and shutouts; won the AHL goalie of the year award again, was a first team all-star again, and won the AHL MVP award.
He was rewarded with his first NHL start at the end of the season and picked up a 3–1 win over the San Jose Sharks, with a .958 SV%.
Jacob Markstrom has a chip on his shoulder
It wasn’t the season anyone envisioned for Jacob Markstrom, especially for Markstrom himself. Entering the 2023–24 season, Conroy talked about how Markstrom is extremely motivated and is using last year as fuel to have a bounce back year. Markstrom is a top tier goalie who had a bottom tier season, but his competitiveness and drive never faltered. Conroy also mentioned that Markstrom thinks about last season all the time—he’s not going to ignore it, rather he’s using it as a learning opportunity to get better.
The Flames were 13th in goals against and 24th in team save percentage last season after finishing third and fifth in those stats respectively in 2021–22. It is essential for Markstrom to regain his form for the team to be successful, and he’ll be coming into next season with a chip on his shoulder.
Elias Lindholm talks continue
The most recent news with Elias Lindholm is that he is still deciding on whether he’d like to be in Calgary long-term or not. Conroy mentioned briefly that he had spoken to Lindholm recently but that there wasn’t an update on that front just yet.
This is the key cog in the Flames’ offseason gear, so it makes sense that Conroy is regularly checking in on Lindholm and doing his best to see where he’s at.
Mikael Backlund talks continue
Similarly, Mikael Backlund‘s future with the Flames is undecided at best. While he had lots of great things to say at the NHL Awards where he picked up the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, he does not currently have a contract with the Flames past next season. Conroy said that he had been in contact with Backlund recently but there were no futher updates.
Backlund is the longest tenured Flames player and has been a pillar of the community since he was drafted. He had a great season with the Flames in 2022–23 and would be difficult to replace if he did decide to move on.
No updates on Noah Hanifin
Unfortunately, the player who we know almost for certain will not be in Calgary long-term has not spoken with Conroy in “a few days”. Noah Hanifin has expressed his desire to play elsewhere when his contract expires next summer, and the Flames are actively looking to trade Hanifin in advance of training camp.
However, despite the Alex DeBrincat trade yesterday, the trade market has been stagnant for some time now. The flat cap system makes it difficult for teams to bring on large contracts and though Hanfin’s deal is a bargain right now, teams likely don’t want to trade for him, or offer up a significant package, if they are unsure if he’ll re-sign.
Hanifin has been an excellent player for the Flames, growing into a legit top-four defender and has played almost 600 games in the NHL. He is a valuable trade piece and it is essential that Conroy maximizes the value on this trade. No news isn’t necessarily bad news in this case.
Dillon Dube extension talks have begun
On a more positive note, Conroy announced that extension talks have begun with forward Dillon Dube. Dube was drafted by the Flames in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft, and has become a Swiss Army knife-type player for the team. He can play every forward position, play up and down the lineup, and has generally been a very solid complementary player.
Dube is coming off a career year which saw him amass 18 goals and 45 points in 82 games, while averaging a career-high 15:10 per night. Dube was a star player in junior hockey and captained Team Canada’s World Junior team to a gold medal in 2018. He’s originally from the Calgary area and one of the best homegrown drafted players in the system right now. It would be great to see him sign a team-friendly deal.