Calgary Flames

Flames Sunday Census: Which trade domino will be the first to fall?

When the Calgary Flames announced a brand new front office, there were lots of promises that things would be different. The most impressive thing that new General Manager Craig Conroy talked about on multiple occasions was not letting another Johnny Gaudreau situation happen again. He acknowledged that the team cannot go into next season with seven pending UFAs on their roster, and that the Flames would prioritize keeping players who wanted to be there.

Well, we’re now entering the month of August, and the Flames have made exactly one trade, shipping Tyler Toffoli to the New Jersey Devils for Yegor Sharangovich. Six of those pending UFAs remain on the roster, and there has been absolutely zero indication that any type of movement, whether a trade or a re-signing, is close for any of them.

The assumption is that Conroy will stick to his word and not make the same mistakes Brad Treliving did, but which domino will be the first to fall?

We asked, you answered.

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Which player will be traded first?

We presented the following poll:

Noah Hanifin

Out of all the pending UFAs, Noah Hanifin was the first one that many expected to be traded. It is widely known that he does not intend to sign with the Flames after his contract expires, and with Oliver Kylington returning to the blueline on the left side, the Flames have a natural fill-in for Hanifin’s roster spot. Then, the Flames aren’t forced to bring in an NHL level defender in a trade for Hanifin, and can instead prioritize filling a different hole, like on the right wing.

It seems like Hanifin is the obvious answer here, and it’s a bit concerning that a deal hasn’t been made. The Flames know they need to trade him, and in my eyes having him on the roster to start the season is an absolute non-starter. If the Flames end up playing well next season, they’ll end up with exactly the same situation as what happened with Gaudreau. They won’t be able to offload a top-four defender at the trade deadline if the team is challenging for a playoff spot.

This needs to happen as soon as possible.

One respondent suggested this, which does make some sense.

Elias Lindholm

This one is the weirdest situation to me. Conroy specifically said he was only interested in keeping players who wanted to be here. Elias Lindholm came out and said he didn’t know if he wanted to re-sign, yet Conroy’s response was to offer him a ludicrous amount of money and beg him to stay. Talk about a 180.

Lindholm is a player that Conroy can use to truly prove what kind of GM he is. This is an opportunity to trade a very high value asset and set your team up for the future in the process. We’ve gone over why Lindholm isn’t actually the elite first line center that he’s made out to be, and why he’s a perfect candidate to trade away. At his salary, the Flames could get back a king’s ransom for Lindholm, and now is the time to do it, especially in the wake of Patrice Bergeron’s retirement announcement.

There have been reports that Conroy isn’t respected by other GMs. This is how you gain respect in the NHL.

Mikael Backlund

The Flames haven’t shown up for Mikael Backlund like he has for them over the past 15 years. One of the most consistent and impressive Flames for the better part of two decades, Backlund has said that he isn’t sure if he wants to be back in Calgary next year. It all depends on how they do, and to be fair, Backlund has earned that right. The Flames have put forth mediocre team after mediocre team, and Backlund deserves the chance to chase a cup elsewhere.

However, Backlund is highly valued around the league and could fetch a very good return. Not as good as Lindholm of course, but Backlund makes every player he skates with better and has a better history of two-way play. Draft picks are at their lowest value right now, and I bet a team would part with a first to add a player like Backlund to their roster for a full season.

This one isn’t as urgent in my eyes, but if the right offer comes along you have to take it. Either way, Backlund needs to either extend or be traded by the deadline, no two ways about it.  

Dan Valdar

Dan Vladar is a very intriguing option for the first domino. The Flames have arguably the best goalie in the world outside of the NHL right now in Dustin Wolf, and he needs to be on the NHL roster next season. Conroy has said as much. There is nothing left for Wolf to do at the AHL level, and sending him back there for another year would stunt his development, in my opinion.

That being said, the market for backup/tandem goalies is never good. Alex Nedeljkovic got traded for Jonathan Bernier and a third rounder the summer after he was a finalist for the Calder Trophy. It has been reported that the Flames are looking for a second round pick for Vladar. They acquired him for a third rounder two years ago, and this seems like what teams are offering for him now.

I would expect Vladar to be moved during training camp when an injury inevitably happens, and if Wolf does in fact blow the doors off during preseason action.

Prove yourself, Craig

So far, Conroy has been all talk and no action. It’s almost August and Hanifin, Lindholm, Backlund, Vladar are all on the roster, as well as Nikita Zadorov and Chris Tanev. A domino needs to fall, and it needs to fall soon.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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