The Calgary Flames players are starting to roll back into town with the Flames Foundation charity golf tournament starting tomorrow, signaling the unofficial start of training camp. That means with tonight’s festivities getting underway, a number of players were available to talk to the local media for the first real time since the season ended.
The news was pretty much the same tone as what it was when the season ended, which is less than stellar.
Rasmus Andersson had some inspiring comments about what the new era of Flames hockey would look like, but Mikael Backlund’s comments have us all in the feels.
Bye Bye Backlund
With Backlund being a pending UFA next summer, his contract status and lack of extension was undoubtedly going to be a big talking point. His comments stoke the flames (no pun intended) more than they squash the rumors of a potential trade:
“I’m excited to be here…I had some good talks with Connie…we love Calgary. It’s our home and I haven’t closed any doors”
“I just want to see where this team is going. I only have so many years left and I want to make the most of it. But I love Calgary. I’m not just going to take off and leave”
“Winning is a big factor. If we have a good season and things feel really good, just the mood is different, everyone’s excited, everyone fits in, everything works, we’re contending to a top-3 or a top-3 [division] team going into the second half, that would be a big thing for me.”Mikael Backlund via Salim Valji on Twitter
It’s not a complete indication he’s leaving, but it’s putting the Flames into a seriously tricky situation.
The team has to be good in order for Backlund to consider staying with the team, but that doesn’t guarantee anything. If the team is just mediocre heading into 2024, there would be almost no chance that he would commit to a deal then and the team would most likely not be willing to move him if they still have a “chance”.
As it is with Elias Lindholm as well, it’s completely fair to see how the team is performing before signing a long term deal. That being said, waiting until there is almost no time left would either result in a worse trade or losing a bunch of players for nothing. There has to be a decision either way from both parties.
The players have shown they aren’t 100% comfortable signing long term, and that is a good indication that a miracle needs to happen in order for them to change their minds.
No contract talks
What was even more surprising was the comments made by JP Barry, a player agent who represents Backlund and Oliver Kylington. Both players will be UFAs in the summer and stop if you’ve heard this before but both players are going to wait and see.
In fact, Barry noted that there are “no plans to talk” to Flames management about either player right now.
Sounds eerily similar to Johnny Gaudreau.
The team is in a very difficult position, but having so many key players so noncommittal to signing contracts makes it impossible to convince any of the UFAs to sign. If no one is going to extend, and everyone is waiting, there is most likely a mass exodus coming by the trade deadline if things go south.
Anyways, welcome back Flames fans. Going to be an exciting year!
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire