Calgary Flames

Craig Conroy provides updates on training camp, UFAs, PTOs, captaincy, goalies, and more

The Calgary Flames wrap up their final game in the 2023 Young Stars Classic today. General Manager Craig Conroy sat down with Sportsnet’s Pat Steinberg to discuss several topics ahead of training camp opening this week. Here’s everything you need to know about Conroy’s updates on training camp, PTOs, the pending UFAs, captaincy, goaltending, the Young Stars Classic, Matt Coronato, and new AHL coach Trent Cull.

Excitement for training camp

With training camp in just a few days, Conroy expressed his excitement to see the players again and see what kind of shape they’ll be in. He has been working with new Head Coach Ryan Huska on what to do in training camp, and the one thing that he stressed was that there will be new combinations tried. They will try to put new guys with different guys, though some will be similar of course.

He emphasized their commitment to giving young guys a chance in preseason games and talked about how it’s important for them to get into more than just one preseason game.

It’s hard to do something in just one game. giving them a real chance, a real opportunity, that’s the focus going in and hopefully they rise to the challenge.

Craig Conroy on young guys getting a chance in training camp

Conroy also talked specifically about the team’s power play, a sore spot last season. He said that Marc Savard, the new power play coach, has 7-8 different power play groups he’ll try out in camp, though he does have the ones he believes will be the final combination. Still, the point of camp is to see different players in different positions and see how things go.

The most important goals for Conroy are to have a competitive and hardworking camp, and to see guys build chemistry as soon as possible. He specifically talked about how the chemistry is so good with Mikael Backlund, Blake Coleman, an Andrew Mangiapane, and how they’ll be looking to achieve this across the whole roster.

When you look at Backlund and Coleman and Mangi, they just click. You’re looking for that kind of chemistry. I don’t know if Huberdeau found that last year. at times it looks like he did. you’re hoping with some of these younger guys and new guys like Sharangovich, that’s a big question. he’s going to have a big opportunity in camp and we’ll see how he does.

Craig Conroy on building chemistry in training camp

It sure looks like the Flames will be looking to pair Huberdeau and Sharangovich together and hope that the two find instant chemistry. It adds context to the motivation behind the Tyler Toffoli trade early in the summer.

Conroy talked about the young guys who are pushing to make the NHL roster full time.

The NHL is a hard league to make and we don’t want to rush them, but take a guy like Pelletier. He’s proven everything he can in the American League, [but] he still has to prove to us he’s an everyday NHLer. Connor Zary is another guy. I would assume he’s going to get a lot of exhibition games and a real good chance to do it. He easily could have come here [Penticton for the Young Stars Classic] this year but we thought, we want to get his mindset ready for main camp.

Craig Conroy on Jakob Pelletier and Connor Zary

Zary, who was one of the Wranglers’ best players last year, was considered a call-up option but never got to make his NHL debut. It looks like the Flames are very high on him and will want to see him push hard in camp this year.


As teams around the league add PTOs to round out their preseason rosters, Conroy stressed the importance for the Flames to stick to their word and allow room for young players to show what they can do.

For us, we said we want these guys to play. Our mandate to our pro scouts is watch PTOs on other teams, watch for guys who might go on waivers, watch for players who might be available, and there are still players who are unsigned. as Much as we say we want to give these guys an opportunity, we’re not going to gift it to them. We’ll be looking for our guys to play games with NHL players.

Craig Conroy on their mentality around signing PTOs this season

Steinberg asked Conroy point blank whether the training camp roster was set at this point in time. Conroy said it would be very easy to add a couple PTOs right now, and they are obviously talking to different players and agents, but the PTO route is not one they are planning to take. I wouldn’t expect the Flames to sign any PTOs, unless the young players really falter in camp.

Where are things at with the UFAs?

The fist thing Conroy said is that nobody has asked to be traded.

He talked about how it makes sense to him that there is hesitation to sign extensions with how poorly last season went. Of course, these pending UFAs, along with everyone else, are interested in seeing how the start of the season goes. He said he won’t make a deal just for the sake or it or to appease everyone. He knows the Flames have good players and he has a value for all of them. If the time comes when it becomes clear a player won’t be re-signing, then they’ll make that decision and see what the value is for them at that time.

He did have a very smart approach, however. Paraphrased:

We’ve received positive feedback from the guys on the personnel changes. The Saddledome is the Saddledome, but we’re trying to change things up from what they’ve seen in the past and move forward. Once everyone is in the room it’ll make those decisions easier for all these players, one way or another.

Craig Conroy on decisions about UFAs

Steinberg asked if these UFA decision will be a distraction and how they can deal with all the noise around these players this season. Conroy said he doesn’t really get why the spotlight is on them, because every single team in the NHL has UFAs coming up. Once again, a very smart answer from Conroy:

You do your job to the best of your ability and at the end of the day, if you want to get a good contract you have to play well. Hopefully we can just quit talking about it, they can go and play, and we can deal with this behind the scenes.

Craig Conroy on how UFAs need to handle their situation

Conroy is right. If any or all of these players want a new home and want to maximize their next contract, they have to play well regardless. So, that’s what Conroy is expecting from all of them.


Conroy talked about how the decision on the captain will be made.

I’m a firm believer that in that room, they know. They need to have input on this. Huska knows, he’s been in the locker room and on the ice day in and day out. In a Canadian market you need a captain. You need a voice, a leader, someone to take charge both on and off the ice. It’s not an easy job. Jarome and I would talk about it. He’d sometimes say you know Connie, today I just need a break from the media, would you mind [stepping in]. You never want to just make a rash decision. I think it’ll play itself out. When it’s ready, it’ll just happen.

Craig Conroy on how the captaincy will play out

To me, this points to Backlund’s contract situation. Recent reports suggest that Rasmus Andersson is next in line, but these comments from Conroy seem to indicate that they’re waiting to see what happens with Backlund’s mindset on re-signing with the Flames.

If he does, he’ll be the captain, but if not it could be Andersson or somebody else. Conroy didn’t explicitly say this of course, but that’s what I believe was implied.


Goaltending is a topic Conroy has commented on earlier in the offseason, but with Dustin Wolf pushing for NHL minutes, Conroy provided an update on their plan in goal.

He talked about how Jacob Markstrom was working with other goalies in Sweden early in the offseason, sometimes driving over an hour to skate with them and train. As we’ve heard over the summer, Markstrom was focused and on the ice early, and is “dialed in”.

He’s on a mission. He’s not happy with his game last year, with his season, and he’s challenging himself to be better. We didn’t have to do it [challenge him], he did it himself.

Craig Conroy on Jacob Markstrom’s mentality heading into the season

In terms of the plan with Wolf and Dan Vladar, Conroy talked a lot about how they are very aware of the situation and that they’re working hard to manage it.

You’re definitely watching how the goaltending situation is going on. The thing with Dustin is we need to make sure he plays games. We know he’s done everything he needs to do at the AHL level, but he still needs to play games. Jacob is going to play a lot of games, and Vladar wants to play more games. Everybody wants to play more games. That’s what I love about our goaltending. I believe in all three guys, that all three guys can win games. We have to find that sweet spot where everyone is playing a lot and feeling good about themselves and see what happens as the season goes on. The one good thing about Dustin Wolf this year is that he doesn’t need waivers, and we’re in the same city.

Craig Conroy on the goaltending situation

Steinberg added that Wolf does not seem like a guy who will be disillusioned with not playing a certain number of games in the NHL, and that he’s ready to roll with the punches.

He’s got a really good demeanor. Talking to all the coaches, we’re not worried about him. Wherever he’s playing he’s going to be the best Dustin Wolf he can be. That’s what you want. He’s done everything he can to make hard decisions for us, but he knows there are things he can’t control. It says a lot about the type of pro he is.

Craig Conroy on Dustin Wolf

All signs point to Wolf returning to the AHL next season, but likely getting into the NHL every chance possible. Assuming both Markstrom and Vladar stay healthy though, it looks like it’ll be tough for Wolf to be an NHLer this season at least.

Matt Coronato

One of the most exciting player in the Flames organization right now, Conroy commented on how Matt Coronato has done so far in the Young Stars Tournament and what’s next for him.

This will be the first main camp for Coronato as he signed with the Flames midway through last season, and it is a tough transition to professional hockey after being in the college ranks.

Conroy talked about how he felt Coronato wasn’t really playing his game in the first matchup against the Canucks, but really settled in after scoring a goal in the second game.

Everyone wants instant success but it’s hard. They have phones, they see articles about who the top players to watch are and boom: Matt Coronato. I want to take as much pressure off and have him play his game and be the best version of himself heading into main camp.

Conroy on managing the pressure on Matt Coronato

Sorry about that article, Matt. Still, Conroy is excited about the sniper heading into camp.

You can see he wants the puck. Jarome [Iginla] and I were talking and thinking about the comparisons to Mike Cammalleri, with his goal scoring and frame. If he could be a mike Cammalleri we would be very, very excited.

Craig Conroy on the similarities between Matt Coronato and Mike Cammalleri

New AHL coach Trent Cull

With Mitch Love moving on from the organization to take an assistant job with the Washington Capitals, Conroy talked about how it’s been to watch new AHL bench boss Trent Cull run things in Penticton.

Really enjoying being around Trent. Easy to work with, loved the message after the first game. Nobody was happy with that game but seeing how he handled it. Really liked his demeanor, really like the vision for how he wants the team to play.

Craig Conroy on Trent Cull’s approach

The Wranglers will be looking to build on their incredible 2022-23 campaign, and Cull will have his work cut out for him without Matthew Phillips, Jakob Pelletier, and others on the roster.

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