Deadline's done: How Conroy has transformed the Flames in 10 months

Calgary Flames GM Craig Conroy dealt away five pending unrestricted free-agents in first 10 months on the job

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When Craig Conroy was hired as the Calgary Flames general manager last spring, he openly acknowledge the team had some challenges ahead.

At the top of that list was how they handled seven prominent players who were set to become unrestricted free-agents in the summer of 2024. They either had to get those guys re-signed or move them, plain and simple.

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Here we are, nearly 10 months later, and Conroy’s worked through that list. It’s been a stretch that will define the future of a Flames organization that is now firmly in “re-tool” mood.

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Here’s what Conroy’s done and how the Flames have fared:

Calgary Flames vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Flames forward Yegor Sharangovich celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. Photo by Chris O’Meara /The Associated Press

June 28, 2023

The move: Flames trade Tyler Toffoli to the New Jersey Devils.

The return: Yegor Sharangovich and a third-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, used to select Aydar Suniev.

How it’s played out: This deal worked out well for the Flames. The Devils dealt Toffoli to the Winnipeg Jets on Friday morning. He’s had a productive year, but the Devils as a whole have been a disappointment.

Sharangovich, meanwhile, has been a great pickup for the Flames. He’s scored 25 goals and added 20 assists while functionally becoming the team’s first-line centre. Suniev’s an intriguing prospect, too, and he’s scored 12 and added 13 assists in 31 games for UMass in his first season playing college hockey in the States.

Mikael Backlund
Mikael Backlund was signed to a two-year extension. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

Sept. 27, 2023

The move: Flames sign Mikael Backlund to a two-year extension.

How it’s played out: The Flames immediately made Backlund their captain as soon as he signed this $9-million deal, and honestly, leadership has been a real asset for this group as they’ve dealt away veteran after veteran and have somehow stayed in the playoff hunt. That’s not exclusively Backlund, but he’s a big part of it, and having a guy who has been in the team’s colours for a decade-and-a-half passing on what Flames culture represents to the next generation is no small thing.

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Calgary Flames' Nikita Zadorov
Nikita Zadorov was traded to the Vancouver Canucks for two draft picks. Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Dec. 23, 2023

The move: The Flames trade Nikita Zadorov to the Vancouver Canucks.

The return: A third-round pick in the 2026 NHL Draft and a fifth-round selection in the 2024 NHL Draft.

How it’s played out: Zadorov’s agent had publicly requested a trade for his client and it’s understood that hadn’t sat well with the guys in the Flames locker room. Conroy had to move him and while the return wasn’t overwhelming, the Flames didn’t retain any salary and it’s not as if Zadorov has lit the world on fire in Vancouver. He’s a plus-8, but is playing only 17 minutes per game – less than he was with the Flames – and his offensive production has dropped. There were rumours that the Canucks were looking to move on from Zadorov, too, so this deal looks pretty decent in retrospect.

Andrei Kuzmenko
Flames acquired Andrei Kuzmenko from the Vancouver Canucks. Charles Krupa/AP Photo

 Feb. 1, 2024

The move: Flames trade Elias Lindholm to the Canucks.

The return: Andrei Kuzmenko, a first-round draft pick in the 2024 NHL Draft, a conditional fourth-round selection this summer, defensive prospects Hunter Brzustewicz and Joni Jurmo.

How it’s played out: It’s been a month, so it’s way too early to be making any concrete judgments on this one. But this one already looks pretty good for the Flames. Lindholm has four goals – two in his first game – and three assists in 16 contests for the Canucks, while Kuzmenko has scored five times and added two assists in 11 games for the Flames. There’s a lot more to Lindholm’s game than his offence, of course, but this was a long-term play for the Flames. There were rumours that Lindholm was already being shopped by the Canucks before the trade deadline, the Flames got prospects and picks. The impact may not be felt for a while, but this has potential to look pretty good in a couple years.

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Chris Tanev
The Flames traded defenceman Chris Tanev to the Dallas Stars. Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports

Feb. 29, 2024

The move: Flames trade Chris Tanev to Dallas Stars.

The return: Defensive prospect Artem Grushnikov, a second-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft and a conditional third-round pick in the 2026 Draft.

How it’s played out: Again, it’s waaaaaay too early to break this one down, but what we know for sure is the Stars are going to be very happy with what they got in Tanev. He’s an elite defensive defenceman and the type of veteran warrior you absolutely love to have on a playoff run.

As for what the Flames got in return, we know the entire organization was high on Grushnikov. They wanted him in this deal, and Conroy said that while he’s still developing and needs time before he’s ready to contribute at the NHL level, he’s a guy who reminds him a lot of Tanev. That’s intriguing.

As for the picks, the Flames only get the third-rounder in 2026 if the Stars advance to the Stanley Cup Final this year. They’re a good team, so that’s by no means impossible.

Calgary Flames defenceman Noah Hanifin
The Flames sent defenceman Noah Hanifin to the Vegas Golden Knights. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

March 6, 2024

The move: The Flames trade Noah Hanifin to the Vegas Golden Knights.

The return: Defenceman Daniil Miromanov, a first-round draft pick in 2026 and a conditional third round pick in 2025 that becomes a second-rounder if the Golden Knights win a playoff round this spring.

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What’s the story: Hanifin was great for the Flames this year, and we know the team made a concerted effort to re-sign him. But when it was clear that wasn’t going to happen, they moved him for a package that could wind up being pretty decent.

They’re going to like Hanifin in Vegas, no doubt. He’s a well-rounded d-man who is enjoying arguably his best season.
If the Flames wind up getting a first and a second round draft pick for him, though, that’s a nice return. In Miromanov, they’ve acquired a defenceman who immediately signed on for a two-year extension. Knee surgery kept him off the ice for the first few months of the season, but he’s ramped up his action and is expected to play for the Flames this weekend.

Oliver Kylington, Andrew Mangiapane
Flames defenceman Oliver Kylington celebrates a goal against the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 19. Photo by Brent Calver /Postmedia

Date unknown

The player: Oliver Kylington

What’s going on: There seems to be a quiet confidence from both Kylington and the Flames that a deal will get done. He’s an unrestricted free agent this summer, but the fact that the Flames didn’t trade him suggests they believe they’ll be able to get him re-signed.

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