Sharangovich swap looking good on Flames GM Conroy

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As Brad Treliving returns Thursday to the Saddledome, there will be plenty of conversation about his hits and misses in his nine-season stint as general manager of the Calgary Flames.

Fair game.

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While Craig Conroy is still getting settled in the GM chair, the payoff from his first trade should inspire confidence that the Flames picked the right guy as Treliving’s replacement.

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Yegor Sharangovich, acquired in a draft-week deal that the instant-analysts had insisted was an ‘L’ for the Flames, was the overtime hero in Tuesday’s home triumph against the Arizona Coyotes, capping another come-from-behind victory with a top-shelf rocket with only 16.7 ticks remaining before a shootout would have been required.

As fans filed out of the Saddledome, fiddling with their remote car starters, you likely overheard a lot of comments just like this …

‘That was a heck of a shot by Sharky.’

‘That turned out to be a heck of a trade by Conroy.’

That second part is reassuring since the Flames’ rookie general manager is facing several major decisions as the March 8 deadline approaches.

“Everybody wants to put a winner and a loser on a trade right away,” reminded Flames leading scorer and veteran voice-of-reason Blake Coleman, answering a question about Sharangovich. “I think he did a great job of ignoring all that noise and came in here, and it took him a bit to find what his role was on this team and where he was going to slot in and how he’d help us win games.

“But he’s clearly found it.”

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Indeed, he has.

As the Flames turn their attention to Thursday’s meeting with the Treliving-led Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. MT, Sportsnet West/Sportsnet 960 The Fan), Sharangovich is second on his squad with 18 goals.

The 25-year-old winger has the same number of snipes this season as bigger names such as Jonathan Marchessault, Mitch Marner, Joe Pavelski, Steven Stamkos and Brady Tkachuk. And it’s not like those dudes are slumping.

“It’s not my job to be talking about this trade,” Sharangovich protested, very politely, after Wednesday’s optional practice at the Saddledome. “I’m just happy to be here. I just try to focus on the game, try to give my best to the team. That’s it.”

It was back in late June, just over a month after he was promoted to GM, that Conroy shipped Tyler Toffoli to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Sharangovich and a third-round draft choice.

This first swing was not immediately billed as a home run. How could he, was the popular sentiment, part with Calgary’s leading point-producer for a reclamation project and a pick?!?

You’re not hearing that argument anymore.

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Craig Conroy
Craig Conroy’s first trade as Flames GM — dealing Tyler Toffoli to the New Jersey Devils for Yegor Sharangovich last June — has worked out far better than many people expected. Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Postmedia

While the Devils are also satisfied with this swap, with Toffoli on pace for another 30-goal campaign, this sure seems like a savvy bit of business for the Flames’ new boss, especially since it was already apparent by that time that the two sides were in different ballparks on what an extension might look like.

As Conroy continues to ponder the future of three key pieces, with all-star centre Elias Lindholm and big-minute blue-liners Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev all on expiring contracts and each generating substantial buzz as potential trade-chips, it’s worth remembering how he framed his first deal as Calgary’s shot-caller.

He wanted to go younger.

He wanted to get faster.

“And he shoots the puck well,” Conroy mentioned moments after completing that swap for Sharangovich, who notched 13 goals in 2022-23, his lowest total in three seasons with the Devils. “He seems to have that knack around the net.”

Sure does.

Tuesday’s overtime winner was just the latest example.

As Nazem Kadri, who was providing a screen when that shot whistled past his chin and ricocheted off the back-bar, put it: “That’s a scorer’s goal.”

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“We’ve seen that a lot from him,” added Flames head coach Ryan Huska. “Usually, you see it on a shootout, how he gets that kind of sweeping wrister off. But he has such a great release and it’s hard, so obviously there’s something with it where it’s hard for goaltenders to pick up, the way he kind of pulls it and brings it in to his body. But we’re getting used to seeing that, which is a nice thing.”

Heading into Thursday’s matchup between the Flames and Maple Leafs, one team that seems to have mastered the art of the third-period comeback and another that suddenly has a bad habit of blowing leads, you’ll find Treliving’s fingerprints all over Calgary’s current roster. (You would say the same about Kyle Dubas, his predecessor in Toronto.)

Treliving traded for Hanifin, Lindholm, Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar.

He signed Coleman, Kadri, Tanev and the currently-on-the-mend Jacob Markstrom as free agents.

He drafted, among others, Rasmus Andersson, Andrew Mangiapane and current rookie standouts Martin Pospisil and Connor Zary.

Conroy will, over time, put his stamp on this squad. It’s not a bad thing that he has so far been patient in his approach, sending disgruntled defenceman Nikita Zadorov to Vancouver in his only other deal to date.

But if you’re looking for reason for optimism, for proof the new GM is up to the challenge that lies ahead, look no further than No. 17. With his first trade, Conroy found a keeper.

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