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Well, if you’re anything like me, you walked away from hockey after the second round exit courtesy of a goal called back over an apparent ‘kicking motion’, and an egregious Johnny Gaudreau giveaway that sealed the loss. We didn’t know at the time it would be Gaudreau’s last game as a Flames. Everyone thought he’d take the money, North of 10 million, and with an extra eight year tacked on top.
But he didn’t.
There were rumors that Gaudreau wanted to play closer to home. Can’t fault the guy, but the simply walk away from the organization on Day 1 of free agency? That will leave a bad taste in the mouths of some fans.
When you lose an asset of Gaudreau’s calibre, replacing him on the open market would be next to impossible, and expensive. The Flames would not be replacing Gaudreau any time soon. Or so we thought. Management was just as surprised as fans, and then the next shoe dropped. Matthew Tkachuk saw Gaudreau leave, and the American born player also opted to do the same. Only difference is, Tkachuk was an RFA and Calgary could employ his services for another year. The only issue, he’d walk for nothing. Tkachuk, to his credit, informed the team he wouldn’t sign next year to a lengthy contract. So off went the GM to find a solution, and he found one.
When word spread that Tkachuk was available, Florida stepped up, and somehow, Treliving landed a 1st rounder, prospect, Huberdeau, and Weegar. The haul nearly making up for the gut punch to the Flames lineup. But was this just a delay until next season when Weegar and Huberdeau’s contracts would be up.
Brad got to work.
Days later, the same contract offered to Gaudreau, given to Huberdeau. Calgary had one of their star pieces solved.
Huberdeau and Gaudreau come out of the same draft year. The former #4 overall, the latter in the 4th round. Huberdeau has more points and is only a month older. Same contract, but the Flames yield the better player. Time will tell if this holds true. One thing we won’t have, is the defensive lapses along the boards that Gaudreau squandered due to an unwillingness to take a hit. The tale of the tape.
JH: 55 20 41 61
JG: 56 19 30 49
JH: 69 23 55 78
JG: 70 18 40 58
But that still leaved a gapping hole where Tkachuk sat on the wing. And, a problem with salary constraints. Nazeem Kadri’s name was floated around for a while, but as each day passed, it seemed unlikely the London, Ontario product would choose Calgary.
Speculation ended as Treliving’s “win now” mentality landed Kadri mid-August.
It would cost the Flames a first round pick and Sean Monahan. Monahan has been steadfast down the middle despite running into significant injuries over the past three seasons. Maybe he’ll find his scoring touch again, but his final year 6 million contract was too much.
A collection of changes during the off-season here: https://www.reddit.com/r/hockey/comments/xk3jx3/2432_calgary_flames_offseason_recap/
Calgary now boasts among the deepest C groups in the league, which isn’t something you could’ve said about the Flames since, I dunno, the late 1980s. But are they better? The trades are a wash for this season, but the Flames gave up a talented and young star in Tkachuk. With Jonny vs Johnny that’s a wash. The Flames will figure out Huberdeau’s contract years from now. What they haven’t done is replace the lost scoring. Kadri is much older than Tkachuk, and although will provide a few years of fun, is likely on the downturn of his career production. Where the trades lean towards Calgary’s immediate favor is if they can sign Weegar long-term. That’s a win for the Flames and solidifies among the top 3 defensive groups in the league. And as they say in Sutter-land, or anywhere in the league for that matter, defences win championships.
Can the Flames challenge for a cup spot knowing that road leads through Edmonton and Colorado? That’s a tall order given the lack of offensive weapons. Calgary is likely missing 1-2 pieces up front to be a perennial challenger. Does that come from inside? Will Dube or Mangiapane continue producing? Or maybe PTO Sonny Milano, find another gear? Is someone on the farm ready to step-up? Early indications suggest no, and that management would prefer a washed-up old PTO like Eakin or even Brett Ritchie (signed for another year for no apparent reason) instead.
With the 2022-23 season set to being in two weeks, the Flames have undergone a significant renovation where the key stars for the past decade are all gone. Bennett, Monahan, Tkachuk, Gaudreau. Not a scenario anyone could have fathomed two months ago before free agency started. Yet here we are, and Brad Treliving has done an admirable job filling plugs in what was supposed to be a sinking ship. How fast this new version of the Calgary Flames can gel and stack up wins remains to be seen.
How deep they can push in the playoffs is the ultimate question, and we’ll have to wait until May to find out.