No one would classify Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving’s summer as boring.
Parts have been tumultuous, some a bit traumatic. More recently, though, some would say terrific.
A trade with the Florida Panthers to bring Jonathan Huberdeau to the Calgary Flames did a lot to salvage the hellish offseason. It’s helped him climb out of crater caused by the cataclysmic news of free agent Johnny Gaudreau’s departure, followed by Matthew Tkachuk informing the team he wouldn’t sign a long-term deal.
Bringing in Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar (for at least this season), prospect Cole Schwindt and a 2025 lottery-protected first-round pick was a no brainer compared to the other returns Treliving set the Calgary Flames up to remain competitive despite losing two-thirds of the NHL’s best line last season.
So what does that look like with the current cast?
That may depend on whether Treliving is done making moves — and we don’t believe he is.
But for now, here’s a way-to-early assessment of the Calgary Flames roster for 2022-23. This includes prospects who may be called on to fill some spots this season.
Jonathan Huberdeau – Elias Lindholm – Tyler Toffoli
Andrew Mangiapane – Mikael Backlund – Blake Coleman
Jakob Pelletier – Sean Monahan/Adam Ruzicka – Dillon Dube
Milan Lucic – Kevin Rooney – Trevor Lewis
Huberdeau jumps right in to fill in for Gaudreau on Lindholm’s flank. And this might be the opportunity Toffoli needs to find his consistency again.
Toffoli looked like his old sniping self after joining the Calgary Flames just before the trade deadline but his offence dried up down the stretch and into the playoffs. Given a chance with an elite playmaker like Huberdeau could rejuvenize the most notable right winger on the roster.
The second line was arguably the Flames’ best in the post-season. They deserve to start the year together and see if they can continue to display the gritty and productive chemistry they showed after being thrown together late in the regular season and then reunited in the playoffs.
Prospect Pelletier was outstanding at the American Hockey League level last year and although Flames head coach Darry Sutter likes to keep the kids on the farm until they push really hard for an NHL spot, Pelletier might get his shot to show he’s worth keeping around as the team seeks the right fit for the bottom six. Giving Monahan the benefit of the doubt after his second hip surgery in as many years, we may see a lot of Ruzicka this season, too. He showed real promise last year and may mix in and out with Monahan and Rooney.
Dillon Dube is another guy who Sutter has said was promoted too quickly but has the skill to be a good (and versatile) forward. He can also play centre, with gives the coach options, but seemed most comfortable at wing. During a season that will have to feature a more balanced attack from the Flames, this third line could present problems for some opponents to match up with.
Lucic and Lewis spent a good chunk of the year together last season, and there’s no reason to mess with that to start the year. The centre spot is more in question as things stand now and adding a guy like Nazem Kadri or even Paul Stastny could change things significantly this summer.
Noah Hanifin – Rasmus Andersson
Oliver Kylington – Chris Tanev
Nikita Zadorov – MacKenzie Weegar
Juuso Valimaki – Nicolas Meloche
Keeping Hanifin and Andersson together makes sense. They’re growing up together and can only improve. That’s saying a lot given Andersson finished with 50 points and Hanifin ended with 48 last year.
The addition of Weegar gives so many options. He offers the team a chance to run an entirely different look that balances all three pairings when everyone is healthy. But Tanev’s surgery might mean Kylington starts with Weegar and Zadorov pairs with newcomer Meloche.
When all are healthy, a right side of Andersson, Weegar and Tanev would be the deepest in the league.
I don’t think there’s much of an appetite for a Kylington/Zadorov pairing.