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NHL Trade Talk: Flames Still Seek a Body As Season Nears



Steve Macfarlane, CHN

Sonny Milano wasn’t successful. Doubt the Calgary Flames will circle back on he or Cody Eakin.

Radim Zohorna didn’t even get reclaimed by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And it doesn’t look like Kevin Rooney had any of the Flames coaches salivating in his line promotion.

With veteran Trevor Lewis running right flank on the Saturday preview of what the opening-night roster should look like, the third line in the top nine is looking a little dry.

Like an overdone turkey dinner with no gravy.

A bit hard to swallow.

Lewis was earmarked for the fourth line alongside Rooney or Adam Ruzicka and fellow veteran Milan Lucic. The fact he or Brett Ritchie are looking at a more prominent role alongside Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman is less than ideal.

Despite the small sample size for Zohorna Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter saw enough to decide what he had on the roster was better for the team. He’s been waived and cleared and can now be assigned to the AHL anytime in the next month.

And while GM Brad Treliving is still seeking help for the forward group on the NHL trade front and the waiver wire, his is a team that looks like it’s heading out on a long drive with a nail in one of the tires.

Sutter doesn’t seem worried.

“I really like our team. It’s a mature group that understands the whole process a lot better, for sure, than they did two years ago,” Sutter told Flames TV and others on Saturday. “There’s been a big turnover in the group, which, obviously we didn’t expect to happen this quickly. But I still really feel the foundation is there.”

The big turnover is the loss of Johnny Gaudreau in free agency, departure of Matthew Tkachuk via trade, and the acquisition and signings of Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar and Nazem Kadri.

On paper, the Calgary Flames may be deeper. Certainly at defence and at centre. But the loss of two 40-goal scorers is challenging to overcome.

The hope is Huberdeau can develop more chemistry with Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli. There hasn’t been much in training camp and the preseason.

Their best game together came in Friday’s finale.

Toffoli finally scored, and it was a tic-tac-toe finish on the rush with Lindholm and Huberdeau.

Huberdeau started it off with a spinorama move to pick the puck up on the fly in his own end.

“I didn’t even know I had that in my game. It worked out,” Huberdeau said afterward.

“Our line was a little better, better chemistry. It’s good for the next week of practice to get to the first game.”

The first game is Thursday night at the Saddledome. The Calgary Flames host the Colorado Avalanche fresh off their Cup victory, but without Nazem Kadri.

No member of the Flames has been there longer than Backlund. He’s seen a lot in 15 years with the franchise. This is what he sees right now.

“It’s a driven group. Guys who have won, they want to do it again. For us who haven’t done it, we want to show that we can step it up and go further in the playoffs,” Backlund said. “We had a really good regular season last year. It was a big disappointment losing to our biggest rivals in the playoffs. We want to come here this year and show we can go further than the second round, play those guys again and beat them.”

They may just be one more good top-nine forward away from doing it.