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Calgary Flames

As NHL Draft Approaches, Flames Trade Rumours Will Fly



Next week, the Calgary Flames are going to narrow their search for a new head coach.

That decision will likely have a domino effect as they determine their best course of action for more than a handful of key players who are about to enter the final year of their contracts before becoming unrestricted free agents.

It’s well known by now that Elias Lindholm, Tyler Toffoli, Mikael Backlund, Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev, Oliver Kylington and Nikita Zadorov are all due for new deals once July 1 arrives. And with big extensions for former Florida Panther Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar kicking in this season, it would be very challenging to fit a couple more significant salary bumps into the salary cap picture — unless there’s a belief the ceiling is going to rise appreciably.

Even then, there’s a chance some of these players will be more interested in moving on than seeking an extension. So you can bet they’re scrutinizing the status of the coaching search after making it clear in exit interviews the last season under Darryl Sutter was one they had no interest in experiencing again.

New Calgary Flames GM Craig Conroy said earlier this week that Lindholm was at the top of his list for an extension. If the 28-year-old is up for it.

Lindholm’s non-committal approach to his end-of-season media availability is the reason you can’t log on to #Flames Twitter without reading wild suggestions the Flames and Columbus Blue Jackets are exploring some sort of draft day deal involving the Blue Jackets’ third-overall pick.

That all started with some banter about hypotheticals in an exchange between Athletics writers in each city — a common practice at this time of year when major decisions have to be made.

Lindholm has had success with playmaker Johnny Gaudreau. The third pick is likely to land big Swedish centre Leo Carlsson.

To say this exercise has blown up would be a massive understatement. And while there has been no suggestion either team is actually considering making a big move together at the draft, that is the kind of shakeup that could be the basis of discussions if Conroy determines Lindholm is no longer a long-term option.

Minutes into his first interview, Conroy said he’d learned an important lesson about asset management when the Flames were stung by Gaudreau’s decision — at the 11th hour — to leave in free agency.

“I was hoping Johnny was going to come back. I thought Johnny was going to come back, but I don’t think I would let that happen again,” Conroy said Tuesday. “I truly thought John was going to come back and when he didn’t, it was disappointing, it came right down to the last minute but then you think ‘Uh-oh, you just lost your best asset, one of your best players of all time and you didn’t get anything for him.’

The draft is pretty much the peak trade value event on the NHL schedule.

It wouldn’t be shocking to see one of these seven guys departing in some kind of deal this summer. Maybe even at the June draft. But Conroy said this week he’s had a positive conversation with Lindholm and that they would reconnect after the new coach is hired.

Lindholm — like Backlund — was reportedly ready to move on if the Calgary Flames kept Sutter behind the bench. But the coach was fired not long after former GM Brad Treliving told the Flames he wasn’t interested in extending his contract with the franchise he spent almost a decade with.

That coaching decision changed the fabric of the Flames. The next one will help define its future.

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