Things haven’t gone exactly according to plan for Ryan Huska’s Calgary Flames to start December. Losing 4-3 to the Canucks and then 5-2 to the Wild has brought the fan base back to the dregs of existence as followers of the team. Calgary is one of four teams to go pointless six days into the month. Other three being Seattle, Washington and Buffalo.
Despite the recent gloom, there is a lot to be cheerful about. Not just the impending holiday break for some, but real, almost tangible positives about the Calgary Flames are just around the corner.
Pelletier is almost back
22-year-old Jakob Pelletier is expected to return to the lineup somewhere between late January and early February after getting surgery for a torn labrum in late September. The Quebec native put up 16 goals and 21 assists for 37 points in 36 games last season with the Wranglers as well as three goals and four assists in 24 NHL games.
Pelletier’s hardline speed game would serve as a perfect replacement on Connor Zary and Nazem Kadri’s line if Ryan Huska continues to find Martin Pospisil’s offensive production lacking.
The team is exciting (almost) every night
It’s difficult to find any team in the NHL that can go 82 games without putting up a poor effort here or there. The Calgary Flames are no exception. Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to the Minnesota, 3-0 to the Blues on Oct. 26, 4-1 against the Senators on Nov. 11; those games happen. Beyond the odd stinker, the Flames have been an exciting team to watch in 2023-2024. A far cry from the tight-to-the-belt death march that was 2022-2023.
Whether it’s a multi-goal comeback, 60 minutes of rapid transition, or an unexpected rookie playing the hero, it’s simply more enjoyable to watch the Flames this season.
Change is coming
Fans this season have been getting odd mixed signals. One day Craig Conroy may be talking about a “win now” philosphy and the next day Eric Francis will put out a story about ownership considering the possibility of a re-tool.
Whether ownership and management has chosen a direction or not, the team will look vastly different next season. Even with Nikita Zadorov traded, four of seven roster blue liners are set to be UFA-status on July 1, 2024. Among the forward group, Elias Lindholm and AJ Greer are set to be UFAs as well.
If the Flames were to move out all pending unrestricted free agents at the deadline and assuming RFAs to-be Dillon Dube, Martin Pospisil, Adam Ruzicka, and Ilya Solovyov don’t get sizable raises, Conroy would have roughly $31,011,667 to fill out six spots on the roster.
Plug Adam Klapka, Jeremie Poirier, and Matthew Coronato into the equation and we’re looking at quite a bit of cap flexibility to play with in 2024-2025.
The Trade Deadline will be action packed
In moving out the full remaining sum of Nikita Zadorov’s $3,750,000 annual average value contract, Conroy set himself up to take cap on and avoid severe cap restraint at the March 8, 2024, NHL Trade Deadline. Suddenly a world of possibilities is available for the Calgary Flames. Contenders, by nature, are tight to the cap by the trade deadline. Now Conroy now has the option to make a deal that doesn’t require an equal amount of money heading back his way.
With Calgary holding the top three available players on the rental market this season, there is reason to believe that March 8 is going to be a can’t-miss event for Flames fans.
Still have time? The Devils are in the market for a “stabilizing defenseman”.