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Tough Roster Decisions Loom for Craig Conroy and Co.

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Conroy Calgary Flames

You could make a case that General Manager Craig Conroy has handed in his homework early.

The Calgary Flames are roughly five months away from commencing the 2024-2025 regular season, and the rookie Calgary exec has most of his work done. The team has 12 forwards and five defencemen signed through next season, and only Dustin Wolf, Nikita Okhotiuk, AJ Greer, and Oliver Kylington are left to extend should they so desire.

In other words, the 2024-2025 Calgary Flames are ready to go from a roster management perspective.

If not for a couple major issues.

 

Quality

The hard truth of the matter is that this current iteration of the lineup doesn’t project into a playoff spot. Their record as of March 6, the official end of the Hanifin/Tanev Era, was a measly 8-13-0. Their .381 points percentage put them in the basement (28th) along with the Ducks, Sharks and Blue Jackets.

In fact, Calgary put up a worse points percentage than Chicago over that time. The Blackhawks went 7-11-1 from March 6 and had a .395 points percentage.

If that is what management and ownership are going for? Great. Add on the fact that seven Flames will be rental candidates with contracts expiring on July 1, 2025 and we’re looking at a Flames team that can make a hard push at a first overall pick.

The catch is that neither Conroy nor ownership (including Murray Edwards) has admitted that the team is rebuilding. They can say things with their actions. We may see Joel Hanley on the first pairing more often next season, but as long as the team isn’t ready to say “rebuild,” Flames fans will need to be ready for that next competitive pivot.

That leads to issue number two.

 

Cap Space

Remember all of those roster spots that are already filled by existing contracts? Well, if “Conny” is content with re-signing Wolf ($1,450,000 using Philidelphia’s Samuel Ersson as a comparable), Klyington ($3,500,000), Ohotiuk ($775,000), and Greer($900,000), he has roughly $13,199,167 in cap space to spend on, well, no one. That’s a full roster.

Add in a potential Jacob Markstrom exodus, and the Flames have another $4,550,000 in space if you factor in Wolf taking his roster spot.

Fun money, Stupid Dollars, call it what you will, that’s $17,749,167 of bad UFA decisions to make if it weren’t for so many spots on the team being filled.

It’s possible that Conroy has to make some difficult decisions prior to training camp. Walker Duehr or Dryden Hunt may be deemed expendable, but Hunt earned his spot, and Duehr deserves to run it from the top after an injury-riddled season.

Then there is the rest of the forward core.

Players such as Blake Coleman and Andrew Mangiapane had respectable seasons but never seemed to fit the style of play Huska was going after. Despite implementing a team that uses speed to beat its opponents, the Flames registered as one of the slower rosters in the NHL per NHL Edge.

 

Speed bursts over 20mph

League Average: 1,692
Calgary Flames: 1,392

Speed bursts over 22mph

League Average: 77
Calgary Flames: 53

 

You can’t build a speed-based offence with a roster of slow players. If Craig wants to build a team more suited for Ryan Huska’s counterpunch attack, he’ll need to act before free agency opens on July 1.

The unfortunate truth is that professional hockey is a business. No job is entirely safe when you’re being paid to excel at sports. If Conroy and the Flames brain trust want to quietly take a run at a high draft pick, so be it.

If that ends up being the case, Calgary’s fanbase should well acknowledge that Ryan Huska isn’t being given the ingredients for success. His seat should be colder than an aluminum outhouse in February. For Conroy, choosing between his coach and his franchise may be a difficult one.

 

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