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TALKING POINTS: Flames led by same players who make franchise’s future uncertain (+)

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Calgary Flames Tkachuk Gaudreau

If anyone is still wondering why the Calgary Flames were in on the Jack Eichel NHL trade sweepstakes, look no further than their game against those same Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.

Led by stars Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk and the emerging elite Andrew Mangiapane, the Flames lit the Sabres up in a 5-0 embarrassment. It was the kind of thrashing you don’t often see in the parity-driven NHL these days. But the Sabres – despite their strong start to the season amid the Eichel trade saga – don’t have any star power now that they’ve traded their former captain.

Eichel has five more years of contract certainty. The Flames players who belittled the Sabres on Thursday are all uncertain commodities – and that’s a terrifying thing for the Calgary Flames franchise.

Only Gaudreau is an immediate flight risk. The 28-year-old offensive dynamo (who’s also been really good in his own end this year) can sign anywhere he wants this summer. And he has little reason to consider an extension with the Flames before then. That doesn’t mean the Flames have no shot, but there’s no reason to expect any sort of discount.

Controlled assets will still cost Flames plenty

And the Flames need to save dollars anywhere they can with Tkachuk, Mangiapane and defenceman Oliver Kylington – who has 12 points in his last 12 games – all set to become restricted free agents at the end of the year. They’re all team-controlled assets, but they won’t be cheap to sign.

Tkachuk is due a $9-million qualifying offer. Without an extension beyond one year, he can choose his next destination after next season. Mangiapane, who leads the NHL this year with his 11 games on the road, is arbitration eligible this summer and on pace for 50+ goals at the moment. Kylington is also eligible to file for arbitration this summer.

Even if all four of these players wanted to stick with the only franchise they’ve played for, is it financially possible under the salary cap?

Let’s take a look at the math for a journey that would have to go perfectly to see more nights like we saw in Buffalo after this season.

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