The Calgary Flames have a ton of expectations heading into next season. A team that was heavy favorites to make the Western Conference Final last year, and some believed they could win the Stanley Cup. But with Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk not being on the roster for next season, there is a lot at stake for the team. The Flames are expected to keep contending for the next couple of years, but how do they plan on doing so with such key departures?
Having to lose such amazing goal scoring between Gaudreau and Tkachuk. It’s not easy to replace the type of production both players brought to the table. The two combined for 219 points (82 goals, 137 assists) scored last season. Even with losing such key players, the Flames made up for it. In trading away Matthew Tkachuk, the Flames added Jonathan Hubderdeau and Mackenzie Weegar from the Florida Panthers. Both have great résumés at the NHL level and fill major holes the Flames had in their roster.
Huberdeau for the majority of the season was contending for the Art Ross. as he notched an NHL career-high (for a left winger) 115 points in 80 games last season, including leading the NHL with 85 assists. Mackenzie Weegar is an elite two-way defenseman who drives play at both ends of the ice. He plays at such a high level that very few can equal. Weegar is one of the best transition defensemen, offensively and defensively, in the entire NHL.
GM Brad Treliving was put in a difficult situation. But he and the Flames are not out of the woods yet. The picture is not complete. The real test of this trade will be what the team looks like a year from now. Both Huberdeau and Weegar are both UFAs in 2023. Luckily as of last night, Huberdeau signed a max contract at eight-years with an average annual value of 10.5 million dollars. They must push for a conference finals or Stanley Cup Finals appearance while they still have large control of their cap. With at least one of their two new assets locked up long term, the Flames put themselves in a solid position. Having them fumble their cap situation could compromise their contention window for a long time.
The Pacific Division is going to be weak again, at least relative to other divisions in the NHL. Calgary is well positioned, with cap space and two new elite players alongside a core that still includes Elias Lindholm, Andrew Mangiapane, Jacob Markstrom and the 2021-22 coach of the year. They can certainly make a play for the Western Conference Finals once again. Having a potential duo of Lindholm and Huberdeau could be a deadly combo on a nightly basis to notch a ton of points. Alongside their upgrades to their d-corps with Weegar, the Flames have the chance to impress us all once again.
But will this price to contend come at a hefty cost by the season’s end? Brad Treliving and the Flames front office still have work to do if they wish to still be in the mix for years to come.