Flames Retool Paying Dividends

It’s been two weeks since Elias Lindholm was traded, and the Flames are seeing the mid-season retool paying immediate dividends.

The trade seems to signal Flames General Manager Craig Conroy recognizes this team is not playoff-run ready. If players won’t re-sign, it’s time to move current assets for future ones. And the Lindholm trade did just that. The trade netted a haul back including forward Andrei Kuzmenko, Vancouver’s 2024 first-round pick, two prospects, and another conditional 4th round pick.

It’s a good haul for Lindholm, who was on an expiring contract, and the Flames decided to sell their premium assets early. It is a welcome change, as the Flames have struggled to sell assets while maximizing playoff hopes previously (Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau anyone?).

Finding Immediate Chemistry

The only NHLer in the Lindholm trade, Andrei Kuzmenko has been a pleasant surprise on the Flames. He helped the Flames to a four-game winning streak with wins over the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders.

He has two goals through four games with the team, bringing him up to 10 total on the year. Outside of goals, he’s serving as a catalyst to get the Flame’s highest-paid player Jonathan Huberdeau going. Kuzmenko is on a line with Huberdeau and Yegor Sharangovich and has found immediate chemistry there.

Huberdeau had three points in his first game with Kuzmenko, and is now up to 15 points since Jan. 1, about half of his overall total this season. If Kuzmenko is willing to stay in Calgary, he’s shown he fits with the rest of the Flames lineup.

Andrei Kuzmenko speaks on building chemistry with his linemates.

Don’t Call It A Rebuild

The Flames currently sit 5th in the Pacific Division. They are three points back of the St. Louis Blues for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The team currently finds itself in the dreaded ‘no man’s land’ for a pro sports team. The Flames are not quite a playoff team, yet not bad enough for a top pick in the upcoming draft. If the Flames manage to make playoffs, they would be in tough against a team like the Canucks or Stars.

This precarious positioning leaves the Flames in an interesting spot with decisions that need to be made. Several expiring players could be sold, like 34-year-old Chris Tanev, who’s likely to be gone by the trade deadline. There’s also 27-year-old Noah Hanifin, who needs to extend or traded to get some value back by March. Even goalie Dan Vladar could provide value for a contender looking for goaltending depth at the deadline.

Flames Retool Paying Dividends

Another interesting player is goaltender Jacob Markstrom, who continues to be outstanding between the pipes. However, it’s decision time as Markstrom is 34 and it’s unlikely his value will go higher than it is currently. It was rumored the Devils were interested in the goalie’s services, but something happened during negotiations that crushed the deal.

On The Right Track

Craig Conroy and the Flames seem to be on the right track. Sell off the aging, expiring assets and continue to build the prospect pipeline. If the Flames can use the spring retool and see it paying dividends in the playoffs, great. If it’s a building year and the Flames end up in the lottery, that works as well.

A full tank is not required, as we’ve seen what consistent losing seasons can do to team culture. I agree with the Flame’s assessment thus far. Stay the course, manage assets, and build the Flames back into a long-term championship contender in the West. It’s what the C of Red needs, a little hope back in Cowtown.

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