Flaming Future

Things seemed to be on the up and up for the Calgary Flames around the Scotia Bank Saddledome. Even with a second-round defeat to the Edmonton Oilers in the 2022 playoffs. There was hope on the horizon for the 2022-’23 NHL season. Matthew Tkachuk still had a year left on his contract. A strong defensive core headed up by Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev. A goaltender in Jacob Markstrom, a Vezina Trophy candidate. Forwards that can put the puck in the net. Add in a coach who is one of the best in the business, Darryl Sutter, and the Flames had reason to believe a Stanley Cup run was on the horizon. Fast forward to July 2022, and things changed. Drastically.

Johnny Was Homesick

“Johnny Hockey” informed the Flames that he would be testing free agency the night before he was eligible. Even after Flames management offered him what would have been the largest contract in team history. Most people assumed he was going to be going to sign close to his hometown of Salem, New Jersey. Teams such as the Devils, Islanders, and the Flyers seemed to be in the mix. All could have used the 115-point, diminutive forward in their lineup. But each team could not get the deal done.

Columbus Isn’t Jersey

Gaudreau meeting the media for the first time after signing with the Blue Jackets

Out of nowhere, the Blue Jackets gave Johnny Gaudreau a 7- year-68.25M dollar contract. Far less than what the Flames offered. In dollars and a year less for the duration. Columbus finished out of the playoffs in 2021-22 and made an offer, and Johnny took it. Closer to home? A little. At home? No. Closer to a Stanley Cup? Not even close. Columbus doesn’t defend well or have goaltenders that can keep vulcanized rubber out of the net. They finished 6th in the Metropolitan Division, and Gaudreau makes them marginally better.

I’m Out Too

Forward Matthew Tkachuk and Florida Panthers General Manager Bill Zito

And now the Flames find themselves without fan favorite Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk let Flames brass know that he would not be re-signing once his contract was up at the end of the upcoming season. In doing so, he left Calgary GM Brad Treliving no choice but to trade Tkachuk away and make sure they got something in return. Unlike Gaudreau, Tkachuk was upfront with the Flames, letting them know he would be offering his services elsewhere at the end of his contract. “Chucky” gave the Flames a choice of teams he would like to go to. Calgary pulled off a deal with the Florida Panthers that sent Tkachuk to Miami for multiple players from the Panthers, including star left winger Johnathan Huberdeau.

Honesty is the Best Policy

Yes, Tkachuk and Gaudreau both did what was well within their contractual obligations. Neither player owes Calgary anything more than what they did. But out of the two, Gaudreau is the one that did the Flames dirty. There is no way that he didn’t know prior to the night he became a free agent that he was leaving Calgary. Why did it take him to the last minute to inform the team that he wasn’t accepting a contract that would have made him the highest-paid Flame ever? Why would he not have told them to not waste their time and focus on other players to improve their team? At least Tkachuk let them know ahead of time that he wasn’t planning on staying past this upcoming season and that they should look at getting something in return before he became a free agent.

Now What for The Calgary Flames?

So, where does this leave the Flames? After years of mediocrity and only one Stanley Cup Final appearance since winning it all in 1989, the Flames find themselves back in the same old place. They are just good enough to make the playoffs. But not good enough to win anything. Players who signed as free agents recently must be thinking, “What did I sign up for?” Darryl Sutter might be thinking about going back to the farm now that his two biggest stars have left for greener pastures. Free agent to be Johnathan Huberdeau isn’t a guarantee to be in training camp for the Flames as he could be used as a trade chip. Conversely, the Oilers improved their goaltending situation by signing Jack Campbell. Vegas is set for a full season with Jack Eichel. Those are just 2 of the teams that are poised to overtake the Flames for the top spot in the Pacific Division.

 

Be sure to follow me on Twitter, Brent Radlinsky, or on our podcast account, Fourteen Twenty Sports Bar Podcast. Be sure to listen to our podcast on Spreaker at The Fourteen Twenty Sports Bar Podcast (spreaker.com) or wherever it is you get your podcasts. And for more NHL news and note, check out Belly Up Hockey.

About Author

Brent Radlinsky

I am a sports fan, podcaster and amateur umpire. But most importantly a New York Yankees fan. Born and raised in Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada. My love for everything in the world of sports has taken me for quite the ride.

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