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2022-23 NHL season preview: Calgary Flames avoid complete disaster

For the previous entry in this series of 2022-23 season previews where I cover the expectations of the Boston Bruins, click here.


Please, Flames fans, don't be offended that I'm not giving this preview as much love and attention as I gave the previous three entries, as I have been writing about the wild rollercoaster Calgary Flames offseason ride extensively over the last few months, so I'm only going to give the short and sweet version here today.


For a more in depth look into the tumultuous offseason that the Flames endured, check out the following links below:


Calgary star forward, Elias Lindholm (Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports)

 

To avoid sounding like a broken record, I will sum it all up for you.


Toward the end of the 2021-22 regular season, there was a growing suspicion that superstar Johnny Gaudreau would not be re-signing with the Calgary Flames, as he was set to hit unrestricted free-agency over the offseason. The rumors were correct, as Gaudreau went on to sign a seven-year, $68.25 million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets. That wasn't the end of the nightmare for Flames' fans and their front office, as just a few weeks later, their next best player, Matthew Tkachuk, informed the team that he was not willing to sign to a deal to stay in Calgary, as Tkachuk was a restricted free-agent, ultimately forcing the Flames to explore trades for the young star forward.

 

No one knew exactly what Calgary would receive in exchange for Tkachuk. Picks? Players? Both? One thing was for sure, after a season where the Flames finished in first place in the Pacific Division, and were poised to make a deep playoff run, the high speed freight train that was the Calgary Flames derailed, slammed into a brick wall and exploded. It seemed as if a long, bitter, and miserable rebuild was coming their way.


That was until the results of the Tkachuk trade were announced. Calgary would receive Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, Cole Schwindt, and a 2025 conditional first-round pick from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Matthew Tkachuk and a conditional fourth-round pick.

 

The blockbuster trade set the hockey world on fire, as fans from all around the globe took to Twitter and other social media sights to discuss (incessantly argue) over who won the trade. On the one hand, the Flames lost Tkachuk, a 24-year old superstar who is sure to be one of the most dominate players in the league for years to come. But they received Jonathan Huberdeau, who is a little bit older than Tkachuk at 28-years old, but finished last season with 115 points (30 goals, 85 assists) as compared to Tkachuk's 104 points (42 goals, 62 assists)


Huberdeau finished last season fifth in Hart Trophy voting for league MVP, while Tkachuk finished in 14th.


Calgary also made a huge splash in free-agency, signing one of the top free-agents on the market, Nazem Kadri, to a seven-year, $49 million contract. Kadri had a career year in 2021-22, posting 87 points on 28 goals and 59 assists in the regular season, and then 15 points on 7 goals and 8 assists in the playoffs, en route to helping the Colorado Avalanche win the Stanley Cup.

 

Calgary lost Gaudreau and Tkachuk, but their consolation prizes was Huberdeau, and Kadri. The Flames went from looking like they'd be basement dwelling for a long time to come, to putting themselves right back into contention for their first Stanley Cup since 1989. I don't expect Calgary to finish first in their division again, simply for the fact that they have so many new faces in their locker room. I feel like their on-ice chemistry might take some time to formulate, and with Pacific Division rivals such as the Edmonton Oilers and Vegas Golden Knights also getting better over the offseason, it will be a fun division battle to keep an eye on. I do think they'll be a playoff team again, and definitely right in the mix of teams who could easily win the Western Conference this year.


Calgary still remains home to stars such as Elias Lindholm, Andrew Mangiapane, Tyler Toffoli, and Jacob Markstrom. This is still a very talented team.

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