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NHL - US Sports: Have Flames kept cup window open?

The Calgary Flames capped off a tumultuous off-season by signing free agent Nazem Kadri to a $49-million, seven-year contract and trading Sean Monahan to the Montreal Canadiens.

With star players Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk walking away from the club earlier this summer, the future looked bleak for the Flames, but having since signed Kadri and acquired Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar from the Florida Panthers, there is much confidence that the Flames have kept their Stanley Cup window open.

Flames resurgent

The Flames fired Geoff Ward and replaced him with Darryl Sutter during the 2022/21 season and since the Flames have improved exponentially.

Last season they won the Pacific Division with a 50-21-11 record, a year after missing the playoffs completely.

In the post-season Calgary beat the Dallas Stars in seven games, but were disappointed to be eliminated in five games at the second-round stage by Canadian rivals Edmonton Oilers.

Calgary's resurgence into a Stanley Cup contender was helped by the form of Gaudreau and Tkachuk, who both posted over 100 points in the regular season and finished within the top ten-point scorers in the league.

With 115 points (40 goals, 75 assists) Gaudreau finished second to Oilers' Connor McDavid and Tkachuk with 104 (42 goals, 62 assists) finished eighth.

Gaudreau rejected a new contract from the Flames deciding instead to move closer to home by signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets, while Tkachuk also declared he wouldn't commit his future to Calgary, and was traded to the Panthers.

Losing the pair appeared to be a major body blow to Sutter, who is coaching the Flames for a second time, having previously taken them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2004.

However, in getting Huberdeau and Weegar from the Panthers in exchange for Tkachuk and adding Kadri in free agency the Flames will feel that they have done enough to maintain their upward trend.

New look for Calgary

With long-time Flame Monahan also moving on, the Calgary Flames will look a lot different next season but there is plenty of reason for optimism.

Huberdeau matched Gaudreau's points haul last season (115; 30 goals, 85 assists) while 31-year-old Kadri enjoyed a career year with 87 points (28 goals, 59 assists).

The pair will help fill the offensive void left by Gaudreau and Tkachuk and 28-year-old Weegar will significantly bolster Calgary's back-end and offer a threat from the blue line.

Weegar amassed 44 points (eight goals, 36 assists) with the Panthers last season.

The blockbuster trade to get Huberbeau and Weegar for Tkachuk came out of the blue, and Calgary General Manager Brad Treliving was roundly applauded for the deal.

Treliving again surprised the Flames faithful last week by announcing Kadri, who it was widely assumed had signed for the New York Islanders.

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Kadri addition

Kadri is one of the elite two-way centremen in the NHL and rounds out the Flames' top-six very well. His signing elevates Calgary's centre depth, and he will form a one-two punch with Elias Lindholm.

Mikael Backlund will drop a line, and be able to sit in-between a shutdown combination which plays to his strong defensive strengths.

Kadri can play in all situations and he will add energy and experience of winning the Stanley Cup last season with Colorado Avalanche to the Flames locker room.

His hard, edgy style will also be a perfect fit with coach Sutter, who is committed to making the Flames harder to play against, particularly in the playoffs.

Offensive depth

The line of Gaudreau, Lindholm and Tkachuk was arguably the best in the NHL last season, however, they were too heavily relied upon by the Flames.

Backlund had 39 points (12 goals, 27 assists) and was excellent in the playoffs scoring eight points (five goals, three assists) but his line, which often included Andrew Mangiapane and Tyler Toffoli, went cold for long stretches in the season.

With better offensive instincts, Kadri will help make the Flames' second line far more dangerous and also help improve their powerplay which finished a respectable 10th in the league last season (22.9%), but really let them down in the playoffs (12.2%).

Dust settled

After all the twists and turns of the off-season, Calgary will be aiming to keep hold of the Pacific Division title and have a deep run in the playoffs.

When Gaudreau and Tkachuk confirmed their wish to depart that appeared nigh on impossible, but Treliving and the Flames have done extraordinarily well in the circumstances to give coach Sutter the pieces to try and end Calgary's 33-year wait for a second Stanley Cup.

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