Calgary general manager Brad Treliving swung for the fences in the summer, and he’s as anxious as any Flames fan to see if his efforts replaced what was lost.
Bringing forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri into the fold, and getting both under long-term contracts, were among the blockbuster moves of the NHL’s off-season.
Huberdeau and Kadri, signed for eight and seven years respectively, somewhat smoothed the ruffled feelings of Flames Nation over the refusal of top forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk to return to the club.
The integration of Huberdeau and Kadri into the Flames starts in earnest Thursday with the first skates of a 67-player training camp.
“We’ve got a lot of questions to answer,” Treliving said Wednesday at the Saddledome. “We’ve had significant turnover when you look at sort of the top of the food chain. How do they fit? Where do they fit?
“This camp is really, really important, as they all are, but to sort everything out. I’m like you. I’m interested to see how this thing goes.”
Gaudreau chose to become a Columbus Blue Jacket via unrestricted free agency.
When Tkachuk, a restricted free agent, indicated he no longer wanted to be a Flame, Treliving dealt his rights to the Florida Panthers for a package that included Huberdeau and seasoned defenceman MacKenzie Weegar.
In their first full season under head coach Darryl Sutter, the Flames (50-21-11) topped the Pacific Division and made it past the first round of playoffs for the first time in 18 years before falling to the Edmonton Oilers in five games last season.
Gaudreau and Tkachuk posted career seasons with 82 goals and 137 assists between them. Gaudreau scored the Game 7 overtime winner against the Dallas Stars that vaulted the Flames into the second round.
Huberdeau, a 115-point man with the Panthers last season, is tabbed to fill the void left by Gaudreau on the Elias Lindholm’s left side.
Kadri is coming off a Stanley Cup win with the Colorado Avalanche. The hope is that the 31-year-old centre brings that winning pedigree, as well as the production and snarl that left with Tkachuk, to Calgary’s second forward line.
“We probably all put our lines together on a napkin right? Usually that lasts 10 minutes,” Treliving said. “You don’t know where chemistry is going to come from. That’s why you go through camp.”
The 28-year-old Weegar, who has one year remaining on his contract, gives Calgary top-five depth on defence alongside Chris Tanev, Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin and Nikita Zadorov.
Jacob Markstrom remains among the NHL’s top goalies despite an average playoff outing against the Oilers.
Tanev, who dislocated his shoulder in Game 6 against the Stars and required off-season surgery, will be on the ice Thursday, but will likely sit out the first few pre-season games, Treliving said.
Defenceman Oliver Kylington is absent because of a personal family matter, and winger Andrew Mangiapane won’t skate with the main group to start camp because of a minor injury sustained during summer skates, the GM said.
The Flames announced the re-signing of forwards Adam Ruzicka to a two-year contract and Brett Ritchie to a one-year deal Wednesday.
Left-winger Sonny Milano and veteran Flames defenceman Michael Stone were invited to camp on professional tryout contracts.
Calgary’s American Hockey League team resides in the same city as the parent club for the first time in franchise history after relocating from Stockton, Calif.
The Calgary Wranglers’ practice facility is at the WinSport Event Centre on Calgary’s west side. The Wranglers will play games at the Saddledome.
“Especially in a (salary) cap world, easier access to your players is number one,” Treliving said. “Number two, you see them on a more regular basis.
“They get to live what it’s like in a Canadian market. It’s different playing in a Canadian market. People know what’s going on with the team. That’s all part of the development process. Even when you’re with the Wranglers, you see what’s going on in Calgary every day.
“That prepares you because when you sometimes come out of junior, college, Europe, go to the American League and you’re not in that pressure-cooker, it can slap you in the face.”
Along with the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen, the Flames will have the three hockey teams under their umbrella playing games at the Saddledome this winter.
“I’ve made no friends with the training staff,” Treliving said. “It’s going to be a challenge logistically. It’s not just the games. Sometimes you’ve got two teams playing, then you may have a doubleheader and then you’ve got NHL teams that are waiting to get into a room.
“There are some logistical nightmares, but at the end of the day, we made the decision on what’s the best development model for our players and that’s what we decided.”