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Insider Trading: How will Flames handle players entering their final year of their deals?

Elias Lindholm Calgary Flames Elias Lindholm - The Canadian Press

Gino Redo is joined by TSN Hockey Insiders Chris Johnston, Pierre LeBrun and Darren Dreger to discuss the Calgary Flames’ plan for players on the last year of their deals, how the Winnipeg Jets are looking to move off Blake Wheeler, how the Toronto Maple Leafs’ long to-do list could affect Michael Bunting, and more on Insider Trading.

When Craig Conroy was the assistant general manager of the Calgary Flames, he watched winger Johnny Gaudreau play out the final year of his contract and left for nothing. Now that he’s the general manager, is he trying to avoid a similar fate with a number of key players?

Chris Johnston: He’s certainly prioritized getting some answers from the pending unrestricted free agents from the 2024 summer class because that’s going to impact what he does now. I think the biggest piece the Flames are looking at as they enter the summer is top-line centre Elias Lindholm.

My understanding about where things sit with Lindholm is that there have been discussions between his camp and the Flames and I believe there are more discussions planned. At this stage there’s been no indication one way or the other whether he’d like to stay.

I think he’s open to the idea [of staying in Calgary], depending on the contract, but that’s still in the early stages.

Where this gets interesting is, I don’t know to what degree it depends on the other decisions, but there’s a little more clarity there. Mikael Backlund, a long-time Flame, has indicated that he wants to let things play out. He’s not going to sign an extension immediately on July 1 and he wants to see where the Flames end up.

Forward Tyler Toffoli is in a similar boat and, as a result, it sounds like the Flames are at least open to exploring what he may bring back in a trade. Finally, defenceman Noah Hanifin, as Pierre LeBrun reported last week, he’s not going to sign and is another candidate to be traded.

We already knew the Winnipeg Jets were moving off Pierre-Luc Dubois and Connor Hellebuyck because neither have any intention of re-signing. We also understand former captain Blake Wheeler is on the way out. Is it now just a matter of finding the best way to make that happen?

Pierre LeBrun: We’ve talked about the fact that a buyout has been a possibility all along for the former Jets captain, which tells you a lot about how hard it is to move money in this frozen cap system. 

I think there’s been some confusion about what’s going on here. This isn’t about the Jets desperately trying to get rid of Wheeler, this is two sides working together. Wheeler wants a fresh reset just as much as the Jets are trying to make that happen for him. So, his agent and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff are really working together.

So that could come in a few forms. First, it could come in a natural trade. Second, a buyout. Third, it could be a trade to a team where that team buys him out, as we’ve seen in the past. 

The bottom line is the buyout window closes next Friday and the decision has to be made by then. Wheeler will not be playing for the Jets next year.

It’s a well-known fact that Carolina Hurricanes ownership is very careful how they spend their cash. Now that philosophy could affect what happens with captain Jordan Staal.

Darren Dreger: Simply put, things can change with a phone call, especially at this time of the year. As far as Staal is concerned with the Hurricanes, they’re at an impasse. Things can change relatively quickly, but this was an extension that was supposed to have been done almost 10 months ago. 

I believe that Staal’s camp supplied the Hurricanes with a number of options, so they’re trying to be as flexible as they can. But, they need Hurricanes’ owner Tom Dundon to move from his position. If he doesn’t, we could see Staal as an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Brad Treliving has a lot on his plate as the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs right now and because his to-do list is so long, is there a chance it can cause some issues with forward Michael Bunting?

Chris Johnston: That certainly seems to be the case right now. It’s no secret that Bunting is a hometown guy and would love to remain with the Maple Leafs, but at this point in time there’s been no substantial negotiations between his camp and the organization.

As we get this close to July 1, it seems to imply that a player who scored 20 goals each in the last two seasons, primarily playing on the team’s top line, is likely headed to the marketplace. The Leafs have not formally closed the door on Bunting but they feel that it’s going to be a busy marketplace for him and it will be hard to keep him.

Could the long list of injuries the Florida Panthers endured in their Stanley Cup run affect what they do on the trade front?

Pierre LeBrun: It probably just adds more urgency to what the plan was already. The Panthers were going to try to upgrade their blueline this off-season, but now with defencemen Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour projected to miss the start of the season with injuries, they’re going to try to really upgrade that blueline.

A player that other teams are phoning them about is forward Anthony Duclair, knowing that the Panthers need to get another top-four defenceman and Duclair has another year on his deal at $3 million, a bargain for someone who can score 30 goals. The Panthers don’t really want to move him, but they know that they might have to in order to get a top-four defenceman.

Keep in mind Noah Hanifin from the Flames, who we talked about earlier.

What’s the latest on Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s search for a new team after he was bought out by the Vancouver Canucks?

Darren Dreger: He’s looking forward to seeing what that market looks like. Like most players, he would like to land on a contending team, but the fit has to be right and comfortable for Ekman-Larsson.