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Kadri: Flames 'got a little restricted last year'

Nazem Kadri Calgary Flames Nazem Kadri - The Canadian Press

Calgary Flames centre Nazem Kadri is among multiple players on the team looking at the upcoming 2023-24 campaign as an opportunity to bounce back from a tough season.

Kadri, who signed a seven-year, $49 million contract as a free agent on Aug. 18, 2022, went from a career-high 87 points in 2021-22 with the Stanley Cup winning Colorado Avalanche, to 56 points and a team-worst minus-19 last season.

The Flames missed the playoffs in 2022-23, finishing fifth in the Pacific Division and two points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.

"I think a lot of guys on the team are ready to kind of play to their potential," the 32-year-old told "For whatever reason, we got a little restricted last year, so I'm just looking forward to a clean slate and starting the year off strong."

Forward Jonathan Huberdeau, who was acquired along with defenceman MacKenzie Weegar, forward prospect Cole Schwindt, and a 2025 conditional first-round pick from the Florida Panthers on July 22, 2022, for forward Matthew Tkachuk and a 2025 conditional fourth-round pick, also had a disappointing debut season in Calgary, recording just 55 points after putting up 115 in 2021-22. The 60-point decline is the largest from one campaign to the next in NHL history.

Among returning Flames, winger Andrew Mangiapane went from a career-high 35 goals in 2021-22 to 17 last year, while goaltender Jacob Markstrom’s save percentage dipped from .922 in 2021-22 to .892 in 2022-23. Markstrom won 23 games compared to 37 the year prior.

Calgary made a number of managerial changes in the off-season, firing head coach Darryl Sutter and promoting long-time assistant coach Ryan Huska into the main job. General manager Brad Treliving was also let go and was replaced by assistant GM Craig Conroy.  

The team has tinkered very little with the roster so far this off-season, with the exception of minor signings and sending veteran winger Tyler Toffoli to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for forward Yegor Sharangovich and a 2023 third-round pick (Aydar Suniev). Forwards Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund as well as defencemen Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev and Nikita Zadorov are all unrestricted free agents next summer.

"I think it's important we have two guys in new positions who are familiar with the team," Kadri said. "When you have management that treat personalities and are good guys and care about the team and their players, those are guys you want to play for.

"I've had many chats with 'Conny.' I love where his head's at. I love his ideas, and I'm really looking forward to working with him."