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Flames focusing on task at hand with deadline looming

Mikael Backlund Flames Mikael Backlund - The Canadian Press

TAMPA BAY – If Calgary Flames captain Mikael Backlund knows what the team’s approach will be ahead of Friday’s trade deadline, he’s not saying.

“I’ve had good conversations with [general manager Craig Conroy] and management and ownership, so I know what’s going on,” he said after the team skated on Wednesday at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay ahead of their game Thursday against the Lightning.

“But I’m not going to share it here…we all know what’s happening, what’s going on, what’s expected. We’ll focus on the game tomorrow and then the [deadline] day is here, then after that, it’ll be good. After that, we’ll know who’s going to be here the rest of the year and we can just focus on that. But it’s not an issue in the room here…there’s things that might happen, but we’re all pros and enjoying being here.”

The team added an extra body by claiming defenceman Joel Hanley, an undrafted 32-year-old who has 27 points in 182 career NHL games with the Dallas Stars, Arizona Coyotes, and Montreal Canadiens, off waivers on Tuesday. He’s an option for this road trip, which includes games against the Panthers and Hurricanes. Hanley skated with Dennis Gilbert in his first practice as a Flame.

“He moves really well,” head coach Ryan Huska said. “He’s a competitive guy and he was one of those guys in Dallas that was the ultimate team player, and I think the traits he will bring to the table will really be good for our team.”

Hanley will be a welcome addition for a group that’s seen plenty of off-ice drama and roster turnover. Stars captain Jamie Benn, goalie Jake Oettinger, and others publicly thanked him after the news was official. 

“I got a text from one of their players saying he is one of the best guys,” Huska said.

Hanley is excited about the opportunity at Calgary. 

The Flames recently dealt veteran blueliner Chris Tanev to Dallas, and with the departure of Hanifin, there will be minutes and opportunity.

“A whirlwind of emotions and everything,” Hanley said. “I was with my wife and kids [when I got the news]. We’re just super excited for this new opportunity…when you’re in limbo, the unknown is kind of scary, but when we got the call and it said we were coming to Calgary, it was just a dream come true.”

Hanley is also looking to add to the Flames’ culture.

“A lot of my career has been as a seventh defenceman,” he said. “Being a good teammate just means coming to the rink, a smile on your face – whether you’re playing or not, just working hard.”

While the Flames are expected to sell, Tampa Bay has added players at the deadline in recent years, acquiring the likes of current Flame Blake Coleman, Tanner Jeannot, Brandon Hagel and Nick Paul.

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper spoke Wednesday about how the organization handles the noise of trade season. 

“If we were in the business of working the trade deadline, I’d have a different title under my name,” he said with a smile. “In our organization anyways, there’s a lot of trust, a lot of communication between coaches and management…We’ve always been in a position where we usually added guys and haven’t really taken away.”

He also mentioned how complicated trades are in today’s NHL.

“It’s different nowadays, especially with everybody stuck against the cap and it feels like every move now, there has to be multiple teams involved to make the trade happen,” he said. 

“It’s not like the old days, where it felt like it was a nice one-for-one, two-for-two deal. It’s so much more complicated and so many more teams now, they’re kind of handcuffed in what they can do. …Deals are hard to get done and I think when you start focusing on outside your team, you’re probably going to run into some problems.”