Flames general manager Conroy just traded away one of his favorites. What does that tell us?

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Two years ago, after Elias Lindholm finished second in the Selke Trophy voting, Calgary Flames executive Craig Conroy was (politely) berating this particular reporter because he believed the writers had voted for the wrong guy .

With all due respect to Patrice Bergeron, he insisted that Lindholm was the best defensive forward in the NHL that season. He has not changed that position.

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The point is that Conroy, a trusted center during his playing career and now general manager of the Saddledome, is one of Lindholm’s biggest fans. That did not prevent him from negotiating it on Wednesday.

If you’re looking for evidence that Conroy is serious about revamping the Flames’ roster, look no further than this latest transaction. Lindholm, who was supposed to represent the Calgary-based team this week in the 2024 NHL All-Star Game, was traded to the rival. Vancouver Canucks in exchange for a substantial haul: winger Andrei Kuzmenko, defensive prospects Hunter Brzustewicz and Joni Jurmo and a pair of draft picks, including a first-round pick this summer.

Lindholm will become an unrestricted free agent in July. Extension talks with the Flames fell through early in the season, which is why the 29-year-old center was being considered the biggest fish available ahead of the March 8 trade deadline.

That distinction can now be shared by defensive teammates Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev, who could be the next to receive a “Good luck in _______” call from Conroy. The Flames general manager will also prioritize future assets in those conversations.

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“There were numerous teams involved and a couple of days ago, Vancouver called and really activated and wanted to do something,” Conroy told Postmedia after completing Wednesday’s trade with the Canucks, which also netted him a conditional fourth-round pick. at the 2024 NHL Draft. “I reached out to all the other teams and weighed all my options, and we got to a point where we said, ‘Okay, this is the best deal for the Calgary Flames.’

“If we didn’t think it was the right deal, we would have waited. But we think it was a fair deal, a good deal for both teams.”

Make no mistake, the best player in this deal is the one headed to the West Coast.

Lindholm, however, was going to be lost. He’s reportedly looking for roughly $9 million per year on his next contract, a big hit for a guy who’s having a disappointing offensive campaign.

Andrei Kuzmenko and Matt Dumba
Then-Vancouver Canucks forward Andrei Kuzmenko and Arizona Coyotes defenseman Matt Dumba compete for the puck at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Jan. 18, 2024. Photo by ETHAN CAIRNS /THE CANADIAN PRESS

Kuzmenko is currently in a slump, but he’s an intriguing addition, a guy who shot 39 last season before settling into Rick Tocchet’s doghouse. Lately, he wasn’t even a fixture in the Canucks’ lineup, as he suffered some scratches on several occasions.

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Brzustewicz, a 19-year-old right-hander, has been racking up points on behalf of the Kitchener Rangers, leading the Ontario Hockey League with 61 assists in 47 outings so far. (“I don’t want to pressure him, but we’re excited about where his game is going,” Conroy gushed.)

For Jurmo, who still skates in Finland, the most fascinating statistic is his size. The 21-year-old weighs 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds.

“There’s no denying that I love the way Lindy plays,” Conroy said. “It’s everything I want in a center. She does all the little things that some people don’t notice and that’s what makes it special. I still think she should have won the Selke that year. I wasn’t happy with you.

“And I like the person. I cannot thank Lindy enough for everything she has done for the organization and what she has meant. I look at it and think she’s a much better version of myself, and that’s why I’ve always appreciated how she plays her and maybe never felt like she got enough credit. But with all the interest there was in Lindy, I think he shows that the rest of the league knows the type of value he has and brings to a team.”

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On Wednesday, Conroy showed he’s ready to make big moves. With his team sitting 12th in the Western Conference at 22-22-5, showed that he will not let himself be derailed by the chase for an unlikely playoff berth.

There were even some rumors that Tanev could be included in this second trade of the season between the Flames and Canucks. Don’t rule out a third. (Nikita Zadorov, to refresh your memory, was the first to leave.)

Kuzmenko, who is signed through the end of the 2024-25 campaign for an average annual value of $5.5 million, had to waive his limited no-trade clause to approve the trade to Calgary.

He gave the go-ahead after a talk with Conroy and Flames coach Ryan Huska.

“The one thing about Andrei is that I think he wants to feel loved,” Conroy said of Kuzmenko, who enters with just eight goals on his season stat sheet. “He is an offensive guy. He wants to be put in offensive situations here. He loves the power play and seems to love scoring goals.

“If we can get him on the power play and get him feeling good… It might be a little adjustment, but he has a skill set that we just didn’t have.”

What they don’t have now is a number one center.

Lindholm, without a doubt, leaves a great void. He should have crushed Conroy to send him away.

However, it does say a lot about his commitment to reshaping the Flames roster.

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