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31 in 31

Inside look at Calgary Flames

Will rely on young core to generate offense, take aim at Stanley Cup

by Aaron Vickers / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

31 in 31: Calgary Flames

31 in 31: Calgary Flames 2019-20 season preview

NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen and NHL Network's Mike Johnson discuss the biggest questions facing the Calgary Flames for the 2019-20 season

  • 06:40 •

NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the Calgary Flames.

The Calgary Flames are banking on further internal growth to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2008-09.

The Flames made several minor moves this offseason, but their roster will closely resemble the one that finished first in the Western Conference last season.

 

[Flames 31 IN 31: 3 Questions | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]

 

"What we've tried to do a little bit this summer and even going into last year was the introduction of a lot of young players over the last year," general manager Brad Treliving said. "We think we've got some good young players here. A lot of them got their feet wet last year, and we're looking for them to continue to grow."

The Flames signed goalie Cam Talbot to a one-year contract July 1 to replace Mike Smith, who left on a one-year contract with Edmonton Oilers, and acquired forward Milan Lucic and a conditional third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in a trade with the Oilers for forward James Neal on July 19.

Treliving said he is pleased with how Calgary's young group has developed even though the Flames lost to the Colorado Avalanche in five games in the 2019 Western Conference First Round.

"There's young players that we feel still have room to grow," he said. "The bulk of our team is still a fairly young group. We want to give them the opportunity to continue to grab and grow their role."

Johnny Gaudreau, who turns 26 on Aug. 13, led the Flames and was tied for seventh in the NHL with a career-high 99 points (36 goals, 63 assists) in 82 games last season. Sean Monahan, 24, set an NHL career high with 82 points (34 goals, 48 assists) in 78 games, as did Elias Lindholm, 24, who had 78 points (27 goals, 51 assists) in 81 games.

Matthew Tkachuk established an NHL career high with 77 points (34 goals, 43 assists) in 80 games, but the 21-year-old forward remains a restricted free agent. Treliving said Aug. 2 he expects to have Tkachuk signed by the start of training camp in September.

Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: Gaudreau

"You look at these guys and you feel like they've been around forever, but they're still really young and have produced so well at such a young age," Calgary captain Mark Giordano said. "Selfishly for me, it's looking good and I want obviously to take that next step, which I think we can. All our young guys have been in the League long enough that they understand what it takes to win now."

The Flames' defensemen will feature Giordano, 35, who became the fourth player age 35 or older to win the Norris Trophy after he had an NHL career-high 74 points (17 goals, 57 assists) in 78 games last season, and Noah Hanifin, a 22-year-old who has 319 games of NHL experience. They could get a boost with continued improvement from three young, inexperienced players. Rasmus Andersson, 22, emerged as a potential top-four defenseman in 79 NHL games last season. Oliver Kylington, 22, played 38 games as a rookie in 2018-19. Juuso Valimaki, 20, played 24 games with the Flames last season, his first in professional hockey, and is Calgary's top defenseman prospect.

"There's a ton of upside on our blue line," Giordano said, "and I think we have a good mix on our blue line with me, [T.J. Brodie] guys like [Travis Hamonic ] that can provide some veteran stability, but the three young guys just have so much upside. They all have that quality of poise and they're calm under pressure."

The defense will support goalie David Rittich, who avoided a salary arbitration hearing by signing a two-year, $5.5 million contract (average annual value of $2.75 million) on July 27, and Talbot.

Rittich had a breakout season in 2018-19, going 27-9-5 with a 2.61 goals-against-average, a .911 save percentage and one shutout in 45 games (42 starts). Talbot is hoping to bounce back from a disappointing season; he was 11-17-3 with a 3.40 GAA, an .892 save percentage and one shutout in 35 games (32 starts) with the Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers.

"You put all the ingredients together, we're confident that they can give us goaltending to help us win," Treliving said. "It's like everything else in the game. We'll see how everything goes."

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