Conroy strikes different tone as Flames' focus shifts towards adding, not subtracting

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So many times during his first year as GM of the Calgary Flames, Craig Conroy has had to speak to the media about making a subtraction to his team.

Maybe he’s acquired some young players or draft assets in return, but much of his first 12 months in charge were spent trading players on expiring contracts who had been left behind when Brad Treliving skipped town.

On Monday, it felt different.

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Conroy got sharpshooter Yegor Sharangovich to commit to a five-year extension with the Flames.

He also dipped into the free-agent market and signed — in no particular order — goaltender Devin Cooley, energy winger Ryan Lomberg, Calgary born-and-raised defenceman Jake Bean and 23 goal-scorer Anthony Mantha.

Coming only a few short days after the NHL Draft, it felt like Conroy was finally able to talk about making additions to his team instead of subtractions.

“Last year, we had all the (unrestricted free agents),” Conroy said. “There were so many UFAs that year and we’re not in that situation anymore. We are trying to build and add pieces. Even the guys we’ve signed today, if everything goes (well) and it’s a good fit and they like it here and it’s a good fit for them, who’s to say? We can do more contracts.

“We have cap room, if there’s a trade we’re going to be flexible to be able to do anything. We have some draft capital and we have some players. I don’t have a crystal ball but if there’s opportunities to make moves moving forward, we have flexibility.”

The Flames still have a long way to go before anyone is talking about them as Stanley Cup contenders. That’s a process and it takes time. Patience is needed.

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But the past couple of years have been defined almost entirely by departures. It started with Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk in 2022, and picked up speed last summer and continued through last season. Big names like Tyler Toffoli, Elias Lindholm, Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov and Noah Hanifin were all moved. Trading away Andrew Mangiapane and Jacob Markstrom over the past couple weeks emphasized the exodus.

Now, though, they’re back in the building stage.

None of the guys who were signed on the first day of free agency are necessarily going to be expected to light the world on fire, but they’ve all got NHL experience and can play a role for a team whose season may be defined by the way young players take advantage of the opportunities management intends on providing them.

“You look at a team like Nashville and they brought in a tonne of guys today,” Conroy said. “Unfortunately we’re not there next year, but we do want to see our young guys.”

Whether it’s a retool or a rebuild, the Flames are in the early stages of trying to construct a winner a few years from now.

It’s a process, but on Monday, it felt like they’d turned a corner. They’re through the tear-down. Now, it’s all about laying the foundations and putting the right people in place to start moving back towards contention — however long that takes.

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“You want to build towards something, you want to build towards where you’re a consistent playoff team and then when you get in the playoffs continue to build and the ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup,” Conroy said. “When? You try to put a little bit of a time frame but it’s the NHL, it’s tough … you’re just trying to do the right things to build your team the way we’ve envisioned it.”

ICE CHIPS

The Flames couldn’t come to terms on a new deal with defenceman Oliver Kylington, and he became an unrestricted free agent on Monday. Conroy said the door to Kylington returning to Calgary “has probably closed a little bit” but didn’t rule it out completely. He said there was a gap between the Flames and Kylington in terms of the length of a new contract … The Flames don’t seem to be rushing towards getting winger Andrei Kuzmenko re-signed this summer. Acquired in the deal that sent Lindholm to the Vancouver Canucks, the Flames want to get a longer look at the sniper this fall before making any decisions on his future. His contract expires after next season … The NHL announced every team’s home opener on Monday and the Flames will kick off their Saddledome schedule on Oct. 12 against the Philadelphia Flyers. They’ll also play in Vancouver a few nights earlier for the Canucks’ home opener on Oct. 9 … The Flames also signed three players on two-way contracts on Monday. Jonathan Aspirot re-signed after spending all of last year with the Calgary Wranglers, while Justin Kirkland is joining the organization. He was mostly with the Tucson Roadrunners in the AHL last year but did play two games with the Arizona Coyotes and previously spent three seasons with the Flames’ previous AHL affiliate, the Stockton Heat. They also added right-winger Martin Frk on a one-year deal. He’s played 124 games in the NHL. The 30-year-old spent this past season in the Swiss League.

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