Flames thrilled to acquire Artem Grushnikov in Chris Tanev trade with Stars

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Artem Grushnikov is a guy the Calgary Flames wanted.

The 20-year-old defenceman was a target for Flames general manager Craig Conroy. He wasn’t just the best piece the Flames got offered as they shopped Chris Tanev around the NHL.

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So while dealing away Tanev to the Dallas Stars is a big blow for a Flames team that’s still fighting for a wildcard spot, management believes it got a player with a bright future in Calgary back in return.

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“I had the pro guys go in, the amateur guys knew him, I even had our development coach watch video on him just to kind of get a feel for him,” Conroy said Wednesday evening. “Once he was identified as a player we felt a need for, to be able to bring in a kind of defensive defenceman, a great penalty-killer …. He’s still young and developing and you’re trying to figure out where he’s going to be in a few years. But he was a guy we see getting a great opportunity moving forward, kind of in a shutdown role similar to what Chris was able to bring at some point.”

Comparing a young defenceman to Tanev is high praise. There’s little doubt the Stars will be happy with the player they’re getting. He’s a fearless, hard-nosed, defensively responsible blueliner who makes players around him better.

In return for his services, the Flames got Grushnikov, a second-round draft pick in 2024 and a conditional third-rounder in 2026 that only comes their way if the Stars make the Stanley Cup final this year. They’re also retaining 50% of what remains on Tanev’s $4.5-million salary.

The picks will help the Flames build their future, but Grushnikov was no tossed-in afterthought.

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The young left-hander, currently a rookie in the AHL, was midway through his pre-game routine Wednesday when he learned that he’d been traded to Calgary.

“I was a little surprised, like shocked,” Grushnikov said. “But you know, I’m so excited to be part of Calgary. I can’t wait to come into town and start work in Calgary’s system.

“When I talked with (Conroy), I hear excitement from him. He was excited. And I’m so excited for it. I’m so proud right now to be part of Calgary.”

The feeling is mutual.

Not about his stats

Selected in the second round, 48th overall, by the Stars in the 2021 NHL Draft, Grushnikov was a player that Flames’ management had identified as someone they wanted in the organization.

The fact that he’s 20 years old means he’s closer to being able to make an NHL impact than what they might have gotten with another pick.

“You get a draft pick in there, we have draft picks, and they’re going to take a little bit longer,” Conroy said. “To get a 20-year-old who is playing in the American Hockey League right now and having a very good year. I know people might look at the numbers but it’s not about that for him.

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“It’s about what he does defensively, on the penalty-kill. I think if you asked (Stars GM) Jim Nill, it wasn’t easy for Jim Nill to give him up. It’s a guy we targeted. The pro scouts liked him, obviously we all watched him, management, and we’re excited to get him into the fold.”

It’s certainly true that Grushnikov’s numbers aren’t going to blow anyone away. He’s scored a goal and added four assists for the Stars’ AHL affiliate this season and put up 12 and 17 points in his two seasons in the OHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs.

The 6-foot-2, 194-lb. rearguard was a part of some very good Bulldogs teams, though, including one that lost in the 2022 Memorial Cup final, so he’s played in some very big, high-pressure games.

And again, his age does matter, as the Flames don’t seem to be looking to tear their team down to the studs and launch a lengthy rebuild.

When they traded Tyler Toffoli to the New Jersey Devils, they got Yegor Sharangovich in return. When the shipped Elias Lindholm to the Vancouver Canucks, they got back Andrei Kuzmenko.Both of those players are in their 20s, so the Flames are getting younger without trying to tank for the next couple of years and having a 20-year-old defencemen who is already a couple years into his development as a pro fits what they’re trying to do.

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Could Grushnikov even play this season?

With Tanev gone, the Flames might be a little light on NHL-ready blueliners, but they won’t rush their newest player.

“I don’t want to put those expectations on him,” Conroy said. “We just want to get him in and see. I never want to say never, but we just want to make sure we don’t rush him and we do what’s right for his development.”

As for the draft picks, well, the Flames are well-positioned to restock their cupboard of prospects as they now have five picks in the first three rounds this summer. It’s quite possible they’ll have more, too, assuming Noah Hanifin is dealt before the March 8 trade deadline.

“When you look at second-round picks, with (Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington), guys we drafted, I’ve been telling the scouts all year, we’re going to have more picks so we have to dial in and get ready,” Conroy said. “The other thing is with picks, you can make other trades. There might be something to get a younger player in another trade and use these picks. It’s not just the picks, there’s lots of different things you can do with them.”

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