As the Calgary Flames prepare to begin the 2023-24 season, there are still some questions as to what their opening night roster will look like. With the Darryl Sutter/Brad Treliving regime out, there is a good opportunity for some younger players in the system to crack the lineup out of training camp this fall.
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While giving these young players an opportunity is a great idea, this is a roster that, at this point, is still built to compete. If they have success in the early going of the 2023-24 campaign, the chances of being able to re-sign several of their pending unrestricted free agents (UFA) will increase dramatically.
Though they are actually above the maximum salary cap at this time, there are players on the free-agent market, who could help this team out. Guys like Patrick Kane, Tomas Tatar, Josh Bailey, and Jesse Puljujarvi are all players who could provide a positive impact but have yet to find a new home. That said, both Bailey and Puljujarvi are risks, while Kane and Tatar will simply cost too much for the Flames. Another player who is worth considering, however, is Phil Kessel.
Kessel Brings Winning Experience
For years, plenty of media believed that Kessel was a big reason why the Toronto Maple Leafs couldn’t win. He was labeled as selfish, lazy, and much more. However, he won back-to-back Stanley Cups immediately after being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins and just won his third as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights earlier this year.
That winning pedigree would be a huge addition to a roster that could emerge as a contender this season if their top players can bounce back to the level they are capable of. Kessel would join Nazem Kadri and Blake Coleman as the only players on the Flames to have won a Stanley Cup. The winning experience Kessel would bring would do wonders for not only helping the team compete this season but for helping set up the futures of younger players in the organization such as Jakob Pelletier.
Kessel Still Provides Secondary Scoring
At 35 years old, Kessel is no longer the elite offensive producer he was during his days with the Maple Leafs and Penguins. That said, he is still a very capable NHLer, one who can put up good secondary scoring and can still provide benefit to a power play. Despite averaging less than 13 minutes per game on a stacked Golden Knights team this past season, he registered 14 goals and 36 points. Those numbers could prove to be very beneficial for a Flames team that struggled to fill the back of the net last season.
Also boding well for Kessel is the fact that he would likely be given more opportunity to provide offence as the Flames aren’t as deep of a team as the Golden Knights were last season. It’s worth noting that just two seasons ago, Kessel produced 52 points despite playing on an Arizona Coyotes roster that didn’t have much talent alongside him.
Zero Concerns About Ending Ironman Streak
One concern teams may have had when thinking about signing Kessel this offseason is his all time leading iron-man streak, which currently sits at 1064 games. Two seasons ago, the Florida Panthers found themselves in a similar situation with Keith Yandle, who had the longest NHL ironman streak, at the time. Unfortunately, Yandle’s play slowed down to the point where the Panthers wanted to healthy scratch him but didn’t do so due to public backlash.
With Kessel being up there in age, there is certainly a chance he could be subjected to the press box on occasion throughout the 2023-24 season, but no team would want to do so in fear of backlash due to ending his current streak. However, Kessel himself went on record recently stating that he isn’t concerned about the streak coming to an end, and simply, just wants to be a part of an NHL roster for the upcoming season. Him coming out and saying that should have teams more at ease when it comes to signing him.
Beloved in the Dressing Room
Last, but certainly not least, when it comes to reasons why the Flames should look to add Kessel is the fact that he is beloved by his teammates. It seems anyone and everyone that has ever played with him always says what a great and funny personality he is to have in the locker room, which is much more important than often given credit for.
Considering how much negativity surrounded the Flames last year, having a fun, lighthearted guy, such as Kessel, would certainly help ease the tension among the players. Signing him to a league-minimum, one-year deal is something that general manager Craig Conroy should look into.