Carolina connection key trigger in Flames’ reset

The 2017-18 season went south for the Flames, so the Flames looked south for the solution.

The answer, apparently, was in Carolina.

After finishing sixth in the Pacific Division and out of the playoffs, Glen Gulutzan was out as head coach after two seasons, replaced by former Hurricanes coach Bill Peters.

The search didn’t stop there, as the Flames and Hurricanes then orchestrated the biggest trade of the off-season: Dougie Hamilton, Michael Ferland and prospect Adam Fox to Carolina for Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm.

It’s not so much a rebuild as it is a reset.

With Johnny Gaudreau (24G-60A-84 Pts) knocking on the door of the NHL’s top tier, Sean Monahan (31-33-64) not far behind and a defence anchored by Mark Giordano (13-25-38), the Flames have the nucleus of a contender.

Adding Lindholm (16-28-44) and free-agent James Neal (25-19-44) to the mix gives the Flames options for a top line that can compete with most in the league.

As good as Hamilton is, it wasn’t working in Calgary. In Hanifin, the fifth overall pick of the 2015 draft, the Flames get a defenceman with tremendous upside. That was clearly the thinking in quickly signing him to a six-year deal with an annual average value of $4.95 million US. If Hanifin develops the way the Flames hope, he will be a bargain at that price.

In net, Mike Smith (.916 SV%., 2.65 GAA) has proven the reliable goaltender the Flames wanted when they acquired the 36-year-old from Arizona in 2017.

Names and numbers:

2017-2018 record: 37-35-10 (84 points), 5th in Pacific Division, missed playoffs

New faces: Coach Bill Peters, F James Neal, F Elias Lindholm, F Derek Ryan, D Noah Hanifin,

Key forwards: James Neal, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk

Key defencemen: Mark Giordano, Noah Hanifin, T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic

No. 1 goaltender: Mike Smith