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Flames get Nikita Okhotiuk from San Jose for fifth-round pick in 2024 draft

While the Calgary Flames had a relatively quiet day on Friday making just one minor move before the NHL trade deadline, there was no lack of noise leading up to it for Craig Conroy.

Named general manager on May 23, 2023, after the Flames went from Pacific Division champion to missing the playoffs, Conroy inherited a challenging situation contractually with six prominent players a year away from free agency.

Forwards Tyler Toffoli, Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund, were three of the club’s top-four scorers last season. Defencemen Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev and Nikita Zadorov were three of the club’s top five in average ice time.

Conroy was also determined to not let the same thing happen to him that happened to his predecessor, Brad Treliving, when star Johnny Gaudreau played out the final year of his contract in 2021-22 and then signed with Columbus as a free agent, leaving Calgary with nothing.

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“It wasn’t just Gaudreau. (TJ) Brodie left, (Mark) Giordano left,” said Conroy on Friday. “But that was the most recent thing that made me think, if I can’t get things done, to regroup and move forward, we’re gonna have to get assets for people. Even if you’re in a situation where right now, we’re battling for the playoffs.”

Conroy’s first move toward delivering on that commitment was on June 27, 2023, when he traded Toffoli to New Jersey for a package that included Yegor Sharangovich.

After getting Backlund signed to a two-year extension in September, four more trades followed that: Zadorov and Lindholm to the Vancouver Canucks, Tanev to the Dallas Stars, and in the culmination of his big-ticket moves, Hanifin was dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights.

“It’s tough. All great players, all good people, and I wish them all the best,” said Conroy. “But again, I knew we had to do this for the organization and the franchise moving forward.”4

Click to play video: 'Trade rumours don’t douse Calgary Flames playoff optimism'

Trade rumours don’t douse Calgary Flames playoff optimism

Complicating extension talks early on this season was the club’s 2-7-1 slow start that put discussions on hold.

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“The players and us, we wanted to see where it was going, and see how we were going to do,” said Conroy. “As we turned the corner, we picked up conversations again, and obviously it takes two people to agree to a deal and we just couldn’t get it done.”

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Those talks continued as recently as last week with Tanev and Hanifin. “You obviously love the players, want them to stay, but definitely had a price in my mind that was fair for both sides.”

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Across the five deals, Conroy added three players expected to be in the Flames’ lineup on Saturday — when they meet the Florida Panthers — in Sharangovich, Andrei Kuzmenko, and Daniil Miromanov, three prospects, two first-round picks, and six or seven other draft picks ranging from rounds two to five, depending on how various conditions play out.

“These aren’t easy things to do. It’s been a lot of major players on our team,” said Conroy. “You talk to teams, you figure out who’s involved, first of all, who has interest, and then you go through what you can get back from each team, and what makes the most sense for you.”

Defenceman Nikita Okhotiuk has been traded to the Flames on Friday by the San Jose Sharks for a draft pick.

San Jose gets a fifth-round pick in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft in return for the 23-year-old defenceman.

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Okhotiuk has a goal and seven assists with 44 penalty minutes and a minus-22 defensive rating in 43 games with the Sharks this season.

He had three goals and eight assists in 58 career NHL games split between San Jose and the New Jersey Devils.

The six-foot-one defenceman played for the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s, where he had 10 goals and 37 assists through 148 games with a plus-72 career plus/minus in major junior.

Okhotiuk helped guide the 67’s to the 2019 OHL Finals, playing in all 18 playoff games for Ottawa.

While Conroy says you always want more in trades, teams were only prepared to give up so much.

“Everybody wants first-round picks, and lots of them, and amazing trades, and, in fantasy, you can do that stuff, and I used to do that with baseball,” Conroy said with a smile.

“But when you get to the real world, it’s very hard, and you’re trying to get as much as you can.”

Despite trade speculation, one player not moved was 34-year-old goaltender Jacob Markstrom. In the midst of an excellent season, his situation was different in that he has two years remaining on his deal.

“I’m not going to speculate on if we were moving him or if we weren’t moving him,” said Conroy. “The bottom line is these are the guys that I moved (this deadline) and the guys that are here now are part of the Calgary Flames moving forward.”

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Conroy understands how difficult this time of year can be on players.

“With Jacob, there’s a lot of people that were talking about him and that’s the thing, you wish it wasn’t because they have families, I know what it’s like, it’s very hard, it’s an uncomfortable thing,” said Conroy. “You wish you could keep it out of the media, but that’s just not the way it is today.”

Click to play video: 'Exploring the history of the Calgary Flames at the NHL Entry Draft'

Exploring the history of the Calgary Flames at the NHL Entry Draft

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