Despite love for Flames, Tanev believes Stars have ‘best opportunity to win’

Calgary Flames' Craig Conroy joins Jeff Marek to explain why he didn't wait until the trade deadline day to ship Chris Tanev to the Dallas Stars.

CALGARY — For someone who plays with as much heart as Chris Tanev, you can imagine how emotional a time this is.

But, this is what he wanted.

No, he didn’t want to have to make the uncomfortable trip to the Saddledome to pick up his gear and say goodbye to the trainers, the players and the Calgary Flames staff who’ve been like family the last three-and-a-half years.

No, he didn’t want to put his wife and young child through the packing and relocation process they started Thursday.   

And no, he didn’t want to leave a gaping hole on the team he’s given his blood, sweat and teeth to as part of one of the league’s best shut-down pairings. 

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But ultimately, he knew it had to be done so he could chase his dream.

“We had brief contract talks in training camp and then basically a couple weeks ago I sat down with Connie (Flames general manager Craig Conroy) and said, ‘I want to try to win — this could be my best chance to do it,” said Tanev on the phone.

“He was super understanding and would only trade me to a team where they had the potential to win, and I appreciate that.

“As hard as it was, I felt it was the best opportunity to win a Stanley Cup, which has been my ultimate goal my whole career.”

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Being traded to Dallas Wednesday night for a second-round pick, defensive prospect Artem Grushnikov and a conditional third rounder gives him a chance to join a team that may now have the deepest blue line in hockey.

With every phone call he receives from Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski and other new teammates, he gets more and more excited about what lies ahead.

But in between those calls are the harder conversations with Flames teammates who have also been rocked by the reality they knew was coming.

“I really do love these guys,” said Tanev, bracing for the flood of emotions sure to come as he heads down to the rink one last time as a Flame this afternoon.

“I appreciate everything about this organization from Connie to Husk (Ryan Huska) to the trainers and the players, to Murray (Edwards) and the owners. 

“They’ve supported me through everything.

“I built a strong relationship with a bunch of them, so it will definitely have some emotions.”

No matter how much he braced himself for news of his first trade, he admits he wasn’t prepared for the reality of it to unfold.

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“Even though you know it’s going to come, when it happens you’re still shocked – it’s a weird feeling,” said the highly-respected 34-year-old who is awaiting his work visa and may have to remain in Calgary a few more days.

“That said, I’m extremely excited to join Dallas and get to know the group. 

“They have a hell of a coach and I think they have a ton of depth and skill, mixed with a great group of veteran leaders. Seems first class.

“Once I get settled in, I’ll be really excited to go help this team however I can.”

Despite a couple of injury scares, which included a legendary face block, Tanev has had another stellar season of world-class defensive hockey, remaining an analytical darling alongside Noah Hanifin, who will also be traded before the Mar. 8 deadline.

He has done so despite five months of chatter surrounding his future, which the low-key Toronto native admits was an adjustment.

“I don’t know why everyone was talking about me so much, but I feel like I’ve been the face of that trade talk all year,” he said.

“It was harder earlier in the year but lately we’ve been playing well… and then the trade happens.”

He didn’t hesitate when asked for his biggest takeaway from his time in Alberta. 

“For me it’s the people of Calgary,” said the selfless fan favourite.

“The fans, right from Day 1 they welcomed me with open arms and treated my family so well.

“I really say this honestly, the people in this city are so first class.

“The nicest people you can imagine.”

“We have a lot of close friends in the city we met outside of hockey, which is important because you need to have that to get away from the game.”

Asked if he would consider re-signing with the Flames in the summer, he was diplomatic.

“I want to jump in with two feet in Dallas right now and see where it goes, and if things play out where I am a free agent July 1, I will have an open mind for sure and would definitely consider coming back.”

That’s not happening, but fans of Calgary’s retooling club will appreciate the sentiment. 

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Perhaps no one in the room will be harder to say goodbye to than goalie Jacob Markstrom, whose affinity for his shot-blocking teammate runs so deep he had Tanev’s snaggle-toothed jaw depicted on his mask.

“We sort of talked a bit last night and I played ten years with him so it will definitely be emotional,” he said.

“He’s obviously one of the guys I built a special relationship with over two teams and know what an incredible guy and player he is.

“This is the stuff that makes it tough.”

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