Why decision on Chris Tanev trade will be complicated for Flames

Calgary Flames defenseman Chris Tanev plays against the Nashville Predators during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (George Walker IV/AP)

CALGARY – If Rasmus Andersson was GM of the Calgary Flames, the Chris Tanev trade talk would come to a swift end.

“If there’s anyone who should be untouchable it’s Chris Tanev, in my opinion,” the Flames rearguard told Sportsnet when asked about the endless speculation swirling around his Flames teammate.  

“He’s the best.

“You guys have no clue.  You guys see 50% of it on the ice.

“Off the ice he’s just a great human being, he does everything for his teammates.”

It’s a sentiment shared around the room, and certainly worth noting as the organization takes the next month or two to chart out its course of action on him and other pending UFAs. 

Tanev is a cornerstone of one of the league’s better blue line brigades.

In the aftermath of his latest face block, two other teammates deemed him the best teammate they’ve ever had.

Selfless, reliable and as dedicated to winning as anyone on the roster, there simply aren’t many better role models for young players to play alongside.

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It has to be agonizing for general manager Craig Conroy to contemplate removing such a steadying influence from the room via trade.

Even if the team ends up trading Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin for significant returns, ownership and Conroy aren’t keen on tanking, making the proper term for their likely approach a retool.

If the goal is to remain somewhat competitive while building on the fly, who better to keep around to teach an influx of youngsters how to conduct themselves on and off the ice than the 33-year-old model of consistency and professionalism?

In a quiet, one-on-one talk, the penalty-killing guru said he’d like to stay if the team is committed to winning.   

“I want to win here,” said Tanev, who is in his fourth season in Calgary.

“I’ve said I would stay.

“It is sort of all going to depend on which way the organization wants to go.

“Me and Connie have a great relationship, so it’s easy to work with him in that regard.

“I want to have a chance to win.”

Tanev revealed he had some contract talks with the Flames during training camp, but all such talk has been put on hold by the organization as it takes stock through Christmas.

In the meantime, Tanev will continue to be prime trade fodder for fans and the media, who recognize what a perfect fit he’d be for his hometown Leafs given their injuries and defensive deficiencies. There’s also his connection with Brad Treliving, who brought him to Calgary.

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The newfound LTIR money the Leafs have due to John Klingberg’s season-ending hip surgery, is just the latest development causing his phone to blow up.

“Every day there’s something new,” shrugged the unflappable veteran of the speculation causing friends and family back home to touch base.

“There was a little bit in Vancouver (when he was a UFA in 2020) but the final year of my contract we were good and in a playoff spot, so it wasn’t like this, no.

“When we win games and are playing well it sort of dies down, but two weeks ago it was insane.

“It’s just something you have to learn to deal with.”

At his age, it’s understandable the Flames are considering cashing in on the type of defensive warrior every team in the league would love to add for the playoffs.

The haul for him would be significant, and if the price is right the Flames may not be able to resist the temptation of jumping at a deal that can help reshape the future.  

Quite frankly, it’s the most likely outcome. 

No one is untouchable, as Wayne Gretzky proved.

His 10-team no trade list and $4.5 million salary are not significant trade impediments.

But if the goal is to rebuild on the fly, and potentially even stay in a playoff hunt this year, Conroy must be giving serious consideration to trying to re-sign a team leader, who loves playing here, to a two or three-year extension, if possible.

If Tanev’s salary or term demands are egregious, the decision is made easier.

Assuming that won’t be a sticking point, Tanev’s leadership is exactly the type of asset you don’t let go of easily.

“I still learn from him every day,” said Andersson, who praised Tanev’s even-keeled demeanour.

“Even if he’s pissed off, he’s such a pro with it, you won’t know unless you talk to him afterwards.

“He’s such a good support player for Hani and always gives him such good looks in the offensive zone.

“But his defensive zone work is not just blocking shots, but making the first pass, getting out with it, he’s first out on the penalty kill and is always in the right spot.  

“I look at him on the PK and I’m like, ‘what do I need to do better?’ I just watch him.

“He’s just a hell of a teammate.”

One hell of a trading chip too, which is what makes the Flames’ decision so tricky.

“We’ve talked a bit,” said Tanev of discussions with Conroy.

“We’ll deal with that stuff as it comes along and we’ll see what direction the organization wants to go in.”

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