Why Flames felt Tanev trade with Stars ‘was the right deal for us’

Jeff Marek breaks down the details of the Flames trade which saw the Stars land Chris Tanev, why Dallas may not be done dealing, some contract discussions between Elias Pettersson and the Canucks, and who the Oilers have their eye on.

CALGARY — Praised for his patience throughout his early tenure as a GM, Craig Conroy decided he had waited long enough.

Despite not wanting to overshadow Miikka Kiprusoff’s upcoming jersey retirement, he felt the risk of injury, combined with the package presented by Dallas, made the decision clear:

It was finally time to trade Chris Tanev.

“When is the right time is hard to tell, but even with nine days to go we felt this was the right deal for us,” Conroy said on the phone after sending one of the team’s most beloved defenders to the Stars in a three-team swap Wednesday night.

“You’re always worried for injuries.

“Anything can happen, and we never once considered sitting him out. I’m sure people questioned why, but he wouldn’t want it any other way, and it would’ve sent the wrong message to the team.”

More on messaging in a bit.

What people really want to know is why the team chose not to hold out any longer for the first-rounder some figured the highly-coveted 34-year-old might command as part of a bidding war for the proven warrior.

The starting point for any Tanev swap was always a second-rounder, but it was the defensive prospect the Flames acquired in the deal that put it over the top.

In exchange for sending the pending UFA to Dallas, as well as paying half his $4.5 million salary, the Flames received 20-year-old defenceman Artem Grushnikov, a second-round pick and a conditional third-rounder in 2026, payable only if the Stars make it to this year’s final.

A six-foot-two, 194-pound left-shot defenceman who plays a similar defensive game to Tanev’s, Grushnikov is a physical, Russian-born prospect who has remained in North America since his draft year over uncertainties surrounding whether he would be drafted due to the war in Ukraine.

“I know everyone likes the idea of a first-round pick, but it’s also about looking to see what we can add to the group, and then add a pick and maybe two,” said Conroy.

“When you get a young player you like, that’s what important.

“Obviously with a player like Chris there were a ton of teams interested, but as part of the process I went back numerous times to see if there was wiggle room, and for a lot of teams there wasn’t.”

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With Conroy holding two of the biggest trading chips in this year’s deadline derby — Tanev and Noah Hanifin — the debate around town will revolve around whether holding out longer might have prompted someone to up the ante.

We will never know, as the allure of Grushnikov seemed to be the difference-maker.

Drafted by the Stars in the second round in 2021, Grushnikov’s paltry offensive stats open Conroy up to the inevitable barrage of criticism from local armchair GMs who’ve never seen the stay-at-home defenceman play.

They’ll get that chance soon as he’ll join the Wranglers immediately and will undoubtedly see time with the big club by season’s end.

“He’s having a good season and the numbers are deceiving,” said Conroy of the blue liner with one goal and four assists in 44 games with the AHL’s Texas Stars.

“He kills penalties, good stick, great skater, makes simple puck plays — he knows what he is.

“From all the stuff we have in terms of background checks he’s a quality person and he’ll do whatever it takes to be in the NHL one day.

“When he was younger he was driving taxis (in Russia) to make extra money for his family, that says a lot.

“His English is excellent, and he’s excited to be coming, and for the opportunity.”

He’s no Chris Tanev.

May never be.

But anyone who thought this trade was about the immediate future was ill-informed.

This team has made it clear it is retooling, and doing so with an emphasis on a youth movement that has served the current roster well as it has surged of late to remain in an unlikely playoff chase.

The kids have played a big role in that.

“Everyone understands the business of hockey and they do too,” said Conroy when asked how the move will be received by his team.

“Everyone is going to miss Chris, nobody more than myself.

“But the guys down there are professional and they believe in each other and I expect them to keep going.

“They’re playing amazing and that’s all I can ask. I’m extremely proud. Every game I watch they give everything they have and that’s all I ask.”

Conroy has communicated throughout the process with Tanev, who fully understood the move and knew for some time a swap was coming.

Much like Elias Lindholm, teams interested in Tanev didn’t ask to speak to the defenceman’s agent with inquiries about the possibility of signing him to an extension.

They all wanted one of the league’s most dependable and selfless defenders for a playoff run.

“He’s always been so professional, and he was good, he understood,” said Conroy.

“Chris knows how I feel about him. I wished him all the best.”

The New Jersey Devils were also part of the swap, sending goalie prospect Cole Brady first to Calgary for Tanev, before retaining 25 per cent of Tanev’s salary and sending him to Dallas. The Flames also retained 50 per cent of Tanev’s salary in the deal, the Stars acquired Brady from Calgary and the Devils received a fourth-round pick from the Stars.

With the trade deadline set for March 8, now we wait to see when Conroy will trade Hanifin.

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