The Calgary Flames have been by far the most off-season event in the NHL.
In the span of nine days in July, the Flames lost two star wingers who combined 82 goals and 219 points last season.
Johnny Goudreau shocked the league when he signed a seven-year, $68.25 million contract with Columbus Blue Jackets. Matthew Tkachuk quickly followed his fellow MVP out of town. After Tkachuk informs The Flames that he will not re-sign with them, they trade him for the Florida Panthers in the movie Midsummer.
Flames general manager Brad Trilleving was bold in replacing Gaudreau and Tkachuk, adding 115-point playmaker Jonathan Huberdeau and new Stanley Cup champion Nazim Kadri to the front group.
Defenseman MacKenzie Weegar has also been brought into the fold. Over the past few years, Weegar, 28, has been one of the league’s best kept secrets, starring as the top pair of Panthers.
If Weegar maintains his high level of play at Calgary, he could quickly become the No. 1 defensive man in the Flames.
Weegar is skilled at both ends of the ice. Defensively, his best attribute is his energetic wand. Last season he finished second in total blocked passes per game out of 163 defenders who played at least 1,000 minutes. The only defender to finish the race ahead of Wiggard in that category was Carolina’s Jacob Slavin, widely considered the best defensive back in the league.
Meanwhile, Weegar’s offensive game was fueled by his ability to thrust a snowball and make opponents miss while doing so. These skills should enhance the already powerful flame burst attack. No qualified defense outperformed defenders one-on-one at a rate higher last season than Wiggard, who did so 62.7 percent of the time. Weegar’s 160 attempts were tied for Dicks for seventh place in this position.
It’s important to note that Weegar’s success with the Panthers wasn’t just the product of playing with Aaron Ekblad.
When Eckblad fractured his left leg in March 2021, for example, the Panthers paired Weegar with Gustav Forsling for the rest of the regular season. They controlled 57.1 percent of projected targets in nearly 300 minutes of icy time, compared with 62.4 percent when Wiggard and Eckblad were together before the injury.
In Ekblad’s absence, Wieghar led the Panthers with a 21:57 icy average time and earned 17 points in 19 games.
Flames coach Darryl Sutter will have plenty of options when it comes to forming defensive pairs this season.
If Sutter chooses to keep Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Anderson together, he could play and be jealous of Oliver Killington or Chris Tanev. It helps that the right-handed Weegar feels comfortable playing on the other side, which he did when he partnered with Ekblad.
Weegar is entering the final year of the $3.25 million contract. Sportsnet insider Elliot Friedman said on a recent episode of 32 ideas podcast that Weegar’s next deal could be similar to the eight-year, $52 million Boston Bruins defenseman Hampus Lindholm signed in March.
The Flames have already taken an interest in Huberdeau’s contract, and it would be wise to do the same with Weegar.
“We’re trying to get something done,” Wigar told reporters at a charity golf tournament organized by Flames last week. “Hopefully we can get something done soon.”
Data via Sportlogiq.