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Playing alongside the youngest player on the Calgary Flames roster seems to have brought out the best in Nazem Kadri. 

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But if the Calgary Flames are going to undergo a rebuild, Nazem Kadri apparently wants no part of it. 

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That’s according to a report from TSN’s Darren Dreger during his Insider Trading segment prior to Tuesday night’s 2-1 Flames win over the Montreal Canadiens. 

It’s not exactly a shock. Most 33-year-old NHL veterans aren’t eager to spend the twilight of their careers playing games for a team that is miles away from contention. 

It’s important to note that Dreger prefaced his tidbit about Kadri by saying the player wasn’t requesting a move or anything of the sort. 

“Kadri signed that long-term deal as a free agent with the Calgary Flames,” Dreger said. “He wants to stay in Calgary and wants to win with the Flames, but if the Flames as an organization progress to a rebuild, he wouldn’t be interested in that and I think there would be others who are in a similar situation.”  

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Kadri’s status introduces an interesting wrinkle into the question of whether the Flames should be looking to rebuild. It’s a question that has been omnipresent since at least the spring. 

Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Nazem Kadri
Montreal Canadiens forward Rafael Harvey-Pinard defends against Calgary Flames forward at Bell Centre in Montreal on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023. Photo by Minas Panagiotakis /Getty Images

With four key players — Nikita Zadorov, Chris Tanev, Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin — set to become free agents next summer, the Flames have some big decisions to make about the future of the franchise. 

Re-sign all four, and the Flames are committing to their current core. The same core that has started the season 5-8-2 and largely the same group that missed the playoffs last year.

Deal them all, and it sure looks like you’re going all-in on a rebuild. Basically, you’re tanking and trying to get the best draft position you can for a couple of years, at least. 

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For many in Calgary, it seemed like an easy decision a couple weeks ago when the Flames had lost six straight games and looked like they might be heading for a nice lottery pick anyway. If you’re going to be out of contention, why not get as young as possible and start building towards a brighter future? 

But it was never that simple. 

Guys like Kadri, Blake Coleman and Jacob Markstrom pretty much guarantee that. When they joined the Flames in free agency, they did so believing the team was a contender. They’re all in their 30s and, surely, they were made certain promises about the team at least trying to compete for a Stanley Cup.   

The likes of Jonathan Huberdau and MacKenzie Weegar are on long-term deals, too. You have to wonder whether guys like Rasmus Andersson are going to be willing to re-sign in Calgary when they become unrestricted free agents if the Flames start trading away their teammates — and their chance at contending any time soon. 

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On the same TSN segment, insider Pierre Lebrun noted that while Flames GM Craig Conroy has stayed tight-lipped about his plans since Zadorov requested a trade last week, he’d heard from teams around the NHL that the Flames were “listening on their other pending UFAs as well.” 

Rookies Zary, Pospisil step up again

Again, that’s not particularly surprising, although “listening” and “actively trying to make moves” are two entirely different things. 

The rumours and innuendo are sure to overshadow the way the Flames played on Tuesday night when they beat the Canadiens 2-1 at Bell Centre in Montreal. 

They got great performances, yet again, from rookies Connor Zary and Martin Pospisil, who are proving that going young doesn’t mean you’re giving up. Jacob Markstrom was exceptional in net. Kadri scored maybe his nicest goal in a Flames uniform. 

It was the latest in a run of largely encouraging performances. 

But conversations about the future direction of the franchise seem to be dominating the talk around the Flames these days. 

And while unsurprising, the report that Kadri doesn’t want to be part of a rebuild will only add fuel to the fire. 

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