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Weegar: Flames need players who 'want to be here'

Gerry Thomas / National Hockey League / Getty

NHL training camps open in less than a month, but several teams, including the Calgary Flames, still have multiple pressing offseason questions that need answers.

The Flames have several key players entering contract years, including Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev, and Nikita Zadorov.

Reports indicate that Lindholm and Hanifin, in particular, aren't keen on signing extensions, which could result in the Flames trading them. But despite plenty of rumors throughout the offseason, defenseman MacKenzie Weegar - a core piece set to enter the first season of an eight-year, $50-million deal - is blocking out the noise.

"There's lots of rumors of guys not wanting to be here or guys staying. To be honest, I kind of keep my head out of it and my nose out of it. I just want guys that want to be here," Weegar said Saturday, per's Aaron Vickers. "And I think (general manager Craig Conroy) and (head coach Ryan Huska) are on the same page."

Conroy and Huska are entering their first season in their respective roles despite long tenures with the organization. Conroy particularly has his work cut out for him with all of the upcoming unrestricted free agents. During his introductory press conference, he said that "it doesn't make sense" to enter the season with so many pending UFAs. Conroy added that he doesn't want to see key UFAs walk for free like Johnny Gaudreau did in 2022.

But aside from trading Tyler Toffoli to the New Jersey Devils early in the offseason, Conroy hasn't done anything significant to shake up the roster.

Weegar doesn't appear opposed to greater change as long as everyone is on the same page for building a winner in Calgary.

"For me, the turnover, it doesn't really affect me," Weegar said. "All that matters is the guys that want to be here and guys that want to win here in Calgary, and if you don't want to be a part of it, unfortunately, you have to move on even if they're great friends and great guys. For me, you want to win, and I think we want to win now. It starts with Craig and Husk at the helm."

He's also intent on taking a leadership role this season, saying on Sportsnet 960 that he "would love to be the next captain" of the team. The Flames haven't had a captain since Mark Giordano was taken in the 2021 expansion draft.

Calgary acquired Weegar along with Jonathan Huberdeau in the blockbuster trade that sent Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers. A versatile two-way defenseman, Weegar produced 31 points in 81 games last season. He figures to play a sizeable role for the Flames this coming season, and his part could grow further if changes are made to the back end.

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