As the NHL moves ahead with its Return to Play plan, Last Word on Hockey is taking a look toward the offseason. In terms of building a franchise, the offseason is the most crucial time of the year for front offices. However, due to COVID-19, the short-term future of how this operates has seen sweeping changes. How teams respond to a multitude of changes this fall remains to be seen. This series attempts to examine what choices teams may have to make.
The fourth and final segment of Offseason Primers sticks to the Western Conference, featuring the Pacific Division. Today, the Calgary Flames will go under the microscope.
Calgary Flames Offseason Primer
Pending Free Agents
The Flames, under the watchful eye of general manager Brad Treliving, might look like a very different team this offseason. With a high amount of NHL roster players on expiring contracts, Treliving will have the opportunity for a huge roster refresh in the fall. While their core pieces are locked up, there is still plenty of skill that’s up for grabs. Calgary’s veteran unrestricted free agents are T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Cam Talbot, Derek Forbort, Erik Gustafsson, Tobias Rieder, Zac Rinaldo, Michael Stone, Austin Czarnik, Alan Quine, Buddy Robinson, and Byron Froese. Jon Gillies, Ryan Lomberg, and Rinat Valiev are Group Six UFAs.
Salary Cap Outlook
Luckily for Calgary, the Flames also have a decent chunk of change to throw around this offseason. Cap space is scarce for playoff teams, and Calgary is lucky to have some. The team’s CapFriendly page says that they’ll have $16.91 million in cap space this offseason. It allows Treliving to really be flexible with cash, and create a new-look roster for the Flames next year.
Major Likely Departures
The Flames acquired the power-play specialist from the Chicago Blackhawks at this year’s trade deadline. The Swedish d-man had an explosive 2018-19 season, tallying 17 goals and 60 points in 79 games. His totals dropped way off again this past season, though, tallying only 29 points in 66 games.
While any NHL team could still benefit from Gustafsson’s power-play ability, Calgary hasn’t seemed to be a great fit. He wasn’t receiving nearly as much time on ice per game as he was in Chicago, and his offence suffered in Calgary as a result. Gustafsson’s 2018-19 campaign is likely driving up his market value as well, making it a potentially poor long-term investment for the Flames. Treliving and his crew will likely let Gustafsson walk.
The 10-year veteran has never known anything other than a Flames jersey at the NHL level. However, at age 30, Brodie will likely be looking for a new home. After six straight seasons of 30 or more points, Brodie’s totals fell to only four goals and 19 points this season. Despite injury and a shortened season, though, Brodie still performed admirably and can play top-four minutes in today’s NHL.
With the plethora of young defencemen in Calgary’s system, the Flames won’t want to invest in Brodie long-term. Names like Rasmus Andersson will soon be ready to steal his spot on the team’s top defence pairing.
Hamonic projects to be the third Flames defenceman to depart the team via free agency this offseason. Like Brodie, the 29-year-old Hamonic has been in the NHL for 10 years now. The Manitoba native is an absolute workhorse on the back end, consistently logging over 20 minutes of usage a night.
Hamonic will likely get a fat check on the open market due to his defensive reliability and leadership skills in the locker room. However, as Calgary transitions to a younger roster, Hamonic no longer has a clear fit with the team.
While the Flames would certainly like to have Talbot back on their team considering his recent playoff performance, a return to Calgary is not in the cards. The Flames still got solid goaltending this year out of David Rittich, who’s also the younger of the two and is under contract for next season. Talbot also wishes to be a starting netminder once again in the league, something that won’t be afforded to him in Calgary given Rittich’s performance.
Talbot will likely look elsewhere for a continued NHL opportunity. His performance so far suggests he deserves it.
This year was one to forget for the 28-year-old defenceman. Injuries limited him to only 20 NHL games, in which he only tallied one assist. He made little impact with the Flames after a trade deadline deal with the Los Angeles Kings. Similarl to Hamonic, his spot will likely be filled down the road by a young Calgary defenceman (see: Juuso Valimaki). There’s not a whole lot of sense in retaining Forbort for Treliving. He’ll hit the open market.
Major Likely Re-Signings
Calgary’s sixth-round pick in 2015 had a breakout season to remember. Mangiapane showed this year that he can be a long-term fixture among the team’s top-nine forwards. With 17 goals and 32 points in 68 games, Mangiapane helped drive his line and was a takeaway machine this year. He’ll be an important player for years to come in Calgary, and they’ll retain the pending restricted free agent.
Evolving-Hockey’s contract projection tool (subscription required) predicts a four-year deal for Mangiapane. It’s valued at $3.04 million per season, bringing Calgary’s cap room down to $13.87 million per year.
When the former first-round pick in 2012 was beginning to look like a bust, Jankowski finally made an NHL impact in the 2017-18 season. Jankowski continued his development in 2018-19, posting 32 points in 79 games en route to being a crucial bottom-six forward for the Flames.
All that evaporated this year, however, when Jankowski reverted back to some extremely poor play. With only five goals and seven points in 56 games, Jankowski was part of the reason the Flames relinquished their spot at the top of the Pacific Division. It’s a concerning trend, but Jankowski’s success in the past is enough for Calgary to hang onto him at least one more time. Evolving-Hockey’s tool projects a one-year ‘prove-it’ extension for $1.58 million, reducing Calgary’s cap room to $12.29 million.
Potential Free Agent Additions
With a boatload of money to play with, the Flames will be one of the few major players in free agency this year. Joining the Colorado Avalanche on the exclusive list of playoff teams on this list makes it even more special.
Considering all their pending free agents on defence, it’s reasonable that Calgary could make a big splash in that regard. If the St. Louis Blues can’t figure out a way to retain Alex Pietrangelo, Calgary could throw a boatload of cash at him. It would give their blueline a longer-term anchor than the ageing Mark Giordano, and help build a defensive dynasty in Calgary.
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