Calgary Flames Off-Season Plans

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Calgary Flames Off-Season
CALGARY, CANADA - FEBRUARY 27: General manager Brad Treliving of the Calgary Flames addresses the media before the trade deadline prior to the team’s NHL game against the Ottawa Senators at the Scotiabank Saddledome on February 27, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Brad Treliving

The definition of insanity is loosely put as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. Now I’m not saying what the Calgary Flames are doing is insane, but they do need to take a good long look at what they have (or don’t) and go from there.

In many ways the 2016-17 Calgary Flames season was an improvement on the previous year. The team started slow but ended the year on a 21-9-1 tear to earn the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference. The playoff run however wasn’t as fun as the last 31 games. The Flames bowed out in the first round after being swept by the Anaheim Ducks. While they were in all four games against the Ducks, it became clear that this team isn’t a championship calibre team.

Calgary Flames Off-season Plans

They have a good core led by Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk, and Dougie Hamilton. All four players are still young and have plenty of growth left in them. Upfront they have a solid complementary group of players in Mikael Backlund, Troy Brouwer, and Michael Frolik. Veteran forward Kris Versteeg enjoyed a solid season with Calgary. It would be foolish to let him walk for nothing. The defence has two very capable players in captain Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie.

But what does Calgary’s management team go from here? What’s the long-term plan?

Solve The Goaltending Conundrum

Brian Elliott was supposed to be the answer to the Flames goaltending woes. Ever since Miikka Kiprusoff retired in 2013 Calgary has struggled to find a netminder to completely grab the reigns.

Karri RamoJonas HillerReto Berra, and Joni Ortio have all had a chance to be the answer in net, but ultimately failed. To say Elliott struggled early as a flame would be an understatement. In his first 23 games in Calgary his numbers were almost the opposite of what they were in St. Louis. He went 8-12-2 giving up 65 goals on 596 shots, recorded zero shutouts, and “earned” a save percentage of .891.

But all that changed after Calgary’s 5-1 loss in Montreal on January 25th. In his final 26 games of the season, Elliott went 18-6-1 with two shutouts, and a .925 SV%. He also showed an ability to make quality saves when his team needed it, making 686 of them in those games.

While that’s all well and good its his playoff performance that was truly eye opening. In four games Elliott’s numbers were abysmal. 0-3, .880 SV% and 3.89 GAA. To say the four losses rest squarely on the shoulders of Elliott is unfair, but he was brought in to a job that is yet to be completed.

Looking at the Market

The good news for the Flames is there are other options available. Ben Bishop stands atop Calgary’s wish list. After all he’s younger and better than Elliott plus he has big game experience (Team USA’s 2016 World Cup of Hockey Team and an appearance in the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals with Tampa Bay). However, Bishop’s rights were just traded to the Dallas Stars and he is expected to sign with the team. Should Bishop be officially off the market, Calgary could go after veteran Ryan Miller or Steve Mason.

They could also explore possible trade options. The Pittsburgh Penguins could move Marc-Andre Fleury prior to the NHL Expansion Draft.  The Detroit Red Wings are in the same boat with veteran Jimmy Howard. While the Washington Capitals may lose Philipp Grubauer. These could be options for Calgary as well.

Cap Constraints

As of right now the Flames have $51,175,400 committed to 13 players for the 2017-2018 season. The core players are all locked up through 2020-21 and the team will have RFA control over Sam Bennett and Tkachuk. Even if the salary cap remains relatively the same then the $13,125,000 still owed to both Gaudreau and Monahan won’t be an issue. Where they might get into some trouble is with their veterans.

Both Michael Frolik and Troy Brouwer could be a potential problem down the road for Flames.

Player Cap Hit Years Remaining Age At Contracts End
Mark Giordano $6,750,000 5 38
Troy Brouwer $4,500,000 3 34
Michael Frolik $4,300,000 3 32

 

Both Brouwer and Frolik are two potential red flags down the road. More so Brouwer because at 31 he’s begun to enter the downward part of his career. A physical forward that has a lot of miles at a large cap hit could be a problem when Calgary will need money to sign Tkachuk and Bennett.

The real concern comes with captain Mark Giordano. While Giordano is still an effective NHL defenceman, the window to trade him and still get fair value in return is closing quickly. Giordano put up his lowest point total since 2011-12 (excluding the lockout shortened 2013 season) with 39. A guy that was known as a solid offensive piece on the blueline who doesn’t score at the rate he used to, isn’t worth $6,750,000.

Finding The Right Pieces

While I’ve already touched on Calgary’s core group of players, the rest of the roster has yet to be explored. At the time of this article being written, the Flames have 12 players hitting either restricted or unrestricted free agency. Of those players, there’s only three that Calgary should seriously consider keeping. Veteran Kris Versteeg, Michael Stone, and Chad Johnson.

Versteeg enjoyed a solid year putting up 15 goals, 22 assists in 69 games, all while primarily playing as a secondary scoring option. He brings championship pedigree, having won the Stanley Cup twice with the Chicago Blackhawks (2010 & 2015). He’s also managed to fit in nicely with the Flames young core. As for Stone, he’s the perfect bottom pair defenceman that can also play further up the roster if need be. Johnson is a solid backup option to whomever Calgary brings in to be the starting goalie. The most intriguing about all three guys is it wouldn’t cost very much to bring all three back.

The long term plan for Calgary should be to continue building around the core and finding the right players to fit in with that core. What they shouldn’t do is spend big money on aging free agents like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

 

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1 COMMENT

  1. Frolik is far from a red flag. If anything he’s the exact opposite. He and Backlund are eating up the hard minutes and doing an incredible job of it.

    You mention that Frolik and Brouwer could cause issues when it comes time to pay up for Tkachuk and Bennett. However, it’s unlikely that Bennett gets much more than 2.5m or so. Stajan/Bouma are off the books next year. By the time Bennett really gets paid, both Frolik/Brouwer will be UFA’s.

    Giordano is absolutely worth 6.75 million. He provides far more than just offense. His style of play is likely one that will age well too.

    I really hope I’m reading this wrong.

    “At the time of this article being written, the Flames have 12 players hitting either restricted or unrestricted free agency. Of those players, there’s only three that Calgary should seriously consider keeping. Veteran Kris Versteeg, Michael Stone, and Chad Johnson.”

    I’m assuming you mean those are the only UNRESTRICTED free agents worth keeping. Regarding those three though, I disagree. Johnson is a solid backup, but he’s not a longterm piece. Parssons is likely in the AHL next year, and Gillies/Rittich may not have much left to prove in the AHL. Both are likely going to get some consideration for the backup position. Versteeg is reliable for 30-40 points, but chances are he won’t stick around for a one year, almost league minimum deal. On top of that, it means one less spot available for a young guy to fit into. Calgary cannot afford guys like that for the bottom 6. Save that cap, use it on a more substantial piece.

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