PHOTO CREDIT: SERGEI BELSKI-USA TODAY SPORTS
The Calgary Flames had an eventful 2016-17 season. Armed with a new head coach in Glen Gulutzan, new contracts for Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, and a pair of new goaltenders in Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson, they seemed poised for a big year. They stumbled out of the gate, boasting the league’s worst record through the first month of the season – leading many observers to write them off.
But the Flames managed to turn things around, going on a few really strong runs and adapting over time to Gulutzan’s puck possession system. They managed to make the playoffs for the second time in three seasons and while they were swept in four games by Anaheim, they turned a lot of heads for the way they went toe-to-toe with the Ducks.
This offseason, it’s up to general manager Brad Treliving to make enough tweaks that the Flames can actually beat the Ducks the next time they face them in the playoffs. The team has a few holes due to some expiring contracts, but they also have a good amount of cap space to utilize to fill them.
After the failed Troy Brouwer experiment of last season, the Flames need to add to their right wing scoring depth. They used Micheal Ferland and Alex Chiasson on their top line at varying times with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, but neither was an ideal fit with their most potent offensive weapons. They could also use some speed and poise on their fourth line, which has been skewed towards slower, more physical players like Brouwer and Lance Bouma to the team’s detriment.
On the blueline, the challenge for the Flames remains the same: find somebody talented for T.J. Brodie to play with. Additionally, their bottom defensive pairing has mirrored their fourth line and could also use some speed and skill so there’s less of a chasm between the Flames’ top line and their depth groupings.
The club also has zero NHL goaltenders signed for 2017-18. That’s probably something that should be addressed before October.
The Flames are in a surprisingly good situation cap-wise. Their best players are all signed long-term, with the exception of Mikael Backlund (whose contract expires after the 2017-18 season). But the team’s core players are all signed through 2019-20. The worst contracts have expired (Engelland, Wideman, Smid) or will expire this summer (Stajan, Bouma), with the exception of Brouwer.
Presuming a $75 million cap, the Flames will have roughly $24 million to sign two goaltenders, three or four defensemen and a handful of forwards. Considering that aside from a starting goaltender and potentially a new partner for Brodie all the players they need to sign are complementary pieces, they’re in very good shape.
Offseason Game Plan
In an ideal world, the Flames would acquire a netminder along the lines of the New York Rangers’ Antti Raanta or Washington’s Philipp Grubauer – ideally for a mixture of prospects and 2018 draft picks – and sign a puck-moving defender along the lines of Cody Franson to play in their top four group. If they can do so while availing themselves of one of their hefty depth players (such as Brouwer or Bouma), then this summer would be considered a runaway success.
The challenge for the Flames – and the aspect of the summer that success probably will be judged by – is whether they can add a goaltender to their long-term core group without losing anything off their NHL roster. Treliving was able to do so two summers ago when he acquired Dougie Hamilton. Does he have another magical trade up his sleeve?
Previously in this series…
30. Colorado Avalanche, 29. Vancouver Canucks, 28. Arizona Coyotes, 27. New Jersey Devils, 26. Buffalo Sabres, 25. Detroit Red Wings, 24. Dallas Stars, 23. Florida Panthers, 22. Los Angeles Kings, 21. Carolina Hurricanes, 20. Winnipeg Jets, 19. Philadelphia Flyers, 18. Tampa Bay Lightning, 17. New York Islanders