Flames Depth Chart and Needs Heading Into 2013 Free Agency

 

 

The Stanley Cup has been won and the draft is over, but the summer is only just beginning. Unrestricted free agents will hit the open market this week and the bidding war will begin.

Normally there’s at least a few big names inciting considerable interest across the league, but the truth is the UFA crop for this off-season is entirely underwhelming. The most interesting guys are probably going to be whoever gets bought out (Vincent Lecavalier, Ilya Brygalov, etc.).

Ironically. for perhaps the first time since the inception of the salary cap, the Flames have ample budget room heading into free agency ($24M+ if Kipper retires), but little need or indeed opportunity to spend it thanks to the state of the team and the unappealing UFA market.

Which isn’t to say the Flames don’t have needs and won’t be making inquiries. Here’s how the depth chart settle out currently:

Forwards

NHL

Cammalleri – Backlund (RFA) – Hudler

Glencross – Stajan – Stempniak

Baertschi – Knight – David Jones

Jackman – Horak – Bouma (RFA)

Blair Jones

UFA – McGrattan, Begin

AHL/ECHL

Street – Reinhart – Hanowski

Bancks (RFA) – Eddy – Nemisz (RFA)

Byron (RFA) – Patterson (RFA) – Aliu (RFA)

Howse – ? – Ferland

Elson

UFA – Walter, Kolanos, Testwuide

Junior/College/Europe

Gaudreau – Monahan – Agostino

Granlund – Arnold – Harrison

Poirier – Jankowski – ?

Klimchuk – Deblouw – ?

Gordon

Clearly the bulk of Feaster’s work rests on the RFA side of things. The only forward RFA of high level importance is Mikael Backlund, but the Flames farm team also has significant needs. It’s possible Greg Nemisz will get another contract from the team since they need some bodies to fill out Abbotsford, but I doubt he’s considered a prospect of note anymore. Ditto Paul Byron.

On the NHL side, the depth chart is obviously underwhelming. Calgary would be shopping for talent a bit harder if they had managed to move Cammalleri at the draft, but I’m guessing he’s going to have to stick it out for now and hope he lands with a contender at the deadline. The center depth chart after Matt Stajan is also a big question mark, with guys like Knight, Reinhart, Horak, Bouma and probably even Monahan all potentially duking it out at training camp.

In addition, this look shows you how weak the Flames are organizationally on the right side. Not only did the team fail to pick and develop a new star while Jarome was in town, they also mostly failed to back fill the RW position in general. After the Stempniak/Hudler/Jones trio at the NHL level, things fall of a cliff. Agostino is listed at RW out of convenience under college players, but he’s naturally a LW. Feaster filled a bit of a gap when he traded for David Jones, but that side of the ice is going to look awfully thin very soon unless Calgary starts signing or acquiring some starboard talent. Stempniak has one year left on his deal and my guess is Hudler doesn’t play out his entire contract in Calgary.

Defense

NHL

Brodie (RFA) – Wideman

Giordano – Butler (RFA)

Smith – O’Brien

UFA – Babchuk, Carson

AHL

Cundari (RFA) – Breen (RFA)

Wotherspoon – Lamb (RFA)

Ramage – Martin

Junior/College/Europe

Kulak – Sieloff

Culkin – Roy

Rafikov – Kanzig

Gilmour

Again, the Flames have a lot of RFA’s to get to. For whatever reason Feaster and company haven’t bothered to take care of this bit of business, so they’ll be busy inking a lot of qualifying offers at the very least over the next week or so. Brodie, Cundari and Breen are all good bets to be done reletively quickly, while Butler will likely get another deal simply because Calgary needs NHL-ready guys on the parent club. Brady Lamb was a free agent signing out of collge who didn’t do much in Abbotsford last year, so it’s an open question whether the club will retain him or not.

John Gilmour was Calgary’s last pick in the recent draft. He’s already 20-years old so maybe he’ll turn pro, although I suspect he’ll stay in school long enough to finish his college degree since the NHL aspirations of most 7th rounders tend to go unfullfilled.

Goalies

NHL

Ramo

MacDonald

Kiprusoff (retired?)

AHL/ECHL

Berra

Ortio

Brossoit

UFA – Taylor, Brust, Irving

Junior/College/Europe

Gillies

There is obviously huge question marks at the top of the pile with Ramo, MacDonald and Berra all looking to somehow fill the Kiprusoff void. Junior stand-out Laurent Brossoit is old enough to turn pro this year, so watch for him, Ortio and Berra/MacDonald to duke it out for starting duties in Abbotsford. Whoever doesn’t stick in the AHL will likely find themselves in the ECHL, although Ortio always has the option of going back to Finland.

As for Leland Irving, I doubt he is retained by the org. They have enough bodies competing at both the AHL and NHL levels and he’s not a clear step up from any of them. The Irving experiment is over in Calgary.

Jon Gillies may be the goaltender with the highest ceiling in the organization currently, but he’s just 19 years old and only has a single, outstanding season consisting of just 35 college games under his belt. We’re a long ways away from knowing if he’s truly an NHL starter or not.

Conclusion

If the Flames were trying to be competitive this season, I’d say they have a lot of work to do this summer. They’re not, so that’s not a concern.

The primary issue is getting all of the notable RFA’s signed to decent deals and then looking for opprotunity and value where ever they may pop up. The top 4 lines of the NHL club are more or less complete, though my guess is Cammalleri and probably even Hudler would like to be playing elsewhere at some point in the near future – I can’t imagine either guy having the interest in sticking it out through what is probably going to be a painful rebuild.

If a few contenders strike out in free agency, they may come calling about some of Calgary’s vets like the two mentioned above in August, but then the Flames will have a lot of issues simply icing a team (unless they get NHL filler + futures in return). What seems more likely is deals to happen mid-way through the season or at the deadline.

There is some promise in Backlund, Brodie, Baertschi and it will be interesting to see how the goaltending settles out and perhaps what Corban Knight can do, but clearly this is a roster hunting for a good draft position and not the cup.

It’s going to be long summer Flames fans, and likely an even longer 2013-14 season.

  • Burnward

    If, for example, you added Weiss and Clarkson to the existing group…that’s not a bad team at all.

    Add some league average goaltending and we’re right back in the playoff hunt.

    Also, given what Calgary is going through right now I have a feeling they may try the “ray of hope” idea.

    • Weiss has fallen off a cliff the last two seasons. He scares the heck out of me now.

      There are some players the Flames could conceivably add that would make the team better. But they’ll cost a ton and they’re value won’t last through the duration of their contracts. They also won’t really move the needle beyond moving Calgary back to the 7-10 territory.

    • Stockley

      I’m afraid you’re right but I hope you’re wrong.

      The ‘ray of hope’ idea usually doesn’t turn out much better than trading assets for magic beans. It’s going to take more than overpaying a few guys in a weak UFA market to turn this ship around. They can call it whatever they want; this isn’t a retooling, it’s a rebuild. Rebuilds take time, there is no quick fix. I hope they stay the hell away from everyone on July 5th and try to pick up some deals from desperate players and/or teams in August.

  • icedawg_42

    If the Flames go out and rent enough guys to allow prospects to stay where they need to be and develop, I’m ok with it…even if it means being “good enough” to forego the first overall pick in the next draft. IMO the most important step for this team right now is development of their crop.

  • With Feaster and the Flames mandate of “never rebuilding”, you can never be too sure they won’t try to sign some UFAs to remain competitive.

    But that’s probably a bad idea. There’s only a few in there that you’d truly want, and everyone else you’d likely have to pay more to get given Calgary’s less than positive outlook over the next few years.

    Young Guns 2.0 is right. Strap in guys.

    • Stockley

      If they’re going to overpay players I’d rather they pick up a few more contracts like David Jones. Players already signed, preferably guys with only 2-3 years left on their deals. Try and get some extra assets out of the deal as teams scramble to become cap-compliant and get rid of bad deals.

      It’s not that everyone with an ugly contract is useless; most of them are just overpaid for what they bring to the table. At this point I’d rather see a roster full of warm bodies and place holders in Calgary next season and let the kids continue to develop in Abby, junior, college, etc. Rushing kids almost never pans out. That strategy certainly works in Detroit.

  • Burnward

    “If the Flames were trying to be competitive this season, I’d say they have a lot of work to do this summer. They’re not, so that’s not a concern.

    I dunno Kent. Anyone else have the feeling we spend money to try to compete this summer?

    • It’s possible, but it would be a terrible error to spend a bunch of money on this line-up given who is available. Even if they landed all of the big name free agents (Weiss, Lecavalier, Horton and Clarkson) the team would still only be just okay.

      • Stockley

        I’m afraid Feaster will develop a terminal case of Dale Tallonosis. Panthers had a ton of cap space and chose to use much of it on guys like Upshall. The dollars thrown around don’t scare me, they had to hit the cap floor. It was the term that was mind-boggling. If you’re rebuilding and just signing stop-gap players until your youth is ready for the big-time why would you sign them to any term longer than 2 years? That’s just an easy way to get stuck with some ugly contracts no one wants.

        Calgary can’t turn this around in a year. With it being a bad UFA crop prices are going to be out of this world, by 2pm on July 5th we’re all going to be shaking our heads in disgust and just waiting for the next lockout where the owners once again blame the players and try to make them look like the villains for all the stupid contracts they throw around.

        • MC Hockey

          Agree with your premise that if signing stop-gap players, you should NOT sign for over 2 years, but if you want Lecavalier or others for that purpose, you are probably forced to sign for 4 or 5 years due to the competition…I expect Flames to overpay and get Vinny at 5 years at 5.5M per year. By the time he retires in 5 years will be 3rd line C killing penalties.

  • icedawg_42

    Season of the young guns 2.0….
    Glad Brad Richards didn’t get bought out or feaster would probably offer him some outragous deal. I hope lecavalier would sign here but I highly doubt it though.

  • icedawg_42

    Regarding right wing: Cammalleri is and always has been a RW. The only time I’m aware of that he’s spent on the left side has been with Jarome. Also, Poirier plays both wings, Horak and Reinhart spent a lot of time on the right side in Abbotsford last year, and Jankowski spent about a third of last season on RW.

    Moreover, I’ve long suspected that the Flames would convert Arnold to RW as a pro. We’ll see in a couple years.

    Also, I find it odd that you list John Ramage on the left side even though he’s one of only three right-shooting defensemen in the entire organization.

    • Cammy is left shooting though, so he can probably play either wing. His presence isn’t of much importance organizationally since he won’t be here past this season anyways.

      You’re right, though, in that centers can often be converted to wingers, so if some of the kids work out down the middle, maybe they can fill the gaps on the right.

      I am never mindful of defenders handedness when filling out depth charts, so Ramage’s placement is arbitrary.

    • Jeff Lebowski

      You know what I noticed in many of those highlights? That once he moves past guys he just separates- guys can’t even reach him with stick. He doesn’t slow down to make his plays. Also there is one clip with him getting puck on right side, you can’t see the d in frame, he accelerates and you see d why d out of frame, they immediately started backing up once he got puck then he totally beats them anyway-by cutting across net-not shooting backhand or going behind net.
      Also how on the puck he is. WOW!

      If those skills are there- he has that, then consistency or strength can be improved.