I was in Las Vegas during the annual NHL free agency frenzy and had these thoughts on the Flames moves from inside various casinos and sports bars.
THE ROSTER, AS IT STANDS
After the latest group of signings, the Flames have 37 players under contract for this coming season, with another eight guys (including T.J. Brodie and Mikael Backlund) being restricted free agents. Essentially, most of the roster work is done as that puts them at about 45 bodies under deals. We may see one or two tweaks, probably minor league guys to keep Abbotsford competitive, but this is what the team will be next year.
The Flames have, by my fuzzy math, 21 players on one-way pacts: goalies Karri Ramo and Joey MacDonald, defenders Dennis Wideman, Mark Giordano, Shane O’Brien, Kris Russell, Derek Smith, Chris Butler (and eventually T.J. Brodie), and forwards Mike Cammalleri, Jiri Hudler, Curtis Glencross, Blair Jones, David Jones, Matt Stajan, Lee Stempniak, T.J. Galiardi, Brian McGrattan, Tim Jackman (and eventually Mikael Backlund).
The forward group lacks an elite centre – or elite anything for that matter. The top nine group shows some promise but has a couple holes, but that may allow guys like Sven Baertschi and Sean Monahan – or even Roman Horak – to step in without displacing anybody.
I’d expect McGrattan to be in and out of the line-up depending on the opposition, but that probably means there’s going to be opportunities for the Boumas and Reinharts of the world to get a roster spot, particularly given that Blair Jones was sent down to the farm by this coaching staff already last year. One-way or not, I wouldn’t expect him to be a lock.
On the back-end, it’s actually pretty decent, although it lacks a top guy outside of (maybe?) T.J. Brodie. The remaining skaters are decent second and third-pairing options, although circumstances will dictate some of them eating top-pairing minutes, which has posed a problem in the past. And given it’s seven guys under one-ways, you could expect some movement here – either to the farm or to another team – if Flames management decides it would like to see Mark Cundari or Chris Breen on the main roster.
The goaltending tandem is what it is – nobody’s sure which two bodies will be there, but given that Ramo and MacDonald have one-ways, I’d give them the edge. That said, I doubt that would stop management from shelving somebody who doesn’t belong on the NHL roster. Competition should be fierce at camp this fall.
THE FUTURE, AS IT LOOKS
We’re coming up on my favourite time of the year: Calgary Flames development camp. While the tone of the coverage of the main roster may be all doom and gloom of late, development camp has become more of a spot for optimism.
The official roster and schedule have yet to be released by the club, but the camp will be July 10-15 at Winsport. Here’s a list of players you can reasonably expect to see there, given that they’re either unsigned draftees or on entry-level deals
Forwards: Corban Knight, Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund, Ben Hanowski, Max Reinhart, Ryan Howse, Roman Horak, Michael Ferland, Ben Street, Turner Elson, David Eddy, Coda Gordon, Morgan Klimchuk, Sean Monahan, Emile Poirier, Kenny Agostino, Bill Arnold, Johnny Gaudreau, Tim Harrison, Mark Jankowski and Matt Deblouw
Defensemen: Tyler Wotherspoon, John Ramage, James Martin, Brett Kulak, Keegan Kanzig, Eric Roy, Ryan Culkin, Patrick Sieloff, Rushan Rafikov and John Gilmour
Goalies: Reto Berra, Laurent Brossoit, Joni Ortio and Jon Gillies
Granted, this isn’t an exhaustive list of potential invites – the club usually has five or six college or junior free agents they invite on try-outs – but it’s a pretty promising group of names. The forward group, in particular, reflects how much improvement the Flames’ scouting and drafting has shown in the last few years. I’m sure we can all remember four or five years back and see the jump in offensive talent and creativity up front.
It’ll also be fans’ first chance to see a lot of guys on the ice. The FlamesNation crew should be at a good number of the sessions – I’m endeavouring to be there everyday – so if there’s anybody you’re jonesing for coverage of or merely want to know a bit more about, let us know in the comments.