Round one of the the 2016 NHL Draft is signed, sealed, and delivered and the Calgary Flames did not disappoint. Not only did the Flames enjoy the good fortune of having Matthew Tkachuk fall to them at six overall, they were also able to acquire goaltender Brian Elliott from the St. Louis Blues for a reasonable price. With round two just around the corner, here are the biggest questions after round one.
1. Are the Flames done in net?
The acquisition of Elliott was huge and satisfied the team’s immediate need in net at an affordable price. But I’m not convinced the team is done when it comes to revamping things between the pipes. Elliott’s addition likely means the end of Karri Ramo’s time with the team, but some wonder if another new goaltender might be in Calgary’s near future.
To be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the Flames to go down that road, whether it be this weekend or in free agency. Personally, though, I wouldn’t mind seeing the team give a duo of Elliott and Joni Ortio a shot. Elliott is a veteran, fairly proven commodity Calgary can trust to lead the way next season. However, Ortio showed me something in the final month or so of last season.
I’m certainly nowhere near ready to suggest Ortio being ready to be a number one. However, having him start the season in the NHL as Elliott’s backup is something I’d be intrigued by. Remember, Elliott has never started more than 48 games in a season, so having a little insurance there is nice. While some might think that is motivation to upgrade on Ortio, I see it as an opportunity to get him some decent time next season and let him continue to develop. We shall wait and see.
2. What will Brian Elliott’s next contract look like?
Right now, Elliott has one of the most cap friendly contracts in the league. Following this coming season, though, that may no longer be the case. Elliott has one year left on a deal that carries a $2.5 million cap hit which is superb value. We’re talking about a goalie who is routinely near the top of the league in save percentage getting paid less than $3 million. It is such a good deal, in fact, I’m still mildly surprised a Cup contending team like the Blues let him go.
Come July 1st, though, Elliott is eligible for a contract extension and has the opportunity to cash in. While the reported ask on an extension for Ben Bishop to come to Calgary was somewhere in the $7 million annually range (and I’ve been told higher than that), Elliott is likely coming cheaper. But he’s no longer going to be a bargain.
Since arriving in St. Louis, Elliott has posted a save percentage under 0.917 in just one season while being up over 0.920 on three different occasions. He’ll have some leverage as a pending unrestricted free agent, too, so a sizeable raise will be needed for the Flames to keep him. I’d guess somewhere in the $4.5-5.5 million range. That’s still good, but not a steal like his contract is right now.
3. Will the Flames continue moving picks?
Yes, the Flames have parted ways with one of their bevy of picks in the later rounds. They still have eight picks remaining on day two of the draft, though. While their goaltending issue has been solved, I’ve still got my eye on GM Brad Treliving because he’s no stranger to using extra picks in a deal.
If Calgary were to use all eight of their remaining selections, no one is going to complain. But they do still have a surplus and have the opportunity to better their team in the immediacy without hurting themselves in the future.
I’m curious if the Flames could bring in another decent winger by packaging up a couple of picks on day two. I’m not talking about a top line guy but someone who could fit nicely in a middle six role. I also wonder about adding a pick as a sweetener to help take Dennis Wideman’s contract off their hands. I can tell you Calgary was very close to moving Wideman to Edmonton prior to his January incident, so that’s something to keep an eye on on day two.
4. How close were the Flames to moving in the first round?
Speaking of moving picks, we saw a lot of clandestine conversation on the draft floor Friday night. Most specifically, the hockey world was zoned in on Treliving’s triangle chats with Edmonton’s Peter Chiarelli and Jarmo Kekalainen in Columbus. From how I understand it, the Flames had a very good reason for that.
Calgary’s guy was Tkachuk right from the get-go and they did everything in their power to land him. I can tell you the Flames were lobbying hard to move from six to three or four to secure Tkachuk but were unable to swing something with the teams involved. In the end, it didn’t matter because the team was graced with good fortune and had Tkachuk fall to them at six overall. I guess hard work does pay off!
5. Will Tkachuk play NHL hockey next year?
One of the most interesting things Tkachuk said to me when I had a chance to interview him on Friday was about his immediate future with the team. When I pointed out the team’s last sixth overall pick played a full NHL season right after being drafted, Tkachuk didn’t write off the possibility of suiting up in the show next year like Sean Monahan did in 2013-2014.
“I’ve heard kind of the same thing with him is he had to work on his skating a little bit,” Tkachuk told me. “He worked on that all summer and became a really good skater. I hope to do the same thing because I want to have a similar impact as he did and just have a really good impact on the team next year. I want to.”
At 6’1 and 195 pounds, Tkachuk is a pretty imposing guy in person, so he certainly looks like he could be physically ready to play with men next year. He seems to agree.
“I’m a big kid and it’s all about gaining more speed. If I do that, I’ll be ready.”
I’m not trying to compare Tkachuk to Monahan, because I don’t think that’s fair. Monahan entered the league with a Flames team in a very different situation than today. That said, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Tkachuk get a few games in to start the season after sitting beside him on Friday. His confidence level is certainly where it needs to be.