The draft has come and gone. While plenty of new faces have been added to the organization, and plenty more could still come yet, some could be on their way out. Meanwhile, others must be retained.
The Flames have just three unrestricted free agents this year, however; and with them, just three players they may be saying goodbye to. They also have 13 restricted free agents: players they need to decide whether to keep in the fold, or to let go.
The Flames’ situation has changed just slightly over the draft weekend, but it was a huge change. They acquired their starting goaltender, and he carries just a $2.5 million cap hit.
Now, the Flames need six forwards and one goalie: and they have a little over $21 million to get them.
The big re-signings
Just over $21 million (assuming Mason Raymond is on the main NHL roster) is a lot for seven players – until you realize two of those players are Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, and they could take up roughly two-thirds of of that cap space. That leaves just $7 million left to split between four forwards and one goalie: doable, but perhaps a bit tight.
But I digress; let’s go back to the kids. “Hopefully it gets done sooner rather than later,” Brad Treliving said at the draft, referring to their new contracts, which are still in progress. No problems are anticipated, nor are any offer sheets for Monahan. Treliving did talk to him a bit Friday night, when both were welcoming Matthew Tkachuk to the Flames.
Both players will be re-signed. There are no concerns to be found here.
The free agents
But what of the Flames’ upcoming free agents? The acquisition of Brian Elliott likely makes Karri Ramo redundant, but both Jakub Nakladal and Derek Grant became fan favourites over the course of the season. They’re not essential to the team’s success, but both are working towards being quality depth pieces who will one day help (perhaps most importantly, for cheap).
“We’ve talked to his agent and we’re gonna talk to him again tomorrow. We really like him,” Treliving said of Nakladal. “How all the pieces fit together we’ll see, but he’s a good player.”
The Flames have seven defencemen already on NHL contracts, one of whom is Ladislav Smid; and while he will need to be fit under the cap before the season starts, he likely won’t take up a roster spot, due to the various injuries he’s suffered over the years. That leaves the Flames in need of at least one extra defender.
Enter: Nakladal, who can fill that role for a fraction of the cost. In all likelihood, he could be brought back for around $1 million or a little more. The organization likes the player and has a need for him; as long as the player likes the organization, there should be a fit – so maybe we can expect to hear an extension for Nakladal in the coming days before free agency.
Grant is less certain of a pursuit: a depth player, the Flames have yet to make a decision on him.
Round out the rest
If Monahan, Gaudreau, and Nakladal are all retained for the roughly estimated amounts, the Flames would have just $6 million with which to sign a goalie and four forwards.
It’s doable. Joni Ortio is a restricted free agent, and one the organization likes and has faith in; he should come in at under a $1 million cap hit, leaving a little over $5 million for four more forwards.
This is where things get tight (and where Grant could potentially be a fit). Josh Jooris will likely be qualified and re-signed as well for reasonably cheap, leaving a little over $4 million for the remaining three forwards. Kids on entry level deals could fill them – but the chances of going after a big-name free agent seem slim. (Hell, even re-signing Joe Colborne may not be possible; not if they want to carry a 23-man roster.)
To help with the cap situation, buyouts are at least being considered. “We may or may not,” Treliving said at the draft, when asked about utilizing any. “We have an idea what we’re going to do, but i’m not ready to make any proclamations at this point.”
That extra money this season could give the Flames some space, however; entry-level contracts may be able to do just the same.
And remember: if Smid has to go on LTIR, then the Flames have an extra $3.5 million to play with once the season has started, assuming he remains unable to dress. It’s fitting under the cap beforehand that’s going to take some maneuvering.