As the hockey world – at least the part of it that focuses on the Calgary Flames – waits for Brad Treliving to finally get Johnny Gaudreau to sign a contract, it might be interesting to look ahead a bit.
We may criticize some of the moves Treliving’s made, and the deals he’s inherited are hamstringing the team in terms of the salary cap. But when you look into the future, this season may be the one remaining pinch point before they have a lot of flexibility.
All of the team’s big deals are space out quite nicely.
EXPIRING JULY 1, 2017
Unrestricted free agents Brandon Bollig, Deryk Engelland, Dennis Wideman, Ladislav Smid, Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson; restricted free agents Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferland, Alex Chiasson, Linden Vey, Jyrki Jokipakka, David Rittich, Kenney Morrison, Jon Gillies, Garnet Hathaway, Brett Kulak, Ryan Culkin and Tyler Wotherspoon.
When we use the phrase “bad money” around these parts, we’re referring to basically every UFA this summer except for the goalies. Roughly $13 million in cap space is coming off the books next Canada Day, and there’s no single player that looks like a lock to eat it all up. So if you’re Treliving, the expiring contracts to guys like Elliott, Johnson, Bennett, Ferland, Chiasson, Vey and Jokipakka is a pretty nice carrot to dangle: if you perform really well this season, you can be rewarded. And if none of those players plays well enough to earn a massive raise, Treliving has the money to go shopping for some upgrades.
The main questions that needs to be answered for July 2017: Is Sam Bennett a top-six NHLer (yet)? Is Jon Gillies ready for the NHL, even as a back-up? Is Jyrki Jokipakka trending towards being a core piece (if he’s still here post-expansion draft)? And are any of the prospect defensemen ready to be full-time NHLers?
EXPIRING JULY 1, 2018
Unrestricted free agents Mikael Backlund, Lance Bouma and Matt Stajan; restricted free agents Mark Jankowski, Hunter Shinkaruk, Daniel Pribyl, Emile Poirier, Morgan Klimchuk, Hunter Smith, Austin Carroll and Keegan Kanzig.
Two players making north of $3 million are up for new deals, and they’re both centers! The questions facing a 29-year-old Backlund and a 34-year-old Stajan will be whether better options are available, either internally or externally. Monahan and Bennett will likely be cemented as the top two guys. But can Jankowski progress enough in two seasons to make either Backlund or Stajan expendable? Or can Backlund incrementally improve his offensive game a bit and potentially cement his spot on the roster (and earn a raise out of it)? Will Bouma be ousted from his spot by any of the bottom-six wingers in the system?
EXPIRING JULY 1, 2019
Restricted free agents Matthew Tkachuk, Mason McDonald, Rasmus Andersson and Andrew Mangiapane.
The Flames really hope that Tkachuk’s deal expires in 2019, because it means he spent this season in the NHL. They also hope he does enough to make his second contract a pricey one, as that will probably mean that the team did pretty well, too.
EXPIRING JULY 1, 2020
Unrestricted free agents T.J. Brodie, Michael Frolik and Troy Brouwer. Restricted free agents Oliver Kylington and Nick Schneider.
Brodie will be just 30 years old when his deal expires, which probably means he gets another big ticket so long as his play doesn’t fall off a cliff. Frolik will be 32. Brouwer will be 34 (35 in August). Frolik could be a decent candidate for a new deal, though it seems less of a certainty than Brodie. Your guess is as good as mine as far as Brouwer goes. It’s also likely hoped that Kylington, who will have played five pro seasons by the time his deal expires due to the CBA’s “slide rule,” will also have earned himself a big raise by the time 2020 rolls around.
EXPIRING JULY 1, 2021
Unrestricted free agent Dougie Hamilton.
Hamilton will be just 28 years old when his contract expires, and the previous summer’s Brodie deal will probably be a good benchmark for what it’ll cost to keep Douglas around town long term.
EXPIRING JULY 1, 2022
Unrestricted free agent Mark Giordano.
Giordano will be 38 years old when his deal expires. Will he retire? Will he get a short-term extension? Will he walk? A lot of it depends on whether his play holds up; if he has a quiet, dignified decline; or if he completely falls off of a cliff. And whether or not any of the Flames’ many, many defensive prospects turn into good NHLers.
EXPIRING JULY 1, 2023
Unrestricted free agent Sean Monahan.
Last, but not least, Monahan’s brand new deal sees him hit potential unrestricted free agency at the ripe old age of 28. Will he still be the team’s top center, or will Bennett overtake him?