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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

Flames’ Biggest Need In Net As Busy NHL Offseason Begins

Now that the 2017 Stanley Cup Final is over with Pittsburgh being the first repeat champion of the salary-cap era, the Penguins and Nashville Predators can join the NHL’s other 29 teams in looking ahead to the 2017-18 season. Yes, 29 other teams because of course the expansion Vegas Golden Knights will join the Flames’ Pacific Division this coming season to give the NHL 31 clubs.

The Penguins are early +850 favorites to win a third straight title next June. If you’re looking to play on NHL futures, take a look at a list of trusted betting sites like Pinnacle Sports. What about the Flames? They are middle of the pack at +3500 on 2018 Stanley Cup futures odds, same price as the Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators and St. Louis Blues.

There are several important dates around the league upcoming. June 17 is the deadline for teams to submit their expansion draft protected list to the league office, which will then release those lists to the public the next morning. From June 18-21, the Golden Knights will have an exclusive window to sign unrestricted and restricted free agents. The expansion draft is June 21, with every team losing one player to Vegas. The entry draft is June 23-24 – the Flames pick 16th overall but previously traded their second- and third-round selections — and free agency begins July 1.

The Flames’ No. 1 priority this offseason is finding a No. 1 and backup goaltender as both Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson are unrestricted free agents. Elliott was the team’s big offseason trade acquisition last summer from St. Louis. He had a solid regular season in Calgary with a 26-18-3 record, 2.55 goals-against average and .910 save percentage with two shutouts.

Flames management was interested in re-signing Elliott, but that likely went out the window in the playoff sweep at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks. Elliott had a GAA of 3.88 and save percentage of .880, costing himself some money on the market. Elliott blew a 4-1 second-period lead in Game 3 of the series, with the Ducks’ Corey Perry winning it just 1:30 into overtime. In Game 4, Elliott was pulled for Johnson after giving up a soft goal at 5:38 of the first period. Anaheim scored on Johnson 68 seconds later in his NHL playoff debut.

Most expected the Flames to target unrestricted free agent Ben Bishop, who was nearly acquired in trade from Tampa Bay last summer. The Lightning did hang onto Bishop before dealing him in late February to the Los Angeles Kings. Bishop was a Vezina Trophy runner-up in 2016 but had lost his No. 1 job in Tampa to young Andrei Vasilevskiy.

However, the Kings have traded Bishop to Dallas and he signed a big new extension. Bishop had a list of teams he wouldn’t accept a trade to and Calgary was on it. He clearly was holding a grudge after reportedly discussing a contract extension with the Flames last summer before GM Brad Treliving traded for Elliott at the draft.

Calgary could now target Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury, who has two years left at $5.75 million per and has waived his no-movement clause so the Penguins can protect Matt Murray for the expansion draft. Fleury started the first 15 games of these playoffs when Murray was hurt before Game 1 of the first round vs. Columbus. In the conference finals, Fleury struggled in Game 3 and was replaced by Murray the rest of the way.

Another name mentioned as a Flames trade target is Rangers backup Antti Raanta, who would have to be exposed in the expansion draft with New York obviously keeping Henrik Lundqvist. Free-agent options currently include Ryan Miller, Jonathan Bernier and Steve Mason.

The NHL futures at betting sites like Pinnacle Sports will be in flux over the next few weeks with plenty of player movement upcoming.

  • freethe flames

    The Flames have way more options than the one’s listed above. In the end it will be about balancing costs. The Flames could just resign Elliott(add the cost of next years 3rd rounder) and Johnson to 1 year deals; last year the cost for them was $4.2 and neither of them did enough to earn pay raise. They could go after an established starter like MAF or Smith both will cost an asset and over $5.5 m and then they will still need a back up either Johnson or one of the kids (Gilles or Rittich). They could wait for FA and sign one of the former starters who had a bad year to a 1 or 2 year deal at a cost effective price(Mason/Bernie to name 2) or a younger guy who is on the upswing (Condon) and one Johnson or Elliott and go 1a and 1b again. This would keep the cap hit low and allow them to spend more to upgrade the D and try to find a higher end RW. The last option is to acquire a back up from another team via trade who they believe might turn into a legit starter (Raanta, Grubauer, back up for the Avs whose name fails me now) are 3 examples they could even get LV to broker the deal, again the back up could be Johnson or one of the kids or even a FA. Again this would allow the Flames to have some extra money to look and fill their other wholes. Getting an upgrade in net is great but to make that as effective as possible they also have to address adding a legit #4 defender to play with TJ and a number 5 to play with which ever kid makes the club. In order of preference from this fan it would be add one(maybe 2) of the back ups via trade or then the UFA market. The other two options resigning both Elliott and Johnson or acquiring MAF or Smith do not interest me; way to costly. My reasons for being okay with Johnson over Elliott as the backup are twofold; one I think Johnson really wants to be here and is okay with being a backup and that he does not cost an extra asset.

    • freethe flames

      Pickard was the name I was thinking of. I also wonder if a team loses a young how valuable a guy like Budaj might become.

      I mentioned that the Flames need to fill the #4 defender role; here is a list of UFA’s under 30. B/C TJ can play either side I did not worry about their handedness: Kulikov/Stone/Del Zotto/Franson/Alzner/Cowen/B Smith. Do any of these guys sound like a true number 4?

      • Puckhead

        If Kulak is back the easiest solution to try on D would be to put him with Brodie, although this would require Brodie playing on the right side. When Kulak played his numbers were comparable to Gio. If only GG would get over his handedness thing it would be a lot easier to find a good fit on D.

        • PrairieStew

          I generally agree with Gulutzan on playing defensemen on their strong side for a number of reasons. Brodie however is the exception. His mobility at low speed allows him to pivot and and turn unlike anyone since Serge Savard.

          • L.Kolkind

            What makes you think Brodie is an exception? He played with Wideman, Engelland, and Stone, all of which are barely replacement level players. If Brodie had a competent partner the handedness issue wouldn’t be an issue at all.

  • Waittillnextyear

    Another summer of ” As the goaltending carousel turns’
    Fix the D and find a decent goalie, but you better fix the D or it will be the same old story.

  • Puckhead

    I’m doubtful that the Flames can land Ranta or Grubauer because trading these guys will only expose other valuable players. Probably easier and less costly for these teams just to accept that they will lose a player and try to limit the damage to their teams.

    • ThisBigMouthIsRight

      True, One of the only ways i can see it happening for Calgary is if VGK picked (one or more of) them up and then flipped them over to the Flames…. VGK Has to take 3 Goalies, so you never know.

  • ThisBigMouthIsRight

    I Know this might be completely counter productive and insane to do… But I’m still putting it out there.. What if the flames traded (I don’t know?) Brouwer & Wotherspoon to Dallas for Lehtonen, Niemi & their 3rd Over All Pick? Would the 3rd over all be worth the headache and possible waste of a year for the Flames with these two guys in the crease? Could the Flames Possibly then Flip one of either Lehtonen($5,900,000) or Niemi($4,500,000) to one of the minimum 3 teams who are going to lose a goalie to VGK’s Expansion draft or even someone else(maybe with some salary retained)? That is a Big Cap Hit to take to get the 3rd and dosen’t really solve the #1 Goalie problem here in cow-town.

    • Kevin R

      I can see Dallas taking Brouwer & Wotherspoon for Niemi or Lehtonen but there is no way they would give you the 3rd overall. These goalies only have 1 year left & if Vegas doesn’t take one they could always buy one out before relinquishing the #3 over all. Now if we gave them Brouwer, Kylington & the #16, I still don’t think they would give us the #3 & one of their extra goalies.

      • PrairieStew

        Add another asset or two in. Adam Ollas Mattson. Ruslan Rafikov , Riley Bruce, Mason MacDonald. The first 2 have value in that they don’t need to take up a contract this year. Dillon Dube might put this over the top.

      • ThisBigMouthIsRight

        Ya that does make sense, I was just thinking 10mill invested in 2 bad goalies with Bishop adding another $4,916,667 there might be huge incentive to do something drastic all at once and clear the books. Hell if Dallas is seriously thinking of giving up their #3 for Tanev??? LOL well anything might be possible. Thanks for the feedback guys!

  • Kevin R

    I picked up on something in this article & wondered if someone can clarify. During that window period Vegas has the ability to negotiate with both UFA & RFA with the understanding that if they sign one, that meets that teams obligation to the expansion draft. Now I am assuming if Vegas sign a RFA, that team has the ability to match the Vegas offer or let them take that player & the Expansion draft s no longer an issue. Some pretty interesting side deals could be made with Vegas where the teams assure Vegas they will not match. Would be an iterating analysis for a FN writer bored with the usual no news lately. So, thinking more about it, none of us understood why Tre gave a 2nd for Lazar. Maybe McPhee wants Lazar, former 1st rounder, young, many other targets for him to pillage off of Ottawa & not really that much for young targets he may covet on the Flames , so he makes a deal with Tre to go get him, he offer sheets Lazar just before the Expansion draft, Tre agrees not to match & then suddenly, we are in the sweepstakes for a hell of a deal on a #4 young Dman off the likes of Minny or someone. Just spitballing.

    • PrairieStew

      Some crafty spitballing. To get a second round pick as compensation for not matching an offer sheet the deal has to be 1,962,968 to $3,925,975; would Vegas really do that to get Lazar – pay him $2m and give up a second rounder ? So while I bring this info up – would you pay $1.962 M on a 2 year deal and a third rounder for the reborn Justin Schulz to be your 3rd pair RHD ?

    • Just a Fan

      I have never seen or read anything that says a team has the option to match an offer from Vegas. I have always assumed that if a team does not want Vegas to draft an RFA they have to protect them. If they don’t protect them, Vegas can draft them and their rights are transferred to the Golden Knights. The Golden Knights can then take all the time they need to sign them. They are still RFA and Vegas has the right to match any offer sheet that might be tendered.

    • Skylardog

      No opportunity to match for an RFA. If they are unprotected and picked, Vegas holds their rights. They don’t even have to sign them right away, but it would be in Vegas’ best interest if they do.

      BT will not expose Lazar. It would be viewed as a very poor move to give away a second pick and then have the asset simply taken. I actually believe that Lazar has great potential and is a piece that we will see become a part of the core over the next few years. I think a year with Backlund would make the kid one of our best forwards. Would love to see a line of Lazar, Backlund, and maybe either Shinkuruk or Klimchuk next year. The development of the two young guys would be remarkable.

  • I’m starting to think if it’s not Raanta or Grubauer, bringing back Elliott & Johnson makes a lot more sense than acquiring 2 bad contracts for worse goalies, or taking a gamble on backups with so-so stats.

  • Flamethrower

    How about patients and leave our goalies alone and may try yo build a supportive cast around them. Seems to me like all the blame has been heaped on the two. This is a team sport remember!

    • Skylardog

      I really think the team messed up Elliott, not the other way around. We started so badly, that the goalies just got slaughtered early on. BT has said that the reason the Flames made the playoffs were the goalies. He is right. But having said that they were less than we should expect. I really think Elliott’s year was an anomaly. I believe he will rebound during the upcoming season. Get the feeling the rebound will be somewhere else, and the Flames may pay for letting him get away. Could see him in Arizona or Vancouver next year shutting us out.

      But in the back of my mind are the playoffs. Not a good showing by Elliott.

  • Skylardog

    I can’t figure out why nobody is talking about Anders Nilsson from Buffalo. UFA, top GAA of all UFAs available this year at .923. 26 games, 10 wins, 10 losses on a weak Buffalo team. Last years cap hit $1.0 mill. We should be all over him on July 1, even if he is not the starter. Would be a good option as a backup, but could likely be a starter maybe as a 1A with Rittich or Gillies. Ne is big at 6’6″ and 229 lbs. The right size for a top NHL netminder today.

    • L.Kolkind

      Very good point I would love to see him tandem with Rittich. Could make for one of the most promising and cheapest goalie tandems in the league. Remeber Dubnyk floated around a couple years before he found his groove. If we could sign Nilsson for 2-3 years 2.25-2.75 million that could provide fantastic value. While I have nothing against signing Johnson, Nilsson could be the real value pick of the UFA market.