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.