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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at the Flames’ roster so far

The Calgary Flames have made a couple of pretty major moves this offseason: moves that will help shape their roster for 2017-18. However, with free agency just around the corner – not to mention qualified restricted free agents needing to be re-signed – what we see probably isn’t going to be what we get come October.

As we wait for those moves still to come, let’s look at what the Flames have right now – and just where they might see it most fitting to add.

The roster

Here, I’m only using players under contract (or RFAs, as they are likely to be under contract reasonably soon), and I’m keeping lines mostly intact from the end of the 2016-17 season, as right now there’s no reason to assume they’ll be changed.

Johnny Gaudreau Sean Monahan Micheal Ferland
Matthew Tkachuk Mikael Backlund Michael Frolik
Sam Bennett Curtis Lazar
Lance Bouma Matt Stajan Troy Brouwer
Freddie Hamilton
Mark Giordano Dougie Hamilton
T.J. Brodie Travis Hamonic
Matt Bartkowski
Mike Smith

Holes to fill

Whether it’s by re-signing an impending free agent, graduating a prospect, or making a trade, the Flames have a number of spots on their roster that are as of yet unaccounted for.

Curtis Lazar makes the lineup by default as things currently stand, but it’s not yet clear if that will actually be the case. Alex Chiasson was not qualified so the Flames could avoid arbitration with him; it doesn’t guarantee he won’t be back at all.

The spot to Sam Bennett’s left can be presumed to be Kris Versteeg’s until we know better. Versteeg has expressed a strong desire to return to Calgary, and as he was an asset to the Flames’ lineup, it’s easy to see a scenario in which he is back.

That leaves an extra forward spot open. Presumably, that could go to a prospect – but seeing as how it would be preferable for a prospect who makes the team to actually play, perhaps it could instead see Lance Bouma bumped to the pressbox instead.

As for the defensive side of things, the holes there don’t have as obvious a fill. If I had to guess I’d say Brett Kulak takes the bottom pairing left-hand defenceman spot and pushes Matt Bartkowski to the pressbox, but the right side remains a mystery. Graduate Rasmus Andersson? Pick up a free agent (Michael Stone, Cody Franson)? Or even break tradition and have a lefty play the bottom pairing right spot? What the Flames do in free agency should give us a hint as to what they’re thinking, if not outright address the problem then and there.

As for the backup goaltending spot, maybe the Flames sign Chad Johnson, maybe they try out Jon Gillies or David Rittich – but either way, it should be a relatively low-cost position to fill.

Upgrades to be made

The Flames’ fourth line is a bane on the lineup. Not only is it not particularly good, but it’s also horribly expensive, preventing the team from being able to make real upgrades.

The number one question is the first line right wing. Micheal Ferland is, at worst, passable in the position, but he’s probably not the ideal fit. (That said, maybe we’re changing our tune within a year, which would be awesome.) Bennett had a downer of a season, and while he bears responsibility for that, there’s also the fact that he barely had a chance to work with quality linemates, and that appears to continue to be a concern at the start of this offseason.

Upgrading the top line right wing position probably pushes Ferland down to play with Bennett, which helps him; on the other hand, that move would likely be more expensive than finding even a halfway decent scorer who can drive play north (and it doesn’t have to be a big name – we identified Jonathan Marchessault and Sam Gagner as potential options last year, and they both ended up being 50-point players).

Really, unless there’s a good deal to be made for a surefire top line right wing candidate, getting Bennett some real linemates remains the only major area of need for the Flames (breaking up that fourth line, too, but let’s try to stay realistic here). The addition of Travis Hamonic has basically meant all the Flames have left to do with their defence is avoid any landmines; it’s not like the bottom pairing is going to be taking on big minutes with that top four. And Mike Smith is that proven starter the Flames wanted, so he’ll probably take on the bulk of the workload, especially as they’ve determined his age isn’t that much of a factor.

  • Assuming the Flames DO find a winger for the Gaudreau line, AND assuming Versteeg comes back, AND assuming Chiasson gets re-signed (all of which I feel are very plausible scenarios), the idea of having Chiasson and Stajan on the 4th line works just fine for me. I don’t want Brouwer there, obviously, but it’s not like he’s going anywhere soon, and I think the other two would hide just how bad he is.

    Honestly if this team can get that first line RW, everything falls into place VERY nicely.

  • Raffydog

    I really want to see Bennett centre Tkachuk, and I guess maybe Versteeg. The 3M line was fun to watch this season, but I think Tkachuk is to good to be used primarily as a shut down player. Give him some more offensive zone starts, and I think this kid could really shine, plus it gives Bennett a quality forward to play with

    • Matty Franchise Jr

      I agree. Tkachuk-Bennett-Versteeg would be great offensively sheltered line that 30 other teams would HATE!
      Bring up Jankowski to fill Tkachuks spot and learn how to be an NHL centre from Backlund.

      • E_S_

        How would the flames roster look if they went for a 4-line approach?
        Gaudreau Monahan Chiasson
        Jankowski Backlund Frolik
        Tkachuk Bennett Versteeg
        Ferland Stajan …Brouwer?

        I know it’s not ideal to have chiasson with Monahan and gaudreau but GG likes to run 4 lines so maybe spreading the depth is a good thing?

        If they could find a way to replace Brouwer, that lineup would look pretty good.

        Brouwer, Kylington, Parsons, and a 4th for Palmieri? He would look great on any line.

  • everton fc

    I think they re-sign Versteeg and Stone. I think they’ll opt for Hathaway on the 4th line, but Chiasson would be a better depth player there. Kulak and Stone will be 5/6…

    Lazar will play 3rd line RW. I still think they try and dump Brouwer and Bouma. Who wouldn’t think this? I also think they may find a team willing to take Stajan, as they need room for Jankowski.

  • SeanCharles

    Gaudreau-Monahan-Ferland
    Tkachuk-Bennett-Versteeg
    Frolik-Backlund-Brouwer
    Stajan-Jankowski-Lazar
    Bouma/Chiasson

    Gio-Hamilton
    Brodie-Hamonic
    Kulak-Stone
    Wotherspoon

    Smith
    Johnson

    • Matty Franchise Jr

      I am truly afraid that the Flames spend 4 months trying to shoe-horn Brouwer into a top 9 role, only to end up with him on the 4th line. If they can’t get rid of him, keep him on the 4th line. No need to drag down Backlund and Frolik (and Jankowski!).

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      I would prefer not to use Brouwer as the replacement on the top shutdown line. Lazar may be better suited, and that’s assuming that yuou want to shift Frolik to LW. I think you could probably use the following combos with a bit better results:

      Johnny-Monahan-Ferland
      Versteeg-Backlund-Frolik
      Tkachuk-Bennett-Lazar
      Stajan-Janko-Brouwer

      That at least minimizes the risk of playing Brouwer too much and allows you to ease Janko in. Versteeg is a smart player and could adjust to Backlund easily. Tkachuk-Bennett is all you really need, so Lazar is really just a RHS to give those two guys a feeder. The obvious thing here is Bouma is in Stockton.

      On defense, the top 4 is set. Just need to figure out who fits on the 3rd pair. I would be inclined to have Spoon/Kulak and Andersson. Doesn’t give you depth, but you don’t need to play them much more than 10 minutes a night. If we are signing any depth defender, I hope he is a LHS. Andersson is the best prospect we have right now on defense.

      In nets, I hope they stay away from CJ. I think he should be a starter somewhere where a winning season isn’t as important. Lot’s of quality backups available at around $1m.

    • Damm shame

      Switch lazar and brouwer and I like how that looks. Lazar can get the double Michael kickstart just like Benny and Chucky benefited from. At least for the start of the season.

  • WhatWouldTheoDo?

    I would prefer Tre to not sign Versteeg and Chiasson and put that money towards signing Stone and Johnson to solidify the backend. The remaining cash and attention would then go towards attaining a top-line RW. Jankowski lines up with Backs and Frolik to learn the ropes and establish a formidable shutdown line with some offensive upside. Tkachuk-Bennett-Ferland could go full-on-beast-mode, forming a strong 2nd line that can grow together. Those three could really push each other to move the needle. Lazar is saddled with two veterans which should help his development to become a legit 3rd liner. Ultimately, here’s how the opening night roster could look:

    Gaudreau Monahan Neal/Marchessault/Neiderreiter
    Jankowski Backlund Frolik
    Tkachuk Bennet Ferland
    Stajan Lazar Brouwer

    Gio Hamilton
    Brodie Hamonic
    Kulak Stone
    Andersson

    Smith
    Johnson

    • BlueMoonNigel

      I’ve given a great deal of thought to this since the Hamonic deal. I too am of the opinion that the club should pay Stone the bucks to remain a Flame. If we pay a bit more for Stone, the club can roll out three solid defensive pairings. The Flames cannot match the Oilers or Pens or Caps offensively, but if the team assembles a Doomsday Defence, how does that shift the balance of power? It should also be noted that Gio, Hamilton and Brodie are excellent offensively and transition remarkably well, so it is true that a good defence can be a good offence. Stone or someone of his ilk t solidify the D corps makes more sense than spending on a pair of bottom 6 forwards, if indeed it becomes a debate of one rather than the other. I am not sure the cash remaining could be put to “attaining a top-line RW” anytime soon as there are so few available and the Flames have so little to deal for one. Wouldn’t be the worst idea to keep the kitty until opportunity knocks or a rainy day forces.

    • everton fc

      I could live w/these lines. Wasn’t Gagner playing some RW in Columbus?? It’s hard to he’s only 28 when next season starts.

      Too bad we can’t find a place for Brouwer… But I have this funny feeling he’ll be kept around and bounce back.

      And I agree w/the post that whomever thinks we should pull apart the 3M line is crazy. I’ll say the same about Gaudreau/Monahan/Ferland – leave success be. Work on the 3rd line. The 4th line. Roll four lines that can score, play PK, agreesively fore and backcheck, and be good on defence. Go w/Kulak and Stone as 5/6 (if affordable, if not…) and either let Rittich backup Smith, or re-sign Johnson. We are not far from being a dangerous team, and we do not need anymore bad contracts.

      • The Fall

        Yeah, The issue isn’t top line RW its a competent third line. Get Sam a mentor who can trade off centre/winger responsibilities while not getting shelled in shot attempts for the next two seasons. Steeg is a great triggerman on that line already.

      • Raffydog

        It’s called spreading the offence around. You see, if you only have one line that can score, it’s easy to defend against. If you have 2 lines that can score, it’s not as easy to defend, but not impossible if you have a decent second pairing defence unit. Now if you have three lines that are able to put up good offensive numbers, that is very difficult to defend against. Understand how that works now dummy?

  • Backburner

    Send Bouma to Stockton for starters.. then wouldn’t mind signing Vanek or (fingers crossed) Spencer Foo on RW, Stone on D:

    Gaudreau – Monahan – Foo (Vanek)
    Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
    Ferland – Bennett – Versteeg
    Lazar – Stajan – Brouwer

    Gio – Hamilton
    Brodie – Hamonic
    Kulak – Stone
    Bartowski/ Wotherspoon

    • TurkeyLips

      Because players like Bennett and Gaudreau could benefit from the puck tenacity and setup skill of Tkachuk even moreso. Love Backlund + Frolik, but their lack of consistent high-skill finish makes Tkachuk feel devalued on that line.

      • They literally play the most high stakes minutes in the game. That line drove success for the team more than any other unit. To trust an 18 year old rookie with that kind of ice time is hardly devalued.

        Their contribution to this team is far broader than what their point totals suggest. They are unicorns.

        • TurkeyLips

          It’s tough because that line had elite versatility. However, Backlund seems formidable enough regardless of who’s on his line. Whereas centerman Bennett needs help + confidence + growth asap, and Tkachuk on his line seems like the best answer to that.

        • TheRealPoc

          But if you can get reasonably comparable possession-driving output from Backlund/Frolik with a different LW, it’s probably worthwhile to look at where else you can play Tkachuk. It’s great that he can take on the toughs so soon in his career, but with all due respect to his two brilliant linemates, Tkachuk’s offensive ceiling is much higher than theirs; not sure a long-term marriage w/ two 50pt-ceiling guys is the best use of his toolset.

          Long-term, I’d expect the lineup shakes out more like this:

          Gaudreau – Monahan – x
          Tkachuk – Bennett – x
          x – Backlund – Frolik

          Sourcing the wings around those pairs should be a lot easier than it was to build the pairs in the first place; Ferland can already assume one of those slots easily. But I do think, balance-wise, this is the most optimal setup moving forward. Bennett & Tkachuk have a *lot* more to provide offensively at this level, IMO.

          This team is real close.

          • OYYC

            Totally agree with what you posted – and yes this team is really close to being very good for a long time if players are utilized correctly. Nobody really knows what the Flames have in Lazar (not even the player), I would have him start with Tkachuk and Bennett right out of the gate this season. The scary thing is that he’d be the old man of that trio at the ripe old age of 22. The worst thing you could do to him is shunt him down to the 4th line with Brouwer. The kid would have nightmares all over again of playing 8 minutes a game with Chris Neal.

            Ferland fits on the top line, and if the team can’t see what kind of potential he has by now they will never figure it out. I would sign the guy to a 4 year term. All the signs point to him being a Lucic type power forward at half the price, and a minder for J. Gaudreau.

            Jankowski should be up next up in Mikael Backlund’s Zen class of, “How to be a better hockey player” 4th edition. Versteeg can play on that line if the Flames want Jankowski to start the season in Stockton.

            (this is my first post here, so glad to be on board)

    • Matty Franchise Jr

      No one thinks that they should be split up *because* they were successful together. So no need to try to understand why people think that way. They don’t.

      I personally think this is a great opportunity to put Jankowski on that line so he can learn to be the best player from his draft class. I also think that putting Tkachuk and Bennett together (maybe with Versteeg) in an offensive role could be good for both of them and the team as a whole. They’d score lots, and draw a new world record number of penalties.

    • oilersuck

      For me its mostly curiosity too see how good Tkachuk can drive play with lesser line mates. Also when he needs his next contract it would be good to pay him for his play sans Backlund bump.

      • oilersuck

        When Treliving negotiates Tkachuk’s next contract he can’t say “I’m going to pay you less because Bouma and Bennett sucked once they got off Backlunds line”.

  • Joe Flames

    I think they could go with either Gillies or Rittich as the backup, rotating with the other in the ahl to get them both more playing time.
    I woud like to see Stone back but bet bt will sign a cheaper FA for the 5th D.
    Hopefully Brouwer bounces back to some extent and is more than a fourth liner. (Yes, and I want a pony for my birthday too). An effective Brouwer could be a good linemate for Bennett. I agree that Tkachuck would be a good fit with Bennett, who needs better wingers to succeed.

  • Parallex

    I think the Flames should just walk away from Chiasson. He can’t play at the tip of the lineup and Treliving’s immoveable past mistakes haunt the bottom of it. So ideal world… Williams and Versteeg sign pushing Ferland to the Bennett line, Stajan stays as 4C alongside Brouwer with Bouma and Lazar jockeying for playing time. Freddie… he goes to Stockton (sorry Dougie).

    Next year we finally lose some of those holds on the bottom of the forward lineup and the farm can provide replacements.

  • everton fc

    Vegas is so screwed when it comes to forwards. In particular, they are thin on RW….

    Move Brouwer to Vegas. If we don’t sign Stone, make a trade w/Vegas using Brouwer, and see if we can get Colin Miller, a RHD who would be nice 5/6 fit w/Kulak. Miller’s on a one year/$1mill cap hit contract. He’s 25 years old.

    Again, “Thinking out loud here…”

    • Kevin R

      My thoughts too. They look horrid. Chiasson would be a 3rd liner for sure on their team, maybe even 2nd line. Bouma would be a 3rd liner & Brouwer would be a 2nd -3rd liner. Miller or McNabb return for Brouwer & rights to Chiasson would be great, even if we had to add a forward from Stockton that is NHL close (Shink?) McPhee really got sandbagged if you want my opinion. The 2020 2nd for Methot is mind boggling.

  • Baalzamon

    As far as Brouwer goes, there is one line he was a part of last season that wasn’t a disaster: Gaudreau – Monahan – Brouwer. Individually, Brouwer dragged both those guys into the abyss with him (as you’d expect) but it was a different story when they all played together; as a line they crested 55% in both CF and GF in almost 120 minutes of ice time at evens (six or seven games). Worth exploring further, and if it proves to be a sample size issue (which it probably will; this is Brouwer we’re talking about) Ferland can move back. In the mean time, though, it frees Ferland to play with the Best Friends, and Tkachuk to lend a hand to a fearsome third line with Bennett and Versteeg.

    This is probably the Flames’ best bet for four solid lines.

    Gaudreau – Monahan – Brouwer
    Ferland – Backlund – Frolik
    Tkachuk – Bennett – Versteeg
    Stajan – Jankowski – Lazar

    Or if Chiasson comes back he takes Lazar’s spot. Yeah yeah, 3M is great and all, but Ferland has posted exemplary results on that line in the past, and I really think Tkachuk – Bennett – Versteeg has to be a thing.

    • TheRealPoc

      Bennett/Tkachuk at the very least should be a thing. We’re talking about offensive pedigrees that saw these guys go 4th & 6th OV – not to discredit how hard it is to simply become a solid pro at this level, but I don’t think you’re maximizing their true potential if they apex out at tough minutes matchup aces.

  • TurkeyLips

    Would Monahan really suffer without Gaudreau on his line? Most of his eagle-eyed tipins come from blueline shots, and many of Gaudreau’s goals bypass Monahan altogether.

    Essentially Monahan doesn’t seem to depend on wingers in order to succeed (why he’s so boss). If either Gaudreau or Tkachuk could play R wing, with Bennett at center, that would be something. Frolik can potentially play left just as well as he’s a left shot. Our first two lines:

    Frolik – Monahan – Brouwer
    Gaudreau – Bennett – Tkachuk
    Jankowski – Backlund – Lazar
    Bouma – Stajan – Chiasson

  • Puckhead

    Gaudreau – Monahan – Tkachuk
    Frolik – Backlund – Janko
    Lazar – Bennett – Ferland
    Klimchuk – Stajan – Brouwer

    Tkachuk is big, skilled and a pest who won’t put up with crap. Plus he’s earned the opportunity.

    Janko plays a responsible 2-way game and would slot in nicely on the 2nd line.

    The 3rd line would be a high energy line that would be tough to play against.

    Putting Klimchuk on the 4th line would give this line a player who plays a 200′ game. He is defensively responsible, works extremely hard, and can score. He would strengthen the 4th line.

  • T&A4Flames

    What do people think about trying to get Tckachuk and Bennett to form some chemistry and then bringing in Shinkaruk to apprentice with Backs and Frolic. He’s waiver eligible this year so imo, we either try something like this or trade him for something. Otherwise we risk losing him for nothing. I hope he shows well in me camp etc. Although Tre may fill that spot before he even gets a chance this year.

    • Kevin R

      I think Janko is the one that will get that apprenticeship with Backlund & Frolik. I see :

      Gaudreau-Monahan-Ferland
      Tkachuk-Bennett-Lazar
      Janko-Backlund-Frolik
      Bouma-Stajan-Brouwer

      If Tre doesn’t make any moves or buries Bouma. If we sign Versteeg then Lazar moves to Bouma’s spot & Bouma is waived & probably picked up by Vegas to shore up their 2nd line :->

  • Baalzamon

    As for free agents, I’m going to suggest Patrick Wiercioch. He’s a solid depth defenseman who will likely come cheap. If the Flames don’t want to bank on Kulak – Andersson, Wiercioch can take the slot alongside Kulak and probably do it better (and cheaper) than Stone.

    • everton fc

      Frolik is better than Weal. Versteeg is better than Weal. Jankowski’s not a first line centre. And you are demoting Backlund and Frolik from our first line to our third.

      ??????

      • freethe flames

        The thing is that to be all in you have to think beyond the old cliche 1st, 2nd,3rd and 4th line mind set. You need 4 lines that are good at there job. Say Johnny/Monny/Ferland offensive zone starts and 1st power play unit, Janko/Backs/Frolik defensive zone starts and PK, Tkachuk/Bennett/Versteeg offensive zone starts 2nd PP, then to be determined.

  • Puckhead

    Does anyone know anything about the Flames development camp next week at Winsport? I know they’ve book ice time but can’t seem to find anything beyond that. Assuming Valimaki will be there. Would like to see him, as well as Dube, Phillips….

  • Atomic Clown

    Sigh, I feel like Edna mode from the Incredibles, but instead of capes, NO FREE AGENTS. No one in the FA pool is worth splashing money on, and especially after the Brouwer fiasco, we definitely don’t need another overpaid plug. Resign Versteeg, try to work a deal under $2.5 mil for Stone, and use the rookies. We drafted them for a reason. Not even sold on Spencer Foo -.-