The Calgary Flames have been one of the most active National Hockey League clubs this offseason. They made a couple of trades for goaltenders. They made a big trade at the draft for Travis Hamonic. They bought out Lance Bouma. You cannot argue that Brad Treliving hasn’t been busy. However, there hasn’t been very much news for the past few weeks. The lack of news has led to a bunch of chatter, linking the Flames to seemingly every available free agent under the sun.
For a few key reasons, don’t expect the Flames to make any moves until after Micheal Ferland’s next contract is signed later this month. (He has an arbitration hearing on July 22, so the latest he’ll have a contract worked out is July 24.)
If you sign a player, you have to put them somewhere. Right now, the Flames have most of their 2017-18 opening day roster spoken for. Goalies? They have two. Defensemen? They have five big guns, and then there are a couple of spots open (but Brett Kulak and Matt Bartkowski probably have the inside track on them). Forwards? Eight spots are locked down by players with contracts, while Sam Bennett, Ferland and possibly Curtis Lazar occupy another three spots. That leaves three jobs up for grabs, with several farmhands (and Freddie Hamilton) eyeing them. There’s close to no room at the proverbial inn.
Depending on how you want to calculate it, the Flames have most of their money tied up for next season already. Looking at just NHL salaries and ignoring bonuses, the Flames have about $11.09 million left to spend… but that money has to cover Ferland, Bennett, Lazar, three forwards and two defensemen. Even if we presume that the restricted free agents all get signed for economical deals, having to sign two fairly big pieces in Ferland and Bennett and leave themselves some wiggle room to cover injuries or later additions doesn’t provide a lot of ability to throw money at a free agent right now.
It’s July. The remaining free agents on the market all probably still have delusions of big paydays floating in their heads. Come August and September, when dreams of paycheques become the cold stark reality of PTOs, contract asks begin to come way, way down. Treliving got Kris Versteeg last fall at a steep discount because he waited. There will be discounts out there if management is patient enough to wait again.