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Photo Credit: Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports

The top 5 remaining offseason storylines

July is more than half over and the dog days of the NHL offseason are very much upon us. Despite how busy the Calgary Flames have been this summer, there is still plenty of work to be done. Knowing how much has already been accomplished over the last couple months, let’s take a look at five Flames stories that still need to be written before the summer is over.

5. The “other” RFAs

We’ve been focused the last number of weeks on three particular restricted free agents, two of whom have now signed in Micheal Ferland and Curtis Lazar. While one of those high profile RFAs still remains unsigned (more on that later), Calgary does have to take care of a number of less notable players due new deals. That list comprises Jon Gillies, David Rittich, Brett Kulak, Tyler Wotherspoon, and Garnet Hathaway.

Getting the players listed under contract shouldn’t be overly complicated, but a couple players do jump off the page. Kulak’s contract will be interesting as it’ll give us an indication as to where the Flames are on him. There are those like me who believe Kulak is ready for full-time NHL work and would advocate for a two-year deal. But my guess is Calgary goes the “show me” route with Kulak and he signs a one-year pact.

Then there’s Rittich and his interesting future with the team. I’m fairly confident he’ll sign a new deal with the Flames, but I remain fascinated as to where he fits next season. Assuming Gillies also signs, which is safe, the Flames are faced with a bit of an AHL logjam based on the likely scenario Tyler Parsons turns pro. A trio of Rittich, Gillies, and Parsons in Stockton doesn’t seem to make sense, and I’m always wary of the ECHL. So, in saying that, is Rittich a possible trade asset? What about Gillies? It’s an interesting story to watch.

4. NHL roster additions

General manager Brad Treliving has repeatedly stated he doesn’t believe the roster as it stands will be the exact group that goes to training camp in two months. For me, that hints at the team’s desire to add at least one more roster player prior to the start of the season. Now that Ferland’s deal is done, the door is a little more open for that to happen, as his contract negotiations were a bit of a hurdle to clear.

Who might that player be? Well, I’m guessing Calgary is pretty set with their backend right now, so I’m not necessarily expecting a defenceman to be priority number one. So, that leaves a forward. The pickings are rather slim with what’s remaining in free agency, but in Drew Stafford, Daniel Winnik, and Jimmy Hayes, there are still potential options available under the age of 32. And what about Alex Chiasson? He’s still unrestricted after not being qualified in June and Treliving has hinted at circling back to him a few times.

3. Juuso Valimaki’s entry-level deal

As pointed out here and explained a little further here, Calgary has the opportunity to guarantee themselves some important flexibility with their 2017 first round pick. Essentially, because Valimaki potentially meets a number of conditions, the Flames have the option of getting an extra year of development out of him through an entry-level slide. However, for them to do that, he has to be signing in the somewhat near future.

For Valimaki to qualify for an entry-level slide, he is subject to these conditions:

  • Born after Sept. 15
  • Signs ELC before Dec. 31
  • Plays fewer then 10 NHL games in the next two seasons

Born on Oct. 6, Valimaki checks the first box and that gets the conversation started. From there, it’s in Calgary’s hands, though. I’ll certainly be watching this summer to see if the Flames sign Valimaki to his first NHL deal, but with the deadline more than five months away, there isn’t a huge time crunch.

For the second condition, it would be a surprise to see Valimaki get to the point where he no longer qualifies. As a 19-year-old, he’s tied to playing for the Tri-City Americans next season unless he cracks the NHL roster as a rookie, which is highly unlikely. For his 20-year-old season, then, Calgary would basically get a free year of development in the AHL if all conditions are met, meaning Valimaki’s ELC wouldn’t kick in until the 2019-20 season when he’s 21.

2. A Mikael Backlund extension

Going back to late February, I took an early look at what a contract extension might look like for Backlund. Well, now it’s July, Backlund is going into the final year of his deal, and he’s eligible for an extension anytime. I understand wanting to get this offseason’s work done first, but I still think it makes a lot of sense for the Flames to get Backlund locked up long term prior to the season starting.

Based on what he’s done the last few seasons, it has become painstakingly clear Backlund is a core player and deserving of a commensurate contract. He was the team’s best centre by a fairly large margin last season and was the driving force on one of the NHL’s top lines. With 22 goals and 53 points in 81 games, Backlund was productive and his underlying outputs drove home the MVP-quality campaign he put together.

Backlund was a top five player in every single metric above while shouldering some of the heaviest defensive responsibilities in the league. For him to generate zone time and produce offence like he did was quite the feat and it allowed him to finally start getting some league-wide recognition.

The most encouraging thing about Backlund is how he’s improved in each and every one of his seven NHL seasons, which leads you to believe there is still more for Backlund to accomplish. Even if he’s close to reaching his plateau, we’re still talking about a player who was fourth in Selke Trophy voting with a solid track record of consistent two-way play. Why wouldn’t the Flames get a deal done as soon as possible?

I’ll take that question a little further. As it stands right now, Backlund can make a pretty solid case for a long-term deal (five or six years) in and around the $6 million range annually, give or take a few hundred thousand. If Calgary pushes this into next season and Backlund is in the midst of another Selke-worthy season, though, it stands to reason he’ll only gain leverage. If I’m the Flames, I get an extension done this summer to get it taken care of and to get some cap/cost certainty for the next number of years.

1. Sam Bennett’s new deal

Ah yes, the one remaining high profile RFA still unsigned by Calgary. Now that Ferland and Lazar’s deals are put to bed, the focus can turn to getting Bennett inked to his second NHL contract. At this stage, we’re presuming this is going to be a bridge deal in the two or three year ballpark, as that seems to make the most sense for both player and team. But with only $7 million and change remaining under the cap, Bennett’s AAV is still important.

Nothing much has changed since Bennett’s RFA profile in April, so I’m still guessing this deal comes in somewhere between $2.5 and $3 million. Now, Radek Faksa’s three-year, $6.6 million pact with Dallas is being used by some as a comparable for Bennett, but it’s not a perfect example. Faksa is 18 months older than Bennett and the latter’s numbers are superior in his first two NHL seasons, so we’re probably looking at something higher than $2.2 million per.

Regardless of where Bennett’s number ends up coming in, though, what happens next is fascinating. Is Bennett a centre or a winger going forward? And can he use his forthcoming bridge deal to push his next contract into a different echelon? Those questions will be answered come the fall, but Bennett needs a deal this summer before we can start to find out.


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  • Southboy

    Elliot Freedman’s suggestion that the flames were in on Duschene make me wonder if that trade involves Bennet and one of our D prospects? Could explain why there had been no extension yet.

      • JoelOttosJock

        No having a legitimate #1 center who can put the puck in the net wouldn’t help the flames at all, in fact would make them worse. THAT WOULD BE A FANTASTIC MOVE.

        • TheoForever

          Are we talking about true #1 center or are we talking about Duschene?
          2 years of Duschene for lets say a decade of Bennett and Anderson/Kyllington/Valimaki?

        • Thunder1

          Some comments are too ridiculous to leave alone. Back up your nonsensical thoughts and tell me 10 centremen who scored more than 100 goals in their first four years of play. Monahan is already the legitimate number one centre in Calgary and he only turns 24 this season. His progression will continue and you will see him raise the Cup in the next five years. He is already widely considered the be the best draft pick from his year and the changes Treliving made to the line-up this summer means him and Johnny are going to be playing a ton with Gio/Hamilton or Brodie/Hamonic. Look for Monahan’s best season yet coming up and ultimate proof that your comment remains one of the most idiotic ever made on this blog. No having a legitimate 1 centre who can put the puck in the net = 22-31-27-27… should be easy for you to remember because it is also the combination to your ineptitude.

  • freethe flames

    The discussion about whether or not to sign another RFA forward is interesting to me; obviously much of the conversation has been about Jagr. Does anyone know why J Hayes fell off the radar? His two previous seasons he had 35 and 29 points and then 5? In so many ways he could fit the bill a big RHS forward and will come cheap.(Maybe he can play with his cousin Tkachuk and who knows maybe that might bring younger brother next year as FA). Stafford is another RHS as is Parenteau? However I would just be fine with bringing guys up from within.

    • ThisBigMouthIsRight

      Why are you posting a link to Jesse Puljujarvi’s Highlights? Yakupov 2.0 on a good day. At least Puljujarvi wasn’t a First Over All this Time… LOL…

      • country mac

        Pathetic, you have to use my joke.

        Haha, didnt you guys say the same thing about Draisaitl and now he is light years better than bennett, and you call yak a bust? yak still way ahead of what bennett has accomplished in the NHL, and if you look at their points per game per draft year, Bennett has never got to where yak was and is falling of at a quicker rate.

        And flames fans keep saying wait for bennet, this is his draft +4. Puljijarvi is draft +1. Heads are way up your behinds when it comes to this one.

        • Puckhead

          What Country Crack is trying to say is that Drai so good and Chia is such a poor negotiator that he will be traded before the season starts. Yet another asset flipped for a loss. Too bad so sad.

        • Rexx

          Puljijarvi looked like an out of place pylon during his over extended stay in the NHL.
          Sam Bennett was sent back to junior once healthy and returned to NHL action to put up pretty good numbers in his first ever NHL playoff performance. Did not look like a pylon.

          Sam Bennett was poorly utilized by Bob Hartley and lost essentially a full year of development by being forced to play wing. He put up a couple points with a revolving door of linemates, but was thrust back to his natural position….
          Jesse Puljijarvi isn’t even a PPG player in the AHL…..

          Our 2014 first rounder will get a contract that is cap manageable, team friendly and still gives the player the opportunity to prove his true worth for his extension…
          Your 2014 first rounders contract will pigeon hole your team based on a performance that may or may not be sustainable, forcing the team to “win now” when the team still has glaring holes that a little bit of cap could help fix…

          Just a little bit of contrast for you.
          You’re not in good shape.

          • country mac

            haha, so Bennett who cant do anything in the nhl in 3 years is still on pace to be elite, but JP, who you didnt obviously watch (who was given less chances than Bennett) had to go the the AHL to adjust his game to a different ice surface, is a bust.

            And you want to talk about sustainable, look what happened when pdo and shooting percentages caught up to Astro Boy and Monahan, number regressed to the norm, because there play was not sustainable.

            As well ya Talbot gets hurt is bad for oilers, but it better than having smith as your goialie to start. You dont have to worry about an injury to your goailie because he is a replacement level goalies as it is.

          • Puckhead

            Thanks Country Crack for being with us today. You will note that nobody trolls Canucks Army because, well, they suck and aren’t a threat to anyone. You being here today, chiming in with your pointless gibberish, reaffirms to me that the Flames are well on their way to being a contender. It’s a great time to be a Flames fan.

            Go 🔥 Go!!!!

        • Both of our teams haven’t done anything since the 80’s. We’ve wallowed in mediocrity, you’ve wallowed in despair. We pwn you in the all-time record between us, you pwn us in Rings. We’re both now-allegedly-on the cusp of greater things.

          Let’s say the Battle begins anew when the puck drops on next season.

          Then we’ll see what’s what.

          Punk.

          • Southboy: would you also take the decades of loss and comical mismanagement which followed the rings?

            We are a team with a plan. You are team with a prayer named Connor McDavid.

            So go ahead and pray, because next season? You’ll just be prey for us.

          • Southboy

            Bringthefire: i am a flames fan through and through. And yes i would still take the rings, that is what every team plays for. If you had a management and a team that aimed for playoffs but not the cup you would be happy with that? I know i wouldnt, its the Cup or bust.

        • fumanchu1968

          I’d love to see Bennett crack Draisaitl on the nose…It’ll happen…Last year was a blip on the screen for the Oilers and you won’t see them win the Cup any time soon.

          • HOCKEY83

            Only one team wins the cup every year. Not winning the cup doesn’t mean an unsuccessful season. The oilers as well as the flames are more likely not to win the cup ever again than to win it. As far as I’m concerned with the parody in the league right now just making into a playoff spot is a win for any team. The Flames doing better than last years 4 straight losses to Anaheim would be a win. The Flames beating Anaheim in Anaheim would be a win. The Flames beating the oilers this season would be a win. If you measure the success of an NHL team as being successful if they win the cup and only that you’ll be cheering for a loser always. The successes need to be on a smaller scale as there are 30 losers at the end of the season. For me if the Flames can make it past the first round of the playoffs that’s a huge win. It’s a step in the right direction. I am a flames fan…die hard…and was there for the real battle of Alberta. There is no battle of Alberta now but hopefully if the 2 Alberta teams meet in the playoffs this year it will start again. The players we both have on our teams have no idea what a battle of Alberta looks like. I appreciate great hockey a watching great players. McDavid was fun to watch during the season but was easily shut down in the playoffs. He needs to work on that. There is no one more exciting to watch in the league in the 3 on 3 like Johnny Hockey but during the playoffs against a stronger bigger Anaheim Ducks team he played like a scared little boy. Hopefully he fixes that this season. The Flames have done more to get better and Edmonton have gotten worse since last season so we’ll just have to see how this all pans out.

  • Southboy

    As much as i wanna tell country mac to stuff it, the fact that the stats show he is right, leans me towards trading bennet and a D for duschense, especially since Treveling has made it clear we are going for it over the next 2-3 years. Just my opinion tho.

    • TheoForever

      How about watching them. Yak was dumb as Yak. Bennett is getting better defensively and learning to play C in NHL which is harder than being a winger. He was buried with Brouwer’s of the world and had no PP time. Also, Bennett lost one year to injury, so what macSuck says is not even true.
      Yak was given all opportunities and failed like so many others.
      If you want to compare Bennett to someone that makes sense look at Backs and Turris progression.

    • DKramer

      I don’t trust an opinion from someone who butchers the spelling of the player you want to acquire and the player you want to trade that badly. Additionally, keeping Bennett and that prospect sets us up for more than 2-3 of contention.

    • Puckhead

      There is a lot more to this argument than stats. I’m bullish on the guy and believe he isn’t even close to showing what he is capable of. I find the trash talk humorous and hope the naysayers like the taste of it when he proves them wrong.

  • Southboy

    I agree with you puckhead, i hope he does prove us wrong. And if he does we are a better team for the next 5-7years because of it. But if Treveling is looking to win ‘now’ ( as has been suggested ) just wondering who gives us a better chance? Bennett, or Duchene? I am on the fence for sure.

    Hey DKramer, if you clicked a link for the local spelling bee, and was directed to a hockey blog, i would contact your internet provider. Might he a bad link, or a small member problem that makes you care about the spelling of some hockey player, on a fan forum site. Lol

  • Just.Visiting

    I disagree with the idea of roster additions from the potential players on the list, and prefer Chiasson to those options, as you’d at least know what and who you would be getting.

    That being said, I don’t think there’s room for Chiasson after signing Versteeg, resigning Lazar and not moving Brouwer. It’s particularly difficult to rationalize the Lazar trade and the comments the Flames have made about him if they turn around and relegate him to the pressbox after signing Chiasson.

    Similarly, I’d much sooner see what Janko could do on the “Mikes” line and see Tkachuk moved than have Chiasson. While the Janko numbers for the upcoming season could possibly be comparable to Chiasson’s, I think there is a greater possibility of Janko outperforming that standard than Chiasson doing so. Of greater importance, though, is what a year of NHL development in the upcoming season would mean for Janko’s performance after next season, which I would expect would surpass that of Chiasson and the other roster candidates mentioned in the article.

    While one can argue that there is a risk with the AHLers because they have never done it at the NHL level, the reality is that we now have a pipeline from which we can reasonably expect to see viable competition for positions from our minor league talent. Even if Janko isn’t quite as good as we think he is, who’s to say that one of Foo, Shink, Klimchuk, Poirier, Mang wouldn’t be able to step in and provide a serviceable contribution? Besides, it’s not like the experienced players under discussion are offering anything more than modest output when it’s the better than modest output from unexpected sources that is the difference maker for true contenders.

  • TriPPiNvdUb

    The idea of trading Benny is laughable, this kid is going to be the best player on this club with in a few years. He plays a hard nosed run right through you style and once he fills out, him and Chucky are going to be the leagues most hated duo. Bennett > Duchene

  • The Fall

    Bennett does not have the stats to support a deal much richer than Ferland or Steeg. He certainly has more potential. No way his agent lets him sign anything longer than two years.

  • Burnward

    How many 20 year old kids played as many minutes as Bennett at center?

    How many weren’t sheltered like him?

    How many had underwhelming lineages like him?

    How many averaged less PP time?

    He was basically thrown in the deep end and told to swim into the wave pool generator with no life jacket and no rescue plan.

    He didn’t drown.

    He’s a damn stud in the making.

    • Kevin R

      Hey dough head! Go to the link thehockeynews.com/news/article/star-power-in-the-nhl-which-teams-have-it-and-how-much-does-it-take-to-win-the-cup

      Curious how you are digesting the Oilers ranked 19th in the league & the Flames ranked 5th? We like how are team is shaping up, now beat it & go worry about your own. Especially get some extra help coping with the fact you guys have had all these 1st overalls, including a generational player, & top 2nd round picks for the last how many years & come in at 19th to the MSM.

      • Southboy

        i also like how our team is shaping up, but using an article that has the Bruins with the most Tier 1 star power, ranks Jaimie Benn as a tier 3 is not the most reliable stat sheet available. Also has 20 guys ranked ahead of Malkin.

  • madjam

    Bennett – 8 years at 3.5M AAV . You do not get potential top 6 decent material for much less than that . Sign Tkachuk early after next season as well , and avoid the Draisaitl conundrum .

    • Puckhead

      Thanks Madjam. I’m sure that the Drai thing will get settled out, hopefully sooner than later and for a decent price ($7.5M would be a steal). I’ve got to ask you something, what’s up with this Connor guy ☝️who rides on McDavid’s coattail? Is he loopy crazy on ON as well? If he’s out to make himself look like an ass he’s really good at it. I wish guys like him wouldn’t do the same on your site. Have a good season.

          • TheoForever

            You make things up and fail to consider circumstances, that’s a little different. After Oilers miss the playoffs this year that’s going to be 11 out of 12, but look at this way you guys can have another draft party, you probably win and get gifted a mini mickyD….

    • Kevin R

      If he signed that deal his agent should be fired immediately & I doubt he’ll get any other future customers any time soon. I would go to 4.5 on a 5-6 year deal if you could get him to sign, similar to what Brodie took. That has future value written all over it.

    • oilcanboyd

      He will get a bridge contract of 2 years to prove to the Flames that he is elite and the Flames will want to see him progress over the next 2 years as well. You only get Draisaitl conundrums if your management has consistently fffered 6 million dollar contracts to high draft picks without proof that they are legitimate NHL stars. Now the Oil get Draisaitl saying “I’m worth much more than those 6 million dollar kids who accomplished zippo – didn’t even make the playoffs!

    • oilcanboyd

      My guess is Gazdic will be in the opening lineup versus the Oil’ if he reports to camp in shape and as a good camp..then he will be sent down to Stockton.

    • Trevy

      I’m with you on this one Walt. Dwight King is not a bad pick up. Put up just as many points as Chiasson ( 25-35pts a couple yrs ago), 28yr old Canadian boy and would be cheap. Did wonders as a banger with LA when they were winning cups. Gazdic maybe too much of a heavy weight that may be more designed for the AHL, but King is an improved version of Hathaway. Say what you will, but you can’t rely on Ferland and Hamonic to do your heavy lifting against the likes of Anaheim and the goons up north

        • Puckhead

          In today’s NHL you don’t need goons, especially come playoff time (unless a player really wants to instigate a fight and screw his team over in the process). For example. out first line needs someone who can play a fine balancing act where he toes the line but doesn’t get sent to the sin bin. A guy like Jagr won’t cut it. At present I don’t see how it can’t be Ferland or Tkachuk. In saying this I expect Tkachuk to pull in the reigns this year.

          • TheoForever

            Oilers have a few goons like Kassian, Maroon, Lucic, Nurse.
            We had Engelland, and he was as tough as it gets. However, now we only have Ferk that can fight. We cannot have morons like Kassian running around taking head shots. I’m not saying play Gazdic all the time, but for that game 1 with Oilers, having him sitting on the bench can be enough of a deterrent.

    • OYYC

      Josh Healey maybe? Sure he loves to blow people up, but can/will he drop the gloves with anyone? Is his skating up to par? He’s definitely a wild card later on in the year, and someone to keep an eye on. Hathaway figures to be the 13th man as things sit now.

  • DMac

    As for roster additions, they should only be contemplated after Bennett puts pen to paper. Any of those additions should not include Jaromir Jagr. I respect and admire his body of work, but he’s 45 years old and having a 45 year old take the roster spot of a kid or group of kids that we might be cultivating to be here for 4, 5 years would be a more productive choice. Of the list that is in Pat’s paragraph #4, figure that Jimmy Hayes might be the best target, but would submit that Alex Chaisson might be a cheaper, equally as effective signing.

  • freethe flames

    Now for something completely off topic; just read that Cody Franson may only be offered a PTO. Remember when just a few weeks ago many on this site felt he should be signed instead of Stone? I always wonder why guys like Franson always seem to be on the outside? Is he too picky as to where he wants to play? Is he a locker room distraction? (just asking a question)

    Back to discussing Bennett who I see as being on the Backlund development track; slow but steady. He really does not have much leverage in signing a deal; a bridge at around $2m at most is what is reflective of his numbers and the only reasons it is this high is because of his draft pedigree and the fact that he is a center.

  • Ty $ Sign

    give me jimmy hayes on a cheap 2 Yr 1AAV million dollar contract. RW-check, right shot- check, big body to go into the corners for Johnny and Mony – Check

      • Ty $ Sign

        I’m not really sure what happened but his advanced analytics actually didn’t look too bad when I checked them out. He was definitely a positive possession player from what I saw. I’d definitely take a flyer on him. especially since he isn’t a thousand years old like Jagr and Iggy. I get the love for Iggy but that ship has sailed.

  • Roberto

    Unfortunately for the Flames, they will have no answer for the Best player in the World…. Gio is getting Old, Smith is Old. The Flames will have a playoff team for years to come IMO but will not be a cup threat.