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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Looking ahead to July’s free agent decisions

The 2017-18 season is chugging along for the Calgary Flames, but it’s probably prudent to keep an eye on the future. Led by Mikael Backlund, the Flames have a lot players that will become free agents on July 1. While Backlund is the most pressing pending free agent, the organization has roughly 24 players they need to make decisions on.

Here’s a quick snapshot of their upcoming free agents.

(Ages listed are the age the player will be as of July 1, 2018.)

Unrestricted free agents

The Flames have 11 pending unrestricted free agents.

On the NHL roster, there’s Mikael Backlund (28), Matt Bartkowski (30), Jaromir Jagr (46), Matt Stajan (34) and Kris Versteeg (32). Backlund is an obvious choice to be re-signed by the club, while it seems likely that Bartkowski and Jagr won’t be back due to age and fit. Stajan and Versteeg are interesting individuals, in that I could see either one (or both) being back on short-term deals in the event that the Flames can’t find anybody internally who can take on their roles. (Devil’s advocate: do the Flames have anybody who can be a fourth line center, or would they be okay with Stajan coming back on a short-term, low cap hit deal?)

On the farm, a trio of veterans are on expiring deals: Luke Gazdic (28), Tanner Glass (34) and Dalton Prout (28). All three play complementary roles, and it’s possible that a couple are back as veterans for the farm team and it’s also possible that all three explore other options this summer.

A pair of tweeners seem likely bets to become Group 6 free agents: Marek Hrivik (26) and Tyler Wotherspoon (25). Both players have the right mix of age and pro experience to qualify for Group 6 and unless either player hits 80 career NHL games by July 1 – which they won’t with 35 games left, as Hrivik has played 22 and Wotherspoon 30 – they’ll become unrestricted. It seems like an obvious parting of the ways for Wotherspoon, while Hrivik could end up finding himself back with the organization depending on his performance in Calgary.

Finally, Adam Ollas Mattsson (21) will become a draft-related UFA if he’s unsigned by June 1. He hasn’t been amazing in Stockton, so he seems like a long-shot to get signed.

Restricted free agents

The Flames have 11 pending restricted free agents.

On the big club roster, Garnet Hathaway (26), Mark Jankowski (23), Brett Kulak (24) and David Rittich (25) will all be RFAs. Hathaway is a potential Group 6, but he’ll almost definitely play enough games to become an RFA instead. Given that all four players are NHL regulars now, they’re all locks to be qualified and re-signed. They all have arbitration rights.

On the farm, Austin Carroll (24), Jon Gillies (24), Morgan Klimchuk (23), Emile Poirier (23), Daniel Pribyl (25), Hunter Shinkaruk (23) and Hunter Smith (22) are pending RFAs. Carroll and Smith have played almost exclusively in depth roles and seem like good bets to be cut loose, while Pribyl has struggled to stay healthy and might be a good bet to return to Europe. The club needs to clear out some space with newcomers entering the minor league system next season and this trio seems like the easiest bunch to part ways with.

Gillies, Klimchuk, Poirier and Shinkaruk are all, at worst, useful AHL depth players and a couple of them could still push into the Flames’ NHL plans – Gillies, especially – so they all seem like safe bets to be qualified and re-signed.

    • supra steve

      This assumption that Dube will step right in in CGY next fall has no basis in reality. The kid is like almost any other, he will need AHL experience before making the big step up to the NHL.

      • Nick24

        He had an incredible camp, and he probably should have gotten at least one or two games to start the season, this year. Retain Hrivik at league minimum if it makes you feel better, but after one more year, I would expect Dube to be at the same level he was at. Not every player needs to play in the AHL, and playing him there for the sake of him needing AHL experience is equally unreasonable as assuming he can just step into a key role in the NHL. The Flames should make room for him in the case that he is ready, but also have a passable replacement if he isn’t.

        • supra steve

          Camp doesn’t convince me. Have seen many kids impress at that level, only to fall back to earth when the season starts. Chuck Kobasew comes to mind as one example. Brodie was another. Not saying the kid will not make it to the show, my 2 examples obviously did, I just don’t believe anyone should be writing his name into next season’s roster just yet.

      • Bigphatn-ts

        Ye lol idk what kind of meth the media got there hands on this summer lol contending playoff team like let’s get real this team is at least two years away from finishing in the top two of the division were gunna be stacked in two years with at least 4 prospects from the farm coming to this team RA take out stone valimaki will be on the team 2019 beginning of season making gio or Brodie exspedable kylington is only gunn be as good at his buddy Johnny oduya maybe with a touch more flash and offence and dube will be on this team 2019 basically what I’m saying is be patience becuz we only in year 4 of our rebuild this is not the team that’s projected to win the cup that team is in 2019 and beyond

    • supra steve

      I know we are not there yet….BUT, IF the team does eventually decide to sell assets, I should think the Isles would be in full support of it and may even offer some kind of incentives for the Flames to fully tank. The further the Flames fall, the better it is for Garth Snow’s club.

    • Puckhead

      I would have no problem moving one or two players, especially if we could recoup a 1st rounder. The farm is weak down the middle and on RW. Need to keep the shelves stocked and prospect pipeline flowing.

      • Puckhead

        How can a Flames fan trash this? I am a Flames fan since they came here. It’s obvious that they will not make a deep playoff push this season. We have a few prospects that are NHL ready and some vets who could net us some great prospects.

        Call the season for what it is and let’s make a deal.

        • The Beej

          Interesting. I was thinking of using our cap space as well. Wouldnt moving Hamonic or Stone for Orpick have some value for Washington? Like maybe Vrana and a pick?

  • DeadRedRedemption

    I’ll get trashed for this, but I’m going to say it.

    Sell high on Micheal Ferland. I love the way he plays. He _almost_ reminds me of Gary Roberts (before he was hurt), my all time favorite player from the Flames. I love Ferland’s back story.

    But… He would fetch a decent return.

    LW | 6′ 2″ | 208 lb | Age: 25
    Season GP G A P +/- PIM
    2014-2015 26 2 3 5 1 16
    2015-2016 71 4 14 18 -15 45
    2016-2017 76 15 10 25 -1 50
    2017-2018 50 20 11 31 7 15

    One year left at $1,750,000 on his contract.

    His value is trending up, but I don’t think he can maintain it.

    Are the Flames a contender this year? No.
    Will they make the playoffs? Maybe.
    Does the team need a shake up? Yes.
    Do I want GG gone before any major trades? In most cases yes, but the time to move #79 is now.

    It would be nice to collect a few picks at the deadline this year from a team looking for a tough goal scorer to shore up their middle 6. This was supposed to be the year to be all in for the Flames. Tre leveraged a lot in getting us this far, but it’s not happening this year. We don’t have much to work with to improve the team immediately. I’d rather keep the D together for one more year, retool the top line and try again next year. I think we are close. GG is an issue and so are the Flames RW core.

    I know, the Flames don’t have enough RW Depth. But the idea is to sell high, buy low right? And I think Ferly is at his high right now. Everyone remembers him destroying the Canucks in 2015. Now he can score too.

    I think the return for him would allow us to have more options come summer to pick up a more pure goal scorer for the top line. I don’t see him continuing his scoring trend much beyond next season, and definitely not if he doesn’t stay on that first line with Gaudreau and Monahan.

    What do you think Nation?

    • Raffydog

      I’m sure Ferland would love that as he gets no respect from this coaching staff. I guess i’d be ok with it depending on the return and as long as they trade him to an eastern conference team, cause I’d hate to have to play against him more than twice a year.

    • BendingCorners

      When Ferland falls off the top line I’m hoping it’s because they found somebody even better. When his game starts to deteriorate he should still be a good fit on the 2nd or 3rd line for another 2-3 years.

      • DeadRedRedemption

        “When his game starts to deteriorate he should still be a good fit on the 2nd or 3rd line for another 2-3 years.”

        After 2019 season the Flames would be on the hook for a 20-30 goal, first line winger, RFA. How many years until his game starts to deteriorate? Because Ferland will want term if he continues to score. Do you want to pay that kind of term/money for a 2nd or 3rd liner?

        And he still hasn’t shown he can score with anyone other than 13 and 23.

        Sell high.

    • everton fc

      He may score 30 goals this year, and could probably pop 20 as RW on a line w/Tkachuk and Jankowski. Not to mention, nor forget, he’s one of the most feared fighters in the league – which is why he doesn’t have too many scraps. We have little grit, “as is”. Ferland’s a core piece to our future.

      You want picks? Move Brodie. Heck, Stone may fetch a 2nd. Or a UFA RW on a team looking to get something in return. We have no one in the organization, nor on radar, who can replace Ferland.

      • DeadRedRedemption

        Agreed, we have no one in the organization who can replace Ferland.

        I want Ferland to be a perennial 20-30 goal scorer for the Flames. I also want the option to find someone even better for the first line. Picks and a 5,6,7 D are maybe the way to get someone. Right now we have no picks.

        To me, that’s more important for the team.

        Ferland hasn’t shown he can score on any line but the first line. He can hit and fight but when he’s not on that first line, he’s not the same goal scoring player.

        I’d be happy keeping Ferland, he’s great. But if I could improve on him….

        • The Beej

          @DeadRed…

          It all depends on the return doesnt it?

          I think you have to open to any option and any player should be on the table if the return is right.

          For Ferland the return would have to enable us to fill the whole created by moving plus add more value. That could be difficult… the return at minimu would have to be a first round pick and a highly rated prospect or it just wouldnt be worth it.

    • FlamesFan27

      I know you have a lot of trashes, but it’s this kind of thinking that might be the difference to bump the Flames up to the next level. I said the same thing about Gio a couple of years ago, but at that time the Flames weren’t as close.

      But it’s a huge risk. And I love Ferland.

  • freethe flames

    Of the NHL UFA’s the only one to sign is Backs. Keep both tweeners, No to the old AHL/NHL uFA’s, IMO resign AOM. The 4 RFA’s NHL sign. Good bye Smith and Pribyl. Sign the rest.

  • snotss

    stajan and versteeg should be gone out right…there is plenty of talent down on the farm put younger players in and give them a chance…have the the flames stopped there their rebuild?????? get rid of the older waste..if either is back next year then the flames are not really serious about getting younger or any better

  • everton fc

    I’d re-sign;

    Backlund
    Versteeg (if cheap – good 4th line option, good on PP, good for the locker room)
    Wotherspoon
    Hrivik

    RFAs
    Hathaway
    Jankowski
    Rittich
    Kulak
    Klimchuk
    Shinkaruk
    Gillies

    I’d let Poirier go.

  • Trevy

    Resign Stajan!? He shouldn’t of even been resigned to his last contract. Let at Hrivik take a shot full time next season centering the 4th line at least. He’s younger, faster, cheaper and has a better shot. Stajan’s value on the ice has diminished drastically and he’s only playing now because he’s good in the room, guys like him and to reach his 1000 games. There’s been countless discussions how the Flames need to fine tune the bottom six, but it certainly doesn’t start with resigning Stajan to whatever monetary value he’s offered. We’re a bubble team right now and keeping this whole team intact won’t suddenly take us to the next level next season. New blood needs to be injected

  • RealMcHockeyReturns

    To me the obvious re-signs are covered by author, but things are NOT working now. Time for shakeup – either Brodie for Mariner to meet each team’s needs BUT to balance salaries (Leafs at cap) the Flames take Hainsey or Komarov and get Soshnikov too

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Haven’t you heard the glorious news out of the Big Smoke this week how the Leafs have uncovered not one but two rookie defencemen who are already playing like seasoned pros.

      Once again, Tre dilly dallied in the valley too long, as he did when he looked for a coach, and the Leafs no loner have any need for a defenceman.

      • Stockton's Finest

        Yes. The 3rd one he failed to control the rebound. The 2nd one glove high with no screen in front. The 1st one (on the other side of the ice from me) appeared to be stick high.

        • ThisBigMouthIsRight

          Geeeeez…. 3-0 was it as bad as that? Its rather upsetting than no one down there seems to be stepping up in the absence of the guys brought up (to sit and eat popcorn). It dosen’t look good on the prospects still playing in the AHL, if they can’t grab the brass ring when its openly offered to them to take and run with it!

          • BlueMoonNigel

            No problem because when the club needs affordable salaries they will dip into Stockton. It won’t matter if the guy can play or not, just that he is cheap. If he’s a dog in Calgary, he’ll be replaced by another cheap Heat. That is the beauty of the salary cap world–bums become NHLers for no reason other than you pay them salt so as to pay the real bucks to the superstars.

  • The GREAT WW

    Trade Backlund to Ottawa for Zack Smith and their first round pick.

    They get their 1C.
    We replace out 3C with a cheaper version and get a draft pick back.

    WW

    • AdambomB

      Wait, let’s get this straight. Ottawa trades their 1st (a lottery pick) and Zack Smith for an expiring contract? I don’t fault you for this thought as you are obviously new to this, so you might want to sit back and pay attention before throwing out hot takes like that.

    • JoelOttosJock

      I like the idea of moving him as well, just not sold on Smith from Ottawa. I would also like to see Bennett moved back to Center to play with Byng. Those two with a sniper could cause a lot of havoc! Also, woth Byngs amazing hockey IQ I believe Bennet would be sheltered a lot better than when he was playing with Brouwer. Also, move Frolik if possible. Next year i would like to see something along these lines..
      Gaudreau Monahan
      Tkachuk Bennett
      Mangianpane Jankowski Ferland
      Brouwer Lazar Hathaway
      Thos two open spots could be filled by either trades of Backlund and Frolik , free agents or from the system if someone can take a spot like Foo or Dube etc. I know that is a long shot. Also, Ferland is able to slide up and down that line up. I hope they target a right hand shot. Also, Brodoe could and should be used to target somebody for those top lines. Or, how about Dougie? Lets asume The Hair is not the coach next season and our D could be lije this.
      Gio Brodie
      Ras Hamonic
      Kulak Stone.

      • JoelOttosJock

        I got excoted and hit post before finishing. My wife complains i am usually premature..Marner or Dylan Strome or Kaspari Kappnen..or thoughts on Bozak..

  • Chucky

    Trade Stone and move Brodie to the second pair right side. Bring Wotherspoon up to see what he is worth. It is a good bet that if he does not get some NHL time there is no way he is resigning with the Flames so it is a total waste of a second round if his NHL career is somewhere else signed as a free agent.
    Sign Backlund. He is the best centre in the system, with a coach that can match lines he can free up Monahan and Jankowski to score.
    Sign Jankowski, Rittich, Kulak and Hathaway, all have more than they have shown.
    Sign as many minor league players as they can unless it is obvious that there is no place for them in Stockton

    • freethe flames

      IMO you need to have a number of things in Stockton(any farm team); quality AHL veterans who know they are not likely to go the show, some tweeners who you can call up and fit into your line up, some older prospects who need to ready and your younger prospects who are pushing up from below. You need this in every position and currently we are devoid of this at center and our obvious weakness at RW. If the Heat make the playoffs and the CHL players season come to an end at the right time(for the Heat) then there will be some of that depth.