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.