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The Flames have some free agent decisions to make

The 2017-18 season has come and gone for the Calgary Flames. Now that the season is complete, several players are on expiring contracts. Between restricted, unrestricted and draft-related free agents, Flames management has to make decisions on 24 players over the next several months.

We’ve taken our crack at making the decisions for them.

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Restricted free agents

D Brett Kulak
Kulak gets a $715,000 qualifying offer, but he’s a no-brainer to qualify. He has arbitration rights, but he hasn’t been in a role where he’s put up showy numbers and he’s only really been a full-time NHL player for a year so he wouldn’t have much of a case for a big payday regardless.

C Mark Jankowski
The Flames’ third line pivot gets a $874,125 qualifying offer and has arbitration rights. Like Kulak, he doesn’t have a large sample size of NHL work and wouldn’t have much of an argument for compensation beyond his qualifying offer. He’s an easy bet for a qualifying offer.

C Nick Shore
Shore bounced around to three NHL clubs last season, but he seems a good bet to be qualified. He’s the only potential RFA with enough experience to qualify for a one-way qualifying offer ($971,250) and he has arbitration rights, but he also seems like the type that would negotiate a longer-term deal for a lower cap hit given that he’ll arguably never be in a showy NHL role.

G David Rittich
Rittich will be waiver eligible next season and has arbitration rights, but his qualifying offer isn’t huge at $761,250. He’s definitely an NHL-capable backup goaltender and the only way he doesn’t get qualified is if the team thinks there’s no way he can’t develop some consistency.

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G Jon Gillies
Gillies is a year younger than Rittich and has much less NHL experience, but he’s also the only potential RFA that will still be waiver exempt next season. His qualifying offer is $761,250 and he seems a solid bet to be qualified.

RW Garnet Hathaway
Hathaway has a very palatable $715,000 qualifying offer. He has arbitration rights but his variable NHL results to date – sparse scoring numbers as a fourth liner and decent numbers on the third line – make it tough to make a great arbitration case.

LW Morgan Klimchuk
Klimchuk finally made his NHL debut this season, playing one game and looking completely fine. He’s the first player on this list whose qualifying offer is a bit steep; his offer is $874,125. Given Klimchuk’s destined to be a bottom six player, giving him a scorer’s salary at the NHL level seems a bit wonky. That said, the most likely scenario seems to be Klimchuk getting qualified and then his agent working out a deal at a lower rate (a Hathaway-esque cap hit).

LW Hunter Shinkaruk
Shinkaruk seems like a borderline case to be qualified. Like Klimchuk, his qualifying offer is $874,125. Unlike Klimchuk, Shinkaruk’s pro career seems to be losing momentum. He didn’t spent any time in the NHL in 2017-18, and he’s been overtaken on the Flames depth chart by at least a half-dozen forwards. He’s a good AHL body, but the possibility of him accepting such a large qualifying offer seems iffy.

RW Emile Poirier
The last time Poirier played a game in the NHL was March 2016. He’s been a depth body for Stockton, at best, finishing this season 11th in points-per-game among regular Heat forwards. While he’s gotten his life back on track following heading to rehab for alcohol abuse – and that’s commendable – his hockey career has stalled out. His $874,125 qualifying offer is way too high for a player in his role and it’s unlikely he’ll be qualified.

RW Austin Carroll
Carroll has a pretty low qualifying offer ($715,000) and arbitration rights that are functionally useless because he scores so little at the AHL level that there are no useful comparables. He’s played zero NHL games. He’s put up 35 points over three full AHL seasons. He’s adequate AHL depth, but he’s probably a better fit on an AHL deal.

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RW Daniel Pribyl
Pribyl spent the entirety of this past season on the injured reserve. He spent much of the prior season on the injured reserve. That’s an exhaustive recap of his North American hockey career. It’s unlikely that his camp has an appetite to re-sign with the Flames, just as it’s unlikely that the Flames wish to give him his $874,125 qualifying offer.

RW Hunter Smith
Smith spent zero days on an AHL roster this past season. His prior two AHL seasons saw him combine for 19 points, when he wasn’t a healthy scratch – there’s a reason he spent this year in the ECHL. Cheap qualifying offer ($715,000) or not, he’s not a guy that should have an NHL contract right now.

Unrestricted free agents

There are only two pending UFAs that may be back: C Matt Stajan and LW Kris Versteeg. Stajan’s gig as fourth line center was seemingly usurped by Shore late in the season, but Stajan could find a fit as a 13th forward and locker room mentor… as long as he took a sizeable pay cut from his $3.125 million cap hit. Versteeg’s in a similar boat, but the challenge for him is he never found his stride when he returned from hip surgery – you can project what Stajan could bring as an extra body, but it’s a lot tougher with Versteeg.

Beyond that pair, D Matt Bartkowski was a constant healthy scratch (making league minimum); LW Tanner Glass split time between the NHL (as a healthy scratch at league minimum) and Stockton; RW Jaromir Jagr scored a couple goals, injured his entire body and then went back to Kladno; and RW Chris Stewart was a waiver claim and barely played. None of the four seem likely bets to return for obvious reasons.

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On the farm, RW Marek Hrivik is a Group 6 free agent but could return – he was on the NHL roster before his injury and the worst case scenario is he’s a good depth option for Stockton. D Cody Goloubef is another player in the same boat; he was signed after the Olympics and was a good depth player all season. With D Tyler Wotherspoon a Group 6 free agent and not looking like a good bet to return – if you were him, why would you re-sign? – Goloubef could take on a valuable veteran role on the farm team. C Luke Gazdic and D Dalton Prout probably aren’t coming back, opening some spots for youngsters, while D Adam Ollas-Mattsson struggled with injury and inconsistency and likely won’t be converted to an NHL contract from his AHL deal (and so the Flames will lose his NHL rights).

  • Honkydonk

    I am shocked with what the flames leadership has done with some prospects. It was a supposed rebuild my a#%.

    You have 3 first round drafted players on your AHL team and collectively they have barely played 20 games over a course of three years all the while you buy out a Bouma type player while signing players in a Bouma esq style like Glass as one example among a few.

    Then on the back end you leave Wotherspoon in the AHL all these years. Not sure if noticed but spoon had himself a pretty productive year and as the writer says he’s likely going to walk because we sign guys like Bartkowski and Goloubef. Seriously?!

    I’d be confused as a flames prospect that it seems the only likely way to NHL is to be a legit superstar prospect making it impossible to leadership to not screw it up.

    Get it thru your thick skulls Flames that your fans want to see their prospects play and given a legitimate shot.

    • Cfan in Van

      I agree. Having two coaches in a row that seem reluctant to play young guys unless the have to… Injury call-up, “hey this guy’s not bad after all”. I’m sure this org isn’t the only one that has that tendency, but it doesn’t help the motivation factor for the guys on the farm. Spoon should have got more games for sure.

    • cberg

      Honkydonk, I agree completely. The Flames have not really given many of the young kids a fair chance outside or their “elite” (including Bennett here) top-most draft choices and of course Gaudreau, who forced their hand. Partly this is because they were not able to force the Flame’s hands, which is true. I personally believe several can make the Flames and make a dent, such as Wotherspoon and Poirier, Foo and possibly even Kylington, and would have been huge improvements over many of the signings you mentioned. There is no perfect system, and we don’t want to get like the Oilers, just dropping rookies into plum gifted spots, but I’m hopeful that this Fall will truly be an open competition for spots without bias. With the Flames going to China for a couple weeks to start training camp it might be so, although unfortunately Peters will be overseas. Hopefully the youth will get their shot here early and when the team returns. With no Penticton tournament for the Flames and Oilers this year perhaps something new will be happening.

        • cberg

          There is going to be a tourney, but Vancouver will play a two game set with Winnipeg, while UBC will do the same same against UAlberta. Neither Calgary or Edmonton will be there. There was either a Nations Network article or tweet thread, can’t remember the specifics.

    • Burnward

      Or you go the Edmonton route and throw away value because they aren’t ready. And you’re always chasing cheap talent.

      Not every kid can play at 20. And that’s okay.

      They’ve hit on enough elite talent they can be patient with these kids.

    • cjc

      Re. Klimchuk or Poirier, neither has done much to earn time in the bigs. Shinkaruk took a step back, too. That said, I’d rather see Shinkaruk or Klimchuk in the lineup than Hathaway or Lazar, but they probably don’t make a huge difference.

      Wotherspoon is going to walk because he hasn’t risen through the depth chart. Kulak passed him, so at best he’s going to be a 7 D. Remember, he is 25 now, and the likes of Andersson and Kylington are already posting better numbers. Yes Bartkowski blocked him from being 7 D and getting a few games in, but Goloubef hasn’t seen the NHL with the Flames yet.

      If the likes of Dube, Mangiapane, Phillips, Andersson and Kylington impress in September, they should definitely be considered for roster spots. Can management count on that though?

      • JMK

        That’s the thing. As much as I would love to see less veterans and more youth, think back to last year – no winger rose to the challenge and thus they had to take a risk on an unfit Jagr.

      • Honkydonk

        They traded for Shinkaruk! We gave up Grandlund who has for the most part played wing in the NHL. So again it’s not just about playing them it’s about judgement here.

        If they felt Poirier was a bust they could have figured out all his baggage after draft plus 1 and gotten rid of him with some value in return. Same goes for Spoon and Shinkaruk.

        It’s the complete lack of risk taking or effective decision making that’s the problem here. The leadership team continues to always revert to the”no decision” decision of letting value assets continue to sit in AHL while losing value bit by bit.

        At the time we traded for Shinkaruk the Canuck fans were losing their collective minds. Don’t tell me he didn’t have value in a trade or something.

        Now they both have lost all value unless they excel.

        It’s stupid

      • cberg

        Both Klimchuk and Poirier have scored ~20 goals while leading their team in the AHL in their last/first seasons and learned the defensive side of the game. I don’t call that nothing. Look, not everyone is going to make it, there isn’t enough room, and players tend to get pegged and have a tough time getting opportunities. Look no further than Vegas this year for multiple examples of that. Hopefully they will get an better opportunity this Fall and the management moves away from guys like Stajan, Brouwer, Glass and etc who are on their last legs and who might be able to impress in short spurts but are done as far as long-term options go.

    • TriPPiNvdUb

      Wait, how many rookies played on this team last season? ?
      Although I wasn’t thrilled with some of there usage up and down the lineup, you can’t say that the flames showed any reluctance to play the farm hands last season.

      • McRib

        Emile Poirier is way more deserving of being in the NHL than Garnet “I can’t score in 42 NHL Games” Hathaway. Problem is Hathaway started the year on the top AHL line with Mangiapane and Jankowski so obviously he looked alright, though not Poirier a former AHL All-Star at 20 years old.

        Hathaway scored 18 Goals in his entire NCAA career. Yet Poirier scored 85 Goals his last two years in the QMJHL. Tell me again who is more deserving of being an NHLer on a team that desperately needs depth scoring?!?!? Husky buried Poirier most of the season in the AHL, as per usual, but late in the year the minute he started to get quality ice he was back up to producing regularly.

  • cberg

    In general I agree with your assessments, though I might be inclined to try and sign a few of the questionable ones to fill out our Stockton roster and in light of new coaching changes.

    First off, goaltending. Although I believe the easy answer is go with Rittich as back-up in Calgary and Gillies/Parsons in Stockton, I’d rather try and trade Ritiich, or not re-sign and go with Gillies as back-up with Parsons getting most starts in Stockton. With Smith only signed for another year, and the need to prove a goalie for 2019 or who a different direction, I think giving Gillies and Parsons more responsibility this year will be better for the team overall and make it easier to make a decision after next season one way or another. Keeping all 3 prospects is muddying the waters. The Flames need to make the tough decision now and go forward, giving opportunity and confidence to their two most highly-touted goalers.

    Second, defence. Personally I’d try hard to re-sign Wotherspoon, keeping him up as a rotating 6/7D on the Flames, art better depending on how he responds. Although I agree it would be easy for him to walk, he also knows the team and with coaching/management changes may get his shot. I’d offer a 1-way contract to guarantee the dollars and hope he stays. He was very impressive ion Stockton and is a big upgrade over Bartkowski. He’s also worked well with both Kulak and Anderson so may help in their transitions. Besides him, I’d re-sign Goloubef and Adam Ollas-Mattson for Stockton, as well as skills currently lacking on the projected Flames D, namely size and physicality. They can still develop and become something down the road.

    As far as vets go I would not sign any of them, Stajan included. Its time to move on. Enough of these emotional signings, we have other vets in the line-up. If Stajan is so good give him a developmental role in Stockton to push along some of our prospects there.

    Forwards? Although I agree none of the marginal forwards mentioned have proven anything to date, I personally believe Poirier has it in him and would like to re-sign him for one last shot. Hrivik is good filler for injuries, at least, and SHinkaruk for Stockton depth at the minimum. Hathaway is a special case, as he seems to play all-out which seems right up Peter’s alley and although his offence is sporadic, there is some and the team seems to play better with him than without him. I’m betting an aggressive forechecking and penalty-killing role is possible and I’d definitely be re-signing him until he proves he’s a detriment to the team. To me he and Lazar are two peas in a pod and I think we need a few more guys like them, albeit contributing more.

  • redwhiteblack

    Nothing out of 3 first round draft picks is pretty awful drafting and development. I was sure at least one of those 3 would become a top 6 winger. Almost all first rounder pics in 2013 are key contributors to their NHL teams now. Shinkaruk, Klimchuk and Poirier can’t crack lineup here on a non playoff team. That’s bad development.

    • Cfan in Van

      For the record, Klimchuk came from Pittsburgh, when Jerome pretty much handcuffed the team into accepting whatever they would give us. He wasn’t drafted by Calgary. Shinkaruk, they had a bit more choice in the matter, but was drafted by the Canucks and traded for Granlund who was drafted 45th overall.

      Poirier is another matter, but I think his personal issues have a lot more to do with how he turned out. You can’t say the team didn’t try to give him support.

  • Trevy

    There should be no way the Flames should sign any of the free agents. If you want to keep Stajan, tell him to start wearing a suit and give him an office job. We don’t need to waste a contract on someone cause he’s “good in the room”. Shore is his replacement and to have both signed is ridiculous. Same for Versteeg, nice guy, but fragile and getting older. Time for fresh young talent with speed, bring up the kids and/or trade for some young talent

  • deantheraven

    If we traded (Frolik, Brodie, Stone, Brouwer) only for picks, we’d still have trouble finding spots for all of the players on one-way deals and guys like Poirier and Shinkaruk and Hrivik let alone the likes of Dube, Mangiapane, Phillips. It looks like a few more players will have to go before any meaningful add can happen. As it is,
    Johnny Mony Ferly
    Byng Janks (Foo/Mangi)
    Benny Backs (Lazr/Hath/Foo/ Mangi)
    Klimmer Shore (Hath/Lazr)
    Staj and Steeger
    I know Peters says he loves Frolik but his value won’t be higher and they need the roster space. I hope Lazar plays himself up the rotation.If not, he won’t hurt us in a bottom 6 role (4th line)… Or we get value for him in a packaged trade. But I’d hate to see him go.
    Poirier and Shinkaruk could get another contract and get one last try at camp.
    Play these lines until Christmas, see if the juniors can translate their game to the AHL and save the cap space for an upgrade at forward before the deadline.

    Gio Dougie
    Kul Hammer
    Kyll Phat Ras
    My optimistic look at the starting 6 and homegrown 7th D. If Peters can work with the young D like he’s done before, and gets consistently league-average goaltending we could be looking at the Core After Seattle.

    • freethe flames

      This line up is based upon BT not making any trades or signing any FA. With what we have here is how I see things:
      Here are the guys who might be able to fill Q1: Foo/Phillips
      Here are the guys who might be able to fill Q2: Mangaipane/Dube
      Here are the guys who might be able to fill Q3: Shore/Dube/Gawdin
      13/14 Hathaway/Klimchuk/Poirier/Brouwer

      When I look at this line up I see the need to add to this group and I think this can be done via FA. If we don’t trade for a guy who can play in the top 6; I would be okay with a guy like Vanek on a 1 year deal- this would give Phillips time in the AHL. I actually think Q2 can be filled internally. I also think the Q3 needs to be addressed either via trade or FA and again a 1 or 2 year deal for a guy like Beagle or Ryan would be okay. If somehow BT was able to acquire RoR for Brodie and something I could see some interesting ideas developing. A line of Tkachuk/RoR/ and either Foo or Phillips would be more palatable for me b/c of RoR being a veteran. Then think of the third line being something Bennett/Backs/Frolik and a 4th line of Mangiapane/Janko/Beagle(Ryan).

  • freethe flames

    Let’s try to look at the Flames situation before we decide who to resign: at the moment they have 15 players signed for the NHL 9 forwards, 6 d and one goalie. They then have 14 players signed in the AHL.; 3 goalies 4 defenders and 7 forwards.So they have 21 contracts to get to 50; so I suspect they will need to sign 19. So for sure you are resigning Janko, Kulak and the 2 goalies; you now have 15 left. I have asked the question before do you need both Lazar and Hathaway on your team; are they not redundant? Is Shore the best center available? I would think twice before signing them. Then you have what I call the late bloomers or young tweeners; Klimchuk/Poirier/Shinkaruk; signing them for one year helps your farm team and gives them another look. You now have 12 spots to fill out your organization needs. If Spoon wants to stay I say you sign him and the same goes for Hrivik; if the both signed you still have 10.

  • SeanCharles

    Let walk:

    – Carroll, Smith, Stajan, Versteeg, Jagr, Bartkowski, Glass, Stewart, Gazdig, Prout

    Retain as AHL depth if they are willing to sign:

    – Wotherspoon, Hrivik, AOM, Goloubef

    On the fence:

    – Poirier, Shinkaruk

    Definatley re-sign:

    – Kulak, Jankowski, Shore, Rittich, Gillies, Hathaway, Klimchuk

  • freethe flames

    At this point we have 3 higher end prospects Dube, Phillips and Gawdin at forward and two almost/maybe ready forwards Mangiapane and Foo; all under contract but can they fill the holes on the big club. After that things look rather slim and that is why we need to resign Klimchuk, Poirier and Shinkaruk if we want the Heat to be competitive.

    • Glensfunnyface

      No kidding. How is he even a consideration anymore. Stajan is NOT an NHL caliber player. Stewart only played 7 games as a flame and just about caught him in the team scoring race.

  • Jimmyhaggis

    After watching Wpg. knock off Nashville, this list of players, above, look pretty sad. BT has got miles to do to bring in or develop talent comparable to Wpg. I can’t honestly see the Flames contending for years, I’m a diehard Flames fan.
    I wish things would be more positive but let’s face it, the Flames only have half a team of real contenders right now. I guess most teams in the NHL are in the same boat.

    • cberg

      Winnipeg seems like the odds-on favourite for the Cup, at the moment but will likely have a very difficult time even making it past the next round. Calgary seems like a disorganized also-ran, at the moment but truthfully they were competing against the best, and winning for most of the season. Teams’ success ebbs and flows over time and the Flames are the same. They are not far from being a very solid team, heck they were that before injuries decimated them even under GG. Maybe we should all take a few weeks off to refresh then re-evaluate in another 6-7 weeks once BT’s plans become clearer and we know what we’ll have to work with come next Fall.

  • PrairieStew

    This narrative that somehow the prospects have not been given an opportunity is tiring. If Shinkaruk and Poirier are having trouble contributing in the AHL, what, in the name of Gordie Howe, makes people think that they will some how “develop” by being called up to the NHL ? Stop blaming the management for the fact that players who show promise (at 18-21) fail to continue to develop, and even regress. Some guys just don’t make it, get over it; no GM or coaching staff can change the fact. For some perspective and a fun exercise go back and review the 99 draft – when the Sedins went 2-3. 22 of the 40 top picks played less than 100 NHL games.