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.
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.
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.
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.
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).