FlamesNation Mailbag: UFA sneak peek

It’s odd to think, but in a week’s time the NHL season could be completely over. The buyout window opens on June 15. The draft is just under three weeks away (not that it is supremely relevant to the Flames this year). Free agency opens in just a month. The exciting part of the non-hockey season is just around the corner.

So we’re taking an early peek at what the Flames could do in the frenzy, among other things.

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I think the two are linked, but not in that order.

The Flames have the spots open for a few AHLers to make the jump next season, and I think that’s been the plan for a while now, even if Glen Gulutzan and co. weren’t fired. Given the chaos of a coaching change in combination with adding a bunch of fresh faced rookies, it could be a volatile situation. If your team is going to have a few prospects in it next year while undergoing a coaching change, might as well keep around a guy to help the kids who are likely to be lost in all the chaos.

I think adding Ryan Huska was an opportunity that presented itself. He’s a guy with a pretty good success record of bringing players to the NHL (evident last year with David Rittich, Brett Kulak, Mark Jankowski, and Garnet Hathaway. Rasmus Andersson and Spencer Foo are also pointing in the right direction) but the Flames just aren’t rewarding him. He’s going to play a valuable role in getting guys like Andrew Mangiapane, Foo, Andersson, and potentially Morgan Klimchuk settled at the NHL level. I think it was the plan all along.

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I don’t know. Maybe Cail MacLean, current Stockton assistant, gets the nod. I could see them go to a WHL coach (Tim Hunter, perhaps) to groom him for an NHL job should Bill Peters not work out.

Otherwise, no intrigue. I’m not sure the coaching position is of much importance when all the orders come from upstairs anyways. The way the Flames have set up their AHL system is to try and create a transition as seamless as possible between AHL and NHL. That means implementing the NHL system, getting the future NHLers the most ice time, and generally doing as much as they can to bridge the gap between the two leagues. I’m sure you or I could be the Stockton head coach if we put Flames game footage on and played the important prospects on the first line.

My pipe dream is that they somehow find a way to pry Mark Stone out of Ottawa. I have no clue how they do it, but that’s what I want most.

A fun option might be to sign Ilya Kovalchuk. The guy has not shown any sign of slowing down in Russia, and if you can get him on a reasonable contract, perhaps he can become the finishing piece on that top line as well as a legitimate powerplay threat.

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A real hot take might be that Dillon Dube somehow finds his way to the top. The kid had a great finish to the year as Stockton’s #1 RW and is still not even 20 years old. He surprised a lot of people at camp this past season, perhaps he’s an even bigger surprise this time around.

Realistically, it might be Micheal Ferland again. The RW free agency market is thin and the Flames don’t have many assets to pony up for the RW that would solve their issues (i.e. Mark Stone). I think there’s certainly going to be a lot of careful consideration, but given prices and players available, I don’t think they’re going to make a serious move.

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I’m in the boat that the Flames should be going for another goalie as an insurance policy. Mike Smith’s injury history and old age present concerns and who knows if Jon Gillies and/or David Rittich are up to task. It’d be a shame to flush another potentially great season thanks to poor goaltending. They could use another one.

Hutton is a mixed bag for me. Across his career, he’s average but saw a nearly 20 point jump in his SV% this season, which causes me to think that he’s had an aberration year. At 32, it’s not likely he’s turned a corner. Given the Brian Elliott experience, I think the Flames would avoid going for another untested starter from St. Louis. Not to mention that a desperate team will definitely start a bidding war for his services.

Other UFA goalies aren’t particularly intriguing. Perhaps Jonathan Bernier could be a handy backup. Anton Khudobin could be an interesting target for cheap. Otherwise, bleh.

I think they shouldn’t even bother with Hathaway. He’s an alright energy guy on most nights but certainly not a solution for the Flames. He’s a pretty good PKer and not much else. I wouldn’t be offended if they kept him in a limited fourth line role, but there’s certainly younger and better players in the farm system that have earned more of a shot.

Since Lazar is under contract, they should probably send him to the AHL.

If you believe that Lazar’s development was screwed up by Ottawa, you must also agree that it makes no sense to keep him plugging away in fourth line minutes in Calgary. Who does that help? He’s not good enough to play up the rotation (his only redeeming quality is speed, and even that isn’t high end), so might as well send him to a place where he can actually get good minutes in at a level that is at least around his own.

If you’re worried about waivers, what other team is going to look at his 250 game sample (including his 16 points in his past two seasons) and say that they desperately need him?

I don’t think so. There aren’t many UFAs like Evander Kane: young, just entering their prime, and productive. John Tavares is in a tier of his own, so whatever Kane gets doesn’t really impact him.

One of the only players I could see this impacting is James van Riemsdyk. The 29-year-old had similar production and is probably option B for teams that were hoping that they could get a piece of Kane. He might not get the seven years (six sounds reasonable) but he will certainly get around $6M for his work.

If the Flames want JVR (if they wanted Kane like they did at trade deadline, you’d have to think they’re in), then it certainly affects them. Otherwise, I’m not sure who they would be looking at that would get a bump from the Kane deal.

I think either James Neal or David Perron from the Vegas Golden Knights are types to avoid. Both are high scoring wingers (Perron more so than Neal), which the Flames are desperately going to pay for, but they should really watch out. They’re unlikely to continue the Vegas magic after this season, and certainly won’t as they move into their 30s. If there are players that are going to be time bombs, these are easy candidates.

John Carlson is also an option to avoid. Besides the fact that the Flames have plenty of defensive depth, Carlson is a poor possession player who needs offensive zone starts to put up big offensive numbers. He’s a Dennis Wideman clone and will probably start falling apart after this season. Someone is going to pay a lot for a long time for Carlson’s services, and he may only be a useful player for a few of those years.

JVR might be someone to avoid, too. He’s still youngish and will probably still be good for a few more years, but he’s going to get a massive overpayment based on name value and precedent. If the Flames can get a reasonable term for him, go for it, but otherwise avoid. Tyler Bozak is another Leafs player to stay away from.

Associate coaches are one step below head coaches. If there’s a line of succession in coaching, Geoff Ward would be the next one up. It’s a slight promotion from assistant coach, but mostly a pay raise without much more responsibilities. According to a radio hit, New Jersey GM Ray Shero would only let Ward leave if there was a promotion involved, so that’s why Ward is an associate and not an assistant. This was similar to the setup used when Jim Playfair was demoted and Mike Keenan was made head coach.

  • FL?MES

    Hopefully Tre knows what he wants and has a price tag in mind before he starts bartering. Either get the right pieces or play a couple prospects. I’d rather watch a young guy with upside bumble the odd time as opposed to watching second rate, overpaid, vets underachieve.

  • Stu Gotz

    Don’t underestimate the need to upgrade the goaltending. Smith will be a year older and potentially more injury prone. I like the Carter Hutton option. As well the Caps have a young Russian goalie prospect ready to play so I would make a play for RFA Grubauer who is young and has starter potential.

    Despite what BT does this summer without a proven goalie Flames are going nowhere! Relying on Gillies & Rittich to back up and win is too risky at this point.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    About Tre, how poorly did he know his team’s makeup at the end of the 2016-17 season as he let Engelland walk.

    One of the most frequent complaints I heard about the 2017-18 Flames was how they had no identity and lacked character, toughness and guts, the very same traits Engelland has coming out of his ying yang. So why didn’t Tre make a more concerted effort to bring Eng back or find a suitable replacement? I don’t buy the argument Eng was LV or bust. I am quite sure for an extra million more than LV paid him, Engelland would have remained a Flame. Yes, Tre brought in the high character and uber tough Hamonic and he played according to the projections Yanover set out for him based on his decling performance, but it clearly wasn’t enough to compensate for the loss of Engelland. That is all on Tre. Tre either failed to know the emotional makeup of his club or if he did, he failed to address it. That is most disconcerting.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Just to note that DR was left unprotected by the Flames, as they could only protect three D and 7F. If they needed to keep Engelland, they would only have 4F left to be able to protect. As such, LV selected Engelland and signed him to a new deal on June 21. His deal is actually worth $1m + $1m performance bonuses.

    • Walt Whitman

      About Tre, how poorly did he know his team’s makeup at the end of the 2016-17 season as he let Engelland walk.

      This is a joke, right?

      The only reason Engellend looked half way decent last season is because all 3 pairings of LV were half-way decent, there was no stark contrast between their lines, just one big slightly-better than average forward line divided into 4, and one big ‘meg’ defensive line divided into 3 pairs.

    • Jessemadnote

      So you would have protected a 34 year old with a career high of 17 points and negative corsi numbers across his career over who exactly? TJ Brodie? Mikael Frolik? Mikael Backlund?

    • Rudy27

      I have to wonder if Tre had a side deal with LV to take Engelland providing we didn’t sign him. It’s just odd that LV didn’t take another unprotected Flames defense man and sign Engelland as a UFA.

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Again goaltending should be the priority. Smith isn’t going to get any better, Gillies and Rittich didn’t inspire confidence in me. I don’t know who is available by way of trade and not sure if anyone in the system can step up. I’d hate to see another season wasted because of inconsistent goaltending.

  • Kzak

    If the Senators even consider trading us Stone, we should pay the price. He’s got smarts, skill, he’s uber-competitive, he’s young (still an RFA), and he’s a right shooting RW. Bennett, Brodie, and either Fox or Kylington for Stone and Ottawa’s second first round pick (from Pitt).

    • cjc

      That package wouldn’t be enough – meh forward, 2nd pairing D and unproven prospect? Think they need at least another high-end forward prospect in there (think Dube or Phillips), and I doubt they get the first back as well. Ottawa is in a similar situation to Calgary as they have some very good core pieces (Karlsson, Stone, Hoffman, Duchene, Chabot) but an aging goalie and lots of question marks elsewhere in their lineup. The main assumption around a tear-down is that they won’t be able to afford Karlsson, so they may as well sell everything else, but there is no pressing need to do it this offseason.

      I still think they should pony up if Mark Stone is available. If not, they should see what Ottawa would give up for Michael Stone!

      • Jessemadnote

        I don’t think your package is enough either. What would it take to get Johnny Gaudreau? That’s essentially the package. Since 2014/15 Stone has 2.62 points per 60 and Gaudreau has 2.87 they are very close in their skill levels. .

    • Korcan

      The knock on Stone is his foot speed, or lack thereof. With the way the league is going, I’m not sure i would want to give up too much to get him. He’s not going to get any faster and if/when he loses a step, uh oh.

  • Flamethrower

    I feel Grubauer is the only one Tre should look into. Advance some prospects they can’t all play in the AHL forever.
    Just by removing Brouwer from the team will make a big difference to the teams chemistry. Likewise with Hathaway this club needs to put players on the ice that can potentially score goals not just crash and bang.
    That being said note the teams that go the distance have four lines that can score and carry the pace of the game.

  • T&A4Flames

    No matter what Tre does, he’s going to get blasted from people on here. Even the ones saying he should do this or that. If something doesn’t work out , those same people will say “ I told you so.” If he does nothing, people will blast him for not paying the price for someone that got moved or signed. He can’t win. The only way is if he trades or signs a player/s and it works incredibly well. But then people will start saying the contract is too long and that player won’t be good for long.
    BOOK IT!!!

    • Korcan

      Dube also plays a 200ft game. I agree he would be a great fit with Backs and Frolik (Mangiapane is another I would consider here). If Calgary doesn’t upgrade RW this summer Tkachuk would be their best option on the top line — his game below the dots would really compliment Johnny and Mony.

      As much as we all hope for Bennett to break out, 3rd line LW may be the best fit for him alongside Jankowski and a player like Ferland. That is a pretty good looking 3rd line.

      Now we just need effective productive wingers for Shore to play with (Klimchuk and Foo?).

  • Off the wall

    I wanted to send a question to FN mailbag for a while.

    I’m of Scottish decent and I’ve always wondered why my kinfolk never took up hockey, rather than tossing wooden poles around for fun?

    They could make 20,000 sticks from a caber’ and beat the stuffing out of each other on ice.
    That’s right up their pole, if ya get my drift.

    They’re a rabid bunch of fans, it would grow the game ( can you imagine an NHL game in Glasgow?) and it would certainly be a lot more fun than sending our players to China for exposure?!

    • JMK

      There was a TV series in Ireland where a Hurling player (similar to shinty) tried his hand at NHL and trained with Vancouver. Good puck handling skills but the skating was a huge issue.

      • Off the wall

        Skating would be an issue for sure. Start them young like they do in football (soccer) and get them out there playing the game.

        Due to my huge imagination I’m thinking of a scenario where Marchand tries to lick a Scotsman on the face.

        The Scotsman would say, “ Aye naw try that wid me ya coo, I’ll shoogle yer tongue oot yer backside and shove it in yer Wellies”

        • deantheraven

          I live in Europe, OTW, and I’m constantly being asked about “ice hockey”. When they try to compare it to football (soccer), I get a good larf. They say, “Why don’t Canadians play football?” And I answer, “We do. Everybody plays football- boys and girls- until the end of 6th grade. Then we choose a sport. Don’t be comparing your ‘Beautiful Game’ with the fastest sport in the world.”
          Then I compare football players to bad soap opera actors…

    • deantheraven

      I think Theo played over there, didn’t he? They’d love hockey but they’d need some time to adjust to the speed after watching football and other games. Ice hockaay? Garrr, man ,that’s the stoof thar, ye!

  • Fat Tony

    So basically no to all big name free agents other than John Tavares. Got it.
    No mention of Rick Nash. Is he someone that could be of value to us if he comes relatively cheap? @decayinwtheboys

  • buts

    Grubauer will cost too much and Hutton is getting up there in age the goalie the flames should go after is Pickard as it looks like Sparks is the leafs top prospect. Does anyone know his contract status? Pickard shouldn’t cost that much. If McElhinney is available I’d be interested in him also.

  • BendingCorners

    CT for GM! His responses this week all make sense. Top-line UFAs will be overpriced and significant trades are likely to cost key assets. If Treliving is cautious and signs only a depth forward like Derek Ryan and a goalie like Anton Khudobin, he can waive Lazar, Brouwer and Hathaway (if he re-signs) to Stockton and run a lineup that includes Backlund, Bennett, Ferland, Frolik, Foo, Gaudreau, Jankowski, Mangiapane, Monahan, Ryan, Shore and Tkachuk up front, with maybe a fighter (Grenier?) and an AHL tweener (on a rotation?) as spares. Plenty of options for assembling lines from that group, the WHL graduates can grow their game in Stockton, and Lazar and Brouwer should help the Stockton group win a few more games. The Flames already have seven D counting Andersson and not Bartkowski (UFA) and could safely run with that group for a year. Not likely to win the Cup but could win the Pacific and make it to the final four, if they play hard and stay healthy.

  • BendingCorners

    Hi CT, I don’t twitter so this is my only way of getting questions to you.
    What do you think of a small trade like Stone to Toronto for Leivo, Pickard and a 7th? Babcock doesn’t like Leivo and Pickard is a backup to a backup, and Toronto will need a replacement for Polak. Could BT squeeze that much out of Dubas for Stone?
    And, what do you think of Ho-Sang as an addition to Stockton? Has his backchecking improved at all? Any hope of him learning to keep his lips glued together?

    • I think Stone for Leivo would be the most likely proposal. Adding Pickard would give the Flames seven goalies in the pros, which would be problematic for the growth of younger goalies. If Dubas is as smart and analytics friendly as people say he is, I would think he avoids Stone altogether.

      I haven’t watched Ho-Sang since the OHL days so I would have no idea if his backchecking improved, but he seems like a promising kid who has some NHL upside (no clue why the Islanders didn’t try him out more often). If they can get him cheap, I’d be all in favour.

      As for not using Twitter, we are setting up an email address for submitting questions

  • Jobu

    “Not to mention that a desperate team will definitely start a bidding war for his services.”
    Jobu is pretty sure that we are also a desparate team for goaltending.

    • Dennis Wideman was also a positive corsi rel player at 28 and then began spiraling down into the Dennis Wideman we all knew and loved. Carlson might be good right now (despite a career history of him treading water- just like Wideman!) but he’s going to get a big huge dumb contract which will start reeking in two or three years. Don’t be fooled.

      • Burnward

        Seems so random a comparison and a slight on Carlson. These guys play two totally different games to me.

        Wideman was a specialist. Carlson is a number one.

        Agree to seriously disagree? Ha!

        • Jessemadnote

          I agree, At age 28 Dennis Wideman’s career high in points was 50, and he was a powerplay specialist. John Carlson is a number one, who just scored 68 points and will likely win the Norris. I agree that John Carlson’s contract will probably not look great for the tail end of it, but he’s been the key defensive piece on a team that has two presidents trophies and a finals appearance in the past 3 years.

          • A few things to nitpick here.

            First off, Hedman, Doughty, and Subban have already been announced as the Norris finalists so no-go there.

            Secondly, Carlson has almost always been a second pairing defenceman, and an alright one at that. Even this season, he finished third on the Caps blueline for 5v5 icetime.

            Third, to call him a defensive piece is pretty generous. Until this season, he hasn’t been a positive corsi rel player since 2011-12. If there’s any good descriptor of him, it’s that he’s a powerplay specialist, where he’s picked up 32 points this year. He’s generally scored an even amount of 5v5 points and PP points over the last five years.

            So a defensively questionable, second pairing guy whose main asset is his powerplay ability that will get paid a lot of money for way too long because of a high scoring season. Sounds like Dennis Wideman to me.

          • Jessemadnote

            Hmm can’t reply to your post below. you make some good points there I didn’t realize Carlson got snubbed. However I still feel you’re being too harsh criticizing Carlson based on 5v5 ice time and relative corsi when he outperformed both Hedman and Subban in both categories. Also calling the teams ice time leader a second pairing defenseman is very disingenuous.

            He is absolutely a key defensive piece for Washington and he will probably be overpaid and that’s what happens when you win.

          • Burnward

            Caps TOI in a STANLEY CUP FINAL game:

            John Carlson: 25:07
            Matt Niskanen: 21:43

            But please…keep producing silly stats that show how your ridiculous comparison might hold water.

  • Korcan

    An out-in-left-field trade option. What would FN pundits think of a trade with LA for Jeff Carter? He’s a big, fast, RHS proven goal scorer (and winner) who can play both RW or Center. He earns roughly 5.3M per. The potential downside: he’s 33 with 4 more years remaining on his contract. He’s still very productive, but for how much longer? Would he be worth trading for (if available, which at his age is probable), and what would you give?

  • freethe flames

    Christian: Thanks for the article and for once I agree with most of what you said; especially about the guys to avoid. I use the rule 32 to decide whether I think we should look at a FA; whatever their age is I max the term out till they reach 32, if a guy is already over 32 one year term is all I am really willing to risk. There are always the exception to the rule ie Tavares but I think it keeps a team out of cap hell.
    The only problem with the article was the title as it led me to believe you would also share some insight as to who the Flames should pursue, are there any diamonds out there based upon analytics that the Flames should look at.

  • I like Neal. He is a competitor. Every time he is let go or traded it was because he was thought to be washed up. He may not be an all-star any more but he’d still be a great add to the top 6 given the right price. By right price I don’t mean cheap but not a cray overpay.

  • CodySC89

    I was at the Flames season ticket holder dinner last night and Tre mentioned that a signing will be announced shortly for a european player. Any idea who that is???