FlamesNation Mailbag: Fighting for scraps

With the dust settled (barring any random deals), the Flames are likely done until September. They’ve been aggressive this offseason, adding numbers and quality to the roster in order to prevent another season from going down the drain. The main core is there. They finally have high quality right wingers in the organization, and more than just one or two.

But who wins among those depth players? There’s a ton of quality coming from below threatening to supplant those who aren’t quite good enough for a team that wants to be a playoff contender. There’s a ton of new talent pushing guys down the rotation. Let’s take a peek at who may (or may not) be around when this whole thing is getting started again.

The ones you most expect were the standouts: I really liked Dillon Dube, Juuso Valimaki, Spencer Foo, and Matthew Phillips. Brett Pollock looked very poised, although this is his fifth development camp. Of the new kids, I really liked Demetrios Kouzmontis and Dmitri Zavgorodny. The best invite was goalie Matthew Galajda.

Foo’s place on the roster is not as secure as perhaps the end of the 2017-18 season suggested. The Flames added three RWers this offseason (James Neal, Elias Lindholm, Austin Czarnik) and have plans to try Matthew Tkachuk on the right wing. That’s depth and it’s going to be hard to crack. Could he displace Curtis Lazar, Garnet Hathaway, or Troy Brouwer? Absolutely. Does that mean he’s getting prime playing time? Probably not.

Bending Corners writes:

I think Foo will be a regular next year because he showed well last spring and has a history of improving in his second year in any league he’s played in. If that happens, does it make sense to spread the scorers across three lines and try Foo with Tkachuk and Backlund, and Neal with Ryan and Frolik?

Commenter Bending Corners is the first to write into our email mailbag at flamesnationmailbag@gmail.com, and you can do so too!

If Foo does make the squad, I think he’ll have to work his way up to that spot. He seems more fitting as a sheltered winger than whatever the 3M/2M line could do, which is probably the plan for lines three and four. He might have chemistry with Mark Jankowski, so that’s the first option I would try. I think the rest of the offence will be evenly distributed throughout the top nine, however.

Yes, but the replacement ain’t so bad.

If the Flames want Elias Lindholm on the right side of Mikael Backlund and Tkachuk, they’re forming a similar line with a younger Michael Frolik. Lindholm doesn’t appear to be as much of a shutdown winger as Frolik, but seems to have a bit more offensive upside.  If the moving piece is Tkachuk, then things get interesting. Perhaps they try Frolik-Backlund-Lindholm, or perhaps Frolik-Backlund-Neal. Bennett-Backlund-Frolik is another option, perhaps a chance to kickstart the 2014 first rounder into gear again. There’s a lot of intriguing options.

The 3M line was fun while it lasted, but the team was very rigid with them under Glen Gulutzan. Now that they has more options on the wings, they can afford to spread around the offence and try different things. It may be a blessing in disguise.

Probably training camp.

I don’t think he’ll be traded. I can’t imagine a team acquiring a reclamation project from another team that acquired him as a reclamation project. At this point it’s quite obvious Lazar is a replaceable player. There’s nothing left to reclaim.

As for waiving, I think it’s likely. As with Foo above, there’s now a healthy dose of right wingers in the org. Of Neal, Lindholm, Frolik, and Czarnik, he could only feasibly beat out Czarnik for a job, and I have doubts about that happening. Even if it comes to that, they’re not exposing the guy that reportedly had 20 suitors in the offseason (including the Oilers) to waivers. If they bury Lazar, he’s unlikely to get claimed (and if he does, so what?) and they can take his cap hit off the books. It’s much more convenient and less risky to bury Lazar over Czarnik.

Lazar is the first gone. He doesn’t offer anything to the club besides speed, and he rarely does anything useful with it. With just under 250 NHL games played, it’s quite obvious what he is, and what he’s likely going to be for the rest of his career.

Aside from Lazar, there’s quite a few. Let’s name Hathaway, Brouwer, Czarnik, and Alan Quine as some depth players.

I don’t think they should’ve bothered with Hathaway in the first place. He’s going to do mostly the same thing he did last season, just with fewer minutes. There’s someone else who could use that spot, and even if no one fills it, wingers like Hathaway are a dime a dozen. You can find one easily if you really need one.

Quine is probably starting the season in the AHL. Stockton needs centres and Quine’s been a fine AHL centre for years now.

We’ve already covered Czarnik, so let’s move onto Brouwer, who is the interesting one. The Flames are probably stuck with him, which is fine in some regard. He’s certainly overpaid, but he’s not a horrible fourth liner so they’re content to keep him around. Burying him would tank his trade value (if there’s any) and they might hesitate to buy him out (more on that later). If he’s a rotating 13th forward, I think it’s fair compromise. It’s the roster spot and not the cap space they crave.

The usual suspects. I think you could expect to see Andrew Mangiapane sticking around late. Rasmus Andersson should make a very strong push for the 3 RD spot, and Foo should probably be making waves for the fourth line RW position. I give the best odds to Andersson because of the lack of depth on defence versus forwards. He can sneak in, whereas other positions are much deeper than one or two players.

Not much, honestly. The market for RHDs is waiting on Erik Karlsson to be traded, and even so, Michael Stone is no Erik Karlsson. Consider the bargain the Vegas Golden Knights got for Colin Miller, a RHD who scored 0.5 PPG, can move the puck very well, and is just entering his prime at age 25. The Knights are paying him $3.875M over four years for those qualities. Now imagine asking a team for a high return based around a player who has the exact opposite of those qualities, except he’s making the same money. Not really a bargain.

I’m not even sure they move Stone at this point. With the sudden disappearance of some solid RHD depth, there’s only a few guys who are able to step up in case of an injury. This is a problem when the two righties (well, one really) ahead of Stone are TJ Brodie and Travis Hamonic, two guys who suffered injuries last year. Up next is Dalton Prout (not great), Rasmus Andersson (potentially okay, but untested), and… nobody. That’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Stone isn’t an ideal solution, but he’s depth for a team that has spent their offseason focusing on it. The ideal move is to bury Prout in the minors, play Andersson in the 3 RHD spot, and park Stone in the press box.

Peters has been notorious for bringing out the line blender in Carolina, sometimes for no real purpose at all. Hope you enjoy!

Well the next time it can happen is in the 48-hour window after the last arbitration date in the whole NHL, so look for that in August.

But I don’t think the Bryout is happening. They need the roster space, sure, but they aren’t going to pay $6M and be on the hook for two more years than necessary to get it. That’s a bit expensive for a guy you can just park in the press box.

We should be pretty concerned! Mike Smith is 36 and coming off an injury and David Rittich and Jon Gillies have limited NHL experience. If one bad thing happens, we’re in for very bad times. So what should the Flames do?

They’ve probably missed the window on that one.

The best remaining UFA goalie is a tie between Steve Mason and Kari Lehtonen, and both are over 30. They’re also bad goalies whose best years are behind them. If you can swing them in on around a million dollars, why not, but you’re likely to get another Eddie Lack than a capable backup. Maybe they should’ve tried earlier.


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  • cberg

    Forget Mason or Lehtonen, bad goalies will not be better than our developing goalies. If everything craters and the team is desperate BT can find someone in trade.

    • MDG1600

      So with proverbial dust beginning to settle my #1 worry with the roster heading in to the season is goaltending. It appears BT is gambling on Smith/Rittich/Gillies to get the job done.

  • everton fc

    Pickard would be a good pickup. Cheap, and capable, need be.

    I still believe in Rittich.

    Someone had mentioned Hathaway gives us a bit of what Tkachuk does, when the former’s on the 4th line. I totally agree. He’s a good extra forward to have around, a better option than Lazar. And Brouwer, in my opinion. I like the Czarnik signing, but he’s small, and has not made the leap f/t to the NHL. And he’s already 26. Foo has the best chance of cracking the lineup, but I still wonder about his speed. I can’t see them holding onto Stone, at the expense of Andersson, unless doing so protects Andersson somehow from the next expansion draft, which is why I don’t think we see Valimaki this season (unless he is simply too obvious and NHL-player, out of camp).

    I still can’t imagine where Frolik or Czarnik fit; If Ryan’s the 3C, I can’t imagine Frolik wouldn’t be the 3RW. Or, he gets traded for cap relief. If Frolik is traded, we are banking on Foo or Czarnik to step up – the only other option being Jankowski as 3C, and Ryan as 3RW, which is how I see it fleshing out. This means Frolik is gone. So the 4th line RW is either Foo’s or Czarnik’s.

    Both Hathaway and Brouwer played 4LW, last season. Lazar’s only hope is centering this line – but he’s terrible on faceoffs. This is where Dube, could possibly make the team – something like Brouwer/Hathaway-Dube-Czarnik/Foo. Maybe Hathaway and one fo Czarnik/Foo, are your extra forwards. But I don’t see a lot of spots, for the other prospects. Yet.

    If Brouwer were gone… And Frolik… Guys like Jankowski, Foo, Czarnik (he better not be the next Lazar – and experiment that doesn’t work) Hathaway and Dube, get real opportunities out of camp, instead of being mid-season call-ups. I personally think Mangiapane needs one more year in the “A”. He’s not quite ready. I think Dube may be more ready, than Mangiapane. And I think Mangiapane may prove a much better player, soon, than Czarnik.

  • Kzak

    Let’s see how many trashes I get this time.
    Trade Janko and Brouwer for a third round pick and a depth RH defenceman.
    Sign Maroon.

      • Alcanivorax

        And beyond the depth that CFan mentions you want a third round pick (a lottery question of ever making the league and even then in what 2-4 years) for a 6’5” 220 pound Centre whinskates well and showed last year he can play now in the league and contribute

        Why don’t you trade Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson while you’re at it?

      • Kzak

        Guess you didn’t read the article: “With the sudden disappearance of some solid RHD depth, there’s only a few guys who are able to step up in case of an injury.”

    • dewtel

      I don’t mind signing Maroon, I’d love to get rid of Brouwer, and we need a depth RH defence man.
      Hate to give up Jankowski this season because he has size, smarts and is responsible defensively. You finally have quality wingers for him to play with, I think this may be a breakout season. If one of our other 3/4 line centres makes him expendable, Jankowski should get good value on the trade market even if he doesn’t show much improvement this coming year.
      I also agree that Pickard would be a good trade pick-up.
      Our GM’s pattern is consistent. Major trade at draft, free agent signings, then sign the RFA’s. Once this is done and he knows the cap numbers, he may circle around and sign some value contracts and PTO’s prior to training cap.
      Training camp may expose weaknesses and if he is not comfortable, he will make changes.
      More likely, he will let the players and coaches adjust and show what they can do before addressing weaknesses, because make no mistake, the Flames must make the playoffs this year or huge changes will be made (including GM).

    • Beer League Coach

      Hard no to Maroon. With the $$ and term that he would want he will be nothing more than Troy Brouwer 2.0. Would love to lose TB but nobody is going to take him in a trade. He is just an expensive pop corn critic at this point in his career. He might be a good mentor for young guns at Stockton but even that is a very expensive player to put on the farm team. $9mm over the next 2 years to keep him or $6mm over 4 years to be free of him. It is a losing situation either way.

    • deantheraven

      I gave you 1 of each- yes, I can see trading Janko & Brouwer, but I’d hope for a better return than that.
      Your line up looks swell, maybe a slight lack of truculence, though.

      • Kzak

        First of all, takeaway the goals he scored against an AHL level Vegas team at the end of the season and he’s closer to 10 than to 20. Second, they would also be taking that ridiculous Brouwer contract that everyone wants to get rid of so bad. Then, use the saved money to pick up Maroon who can play a decent RW, move Lindholm to C and suddenly we have a lineup that could make a deep playoff run.

        • brodiegio4life

          so subtracting Janko and Brouwer and adding Maroon is the difference between making a deep playoff run and not? I would not be surprised at all if Janko equals or surpasses Maroon in points this year.

          • Kzak

            Yes because it allows us to put Lindholm as a second line centre. I would rather have Lindholm centre and Maroon winger than Janko centre, Lindholm winger and Brouwer winger.

        • Korcan

          The problem with Brouwer isn’t the cap space he is taking, it’s the roster spot he is taking up and that can be resolved simply by having him be the 13/14th forward. By throwing Jankowski in the trade with him, you are basically paying another team to take Brouwer’s cap hit off your books, something that is entirely unnecessary. The result is you lose Jankowski for no reason at all.

          Maroon is big, has decent hands, and can play a hard, heavy game, but he is also slow. Jankowski is younger, faster, has great hands, and is a big ranging centerman who provides the Flames excellent depth at the Center position. And he’s still developing. He has far more value to the Flames than Maroon can provide.

        • The real brad treliving

          So you just play the take away game whenever it suits your needs to support your argument? Take away your last post and I bet you look way smarter. Calgary actually played a great game against Vegas. I’m pretty sure all the top players were playing during that game.

          • Kzak

            Umm, do you tell the writers on this page the same thing? They constantly mentioned that he had a fluky last game against a Vegas team with nothing to play for.

          • Jumping Jack Flash

            It took GG until the last game of the season to try Janko on the top line….and he crushed it against a full NHL squad which included Fleury. If the acquisition of Ryan bumps Janko to 4C then they will be making a mistake.

            I seem to remember other players given an audition on the top line with little to show for it. If you don’t think Janko can score at this level…. take a look at the goals he has scored. He manufactured most of his own offence and if Bennett or Hath could finish he would had far more assists. I think getting Bennett off his line is vital.

            Look at a player like Debrusk who most teams would covet and see the quality of players he played with. Janko had a better AHL season than Debrusk so why would we give up on a player like this when his comparables are highly sought after.

    • Joeyhere

      If you know your idea is going to be trashed you likely know it’s wrong – maybe listen to that voice in your head.
      Our frustration with Brower is that he was way over used under GG ( pp pk key faceoffs etc) with our new depth that won’t be an issue. He’s a overpaid 4th line rw. I hate it too but it is better to buy him out then Give away a 6’3 220 lbs centre who scored 17 as a rookie just to get rid of a bad contract
      Jankowski will be scoring Flames goals long after we have forgotten about Brower

  • Burnward

    The Stampede parade was the last commitment to vets and their families probably.

    Now they gets to be on the block.

    Still feel like Carey Price is on his way.

  • snotss

    hope bt can pull off a move for a good back up..great job on the front end of things..still have some time to get a quality back up…just got to get it done

      • Hockeysense9393

        Because there is a huge supply of those available in the league for cheap? Hmmmm maybe we can pry Talbot away from the Oilers for Stone and prospect type trade. Or Brouwer (kind of like Dubnyk for Hendricks). What the hell…throw in Lazar and Hathaway, so they think that the deal is awesome. They are well documented to give away talent for pennies on the dollar, and most likely can’t afford him after this year anyways.

        • DoooieStevens

          Dont go cheap. You see what the Flames have got being cheap. Elliot and Smith. Two broken down bums. Package Backlund, Frolik, Stone, or Brodie. Use future draft picks. The small window w is shutting quick.

          • Rockmorton65

            Window is shutting?? You know we’re discussing hockey, right? The Flames window was partially opened last year and is fully open this year. It’s not closing for at least a few years.

          • Mitchell

            Smith was not the problem last season. He stole games for Calgary, the problem was depth scoring and depth goaltending when Smith went down with an injury. The defence wasn’t great either, but I will concede that smith was atrocious when he returned from his injury. That doesn’t necessarily mean he will be atrocious this year. I would personally liked to see a solid backup with starting potential be signed, but I don’t think FA has any goaltenders of that quality remaining. Maybe Steve mason if he can bounce back otherwise look to a European league goalie? Trading for a goaltender is another route, but I’m not sure what will go the other way.

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Forget about getting rid of Brouwer and Stone, there here and that’s that. Move on. The most important requirement now is goaltending, something has to be done or I’m afraid we’ll see a repeat of last year.

    • Hockeysense9393

      Smith is older for sure, but I think his attitude will be somewhat different with his buddy Neal here. BT likes to make these moves with extra strings attached. This makes Neal even a better signing then just a good scorer. He’ll help Smith with locker room chemistry (like he was trying to push forward last year). Smith is a good vet…and I think we’ll see even a better presence from him this year.

      • Stu Gotz

        Hockeysense9393…what does attitude have to do with age, injury prone and diminishing skills? I agree with Jimmyhaggis goaltending is the Flames biggest gap…at the moment as summer is still young.

        • Hockeysense9393

          Age, injury prone, and diminishing skills duly noted. He wasn’t showing that before his injury… After he came back supposedly healthy, it looked to me like frustration and not truly focused. Calling out your teammates to the media has nothing to do with being injury prone and old. That’s just my take on it.

        • Hockeysense9393

          I meant different as in help with… The changes in personnel this year was somewhat a factor on how the locker room gel goes. Through the year and especially near the end, Smith was showing veteran presence that probably wasn’t being taken the best. Hence going to the media and saying something outside the private confines. I just think having a veteran presence (Neal) will help with that. How much was the fall Smith had after coming back contributed to just shear frustration and losing focus? I’m just banking on a more focused performance, because he has some back up to help with the message he was trying to put out.

    • The Doctor

      I don’t understand the hand-wringing about goaltending. That was far from our biggest issue last season. We will have a better team playing in front of our goalies, and we will score more goals. Rittich and Gillies also have another year of experience under their belts.

  • DoooieStevens

    Also to suggest that the flames get rid of Lazar over Hathaway is ludacris in my eyes. Lazar can at least play a few games in the middle 6 if need be. Hathaway, well as we all seen last season has no reason being in the NHL. I thought the Flames got rid of all the good guy bad player types stajan, versteeg etc.

    Gaudreau Monahan Neal
    Bennett Lindholm Tkchuck
    Janko Backlund Ryan
    Brouwer Lazar wild card

    Trade Frolik and Stone to Ottawa for a second.

    • Lanny the Legend

      I doubt it… I can see BP wanting to have a RHS on each line to make sure there is someone capable of taking different face off situations. The only exception to this might be Gaudreau/Monahan with Neal or Tkachuk if they don’t go with Lindholm. Czarnik was also brought in to play, not be sent to the AHL, probably as a top 9 role and on the PP. I would like to see
      Gaudreau/Monahan/Neal (Scoring Line #1)
      Tkachuk/Lindholm/Czarnik (Scoring Line #2)
      Bennett/Backlund/Frolik (Checking line that can still score)
      Mangiapane/Jankowski/Ryan (4th line that can score or defend)

      Those are 4 solid lines, a huge upgrade from last year. Mangiapane can be replaced with anyone that wins the battle in camp.

  • Parallex

    We should trade Stone & Rittich to Ottawa for Condon & middling D prospect with waiver eligibility…

    Calgary: Get’s a more experienced back-up goalie, a spot for Rasmus Andersson, and a defenseman with upside for the farm.
    Ottawa: Get’s a NHL defenseman body, a positive inducement for the other Stone to sign an extension, a cheaper back-up (because Ottawa isn’t in a place where 2.5M on a back-up makes sense).

    Makes sense to me anyways.

  • buts

    I wish they would open up a spot for a youngster on D. Backlund is not a number 2 Center. We are a big step closer to a solid top 6 and hopefully Janko, Bennett can step up. To even consider Frolik and Backlund top 6 guys is crazy. Finally we need a solid goalie that can relieve Smith for 30 games as he will just get hurt again. To only have Rittich who would be good for 10 games won’t work. Isn’t close yet.Gillies

    • Sterls

      We had.920 goaltending up until smith got hurt. Both Smith and Rittich were playing great. I for one am not as concerned with the goaltending as everyone else and think it is still fine. Remember that smith was hands down the teams MVP at the point that he got injured. After that the wheels fell off. By the time he came back the whole team was in a tail spin, monny and byng were hurt and the team was demoralized and in shambles. Smith will be rested and healthy come october and both rittich and gillies got some valuable NHL time. If smith gets hurt execute a trade for a backup goalie if it looks like the kids can’t handle it, otherwise stick to the plan and let rittich, gillies, and Parsons battle it out as back up and AHL duo.

  • Just.Visiting

    I’ll jump in on the lineup discussion in the context of our apparent abundance of riches up front.

    I think that the highest scoring first line would be Monahan, JG and Byng. I think that the highest scoring second line would be Backlund, Lindholm and Neal.

    That being said, I think that those combinations are less than optimum if we want to be a serious contender.

    My starting point in looking at the Flames as serious contenders is that we require greater than expected results from unexpected sources.

    In that context, I’d see what Lindholm could do with Monahan and JG. Playing with them positions Lindholm to elevate his offensive game to a completely different level. If it doesn’t work, he gets moved down.

    If Janko came into camp at 220-225, I’d try him with Byng and Neal as a 2A line. The intensity of Byng and Neal would see Janko bringing a higher level of intensity and physical maturity and the truculence he was showing near the end of the season would add a completely different dimension to the Flames’ offense. This is because opponents would have to defend the Flames differently than has been the case previously. If it doesn’t work, Janko drops down to the 2B/third line and Backlund moves up.

    A notional third line (2B) of Backlund, Bennett and Ryan or Frolik could potentially be one of the best 2B/3 lines in the league. Backlund would elevate Bennett, and Frolik either returns to prior form or he drops to the fourth line.

    The fourth line would see players who could play higher in the lineup as required. Possibly Ryan, with Czarnik and a spot open for Dube, Mange, etc.

    I think that Dube is the darkhorse to make the team and that he already has the energy, smarts and defensive game to hit the ground running, while starting more slowly on the third line and then having the upward mobility to play up as the line with the inevitable injuries or possibly a flip with Frolik at some point during the season.

    As I noted before, the team is actually a serious contender when Frolik is on the fourth line.

    Brouwer would be bought out. It’s not the financial cost. It’s the opportunity cost of what you can’t do for the development of the team when he plays. Put simply, Brouwer is not part of the team’s core as we move to the window of contention, and the bandaid should be ripped off. That spot should go to someone who will be a larger part of the puzzle as things unfold.

    • Just.Visiting

      Ooops. Should have been Dube starting on the fourth line. Would love an edit feature or at least the ability to see the entire post for editing purposes, instead of a tiny box.

  • Hockeysense9393

    People need to remember that Andersson wasn’t a bonifide superstar his first year in the AHL. He needed time to work his way up the depth chart. This will most likely be the case with the NHL as well, which means the Flames still need the defensive depth to let that happen…hence Stone in the lineup. Getting rid of Stone now just for the sake of it isn’t being very smart in my opinion. A lot of teams take the “wait and see what we need” approach, for the first couple/few months of the season. I would think that waiting to see how Andersson climatizes to the NHL first, would be a smarter factor then just banking on it. Also, I would think that we would get more return for Stone a couple/few months into the season, as apposed to just dumping his contract now when we probably don’t need that at this time. Teams right now think they may have a player ready (like the Flames) so the interest is lower. When teams figure out that they need defensive depth…then Stone will be more valuable. It’s the process of earning as apposed to being given. It’s up to Andersson to displace Stone.