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.
Who stood out during development camp
and can Foo make the roster
— @thegatorswamp (@thegatorswamp2) July 8, 2018
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?
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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.
Could this be the end of 3M?
— Sasha's Conference (@konnie7889) July 8, 2018
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.
How long before Lazar is traded or waived
— Anne M (@TazandGiosmom) July 8, 2018
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.
What are we going to do with all the depth players? Try waivers?
— Ramil (@ramil600) July 8, 2018
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.
Which prospects have the best odds of finding themselves on the opening day roster?
— Josh Senneker (@j_senneker) July 8, 2018
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.
What kind of return could be expected in a Michael Stone trade?
— Josh Senneker (@j_senneker) July 8, 2018
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.
Does Peters tend to keep his lines consistently the same, does he keeps pairs, or does he put everyone in a blender regularly? Wondering what to expect for the next couple years.
— Brad (@brad_1729) July 8, 2018
Peters has been notorious for bringing out the line blender in Carolina, sometimes for no real purpose at all. Hope you enjoy!
When’s the #brouwerbuyout happening
— Sandtrooper DJ-993 (@ISandtrooper) July 8, 2018
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.
How concerned should we be about our goaltending situation? That can undo all the depth we have built up in a hurry I assume…
— Ian Duval (@duvie27) July 8, 2018
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?
are we getting a backup goalie? Anyone worthwhile?
— Rod Thick (@karasu8989) July 8, 2018
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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