Photo Credit: Sergei Belski - USA TODAY Sports

One down, four to go: Arbitration season is upon the Flames

Assuming there are no further signings or trades – a big assumption, but completely unpredictable at this stage – then the Flames still have a few items of housekeeping to wrap up, some of which will have to be done in short order.

Specifically, six restricted free agents need to be signed. Even more specifically, four of them are eligible for arbitration, starting as early as July 23. All four will be under contract by the end of the month.

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Neither Noah Hanifin nor Hunter Shinkaruk are arbitration eligible, so the Flames may take their time getting them inked to new deals. Shinkaruk will likely come in relatively cheap: while this will only be his second big league contract, he hasn’t done much to prove he’s an NHLer, and scored at just barely half a point-per-game in the AHL this past season.

Hanifin will be the interesting one – will the Flames try to sign him long term? Will they bridge him? – but, unlike fellow former Hurricane Elias Lindholm, there’s no clock on his negotiation.

And besides, the Flames have a little over $7 million left in cap space; they may need to see how everyone else shakes out before tackling his deal.

On July 12, five Flames filed for arbitration. Since then, one, the aforementioned Lindholm, has signed. Let’s take a look at who’s left.

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July 23 – Brett Kulak

Brett Kulak may be an interesting, if perhaps underwhelming, case. By trading away Dougie Hamilton, the Flames introduced a massive shakeup to their defence: gone is a steady top pairing player, with hopes that an older defender coming off of a few rough seasons – TJ Brodie – will be able to take his place.

If he can’t, then the Flames may be in trouble. Potentially a part of the solution would be Kulak, who just this past season established himself as an NHL regular, albeit one who plays limited minutes (averaging 12:59 in ice time over 71 games) and doesn’t really score (two goals – both against the Rangers – and eight points total).

Kulak, 24, could conceivably still improve. If anything, he’s probably ready to get more responsibility. And that may be something the Flames need from him this upcoming season, if Brodie struggles, or Hanifin, or if a Juuso Valimaki or Rasmus Andersson isn’t ready quite yet.

But it goes both ways: if Valimaki or Andersson or both are ready, then Kulak becomes redundant fairly quick. And being placed on waivers certainly doesn’t help his case.

Kulak is coming off of a $650,000 cap hit. It’s fair to say he’s earned a raise, but is he in seven digits territory? The Flames don’t seem to think so.

July 27 – Mark Jankowski

The Flames added forward depth this offseason, which could see Mark Jankowski – the 2017-18 Flames’ de facto third line centre – tumble down the lineup. Or it could see him stay exactly where he was. Or, if he takes a massive step forward, he could improve – though that’s very much counting chickens before they hatch.

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At this stage of his career, Jankowski is a bottom six NHL centre. He averaged 13:21 in ice time over 72 games; he scored 17 goals and 25 points, boasting an impressive – if, perhaps, unsustainable – 14.4 shooting percentage along the way. He should take a step forward this upcoming season, but will it be enough to overtake Sean Monahan or Mikael Backlund? That’s much harder to believe; Jankowski was often heavily sheltered, and hasn’t displayed the scoring or defensive prowess of the others yet. (For any objectors of Backlund, remember: he scored 25 points in 73 games in his first full NHL season at a younger age.)

Is Jankowski due for a raise from his two-year $925,000 cap hit contract? Probably; it’s easy to see him earning seven figures. But there’s a long way to go: maybe an Austin Czarnik type deal. Remember that though Czarnik hasn’t shown as much in the NHL, he was negotiating from a UFA’s standpoint; Jankowski still has restrictions applying.

July 28 – David Rittich

The Flames re-signed Jon Gillies to a two-year deal worth an annual average value of $750,000. Gillies is Rittich’s primary competition for the Flames’ backup job. Both have had successes and failures at the NHL level, all within a rather short period of time.

Rittich gets a leg up on Gillies thanks to his arbitration-eligible status, but it’s be pretty difficult to see him earning much more. Gillies got a modest raise from his previous $725,000 cap hit – the exact same one Rittich had in 2017-18.

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July 30 – Garnet Hathaway

A few staples from the Flames’ depth group have likely been hurt by the additions of Lindholm, Czarnik, Derek Ryan, and James Neal. Garnet Hathaway should be prime among them. He played 59 games this past season, averaging 11:32 in them. He scored just four goals and 13 points. He’s willing to fight and play physical, but beyond that, there’s not much to write home about.

Hathaway is coming off of a one-year deal worth $650,000. It’s entirely conceivable he doesn’t make the Flames’ roster at all next year, or is primarily sitting in the press box. With that in mind, it’s difficult to see him getting too much of a raise, if any.

And when that’s all done…

Though, perhaps the Flames will re-sign Shinkaruk and Hanifin before every arbitration-eligible player is handled.

But assuming they don’t, then Jankowski will likely be the one to watch. Whatever contract the Flames sign him to could dictate how they’re able to use their remaining cap space – not to mention their level of faith in the player going forward, particularly with a vastly overhauled forward group he’ll be contending for ice time amongst.

  • Oil Spilly

    Ok ok I’m done for today. Good bye for now my friends. Truth be told I really believe we are in for an exciting BOA this year. Neal will be a gamer, Long overdue imo. Maybe if we are all lucky a first round matchup! Or maybe the first bench clearing brawl in 20 years! ✌?

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Flames have to show they can routinely beat the Oilers, something they failed to do the last couple of seasons. Can’t see both clubs making the playoffs. Flames appear to be more likely playoff bound than the Oilers.

    • Beer League Coach

      Bench clearing brawl you say? And little Johnny comes out of no where to cold cock Lucy and lay him out with one slap on the face. Bring it on Coilers.

  • Mickey O'Reaves

    Hathaway: “He’s willing to fight and play physical, but beyond that, there’s not much to write home about.”

    Willing to fight is all fine and dandy…but winning a fight takes on a smidge more urgency when that is your role on the team. The big boys will salivate if, and when, Garnet comes over the boards to exact a little retribution.

    Hathaway figures to be the 13th forward this season, at best. At least Treliving has upgraded the roster, and Hathaway won’t be written into the 3RW position using a Sharpie.

  • Jagrrrrr, baby. Yeah.


    I don’t see why you’d keep Hathaway at all, given the players already in place and/or ready to move up.
    We’re stuck with Brouwer and Lazar for now, it seems, so where does Garnet fit? AHL is the only reasonable spot, in my mind.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      The more I think about it, the more I like Tkachuk, Jankowski and Neal on the second line as they are big, play physical and can score. They would complement the first line rather well.

  • Oil Spilly

    Hard to believe that the flames are in cap trouble when you look at the roster. No superstars, no goalies, only 1 top pairing d man. I guess the development of all these high end prospects we heard about for years isn’t exactly going to plan. I think it’s safe to say the Oilers will dominate the Flames again this year.

  • Jagrrrrr, baby. Yeah.


    Kulak’s got to be on a 2-way deal, no? If Vali is ready for prime time, at least some of the time, then Kulak’s got to go somewhere.

  • Oil Spilly

    Oilers have 7 playoff wins in the last 2 seasons… how many do the flames have again? Oh yah …Zero heehee. The oilers have just as many playoff series wins in that so called “decade of darkness” as the flames do. Lol yeesh isn’t that something.. Oilers have Mcjesus playing in the nicest arena in the world until at least 2027. Johnny will be playing in the old barn stable until 2021 then he’s going back home. He said it on a radio show, so don’t get mad at me for saying it. Once again this talk of a fan or any fan for that matter, being jealous of the Calgary Flames is hard to even say with a straight face ?. I’m just stating a few facts and everyone gets so worked up. Maybe I’ll just leave now… is that what everyone wants???

  • Hockeysense9393

    Ok Spilly…you are bringing up a pretty dreary time of the Oilers to prove a “good” point, I guess an Oiler fan would call it? Hell of an argument there son. Also, who in the world outside of Edmonton would agree with that shiny new toy being the best in …the world did you say? Thanks for the tidbit about Johnny Hockey saying something we all know…and glad he’s weighing in an opinion. Sure the new Arena may be the prettiest building in the city? …but is that really comparing it to NOT very much??

    I kind of prefer the Flames position compared to the Oilers now and in the next few years? But hey…can lose in your shiny expensive digs with the bestest “cough cough” attitude fans. In the world!!

  • freethe flames

    As I see other players round Janko’s age getting bridge deals I wonder what his deal will look like. My personal belief is that BT should have gotten much of this work done prior to FA.