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What should the Flames do with their upcoming UFAs?

The Flames’ season is over, and soon enough, some of the contracts of players on the team will officially expire as well. There aren’t too many of them at the NHL level – for the most part, this team’s roster makeup is set – but it still begs the question for some of these players: should the Flames try to keep them? Or is it time to simply part ways?

Garnet Hathaway

The lone forward unrestricted free agent on the Flames, Garnet Hathaway, 27, has had a hell of a journey to make the NHL. An undrafted forward who played his way up from an AHL contract into multiple NHL deals, all with the same organization, Hathaway is now a veteran of 175 games at the highest level, an energy player effective enough to earn a regular spot in the lineup. With 40 points in those 175 games – 19 this past season alone – he’s also capable of contributing offensively, even though scoring isn’t the main part of his game.

Therein lies the red flag: Hathaway scored 11 goals this past season, a career high by seven. You can’t take any of those away from him, but you can advise caution when considering how a future season of his may go: he had a 14.3 shooting percentage this past year, well above the 5.9% he posted when he scored four goals in 2017-18 with only nine more shots taken. Though it’s certainly possible, the safe bet would be to not think he’s going to hit the double digits in scoring again. This isn’t a rookie coming into his own: this is a depth player who had a good year and isn’t a safe bet to repeat it.

He averaged 10:32 in ice time per game, carved out a role as a pretty good penalty killer, but had the worst CF at 49.47% among all Flames regulars. As a depth player, Hathaway works, but that involves him receiving a depth cap hit. Evolving Wild’s model has him receiving a one-year deal for a $938,795, which seems entirely reasonable; anything more than that, though, and it would probably make more sense for the Flames to move on.

Dalton Prout

Dalton Prout, 29, spent most of the season as the Flames’ seventh defenceman. With Michael Stone out most of the year due to a blood clot and the Flames’ prospective defencemen capable of performing at the NHL level already, there just wasn’t quite as much room for him in the lineup. When he did get in, it was in part due to his 6’3, 215 lb. frame – though having 262 games of NHL experience probably helped, as well.

Prout only averaged 13:07 a game when he did play, though, and his 50.59% CF wasn’t comparatively great – only rookies Juuso Valimaki and Oliver Kylington had lower ratings as far as Flames defencemen went. He carried an $800,000 cap hit this season.

But it probably just makes more sense to move on from Prout at this stage, or have him in the AHL but not the NHL. With Rasmus Andersson proving he’s ready for a major NHL role, Valimaki right behind him, and Kylington with a ton of potential and now experience of his own, there just isn’t room, even as an extra defenceman.

Oscar Fantenberg

And that’s because the extra defenceman role – if it doesn’t go to a recovered Stone who could be set to get a fresh start next season – could very well now be Oscar Fantenberg’s. The Flames’ lone addition at the trade deadline, Fantenberg, 27, drew into the lineup for most games after being acquired, as well as three playoff games. He averaged 15:50 a game over that time, and posted a 56.58% CF along with it – albeit that’s a very small sample size.

Fantenberg carried a cap hit of just $650,000 this past season, and Evolving Wild’s model predicts him to clock in at a $1.383 million cap hit over a two-year deal. If that holds true, he would cost more than Prout, but he’s also probably the safer option as an extra defenceman: Fantenberg played a steady if unspectacular game, and could be good backup for any potentially struggling sophomores next season. He offers decent upside and no real angst to him drawing into the lineup.

Fantenberg seems like a good candidate to be the Flames’ seventh defenceman next year – though Stone still has another year at a $3.5 million cap hit, so perhaps that role would belong to him, even if out of sheer convenience. Fantenberg is probably worth exploring bringing back, though there is a chance that, just like with Prout, there simply may not be room for him.

Mike Smith

And then, of course, the big one: Mike Smith started 40 games for the Flames this past season. He posted a .898 save percentage, one of the worst in the NHL. He had a couple of phenomenal playoff games, but ultimately, that’s all they were: a couple of games. And then, the real kicker: he’s 37 years old and it’s more likely than not his career will be over sooner rather than later.

The playoff games were good ones, but the Flames still have yet to find a long-term solution to their goaltending woes. This past season could have been a blip on Smith’s radar – in 2017-18 he did post a .916 save percentage – but considering just how poorly things went combined with his age, the smart money says Smith doesn’t make too much sense as a goalie playing half of the season for the Flames going forward.

That doesn’t mean he can’t still play goalie at the NHL level: it means the Flames have a choice to make. Do they want to spin their wheels for another year, hoping the David Rittich we saw in the first half of the season – before he was injured – is their starter of the future, or do they want to be more proactive? There could very well be a space for Smith on the team in 2019-20, but he doesn’t present a meaningful upgrade at this time, so it would have to be on a cheap cap hit while praying Rittich is the real deal.

Or the Flames could look for new solutions to solve the one position that’s seemed to elude them. That one is probably the way to go. It’s only if they can’t find any other goalies with present and future upside that they should look at bringing Smith back and hoping he can replicate his playoff performance over the course of the regular season. Not being able to make something new work is one thing, but at the very minimum, they should be looking.

Who should stay, who should go?

I would say Fantenberg should be the free agent the Flames look at retaining the most, but with a couple of caveats attached, namely just how many of their defencemen already under contract will be sticking around (Stone and his cap hit especially).

Hathaway follows Fantenberg: as long as he’s kept at a manageable cap hit and there’s no expectation of another 11-goal season, he’s perfectly fine as a depth option and penalty killer.

Smith would follow Hathaway, but again with a caveat: the Flames should be exploring other, more long-term goaltending solutions.

And finally, Prout: with Andersson and Valimaki almost certainly full-time NHLers to start next season, the defence is crowded. Does he fit in on the Flames in an NHL capacity at all anymore? Probably not, though the farm team could be a possibility.

  • Skylardog

    If goal is to get Valimaki a spot on the roster for next season, then Fantenberg cannot stay. To be honest, unless he is guaranteed a spot in the top six, I am certain he walks because someone out there will offer him one.

    But is it that easy? He likely could be signed for about $1.3M, and was very good when here. He impress me with what he did when paired with Ras, and those 2 were our best pairing against the MacKinnon line. Just wish Peters could have picked up on that little nugget of information.

    I would have an entirely different approach than most when it comes to the defensemen.

    Move out Brodie and Hanifin, clearing $9.6 million of cap space. Sign Fantenberg to a 2 year $1.3M contract. Bring back a solid, big, 3rd pairing RHD in the deals. Stone is untradeable. He is #7 for this next season.

    That leaves

    Gio-Ras
    Vali-Hamonic
    Fant-New guy

    with Ky and Stone as the extras. Net change is $9.6M out less $1.3M for Fant, and lets say $2.0M for the 3rd RHD. That gains us $6.3M for that top line centre we desperately need. Move out Frolik as well at $4.3, and all of a sudden there is a massive $10.6M of new cap space available to spend up front.

    I think Ky should go too because we could get something for him, but our D depth is getting a bit thin. Still think Ky is too weak defensively to ever be a difference maker.

    Hanifin has very high value, but frankly was awful in the playoffs. Nice pawn in a big deal.

    How about Hanifin, Frolik, Mangipane, and Janko for Zibinajad and a first from NYR. Not saying that is a perfect trade, but is a good starting point for the framework for one.

    Offer sheet Kapanen for $4.0M for 5 years. Toronto can’t match due to cap and Marner. It costs us a second rounder.

    JG-Zib-Kap
    Tkachuk-Mony-Lind
    Benny-Back-Czar
    Dube-Ryan-Hath
    Neal-Lazar (not that Lazar will be here)

    Have some fun with that roster at my expense.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Your moving Hanifin is music to my ears. I’ve been saying it all along, he has the highest trade value of any of the Flame players who could be moved and not missed.

    • BigChefJeff

      Valimaki will have a spot on the team. Seems everyone is in agreement the goal is to move out Brodie, in which case there is no issue with getting him into the lineup. I wouldn’t mind bringing Fantenburg back as a 6/7. Agree that Stone is unmovable and we are stuck with that one.

      Also agree that Kylington’s trade value might not ever be higher than it is now. If he has another season of noticeable progression, he might be someone Seattle looks at in expansion. I would try to fetch something for Kylington now before ever considering moving out Hanifin, but if Brodie does end up getting the boot maybe it works out better in the short-term to keep both.

      Not sure I’m a fan of that trade proposal, though. That’s a lot to give up for Zibanajed, who–until this year–has generally produced only marginally better than Backlund and probably without the two-way prowess. Also don’t think NYR have any interest in taking on Frolik or giving away their first round picks given where they are at. They are probably more than happy to sit back, collect another high draft pick, take a run at Panarin in Free Agency then sign Adam Fox next year for no assets. Can’t see them as much of a trade partner to ditch the junk we don’t want anymore.

      If Kapanen can be had for a 2nd I think you do that all day. Maybe Toronto would be willing to talk trade instead of an offer sheet, if they realize they can’t re-sign. I would like to see Bennett get more of a look in top 6–maybe try Lindholm at 1C. Assuming Kapanen were available and the dollars worked, maybe try a top 6 of:

      Jonny – Lindholm – Bennett
      Tkachuk – Monahan – Kapanen

      • Skylardog

        Can’t disagree with anything you have said.

        The only comment I do have, is that time after time, after time… Benny has proven he can’t put up points at a top 6 pace.

        In all honesty, I think we are stuck with Frolik until the trade deadline. The only way we can move him before then is in a packaged up deal where he is an add in.

        • Albertabeef

          Benny has been stuck with plugs and hasn’t seen top 6 time a whole lot since his first season. He was pretty good his first season under Bob Hartley. GG hurt Benny’s development. But mind you how many kids have put up 116 career points before their 23rd birthday playing mostly 3rd and 4th lines? How many minutes has Benny played with Johnny? Not many! A game here or there when Mony was injured, that’s it. Too small of a sample size.

    • withachance

      Flames do not have a 2nd rounder this year for Kapanen (can they give next year’s pick?). Hanifin unlikely to be traded as both BT and BP sees him as a long time staple on this team.

      Id package Brodie, Kylington, Janko for a center somewhere. Frolik seems to be a perfect fit for Florida (Quinneville loves him and needs bottom 6 depth) and they have a decent number of picks

    • Flint

      Toronto can pay that and move out other salary. They could also sign and trade Kapanen for that kind of money. He’d move easy at $4×5. I don’t think Kapanen doesn’t get hard to move until he’s a 5,5mil+ player. I don’t even think it gets to offer sheet territory for that money. Maybe 6 x 5… but who would offer sheet that money for Kapanen?

      Toronto is in a very tough cap spot, but they have tons of assets that any one of will be very easy to move. They may not have cap room but they are very much dealing from a position of strength.

    • Loud_voices

      So your idea is to send out 2 of our best puck moving D out, send away 2 of our young guys who finally seem to be coming into their own, and get rid of Frolik all for a guy who would be a 3rd possibly a 2nd line center on our team? That’s suicide….

    • Derzie

      Cheers to the acquisition ideas, Trash for settling with Stone over Fantenberg. In my opinion, if a player is immovable, his starting point is healthy scratch. If the team gets better by placing him the roster, do so. Otherwise, don’t. The money/cap hit happens in either scenario. A coach, ideally, has no idea what players get paid and plays them based on fit and ability. The closer we can get to that, the better.

  • Alcanivorax

    Let’s flip this on its head for a minute…

    Sign Smith (at a lower $$). Play him. Lose points because of, well, everything that everyone has said and has seen from his play.

    Result is we don’t finish first. Enter playoffs as lower seed.

    Win

    That’s how it works right?

    😁

  • Skylardog

    Smith – just walk away. We wanted him gone all season, no reason to change your mind because he played 4 good games in the playoffs.

    We need to stop trying to make the over 30 crowd big part of the roster. Every time we do, they fall down and can’t, or have trouble getting back up.

    • Rudy27

      I tend to agree. But if there are few better options, then perhaps offer a much reduced contract rate and play him primarily as the backup goalie for a year until (hopefully) one of our prospects is good enough to make the team.

    • Loud_voices

      You do realize our best player all season has been Gio who’s 35? Or that alot of the best players around the league are ones already in their 30s? Just because one player didnt have a good season (whos barely over 30 I might add) doesn’t mean that every player over 30 sucks…. Justin Williams was a massive reason why Carolina is moving past Washington.. and guess what? He’s 37…..

      • Derzie

        That’s true but put together a list of 31 or 62 (2 per team). Can’t be done. It’s rare.
        Every team needs a mix of young and old. The young for the speed and skill. The old for the stability & wisdom. Expecting young guys to do old things (e.g. McLotto as captain), or old guys to do young things (e.g. Neal on the ice), is a fool’s game.

  • Loud_voices

    I doubt they have the space to keep fantenberg or Prout with Stone coming in at over 3 mill they probably won’t be able to move him and then Anderson has locked down a spot and I’m guessing Valamaki will be an NHL regular so theirs just no room on the Blueline. Also kylington will be pushing for an NHL spot too, so it just doesn’t makes sense. Unless You can convince them to take 2way deals (Prout maybe but probably not fantenberg) they will probably be gone.
    There is a possibility we keep Hathaway but that’s only if he doesn’t ask too much, which I don’t think he will.

    Smith I believe we should definitely look into keeping. I know everyone has the hate on for him, but I don’t care… He’s a good goalie and his numbers proove it. If hes asking for another 5+mill deal it won’t happen. The only way he stays on the roster is if he takes a discount to give Rittich a raise. Both goalies coming in between the 2-4 range would be good and that leaves extra space to get Chucky signed.

    The best thing the flames could do is try and maintain the roster that got them to the playoffs with making a few minor tweeks

  • Garry T

    I think we should keep TJ. But, if you are indeed moving him. The Rangers have one early 1st. Round pick, 1around pick 20 and another at 27. Their 2nd rounders are well positioned. I would ask for the following.
    1. Their middle pick in the 1st round,
    2. Swap 1st. Round positions for our 1st at 27 and their 25. That positions us to get at least Leason if not a better player.
    3. We ask for the first 2 second round picks in this draft

    With this we are picking in a better spot in the 1st. And we pick up 2 2nds

    Or you call Montreal, get their 1st pick, Drouin, and a 2nd rounder early.

    Or, you call Columbus and ask for Dzingel, Duchene and Murray with the rights to talk to them 1st. Or a sign and trade at our money on D,D, and still pursue Murray who really puts up points on the back end.

    I would also put Smith out there on an opportunity to talk to him for a 2019 4th. Rounder.

    Then, there are a bunch of teams who need D men . I would put him out there for a 4th. And take a 5th. If necessary. You never know.

    Then,I call Winnipeg for the rights to talk to Hayes and swap that 4/5 pick for him.
    ’s name out there looking for a comparable player with the view to getting speed, skill and youth or experience. We need to get bigger. We need to upgrade the team and any of the earlier deals would work for me in accomplishing that.

  • freethe flames

    If you can sign Hathaway for around @1m you do it; if he is asking for much more you have to move on. The two defenders depend on what you do before FA; if you trade TJ or one of the other top 6 you need one of them as your depth defender. There is no one on the Heat to fill that role.

  • buts

    Let Smith go for sure we all know he doesn’t want to share the net and other than for a couple months has been far below league average for the last 2 years. Tre has multiple assets to make the necessary changes on the team. If these playoffs didn’t give him a clear picture of who needs to go then nothing will.

  • Luter 1

    None of the scenarios posed by the FN braintrust deals with the marshmallow soft makeup of this team. Hathaway is the exact kind of 4th line energy guy we need to keep along with some higher end physical talent. If Hanifin has interest from other teams, I would consider. He is almost a clone of Dougie without the shot, very soft. Between him and Brodie 50% of your top 4 D is non-contact.

    • Rudy27

      Hathaway does bring it every night and stands up for his team mates. And he had a noticeably above average year from a points perspective (but is it likely to be repeatable at 27 yrs old). I would expect there may be good replacement players out there that can bring more (or have a greater upside) than him and worth exploring. So I wouldn’t rush to sign him just yet.

    • fretsey

      I’m not sure he is as soft as Hammy…I saw more fire out of Hanny than I ever did with Hammy. He’s 22, 6’3″ and 215lbs. Plenty of time for him to mature

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Makar looked a helluva lot more poised in two games than Hanifin has in 4 seasons.

        Hanifin’s greatest value to the Flames is as a trading chip. His youth, size, experience, cap hit and oodles of potential suggest he could be traded for a return that far exceeds what Brodie or Frolik of Kylington will get ya.

    • Loud_voices

      I don’t expect Brodie to be physical because he’s a puck moving defencemen with a smaller frame, but I definitely expect hanifin to throw his weight around a little more… Would be alot more affective if he did. I was angry that they traded away ferland because that was like 50% of our teams grit. What we need more than hits, is players that can drive the net and force the d back… Like MacKinnon and Rantenen did to us. Bennett would be perfect for this if he could take that extra step.

    • Derzie

      Yes this is key. We as fans need to ease up on the points focus when we assess players. We need some break-even, nasty types. Needing goons is passe. Now we need jerks instead. Trade some depth nice guys for some depth jerks. Hathaway and Bennett types or as close to Tom Wilson as we can get without getting someone like Tom Wilson (the outer edge of the jerk spectrum)