The only constant in life is change, and that is doubly so for National Hockey League clubs that suffered disappointment during the past season. The Calgary Flames had their best regular season in 30 years in 2018-19, but will likely make personnel changes over the summer.
Which players are most likely to move? Which Flames are likely sticking around? Here’s a quick rundown of where things stand, more or less. (For simplicity’s sake, we’re ignoring most minor leaguers and all pending unrestricted free agents.)
Willing to listen to offers
Michael Frolik: Signed for one more season with a $4.3 million cap hit, Frolik bounced up and down the Flames lineup this season as head coach Bill Peters tried to get Austin Czarnik and Sam Bennett going on the right side of the second line (with Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund). Frolik’s uncertain position drew the ire of agent Allan Walsh, who tweeted about his client’s tenuous spot in Calgary.
The Flames really could do without distractions next season and the offensive upside of Frolik is lower than that of Bennett, Czarnik or James Neal (who could all benefit from top six time next season). Given those factors and the team’s need for cap flexibility, there’s every reason to expect Frolik won’t be a Flame before too long.
TJ Brodie: The emergence of Rasmus Andersson as a potential top pairing option could spell the end of Brodie’s time in Calgary. Brodie struggled defensively at times, especially in the second half of the season, while Andersson looked more and more assured as the season wore on.
From an ability perspective, moving Brodie and putting Andersson with Mark Giordano is probably a lateral move that saves the Flames some cap space. But Brodie’s still a smooth-skating, puck-moving defender and could fetch them some assets – picks, prospects or immediate help in other areas.
2019 first round pick: The Flames didn’t have a first round pick in 2018 and don’t have a second round pick this year, so their likely preference is to use this pick to select a player so they can replenish their prospect cupboards. That said, if the Flames can use the pick to upgrade another part of their roster (or as a sweetener in another, larger swap), they’re selecting at 26th overall so it wouldn’t be a massive asset to give up.
Listening to offers, but unlikely to move
These players fall into two categories: players with value and players with uncertain value.
Sam Bennett and Oliver Kylington are two capable NHL level players. Bennett hasn’t gotten a chance to crack the top six rotation on a regular basis, but was superb in the playoffs and in spurts throughout the last few seasons. Kylington showed he could play a regular shift on the Flames blueline at age 21. Both players are capable, affordable, and just scratching the surface of what they can do – the Flames will get calls on them, but would likely hesitate to move either.
Mark Jankowski isn’t really a core piece, nor is he an up-and-comer anymore. At age 24, he may have already become the two-way, bottom six center that he’s going to become. But he’s a capable penalty killer and has a season left on an affordable deal (and will be a restricted free agent after that). Even those that aren’t enthusiastic about his upside have to admit that he’s inexpensive, useful depth – and maybe he still has some upside.
There are a trio of players the team would be happy to get offers on, but probably wouldn’t net a ton. James Neal had a poor season and has four seasons (with a $5.75 million AAV) left on his contract, so it’s unlikely the Flames would be able to move him. Michael Stone was injured or scratched for much of the past season. He’s still a capable depth piece, but his $3.5 million cap hit (for one more season) might scare off suitors. Third string netminder Jon Gillies didn’t have a great season in the American Hockey League and has a one-way deal worth $750,000 for next season. Even if another team thinks they can rehab Gillies as an asset, they might balk at paying him NHL money to play in the minors.
If you call about them, Treliving will probably hang up on you
Through hook or crook, Treliving has managed to sign several core players to long-term, palatable deals. So teams really shouldn’t bother calling about Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, Mark Giordano, Noah Hanifin, Travis Hamonic, or pending RFA Matthew Tkachuk.
Similarly, it would be unwise to ask about recent free agent acquisitions Derek Ryan or Austin Czarnik, potential starting goaltender David Rittich, or top prospects Dillon Dube, Andrew Mangiapane, Rasmus Andersson or Juuso Valimaki.