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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Questions, big and small, loom as Flames begin their off-season

The Calgary Flames had a heck of a regular season in 2018-19, capped off with a disappointing playoff run. But now that the dust has settled, Flames management has a lot of questions – big and small – to answer as they begin the work of preparing their team for the 2019-20 season.

We’ve organized most of the questions into four main categories.

The Draft

The Flames have five draft picks in next month’s draft – with picks in rounds 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7. They had five picks in 2017 and 2018 due to general manager Brad Treliving’s wheeling and dealing over recent seasons. Of the team’s recent picks, Rasmus Andersson and Andrew Mangiapane are effectively NHL regulars at this point while Dillon Dube, Juuso Valimaki and Oliver Kylington are knocking on the door. Beyond that, it gets pretty lean.

  • Do the Flames move their first rounder in an effort to improve their top forward group?
  • Seeing how lean their prospect base is beyond the players that are knocking on the door, do the Flames try to get additional picks – whether via trading down or trading away established assets?
  • Considering that the team’s best goaltending prospect right now may be newly-signed Russian prospect Artyom Zagidulin, do the Flames pick a goaltender with one of their handful of picks?

Restricted Free Agents

The Flames boast 13 pending restricted free agents: Sam Bennett, Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane, Alan Quine, David Rittich, Curtis Lazar, Spencer Foo, Kerby Rychel, Brett Pollock, Ryan Lomberg, Josh Healey, Rinat Valiev and Mason McDonald. Obviously the biggest piece of pending business is a new deal for Tkachuk, but other aspects of this group loom as well.

  • Regarding Tkachuk, it’s in his best interests to wait for another “big fish” RFA to sign and set the market. It’s in Treliving’s best interests to get the deal done quickly so he can move onto addressing other aspects of the roster. How much leverage is Treliving, a notoriously tough negotiator, willing to give up in order to get a deal done quickly?
  • Does one full NHL season – half of it really strong and the other half injury-riddled – earn Rittich a long-term contract?
  • What do the new cap hits look like for Tkachuk, Rittich, Bennett and Mangiapane?
  • How many of the depth bodies (Pollock, Healey, McDonald) or projects (Lazar, Foo, Rychel) receive qualifying offers?

Unrestricted Free Agency

Retaining their key RFAs is likely to put the Flames in a bit of a cap crunch. Depending on how things go, they might try to retain some of their pending unrestricted free agents: Garnet Hathaway, Dalton Prout, Oscar Fantenberg, Mike Smith, Tyler Graovac, Anthony Peluso, Matt Taormina and Marcus Hogstrom.

  • Is there a scenario where Smith returns on a deal with a low base salary but loaded with performance bonuses? (Jaromir Jagr’s deal with the Flames was of this type.)
  • What’s the balancing act between giving Hathaway a decent raise and pricing him out of town (ala Lance Bouma)?
  • Does Fantenberg re-sign to be the seventh defenseman, or do the Flames look elsewhere for that role?

Trades

Finally, there are some players that seem destined for a change of scenery.

  • Have TJ Brodie, Michael Stone and Michael Frolik played their last games for the Flames? If they’re moved, what kind of return would the Flames get – or would freeing up a roster spot or some cap space be worthwhile enough?
  • Is there a trade market for James Neal, or are the Flames committed to giving him a chance to bounce back?

Needless to say, it’s going to be a busy summer at the Saddledome as the Flames try to figure out how to answer these many, many questions and improve their team.

  • calgaryfan

    The Flames are starting to look like Daryl Sutter/ Iginla era. Trading draft picks to build a team and no players on coming up from the AHL. Stop the trading of draft picks!

  • Budgie

    Suprises/Keepers: First team-Ryan, Mangiapanne, Bennett, Czarnik, Andersson, Lindholm, Hanafin and Valamaki, Dube—Rittich all should be rewarded.
    Debate-Jankowski-I’d keep him unless someone offered a good return
    Core-Tkachuk, Giordano, Hamonic,
    Trade Bait: Gadreau, Monahan, Brodie, Backlund, Smith, Neal, Stone,

      • Budgie

        Yes, Hamonic is steady, blocks tons of shots, to me he’s a team guy, doesn’t shy away from rough play, doesn’t take a ton of penalties-Hanifin and Hamonic worked, Hanifin is young, great future. Having a defense pairing that sticks together over time has its benefits. Our best defenseman 1) Giordano 2) Andersson 3) Hamonic 4) Hanifin 5) Brodie 6) Valamaki 7) Fatenburg Watch Valamaki end up a top 4 pairing next year

  • meat1

    I posted almost a year ago to the day that I felt the Flames should trade Sean Monahan to whichever team necessary in order for us to draft Brady Tkachuk. It was met with many trashes and bad language sent my way haha. I sure wish we had made that deal….so now I throw out this scenario…how about sending Gaudreau home to New Jersey for the right to draft Jack Hughes? Let’s remember our salary cap picture. In three years Johnny will be looking for a $9-10 million salary. By getting Hughes we have three years of an ELC and then more than likely a four-five year deal that doesn’t break our bank. The salary cap saving by moving Gaudreau, coupled with a Brodie and/or Frolik trade maybe, instantly allows us to be flexible moving forward in signing Byng and Rittich etc. We wouldn’t have to buy out Stone or Neal next year and then Stone is out of the picture and Neal gets a bounce back chance (I’m assuming they are untraceable). Hughes becomes our number one centre, Monahan slots in properly on the second line. I would take seven-eight guaranteed years of Jack Hughes over what looks quite likely to be at most three years of Johnny.

    • Tkachuk'sLisp

      Does he make the Flames significantly better? The production between the two is 10 points and 6 goals. How much of that production is inflated by playing with Kucherov, Stamkos, Hedman? I also understand that he’s a few years younger than Monahan and is still growing as a player.

      Point is likely going to command 7+ on his contract. He’s an awesome player, I just don’t know if it’s a move that will really change anything.

    • Flameon13

      Its hard to say because both play with similarly talented players. Monahan does put more pucks to the net than Point does (20 more this season in 1 less game played). Point also has an unsustainable shooting percentage of 21.5%, second highest for players with over 30 goals this season. While Monny’s shooting percentage was just a lil higher than his career normal at 16.1%. 20 of Point’s 41 goals were PPG and 35 of his 92 points. So 21 goals and 57 points came away from the PP. While Monny had 12 of his 34 on the PP and 23 of his 82 points. So for Monny 22 goals and 59 points came away from the PP. So numbers are very similar away from the PP though Point scored more once on the PP, but also had a high SH%. So when you look at it Point’s numbers should drop next season while Monny’s are closer to his norm with regards to SH%. How much should they drop? Well assuming he generates as many shots but his percentage drops to a more reasonable 17% then he could be in for a 32 or 33 goal season next year and assuming he were to play with the same line mates that Monny is playing with then say he gets 48 assists next season for a total of 80-81 points. So really is it worth it knowing a production drop is coming? Ah I wouldn’t say “no” to the deal but I wouldn’t think we would get overly better by making this deal especially when Point might be getting over 9mill. Sure we become faster by doing this, but shot generation also goes down. Overall I don’t see much difference coming in their production next season, but since Point is still only 3 seasons deep in his NHL career he might just be starting to show what he can do. If it did happen though I would probably go with JG-Lindy-Point as our first line.

  • theartfuldodger

    Neal is going no where. Treliving has to give him another shot or else it reflects terrible on the GM. I believe the FLames are hard on Brodies skating and puck moving and may move him but only if they get significant return. Another first? Frolik is a god candidate to move although I really like him. Likely a 2nd rounder or 3rd? Give Benny 3 years, Mangiapianne a long deal at low cap 🙂

    • FLT

      100% agree regarding Neal. Flipping players like trading cards is popular on message boards but, barring the possibility that Neal also wants out, bailing on a guy after a bad year 1 of a 5 year deal makes it tough to attract FAs in the future. Calgary, as with the rest of the Canadian teams, is already an unattractive option due to higher tax rates.

      • Derzie

        I think it’s the opposite. Players at the end of the road, being overpaid, love to get bought out or flipped. Washes their hands of their poor work and in the case of a buyout, can get work for even more money. A loophole that has to be closed in the next agreement. Paying more to players who contribute less is a slap in the face to every contributing player being paid less.
        With regards to FAs, enough’s enough. 9 times out of 10 the deal is bad from day one. Too much risk to rely on it.

  • Jon Moxley

    In my humble opinion, which is as humble as an opinion can be, the move that should, but will not happen is the trade of one Backlund. Expensive 3rd/4th line center.

  • The GREAT WW

    Sign Byng.
    Trade Neal, Brodie, Frolik and Stone for picks and players.
    Get a goalie.
    Don’t trade our first round pick.
    There is some work to do…

    WW

  • Jobu

    Is there a trade market for James Neal?

    Only if
    – there is something that goes along with him
    – salary is retained
    – there is a team willing to gamble on a player for 4 more years or a team trying to make the cap floor during a rebuild

    • Al Rain

      Had never heard of The Fourth Period. The writing is dreadful.

      Perhaps a good time to shout out to my second fav FN writer of all time (and best presently), Mr. Ryan Pike.

  • Derian Hatcher

    Maybe the plan needs to be altered due to the showing in the first round. If the performance of the team against the Avs was a one-off, then proceed with subtle changes. If the first round was pretty much what this group is capable of when things get real in the playoffs, then big changes are required.

    If / when Tre can decipher this, then I’m sure he will proceed accordingly.

  • Puck Head

    Did anyone see tonight’s mock draft on the score? I would be ok with this pick.

    26. Calgary Flames – Samuel Poulin, LW, QMJHL

    Poulin is another player with impressive primary point production: 62 of his 76 points came from either goals or primary assists. He’s a power-forward type, with the size that more traditional scouts like to see combined with a killer shot, passionate work ethic, and good puck-protection skills. He needs to work on his first step to improve his quickness and be more explosive in his skating.

    • Speed Kills

      I checked out a couple other mock draft pages, They have Flames picking(26) Spencer Knight G | USA U18 6’3″. 198 lbs, two up on Samuel Poulin, Then another – Vladislav Kolyachonok D Flint (OHL) 6′ 1″.183, two after Samuel Poulin. and the last one I saw was this, Brett Leason C Prince Albert (WHL) 6′ 5″. 200, Samuel Poulin wasn’t even in their top 31… Let the guessing begin…

  • Baalzamon

    Considering that the team’s best goaltending prospect right now may be newly-signed Russian prospect Artyom Zagidulin, do the Flames pick a goaltender with one of their handful of picks?

    Considering how deep this draft appears to be in net, this is quite likely. The good news is they probably won’t have to reach to get a good one.

    They could probably get one of Isaiah Saville, Dustin Wolf, Trent Miner, Colten Ellis, Mads Sogaard, Pyotr Kochetkov or someone of that caliber in the third round. Or they could wait for a late pick to get overager Ilya Konovalov (younger than Zagidulin, arguably posted better results in more games in the same league).

  • MDG1600

    Tyler Parsons (2) , Mason McDonald (2), Jon GIllies (3), Lorroint Broissoit (6), Joni Ortio (6), Leland Irving (1), Kevin Lalande (5), Matt Keating (5) and Jimmy Spratt (7). This is the not so impressive list of drafted Flames goalies from the previous 15 years and the round they were taken. I respectfully suggest the Flames not waste a draft pick on a goalie given that they have a demonstrated clear inability to evaluate and draft goalies.

      • Tkachuk'sLisp

        I believe he’s in Winnipeg now, but yes. He, along with Roman Horak, was traded from the Flames to the Oilers for Ladislav Smid and some other minor league goalie. Broissoit has really come into his own, though.

        • PlayitagainSam

          Really come into his own. This is the only decent season he has ever had!
          He played backup on a pretty effective Jets team.
          I wouldn’t exactly call that something to get excited about.
          Calgary can’t draft, trade , or sign a good goalie.
          It’s a place where goalies come to die.

          • Tkachuk'sLisp

            I don’t know that I ever mentioned getting excited about him. A .925 sv% is a good season for a backup. Don’t forget, he played in the other goalie graveyard: Edmonton.

    • Getpucksdeep

      Pre lockout not uncommon to trade for a goalie and win both Hasek and Roy did it. Post lockout with the cap evening teams out 11 of the last cups were won by goalies brought into the league by their own teams. Khibibulan, Guiguiere and Thomas. The last 7 cups straight were won by home grown goalies. I wouldn’t get all worked up about trading for another Elliott or Hiller. Maybe Rittich is “that guy” maybe its Parsons, Gllies or MacDonald if they resign the guy. Lies dam lies and statistics and the majority of cup winners developed their own goaltending.

  • freethe flames

    In two of the last few year BT has surprised Flames fans by making big trades at the draft. The trade with Carolina, the Hamonic trade and the Hamilton trade; so it would not surprise me in the least if he finds a way to make a big trade around the draft. But what that will be is anyone’s guess.

    One name that has surfaced on this sight in recent days has been Zibby from the Rangers; someone who I thought they should have targeted last year and actually thought he might have been the guy that would have been part of the Hamilton deal.

    Skylar has suggested that we should trade Hanifin and Brodie to free up some cap space. I think you can trade 1 of them but am reluctant to trade both. If you loss both you have a top 5 of Gio, Andersson, Hamonic, Valimaki and Kylington and let’s be clear there is no one else in the system at this point. Skylar has also suggested moving/buying out Stone as well. You need to have depth in the organization if you move 2/3 veteran D and replacing them will come with both costs and risks.

    Unfortunately I don’t see a market for Neal and I don’t hold out much hope for a turn around by him; his skating and work ethic based upon his performance is just not NHL caliber any more. That leaves moving Frolik who can be more or less replaced by Dube or even Mangiapane. Janko could also be moved and depending on the return so could Bennett but I don’t see that happening unless his demands are out of touch with reality.

    • Budgie

      Moving Bennett? Never, he is a playoff asset, Calgary needed 4 more Bennett’s to beat Colorado
      Not much talk about goaltending-Smith showed well in the playoffs but he is getting up in age for the NHL-goaltenders can stick around longer than others age wise, I like Rittich he was awesome but did cool off a bit due to his injury, he may be no.1 next yr.

    • Tkachuk'sLisp

      Trading Zibanejad would open up a hole at 1C for NYR unless Monahan was going the other way in the deal.

      Also, I just looked at Monahan’s stats…he’s never had more than 42 hits in a season. That can’t be right, can it?

      • Flameon13

        I believe they would be open to the idea of trading him for the right young pieces since they are rebuilding, but I also don’t think they are shopping him. Getting him would be the kind of sneaky out of left field move I’d expect from BT. I personally would love to see a trade happen for him even if it means losing a young prospect (dman or forward) as long as some cap is going back as well. Not like we can hang on to all our defense in 2 years time anyway.

        • Tkachuk'sLisp

          I’m with you. If they can get him, by all means, get him. He’s a big body (that actually utilizes it), got a great shot, can make plays, and can skate. He’s also signed to a really good deal.

          For conversation’s sake, what do you think a realistic offer for him would be? Monahan straight up? Or would they/the Flames need to sweeten the pot?

        • Budgie

          Hard to break up that top line, regular season they were one of the best in the league, the purple Gatorade and they way they clicked. The playoffs were a disaster for them, Monahan had a cracked thumb and Lindholm a sprain-I wouldn’t trade that line if they are healthy, that is 259 points combined which is one of the highest scoring lines. The drop in the playoffs? Injuries? Not wise to rush into a trade though I think size is an asset in the playoffs, aka Colorado’s top line. Gadreau did tie MacKinnon in points in the regular season. OK Gadreau for MacKinnon and throw in James Neal

          • Tkachuk'sLisp

            The problem is that they don’t have anyone to muck and grind on that line. Lindholm does it more than the other two (I don’t expect Johnny to do it) but Monahan is a passenger. He floats to the slot and gets fed pucks. If he can’t get there, he isn’t doing anything.

            Monahan didn’t have any (reported) serious injuries so I don’t think his cracked thumb would’ve prevented him from battling to get to the dirty areas. It’s also concerning that he’s disappeared after the break two years in a row.

            I wouldn’t be disappointed, depending on the return, if the Flames decided to move on from him and try someone else up there. Or if the Flames got a true 1C and moved him to 2C. Good luck acquiring a 1C with limited prospect depth, though.

      • fretsey

        That doesn’t suprise me. The Flames were last in the league for Hits. I don’t think BP encouraged the players to hit. I have a theory that that is why we were the best 3rd period team, more energy. Every game last year,including the play-offs where hits were right there for the taking and the guys would just peel off…la-de-da pantywaist style. It wasn’t just Monny…BP wans’t big on finishing checks imo.

          • fretsey

            Good point. I can’t explain that. I can’t remember the Hartley or GG era. He’s big enough to be an effective checker but under BP it doesn’t surpise me he had a low hit total. Still…he needs to take that next step,like Janko,and play to their size.

        • Budgie

          Then Hathaway skates and hits everything, same for Ryan Lomberg when he came up. Hamonic hits. Backlund can, then takes a penalty. Ferland was important to the team, and the defenseman aren’t huge, the game is faster-perhaps Jankowski can step up, Bennet was perfect blend of skill and toughness-pick up one UFA or two? A goalie?

  • Garry T

    Meat 1. I don’t think trading Gaudreau would go over well in Calgary. He is signed to a viable contract that serves the team and Johnny well. Do not forget this is a 100 point per season player personally. However, if he left here unhappy and made it known he has had enough of losing then the following of your two deals would have to evolve like this.

    New Jersey would be on a jet to pick him up in 30 seconds. Hughes is 3 years away. Johnny is a franchise player that on the announcement of a trade to Jersey would fill all of the unused seats in their rink and there is a tone of them. 2. 30,000 plus Jerseys would fly out of the team stores in the City. Local TV rights pricing would double. The shot in the arm he would give his team mates is 25 more wins a year. His arrival would see suites sell out, other team paraphernalia torn off the shelves. The financial gain would be so massive that Calgary would ask for the Hughes Pick, a 2nd this year, a 1st and 2nd next year, a top six guy and their best kid coming up.

    Philadelphia hearing he was available would come up with a stronger package. The Rangers have 3 firsts, 3 2nds and guys like Vessey and Buchevitch they would dangle. I think those are enough reasons to justify a Johnny move but the repercussions if Johnny did not ask for the trade would see a mass departure of season ticket holders.

        • Puck Head

          I guess that depends on who you think a franchise player is. I think of Ovechkin, Crosby, McDavid etc. They are typically centres who drive play. Unfortunately, JG cannot lift a team on his shoulders and see them to victory when games get heavy – at a time when games matter. Johnny needs to play with a franchise player so that the heat is off him and he can do his thing.

          • fretsey

            I couldn’t agree more. JG is probably the most unique player in the league. He’s a franchise player in the sense that he can sell the place out every night,and to say he’s a “complimentary piece” sounds demeaning but it’s true. No shame in that. The fans won’t like it but until we get a stud center and star RW power forward Jonny will be neutralized in the the play-offs and the franchise will spin it’s wheels and bow out of the 1st round until the end of his contract. I say let the East Coast teams know we are open to hockey deals involving JG and see where that goes

          • Tkachuk'sLisp

            I think I took the term “complimentary” at face value. I just don’t see a guy who drove his line to all of those points with a passenger in Monahan and a guy that was kind of an unknown in terms of what we were actually going to see as “complimentary”. He’s definitely not on the level of Ovechkin, Crosby, and McDavid but I think he’s more than complimentary. Not quite franchise, not quite complimentary. He’s somewhere in the middle for me.

          • Rudy27

            During this season, our first line was one of the top lines in the league. Who was the driver? It certainly wasn’t Monahan! Just because this line wasn’t effective in this year’s playoffs (and the Avalanche strategy played a big role in that) doesn’t take away from Johnny’s prowess for driving the Flames offence.

  • oddclod

    Treliving is doing a good job but he’s really built the same team Feaster was going for. Small but speedy. Alas colorado is a pretty damn good team judging by the second round so far 2-2.

    I’m with Wilter Walt. Gotta unload. I can’t stand this position. I’m in the show me in the playoffs camp. The entire season I’ll be so meh. I’ll be looking for signs, but functional toughness is alot harder than just beefing up. GFG.

  • Franko J

    I wonder if Treliving will revisit a trade with the Wild for Zucker?
    I wonder if Ottawa would be interested in Monahan, Brodie trade for Colin White and Christian Wolanin trade? Maybe move Neal for Ryan, as well. Probably not since the Senators are rebuilding and are looking the be in the Alexis Lafrenière sweepstakes next year.
    Just thinking out loud but what would it take to get a player like Rasmus Ristolainen from Buffalo? Then the Flames would have the market on players named Rasmus.