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 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?
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.