The Calgary Flames didn’t make a ton of changes to their roster over the summer, as they’re going to be rolling with the majority of the roster that saw them finish second overall in the National Hockey League standings. However, one major piece left town without being replaced by an incoming player: bottom six winger Garnet Hathaway.
Presuming that Hathaway will be replaced by someone invited to training camp, who has the best chance of taking his spot?
The main qualifying factors here are if a player can play the right side and possibly help out on the penalty kill.
The upside with Czarnik is he’s already familiar with the team and its systems. He can play the right side or help out with face-offs. The downside with Czarnik is he doesn’t have a ton of NHL experience and he barely played on the penalty kill. His $1.25 million cap hit is a bit hefty for a fringe player on a team without a ton of cap space.
He doesn’t have any NHL experience, but Gawdin’s two-way play and reputation as a savvy hockey player in all three zones might make him an attractive candidate. He can play center or on the right side, and he played a prominent special teams role in Stockton. He’s also making a lean $776,000 this season, which would make him fairly easy to slide under the cap.
Another player with zero NHL games under his belt, the 21-year-old Phillips is one of the more exciting offensive players in the Flames system. He had a dynamite second half of the AHL season and can play center or the right side. The challenge for Phillips is his small frame might have a hard time killing penalties – he hasn’t played very much on the PK in Stockton, either. He has more offensive upside than Gawdin and a lower cap hit ($733,000), but isn’t quite as good as a two-way player.
In camp on a PTO, it’s probably safe to presume that Smith-Pelly would be willing to take a contract at (or near) the $700,000 league minimum salary. He’s a right shot winger who played a strong two-way role, including spending significant amounts of time on the penalty kill with Washington and New Jersey over the past three seasons. He also has a Stanley Cup ring and experience with associate coach Geoff Ward from his time with the Devils.
A dark horse for the role, Robinson makes league minimum ($700,000) but hasn’t been a consistent special teams player during his career. He’s got size, but he’s probably topped out as a solid AHL player at this point and an NHL special teams role might be a bit above his skis.