76

FlamesNation Mailbag: May long weekend edition

It’s Victoria Day weekend, friends, and we’re all still stuck in a hockey-less holding pattern. As we wait, let’s dig into the mailbag!

We’ll get into this in much, much more detail as we get closer to whenever the draft is. But on most lists the players that look like they’ll be around when the Flames pick are:

  • Drummondville RW Dawson Mercer
  • Kamloops C Connor Zary
  • Ufa LW Rodion Amirov
  • Portland RW Seth Jarvis
  • Shawinigan C Mavrik Bourque
  • Prince Albert D Kaiden Guhle
  • Lulea RW Noel Gunler
  • Brandon D Braden Schneider
  • Hamilton LW Jan Mysak

In short, there’s a lot of diversity there position-wise (everything but a goalie) and several players the Flames have seen a lot of this season in Zary, Jarvis, Guhle and Schneider.

Honestly, when I look at the list above, I’m not sure that the price they’d have to pay to move up even a little bit (probably a least a second rounder) would be worth it. Their best bet is to probably stick at 16th overall and grab whoever they think is the best player available. The last time they picked around this spot, they got Juuso Valimaki out of it. The Flames need to be focusing on adding depth to their prospect cupboard at this point.

All we think we know right now is it won’t be July 1. The free agency window will be after the season, but right now the timing for that is up in the air – and given that NHL contracts end on June 30, presumably there will be some negotiation with the NHLPA on an extension to those deals.

Here’s what I’ve heard about the pending UFAs and RFAs. The Flames have been keeping in touch with their expiring players’ representatives, but right now there is absolutely no certainty on a salary cap number for 2020-21 and beyond so talks have been very surface level. The Flames would love to get some work done, but they cannot really have in-depth talks until they know what cap space they have to work with.

The Flames sent out a note last week to season ticket holders indicating that prices will be the same for 2020-21 as they were in 2019-20. I don’t know for sue that’ll be the same for every other ticket type, but it seems likely. There’s no sweet spot for this, as everybody’s dealing with an unprecedented situation. I will imagine the Flames will closely be monitoring ticket usage and a lot of other factors, and they’ll probably make adjustments as needed.

There will be a training camp and probably some kind of pre-season, but it’ll likely be shorter than traditionally seen. They’re figuring out formats as part of everything else they’re working on.

Unless the Flames move out significant cap hits before free agency, they won’t be able to afford Taylor Hall at market value.

The Flames likely see Valimaki as a top four defender, potentially top pairing. If his mobility is still there after his knee surgery, he could force his way into the top two pairings as early as next season.

Much of it depends on timelines. If there are no treatments or vaccines and they have to exist in a vacuum for awhile, it’ll completely change the economics of the league. But if they have reasonable assurances that things will be normal-ish within 2-3 years or so, then they can model it out and come up with a plan to bridge the business through the period of uncertainty. So the short answer is probably “two or three years,” but that’s mostly a guess.

In terms of the arena, things are still moving ahead. It’s a priority for the Flames because of the big revenue challenges they’re having operating within the Saddledome. It’s a priority for the city because it’s a shovel-ready infrastructure project that will create short-term jobs in an election year, and also because they’ve had a massive tax base problem downtown and this should help with that. In other words: the thought process is likely that they’re focusing on the structural sports/economic problems the arena is meant to help with and trusting medical science to fix the newer, scarier problems that have cropped up this year. The building won’t open until 2024, and (hopefully) we’ll have fewer things to worry about by then.

The Flames will have three new blueliners playing in their system in 2020-21: Connor Mackey, Colton Poolman and Carl-Johan Lerby. Plus, Valimaki will be back after missing basically all of 2019-20 with a knee injury (and surgery). Based on logistics, it seems probable that one of TJ Brodie and Travis Hamonic will be back, plus maybe Michael Stone. Erik Gustafsson could be back, too, but cap-wise it would only work if both Brodie and Hamonic go elsewhere.