It looks to be a big summer of changes for the Calgary Flames, especially on the back-end.
Previously, we broke down the likelihood of each member of the Flames’ forward corps returning to the team in the 2020–21 season. But while the majority of the Flames’ forwards remain under contract or RFA control through future seasons, their starting goalie and most of their defensemen need contracts this summer, er, fall.
In short, Flames GM Brad Treliving has more than a few decisions to make about the players listed below. Let’s take a look at some likely scenarios for each one.
Mark Giordano — Another year, another first-round exit for the wily veteran Giordano. The Flames have never won a playoff series with “Gio” in the lineup—he was injured in their victory over Vancouver in 2015, while the Jets series this year is in the books as a “play-in”—and Calgary’s captain noticeably struggled with turnovers and a lack of speed against both Winnipeg and Dallas. Giordano turns 37 in October and has two years remaining on a contract that pays him $6.75 million per season. Something new this off-season? His no-trade clause downgrades from its previous full protection, allowing Giordano to be dealt to 19 teams of his choosing. The Flames don’t have a ton of organizational depth on defense, but they might be able to recoup some younger assets if they can find a taker for Giordano. However, after his play in the playoffs, that could be a big “if.” Odds of staying: 70%.
TJ Brodie — Brodie used to be a far more polarizing figure in Calgary. During the Glen Gulutzan years, he seldom lasted a full year with the same partner, alternating between Dennis Wideman, Michael Stone, and Travis Hamonic all while being played on the left side. Since returning to the top pair with Giordano in 2018, Brodie has once again received acclaim as a steady defensive presence. But he’s been involved in multiple trade rumours over the last 12 months linking him to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he’s a UFA this fall. Brodie is an Ontario product with family down east and it remains to be seen whether he returns to the Flames or if he tests the UFA market. Odds of staying: 40%.
Travis Hamonic — Like Brodie, Hamonic is a UFA this fall. He’s a right-shot defenseman who the Flames paid a huge ransom to acquire back in 2017. But, after seeing what Rasmus Andersson is capable of in the playoffs an increased role, it seems unlikely that keeping Hamonic will be a high priority for the Flames. He’s getting slower, and his underlying results don’t indicate that he’s a player worth committing huge term or money to as a UFA. It’s possible that, if Hamonic doesn’t find an enthusiastic buyer for his services on the open market, he could return to a familiar home in Calgary. But that seems unlikely, given that Hamonic’s home province Winnipeg Jets have cap space and will surely be looking to give their depleted defense a boost. Odds of staying: 15%.
Rasmus Andersson — The Flames love Andersson. They just gave him a reasonable six-year contract extension. He was one of their top players in the playoffs. Entering his age-24 season, it’s more likely that Andersson becomes the Flames’ #1 defenseman next year than it is that he’s let go. Odds of staying: 99%.
Noah Hanifin — Hanifin has all the tools to be a top-pairing NHL defenseman. He was the Flames’ youngest regular on the back-end this year, having just turned 23 in January. He’s under contract for four more years at a team-friendly $4.95 million AAV. At this point, he is more than capable of solidly eating over 20 minutes a night while providing a bit of offensive flair. Hanifin is probably worth more in a trade right now than what he’s worth on the ice to the Flames, but there’s plenty of reason to hope that he’ll be the next TJ Brodie, or better. With five defenders hitting the market this summer and Giordano beginning to show his age, it doesn’t feel like the perfect time for the Flames to be trading one of their most promising young blueliners. But they’ll listen if the right offer comes along. Odds of staying: 80%.
Erik Gustafsson — The Flames traded away a 2020 third round pick to acquire Gustafsson at the trade deadline, and he responded by providing them with decent power play offense and inconsistent defense. Gustafsson was certainly the better of the two defensemen the Flames nabbed at the deadline (more on the other one later), but he’s also one of their most one-dimensional players. He’s also a UFA this fall and, with a 60-point season under his belt, Gustafsson feels like a candidate to be overpaid by a team desperate for help on the power play. Maybe that’s Calgary, and who knows—the Flames do love their Swedish players. But it’s likely that the Flames see Gustafsson as little more than a replaceable rental. Odds of staying: 20%.
Derek Forbort — Acquiring Forbort cost the Flames a 2021 fourth rounder. They probably regretted that in the playoffs after Forbort allowed by far the most shot attempts-per-minute of anyone on the Flames’ defense. The Forbort trade was questionable from the moment it was announced and the Flames would be wise to avoid prolonging their marriage to the 28-year-old defenseman. If the Flames re-sign Forbort, they’ll end up sending the Kings a third rounder in 2022 instead of the 2021 fourth, and that additional cost should probably dissuade them from extending him. There are plenty of replacement-level defensemen on the UFA market every year who come at no additional cost. Unless the Flames are truly enamoured with Forbort, they’ll likely let him walk instead of incurring the additional charge. Odds of staying: 5%.
Oliver Kylington — Kylington has found himself stuck as a healthy scratch after two consecutive trade deadlines. The Flames first acquired Oscar Fantenberg from the LA Kings in 2019 before returning to that well the next year to bring Forbort into the mix. Both acquisitions found themselves in Kylington’s old spot as the left defenseman on the third pairing, raising questions about whether the Flames trust Kylington to play in high-leverage situations. Kylington just turned 23 in May and is a restricted free agent this summer, and it’s easy to envision a future where the Flames use him as a trade chip to bring in a more impactful piece or to recoup some of the picks they’ve traded away at recent trade deadlines. Odds of staying: 40%.
Michael Stone — Stone is a Calgary resident who the Flames have been comfortable with as their extra guy on defense. They brought him back on a one-year, league-minimum contract last summer, and it’s easy to see them doing that again. He’s not particularly effective at this point but, from all indications, he’s a good guy to have around in the locker room and he certainly won’t cost very much. Right-handed defensemen are always good to have around, even in a depth capacity. The Flames aren’t exactly bursting at the seams with NHL-ready defensemen knocking on the door from the AHL or the press box, particularly not on the right side (unless they look at shifting Oliver Kylington over there). Odds of staying: 55%.
Juuso Valimaki — The Flames have incredibly high hopes for Valimaki. They balked at including him in a potential Mark Stone trade with Ottawa in 2019 and, despite his unfortunate ACL injury last summer, they still want to see him become a top-four defenseman (at least) for them. Valimaki showed a ton of promise during his 24-game cameo with the Flames in 2018–19, frequently being relied upon to kill 5-on-4 and even 5-on-3 penalty situations. The perfect trade scenario would have to come along for the Flames to consider moving their top defense prospect. Odds of staying: 95%.
Cam Talbot — Sportsnet’s Eric Francis reported Monday that the Flames and Talbot have had mutual interest in crafting a new contract for the UFA goaltender. The Flames signed Talbot to a one-year, $2.75 million deal last July that turned out pretty well for both sides, with Talbot achieving a .919 SV% in 26 regular-season games for Calgary before stealing the starter’s net in the playoffs and posting two shutouts and a .924 SV% in 10 games. In short, he was the Flames’ top performer in the playoffs, with only Sam Bennett really challenging him for that distinction. The Flames have liked Talbot for a while, with rumours linking the two sides dating back to 2015, when Talbot was a member of the New York Rangers. He’s 33, so he might not be the goalie of the future, but he could be a good stop-gap option while prospects like Dustin Wolf and Artyom Zagidulin progress. Right now, it seems more likely than not that he returns. Odds of staying: 70%.
David Rittich — The Flames have handed Rittich the starter’s net in the last two regular seasons but, in both of them, he’s ended up surrendering it by playoff time to his presumptive backup. The 28-year-old Czech netminder has one more year left on his contract (at $2.75 million per season) before he’s a UFA, and it remains to be seen whether he’s part of their future plans. Rittich is capable of giving the Flames tremendous stretches of goaltending, but he’s also susceptible to disappearing for weeks at a time. His inconsistency has, thus far, prevented the Flames from trusting him with a full starter’s workload. A .907 SV% over 48 games isn’t production anybody expects from a #1 goalie, and if the Flames look at Talbot as being “the guy” for them next year, they might be stuck with Rittich being a slightly overpaid backup—unless they can find a trade suitor. Odds of staying: 40%.
Jon Gillies — Gillies is a UFA this summer for the first time in his career. It’s been eight years since the Flames selected Gillies in the third round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and he’s been given a few chances to make his mark at the NHL level, with varying degrees of success. But his shoddy AHL numbers over the last two years will probably result in the end of his tenure with the Flames’ organization. AHL seasons with .889 and .907 SV% figures just aren’t going to cut it, especially with Artyom Zagidulin and Tyler Parsons pushing for more time in Stockton. After eight years, it’s likely the Flames have seen enough of Gillies. Odds of staying: 0.1%.