FlamesNation Mailbag: draft week approaches

The 2020 NHL Draft is just eight days away! We’ll have excitement, big moves, or at the very least a few new members of the Calgary Flames organization to get excited about.

Let’s check out the mailbag!

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Honestly? It depends how much he costs. Bobby Ryan is 33 years old, but he is an experienced veteran who has played deep in the playoffs in the past. He’s probably looking at a one year deal somewhere just to rebuild his playing reputation a bit, but he’s also getting paid a pretty good amount by Ottawa for the next four years to not play for them. That is to say that if he was convinced Calgary, or any team, was a good situation he might be willing to play for a pittance.

On a one year, cheap deal, you can do worse for forward depth than Bobby Ryan.

Let’s start with Noah Hanifin. He’s 23 years old and is signed to a deal – four more seasons at $4.95 million per – that is basically stealing. Even if he’s never more than an all-situations second pairing defender, that’s an amazing contract. Hanifin could still get better, but even if he doesn’t he’s a really good, reliable, cost-controlled player. He may have plateaued – it’s hard to tell because his first season was one where everything went great for the Flames and his second things were much more challenging – but the level he’s at now is pretty effective. It wouldn’t make sense to trade him unless the Flames got a steal of a deal on a piece that helps them elsewhere.

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Juuso Valimaki and Connor Mackey are both exciting, shiny new toys. The team, based on recent comments, sees top pairing upside in both guys. Valimaki was penciled in for an everyday NHL gig before his knee injury, and it seems like that both he and Mackey will be given every chance to play a ton on the NHL roster in 2020-21 for two reasons:

  1. They both seem good enough to be here.
  2. They both are young and inexpensive.

Valimaki makes $894,000 at the NHL level in 2020-21. Mackey makes $925,000. In a season with a flat cap, it makes a lot of sense to take advantage of this situation.

I adore Oliver Kylington as a player. He came over to North America at 18 years old and grinded away in the American Hockey League in an effort to round out his game. He’s succeeded, and he’s too good for the AHL now. (He dominated during his brief stint there last season.) But he’s been bumped to the press box two seasons in a row by Brad Treliving’s trade deadline acquisitions – Oscar Fantenberg in 2019 and Derek Forbort in 2020. He can play the right side but he hasn’t done so at all at the NHL level.

So what can you do with Kylington? He’s waiver eligible this season, so it seems probable that he’ll stick around the NHL roster as a depth player (sixth or seventh defender perhaps) or that he’ll be traded. He’s good enough to play in the NHL, but there doesn’t seem to be an obvious spot for him with the Flames.

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Man, I love Mitch Marner as a player but his contract – $10.893 million per season for the next five seasons – makes me nervous. He makes almost $4 million more than the next-highest Flame, Matthew Tkachuk.

Contract aside, the Flames would gain some flexibility in terms of how they can structure their lines, but moving a first round pick and taking on more than $4 million in additional cap commitments for the next half-decade may make the Flames shy away a bit.

Plus, the Leafs need defensive help, not another offensive-minded forward. They might balk because they would rather move Marner for a blueliner instead.

The Flames need some depth bodies with NHL experience! Whenever the season takes place, expect a compressed calendar with lots of back to backs. That means the wear and tear on players will be a bit more (given less off time to recuperate) so having reliable depth bodies to plug in could be very useful.

This year’s Group 6 free agent crop – generally tweener players have haven’t found full-time NHL gigs yet – is actually pretty good. For right shot forwards, there’s Danny O’Regan, Vinni Lettieri, Valentin Zykov and Justin Kloos. Left shot forwards include Ryan Fitzgerald and Adam Johnson. Blueliners include Nick Ebert and Dillon Heatherington.

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The Flames will have the likes of Alexander Yelesin, Matthew Phillips and Glenn Gawdin as NHL-ready bodies, but some back-up with more NHL experience would be beneficial for the entire group.