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Calgary linked to multiple free agent targets, but is that the best approach?

With 2020 free agency just over a week away from opening, the Flames have been tied to multiple high profile names at every position. Those same players are set to command significant term and dollars on the open market, but in two cases specifically, I’m not sold it’s the right approach for Calgary.

Alex Pietrangelo

If Pietrangelo and the St. Louis Blues can’t figure something out between now and next Friday, the ten-year veteran will almost certainly vault to the top of the free agent list across the league. According to both The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun and Matt Larkin of The Hockey News, the Flames are expected to be in the mix if Pietrangelo hits the open market. But I’m not a huge fan of the fit for Calgary.

There’s no doubting an addition of Pietrangelo would make any blueline better. It’s also true the Flames could have a significant need for a right-shot defenceman like Pietrangelo. But for a team like Calgary, it’s hard to convince me a seven-year contract for a guy who turns 31 in January is in their best interest. Let’s be honest: $9 million per over seven years isn’t a crazy ballpark here.

For me, the type of team that should be signing Pietrangelo is one truly knocking on the door for a Stanley Cup. I look to places like Vegas, Colorado, or Boston in this instance. Those are the types of teams ready to win right now, which means dealing with bad years on the back end of the contract is easier to swallow. I don’t believe that’s the sandbox the Flames are currently playing in.

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Taylor Hall

We know Calgary was interested in Hall going wayyyyyyyy back to December when New Jersey traded him to Arizona. There were plenty of reports suggesting the Flames had an offer on the table to try to acquire Hall but were ultimately outbid by the Coyotes. Would it surprise anyone if we found out the Flames were to make a significant push to sign Hall if/when he hits the market?

Again, I’m a little leery on this one for Calgary, but not to the same degree as Pietrangelo. Hall turns 29 in November, which makes him almost two years younger. Instead, it’s Hall’s injury past that worries me most; he’s missed significant time in multiple seasons and has only appeared in 80+ games once in his career. For a guy at or approaching the peak of his career, that’s troubling, especially on a seven-year term.

I’m unsure if Hall is going to get that max term in free agency, though. Reports suggest Hall’s number one priority is to join a contending team, which means a massive deal may not be on the table. I believe he’ll get offered seven years somewhere, but likely not from a team poised to compete near the top of a conference. If the Flames could get him to agree to, say, five years…now we’re talking.

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Jacob Markstrom

As we talked about last week, Calgary is one of the teams most interested in Markstrom if he and the Canucks don’t agree on something. Of the three big name free agents that have been linked to the Flames, I think Markstrom is the best fit in both the short and long term.

From a big picture view, Markstrom is virtually the same age as Pietrangelo (turns 31 in January). Crucially, though, it’s unlikely he’ll be commanding a seven-year term on the market. It sounds like four or five years is where things stand in Vancouver, which means five or six is realistic in free agency. At the same time, I can’t see Markstrom’s cap hit approaching the lofty heights we’re hearing with Pietrangelo and Hall.

Markstrom fills a need for Calgary, as they’ve been searching for a true number one for the better part of a decade. Fourth in Vezina Trophy voting this year, Markstrom has shown the ability to shoulder a starter’s workload for three straight seasons while posting numbers consistent with a number one. His deal would almost certainly be shorter and cheaper than either Hall or Pietrangelo, but also makes the team better immediately. That’s why I think Markstrom is the team’s best potential free agent target.