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Calgary Flames 2023 free agency preview
7 months ago
Now that the draft is over and the Calgary Flames have added six new players to the organization, it’s now time to shift our focus to free agency.
The Flames are in an interesting position. They still have six pending UFAs in 2024 that they need to deal with this summer. Who are they going to keep out of the group of Noah Hanifin, Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov and Oliver Kylington?
That is going to get in the way of what the Flames can and cannot do during free agency.
Let’s do a deep dive into how the team is looking heading into July 1.
Current NHL Lineup
If Craig Conroy were to make zero changes to their roster between now and Saturday, his team would look something like this. The Flames only have $711,667 of cap space with this roster construction (and zero extra forwards).
Who are the Flames unrestricted free agents?
The only pending UFA the Flames have said they want to bring back publicly is Matthew Phillips.
As of right now there is only enough cap space to bring back guys like Stecher and Phillips on low money deals.
What can the Flames do in free agency?
The Flames are going to need to clear cap space by Saturday if they want to be players in the UFA market. Calgary can go 10% over the salary cap limit in the off-season. But that puts them in a situation where they will have to get under the $83.5 million cap ceiling which is hard to do without being taken advantage of by other teams. They know you’re in a bad financial situation and certainly wont be willing to help them get under the ceiling for free.
The Flames missed an opportunity at the draft to trade out some 2024 pending UFAs to open up cap space and acquire more draft capital. But that didn’t happen. Now the Flames are stuck with a few players who don’t want to be with the Flames long term and are still capped out.
Realistically they can make one or two very small moves that won’t put them in a bad financial situation.
Who are some players the Flames could sign?
The Flames should not go big game hunting in free agency. They don’t have the cap space to make big moves and this crop of UFA’s is underwhelming.
What the Flames should be interested in doing is looking for value contracts. Players who you can sign for one year, at or around $1 million who may have some decent upside.
Matthew Phillips: We all know Phillips has a ton of talent. But will he be able to excel at the NHL level? Hopefully someone gives him the opportunity he deserves.
Jonathan Drouin: Drouin’s value is at an all time low due to a loss in playing time in recent seasons. He is coming off a lot of injuries and has spent time in the NHLPA Player Assistance Program. But he is still incredibly talented and could provide some much-needed skill and play making to the Flames forward group.
Vinney Hinostroza: Hinostroza has always been a sneaky good player throughout his career. He could be a good fit in a depth, bottom six role and would add some speed to a slower Flames team.
Ondrej Kase: Kase can’t stay healthy. But if he some how could next season, he would be a solid middle six forward in the NHL on a very inexpensive contract. Might be worth taking a one-year flyer on this player.
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby: AJF is a tremendous skater. He would instantly become the best skater on the Flames, could play on the fourth line and one of the penalty killing units.
Brendan Lemieux: The Flames might look at signing someone like a Lemieux if they are looking to add some grit and toughness to their fourth line. That element is missing with the departure of Milan Lucic.
Troy Stecher: Stecher was rock solid for the Flames after coming over in a trade deadline deal with Arizona. He is someone Flames fans would love to have back in Calgary next season.
Dmitry Kulikov: Kulikov could be a good fit as a number six or seven defenseman if the Flames need to fill a depth role on their blueline.
Michael Stone: You know what you’re getting with Stone in your organization. A pro who works hard and never complains no matter what situation he is in. He also has one of the best slap shots in the NHL which is always fun to watch.
Don’t expect much from the Flames in terms of signing free agents. Their focus will be on trading some of their 2024 UFAs and Dan Vladar. I wouldn’t expect any fireworks on July 1 at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
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