Low risk, high reward free agent forward options for the Calgary Flames

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Munnich
10 months ago
We are about to begin the most important few weeks of the NHL off-season for the Calgary Flames. There will most likely be some player movement via trade. Whether it’s Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin or someone like Mikael Backlund remains to be seen. But regardless, the Flames are likely going to have to fill a hole or two in their forward lineup. One way to fill those holes is through unrestricted free agency.
Calgary won’t be looking to add any major free agents on big time contracts to their current lineup. But they could look for some value adds and diamonds in the rough.
So, with that in mind, who are some 2023 UFAs who might be undervalued? Are there any players the on the open market that the Flames could take a chance on and get some good value out of? Let’s take a look at some players who could fit this description.

Michael Carcone

Carcone is a top scorer and one of the most skilled players in the AHL. He led the American League in scoring in the 2022-23 season with the Tucson Roadrunners putting up 85 points in 65 games.
Carcone finished off his impressive 2022-23 season by playing in the IIHF World Championships for Team Canada in Latvia and Finland. Carcone ended up becoming one of the go to offensive play drivers on a team filled with NHLers. He finished the tournament with six points in 10 games.
He has a great set of hands and is a smart play maker. Carcone might be able to contribute some decent offensive numbers if put in a position to succeed.

Matthew Phillips

Re-signing Matthew Phillips to a one year, one way deal might pay dividends to a Flames team that had trouble scoring goals and creating opportunities last season. As many Flames fans know, Phillips ripped up the AHL last season putting up 76 points in 66 games. He led the American League in game winning goals with 15. The next closest player had 9.
I can see Phillips having success in the NHL as an offensive specialist. He could play limited minutes at 5 on 5 on the fourth line. But he could be used on the first or second power play unit, in 3 on 3 overtime, and in the shootout. Very similar to how the Columbus Blue Jackets used Sam Gagner in the 2016-17 season.
Phillips could likely be signed to a one-year deal with a cap hit of less than $1 million. This is a low risk, high reward type of deal.

Jonathan Drouin

Drouin has had a rough go of it over the last few years. He has dealt with a lot of injuries and also was placed in the NHLPA’s player assistance program in 2021.
But he came back and played 58 games for the Canadiens last season putting up 29 points in 58 games. 27 of those points were assists.
Drouin’s value on the open market has never been lower and a team could take a chance on him at a heavily discounted rate.
The Flames need help when it comes to generating offence. Especially in the play making department. When he is on his game, Drouin is a great passer and has tremendous vision in the offensive zone. He could also help the Flames on the power play, 3 on 3 overtime, and the shootout.
A deal could make sense for Drouin if you’re able to sign him for one year and with a cap hit of less than two million dollars.

Vinnie Hinostroza

Similar to Drouin, Vinny Hinostroza’s value is at an all time low. He is coming off a difficult season with the Buffalo Sabres organization. He played 26 games at the NHL level and 11 in the AHL. The Sabres tried dealing the 29-year-old winger last season but could not find any suitors.
He was a healthy scratch in Buffalo for the majority of last season.
But Hinostroza showed flashes of brilliance throughout the 2022-23 season including a three-assist night in Calgary on Oct. 20.
Hinostroza will likely sign either a one year deal or will go to training camp somewhere on a professional try out.
The great thing about the players listed above is that they will all likely only be able to sign one year deals at or around a $1 million dollar cap hit. It’s okay if signing one of these players doesn’t work out. You can send them to the AHL and have their contact expire next off-season. And if it does work out, then you have an effective NHL player signed to a value deal.

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