The Calgary Flames officially are not a playoff team for the 2020-21 season. As a result, attention is rapidly shifting to the July 21 expansion draft, the July 23-24 entry draft, and the opening of free agency on July 28.
The hockey world keeps marching on, folks.
We’ve dug into this in some detail in the past, but the short answer is Chris Tanev should be protected and Mark Giordano exposed. Yeah, it’s a bit awkward to expose the team’s captain and a past Norris Trophy winner, but Tanev is six years younger than Giordano, more than $2 million less expensive than Giordano, and has flat-out been better all-around than Giordano this season. Tanev would give Seattle significantly more value than Giordano, which is why you protect him.
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I think Brad Treliving gets at least one more season as general manager for a few reasons:
  1. He’s already under contract.
  2. There’s an expansion draft coming and he already ably navigated the Vegas draft, while it would be really challenging to throw a new GM into the situation and get good results.
  3. Generally-speaking, Treliving has done a pretty good job building up the Flames’ drafting and developing apparatus and their organizational depth is night and day compared to what he inherited from Jay Feaster.
  4. If you’re already leaning on keeping Treliving, you can convince yourself that this year was weird and dumb for reasons that aren’t entirely his fault: the pandemic led to cap challenges for everyone, the pandemic led to mobility and quarantine challenges for everyone, the quarantine made it difficult to shake up the team overall (team bonding was a bigger challenge than usual) and so the down year the club had can be interpreted as being influenced by a lot of factors that the club had no ability to maneuver around.
That said: assuming Treliving stays, he’ll have a shorter leash compared to usual because of how messy the last few seasons have been due to things that he did have control over. I don’t think Jeff Gorton’s availability really changes very much for Flames’ ownership or upper management.
Odds are low for a full tear-down. Part of that is economics: the business model of the team relies upon a full Saddledome and that depends on a competitive team. But the other part of it is sheer logistics: the team is in a much better position roster-wise and prospect-wise than they were when Jarome Iginla was traded in 2013 and the last rebuild began, and so they don’t really need to throw the wrecking ball in order to build up the next iteration of the team.
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Unless the club really loves Louis Domingue, it seems likely that they go to free agency or explore the trade market. (There aren’t a lot of exciting free agent options out there right now.) They probably want somebody who can play 20ish games and not be terrible, and are able to be not terrible for about $1.5 million.
Four of the nine players arguably have a case to come back next season, in the following order:
  1. Derek Ryan. He’s good at everything and if he’s willing to take a slight pay cut from his current $3.125 million cap hit, you sign him right away.
  2. Brett Ritchie. He’s big! He can skate well! He just doesn’t have amazing hands! But his lack of counting stats – e.g., he doesn’t have sexy goals or assists totals – will keep his cap hit down and he projects as a decent if unspectacular depth piece.
  3. Joakim Nordstrom. He’s a good penalty killer, but just can’t score goals. But the Flames’ PK was among the best in the North Division – with a murderer’s row of good power plays in the division – and Nordstrom was a key part of it.
  4. Michael Stone. Stone has been a security blanket for Darryl Sutter, who’s used him with youngsters Juuso Valimaki and Oliver Kylington (and will probably use him with Connor Mackey). Stone lives in town and probably takes a super-cheap deal, and finding useful depth for super-cheap isn’t something to sneeze at.
Leivo and Nesterov have been frequent healthy scratches. Domingue, Robinson and Rinaldo were almost exclusively taxi squad bodies. It’s hard to imagine a lot of mutual desire to re-sign here if there wasn’t a ton of desire to have them play every game.
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They likely do not. If we see a deal, it might be to direct them towards someone like Kylington and away from someone like Ryan or Giordano that they’re exposing and would prefer to keep.
Of the three mentioned, the closest to a steal may be Kylington. He’s still incredibly young, but he’s played a lot of pro hockey and he hasn’t really done anything to convince the scouts that liked him back in his draft year that they were wrong. He skates well. He moves the puck well. He just needs NHL reps to build and reinforce NHL habits. The Flames haven’t had a chance to give him those reps because of their precarious playoff situations the past few seasons, but he could be great value for Seattle.
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But nobody’s seen Glenn Gawdin or Matthew Phillips at the NHL level enough to have realistic expectations about what they could be at that level. But those hopes and dreams are much more realistic for Kylington given how much NHL hockey he’s already played.
Yes. The Flames are finally done, mathematically eliminated. There are four games left on the docket with only draft implications for the club.