The Stanley Cup has been handed out, summer has officially begun, and we’re right into the meat of the National Hockey League’s off-season. As you might expect, Calgary Flames fans have a lot of questions about Johnny Gaudreau’s future.
Let’s dive into the mailbag!
We received a couple questions about the future of the Flames’ coaching staff.
Darryl Sutter’s the reigning Jack Adams Award winner, and he’s entering the final year of his current contract. He turns 64 in August. He’s a damn fine coach and regarded as a “tough but fair” coach. His tough love approach does eventually lead to diminishing returns, but that’s also the case with the approach from most coaches. Flames management has a ton of respect for Sutter, and will probably let him determine how long he’s behind the bench. At some point, Sutter will want to return to his farm, and the Flames will look to the future.
Whenever that happens, the Flames have three pretty good candidates for future head coach work in their system in the form of Kirk Muller, Ryan Huska and Mitch Love. We dug into their candidacies more broadly earlier this month
, but all three are highly regarded – Muller’s already been a head coach in the NHL, while Huska and Love are seen as up-and-comers. The Flames will have options to explore, if/when Sutter heads back to Viking. But I don’t think anybody’s in a hurry quite yet.
If Johnny Gaudreau signs elsewhere as a free agent, the Flames likely go from a team that would need to jettison a significant contract to field a cap compliant, competitive team and turn into one that could possibly help bail another team out of a cap jam (and get a good player out of it). There would be a limit to what they could absorb, but they could be a strategic player in trying to recoup some of Gaudreau’s lost offensive punch.
The Flames would probably have the cap space and/or assets to upgrade their blueline or to replace some of Gaudreau’s scoring, but probably not both.
My gut feeling is this: the longer we hear nothing about a Gaudreau signing, the less likely it’ll be. Or rather, the quieter it is, the less likely it is Gaudreau re-signs prior to July 13 – as in: before going to take a look at what else is out there on the market.
(TSN’s Darren Dreger mentioned this last week on a media hit and I agree: if Gaudreau’s waited this long, why not wait to see what’s out there? It’s not like Calgary’s interest won’t be there.)
Tyler Parsons is a pending restricted free agent who hasn’t played a game since Apr. 22, 2021. He wasn’t at Flames training camp due to the border regulations at the time – it was never confirmed whether it was vaccination-related or not, and his hypothetical medical choices aren’t really up for anybody else’s debate.
That said, what derailed Parsons’ once-promising career were injuries. Many, many injuries. Last word was the main reason he missed the entirety of the 2021-22 AHL season was because of flare-ups of recurring injuries. He’s had a ton that piled up on him (over and over again), and hopefully he’s able to recover from them fully – a lot of injuries that goalies get are really gnarly.
At this point, I would be shocked if Parsons received a qualifying offer from the Flames; there simply isn’t a spot in the system that makes sense for him.
Based on what I’ve seen from Gaudreau over the past six years, I would be comfortable signing him to a long-term deal with a cap hit of up to $11 million. The key thing is this: the cap is going to go up pretty significantly whenever the NHLPA’s collective escrow debt is paid off, likely either for the 2024-25 or 2025-26 seasons. NHL revenues are at record highs and there’s chatter that if that trend continues, we could be seeing the cap jump by $8 or $9 million that season (if not more).
In this context, the Flames paying top dollar for a guy that is made of pure offence makes sense. Gaudreau’s been incredibly consistent since hitting the NHL, and barring his game dropping off massively in the back half of his deal, it’s unlikely that the value of his contributions relative to his cap hit won’t stay fairly worthwhile.
If the cap was going to stay low for awhile, I’d be a bit more nervous. But with revenues going up and the cap primed for a big jump, the risks are somewhat mitigated.
The Flames’ ECHL affiliate has been the Kansas City Mavericks for the last while, and all indications are that it’s been a pretty decent partnership thus far, even if the Flames haven’t put very many players with active NHL deals with the Mavericks. Barring a more favourable partnership being offered to them, I wouldn’t expect the Flames to seek out change. But that said, getting the new AHL team up and running is probably a higher priority than doing any ECHL tinkering anyway.
Juuso Valimaki feels like a prime “change of scenery” trade candidate because he doesn’t seem to have an obvious fit – Connor Mackey’s likely ahead of him in line for a regular NHL job and Valimaki didn’t move the needle a ton in Stockton down the stretch. That said, even coming off his injury challenges, he’s got first-round pedigree and scouts don’t suddenly stop liking players because they have a couple tough years. (How many times have you heard that the Flames liked a player in his draft year after they’ve made a trade?)
If another team is convinced that the Flames didn’t handle Valimaki correctly, but that their organization can bring him back to the player he once was – and help rebuild his confidence – then a trade could be a good fit for them and the Flames. It might just take a strong camp from Valimaki to make that happen, as he requires waivers to head to the AHL, so an acquiring team might just need to be convinced during training camp that Valimaki is an answer for them at the NHL level.
The Flames will retire Miikka Kiprusoff’s number someday. Maybe soon. The challenge with Kiprusoff is he’s notoriously reclusive and doesn’t really seek out the spotlight all that much, so figuring out scheduling could be a challenge and is probably what is holding things up.
And for Sean Monahan’s sake, I would love it if he had a year where he didn’t deal with any major injuries. The last few seasons have not been fun for him from that perspective. If he can stay healthy, there’s likely still some tread left on those tires.
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