It’s the final week before the Christmas break for most National Hockey League clubs. The Calgary Flames, by virtue of their unfortunate COVID-19 surge, are already in their break.
As we wait for Santa to arrive, let’s dive into the mailbag!
We’ve dug into the nitty gritty earlier on the site, but the long and the short of it is this: the Flames will want to keep their Big Four free agents – Oliver Kylington, Andrew Mangiapane, Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk – and do to that will probably cost between $27 and $28 million per season. With the salary cap only nudging up by $1 million (to $82.5 million) next season, that makes it super tight.
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The most likely player to be moved is probably Sean Monahan. He’ll have one season left on his deal and as a player who’s scored a crap-ton of goals in his career, it seems probable that Brad Treliving can sell another GM on the hopes and dreams of a Monahan resurgence. And heck, even if another GM is skeptical that the Monahan we’ve seen at even strength can be a needle-mover, he’s still been quite productive on the power play.
Retaining half of Monahan’s cap hit opens up $3.188 million in cap space. If all else fails, buying him out opens up $4 million. With some players in Stockton looking like nice value options to play in the bottom six in the near-future, Monahan seems like the odd man out and the easiest player to move to open up breathing room.
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The NHL used geographically-restricted divisions and taxi squads in 2020-21 because of some really specific restrictions regarding cross-border travel. The main thing was mandatory quarantines for individuals crossing the border in either direction, though it ended up being more stringent restrictions for folks going into Canada from the United States.
Unless the Canadian government really goes crazy with new border regulations, we’re quite simply not heading in that direction. (Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said as much yesterday.)
Logistically, it would also be a big challenge: teams have played between 26 and 32 games within their regular divisions. How would it work to completely rearrange the divisions and schedules when so many games have been played? Would the games count? How would the two “seasons” be combined or integrated for the purpose of stats or standings or playoff formats?
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Anyhow, it doesn’t sound like that’s the direction things are going. (Thankfully.)
Let’s just say that the Flames have to call up five players to fill out the NHL roster for their first game back from the COVID shutdown. Who should get a shot?
Well, the easy thing to do would be to call up the entire first line from the Heat: Matthew Phillips, Glenn Gawdin and Jakob Pelletier. Practice time would be minimal, so it would make sense to keep three smart, versatile and productive players together. Plus, Pelletier could dip his toe into the NHL waters in a way that doesn’t really involve throwing him into the deep end, as he’d have his two regular linemates with him. (And two linemates who have played in the NHL previously and can help him out with any nerves.)
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If the call-ups would only be for a game, I’d also look at maybe bringing in some combination of Dustin Wolf (if they needed somebody to back up Dan Vladar), Walker Duehr, Connor Mackey and/or Luke Philp. In Wolf’s case, you get the benefit of having him able to soak up the NHL atmosphere without him having to face NHL shooters quite yet, while the rest of the guys would be able to get some NHL reps in. (Philp would be making his NHL debut, and he would have a lot of recent teammates around to lean on during the experience.)
If we’re talking about call-ups that wouldn’t be headed back to Stockton, Pelletier and Mackey are probably the most obvious guys knocking on the door. But given the Flames’ roster situation right now, any call-ups in the near future would be intended to be temporary.
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Oh, and we were asked about this previously but didn’t have a chance to answer:
  • Oft-injured Tyler Parsons remains injured after a previous injury flared up during off-season training. It doesn’t sound like he’s close to returning.
  • Swedish defender Johannes Kinnvall is creeping towards a return after suffering a lower-body injury in prospect camp. No word on specific timelines, but it seems like we’ll get some sort of official update from the club sometime in January.

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