The 2022 NHL Draft is in three weeks! The opening of free agency is a week after that. The Calgary Flames have all sorts of balls currently being juggled at the moment, as they try to keep a really good hockey team together for the next few years.
Onto the mailbag!
Honestly, the Flames not having Chris Tanev was tough. He was so important to the balance of the defensive group and ensuing that everybody is facing the right guys on the other team. Take out Tanev and break a few of Nikita Zadorov’s ribs, and suddenly, you have the Flames really leaning on Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson, a new second pairing of Zadorov and Erik Gudbranson playing over their heads, and Michael Stone and Oliver Kylington (with a bum shoulder) doing their best on the third pairing. The balance just wasn’t there, but neither was the depth, and it resulted in the Edmonton Oilers getting a ton of really good scoring chances.
So the simple answer is this: the Flames need to have more defensive depth going forward that they feel comfortable using in the playoffs. If Tanev, Zadorov and Kylington have to play through injuries that really topple the defensive balance on the team, it signals a bit of an issue with organizational depth that needs to be addressed.
At this point I’m leaning towards “no,” primarily due to the combination of Darryl Sutter’s age, salary, and that the Flames have a bunch of potential future coaches waiting in the wings. Sutter’s not cheap, and while he’ll probably be the Flames coach for as long as he feels like doing so, they have Kirk Muller, Ryan Huska and Mitch Love in the organization as potential replacements.
The longer Sutter sticks around, the more likely it is that Muller, Huska or Love could get hired away. But, again, Sutter will be Flames head coach for as long as he feels like doing that job.
The only obvious internal candidate for the NHL roster right now seems to be Connor Mackey. Simply put, Mackey’s done everything you could reasonable expect him to do as an AHL defender to earn a long NHL look. He’s been Stockton’s best overall defender, is used in every situation, and whole he arguably doesn’t have any overwhelming strengths in his repertoire, there aren’t any weaknesses in his game. He’s a rock-solid player overall and should really push for a third line role.
As for Juuso Valimaki, he’s had a tough few seasons. He had a high ankle sprain in his rookie year. After he recovered from that, he blew out his knee and missed a year due to surgery. So he basically lost a year and a half out of his first two years of prime pro development, which has put him behind the eight-ball a bit. He also seems to lack confidence and swagger when he’s handling the puck or chasing down defenders, and a lot of his success at lower levels were because of his confidence in his own abilities. It’s not like Valimaki suddenly forgot how to play hockey, but he’s looked very ordinary over the past season.
The Flames’ power play ranked 10th in the NHL in terms of conversion rate (scoring on 22.9% of their man advantages). In terms of process, on a per-60 basis, the Flames were second in shots for, fifth in expected goals for, fifth in scoring chances for and eighth in high-danger chances for.
So I think Kirk Muller’s job as PP head honcho is probably safe.
1) If Johnny Gaudreau leaves, I would imagine Filip Forsberg (if he hits the market) would be seen as a really nice potential replacement. Is he as good? No! Would he be as expensive? Also no, which would allow the Flames to maintain a deep lineup and probably help make the pain of losing the team’s best player a little easier. (Spoiler: It would still be painful.)
2) I think they will keep Tyler Toffoli. He scores goals consistently and is on a really reasonable contract for what he is.
3) Depends on cap space. The team was really happy with what Nikita Zadorov brought for the most part, but I imagine Connor Mackey looks like a really cost effective replacement on the third pairing.
4) Michael Stone will have options, as he was very good this season in limited use. I’m sure the Flames would love to have him back, but it’ll depend on cap space (and if Stone is willing to remain a bargain).
If I’m trading Matthew Tkachuk tomorrow, I would want to get back a top prospect, a roster player, and a first round raft pick. So if St. Louis was the team I was chatting with, I would probably want something along the lines of Jake Neighbours (or Zachary Bolduc or Mathias Lafferiere), Jordan Kyrou or Robert Thomas, and their 2023 first-round pick.
Even if the Blues seem like the obvious landing spot, he’s a 100-point player. He’s not going to come cheap, nor should he.
Based entirely on my gut feeling: I’m 60/40 on Gaudreau staying. If he does, the AAV probably is something around $10.5 million or thereabouts.
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