With the Flames bringing in two new defenceman at the NHL Trade Deadline, it looks to have strengthened their back end which has been ravished by injuries. Hopefully this move helps them have a long post-season, but come the offseason, there will be a number of questions that need answering.
Prior to signing Erik Gustafsson and Derek Forbort, the Flames had Michael Stone, Travis Hamonic and T.J. Brodie becoming UFAs on July 1st. Now, the Flames two new bodies will also be looking for new contracts at the end of the season, either here or elsewhere. The Flames also have Oliver Kylington who will need a new contract, but will be an RFA as of July 1. Need not worry, the Flames aren’t going to part ways with him.
Assuming the Flames sign Kylington, and all else remains the same, here is what the Flames’ defence looks like going into next season:
|Left Defence||Right Defence|
|Mark Giordano||Rasmus Andersson|
|Noah Hanifin||Alexander Yelesin|
This is… Not very good.
Even if they shift Kylington to the right, which he has played before, the defence is still very weak. On top of that, Valimaki is coming back from a season off the ice in which he was recovering from a major knee injury.
While he will be rehabbing it all summer, it will likely take him some time to get him up to playing regular NHL minutes. Given how cautious the club has been with him, expect him to start in a more sheltered role in the new year.
The Flames have Rinat Valiev and Andrew Nielsen in Stockton as RFAs, but neither has played a game with Calgary. Both also play on the left side. They also have Carl-Johan Lerby playing in Sweden but he will almost certainly not be ready come the beginning of next season. He also plays on the left.
Unless the Flames draft a defenceman who is NHL ready, which is very unlikely, the Flames will have to shore up the right side of their defence. Although the pairing of Andersson and Giordano has been excellent this season, the Flames probably do not yet trust Yelesin or Kylington to play second pairing minutes yet.
They will probably be keen to sign a second pairing right-side defenceman to take care of that role. This way, the Flames can shelter Yelesin or Kylington on the third pairing, and keep the other one either in Stockton or playing that seventh defender role, assuming Valimaki is good to go at the start of next season.
Here are the options on how to do that:
Re-sign a defenceman
Probably the easiest and most likely route. It seems unlikely that they will re-sign Brodie, as he has reportedly asked for more money than they would like to spend.
On top of that, Hamonic has said he will not negotiate a new contract until the end of the season. There is a strong rumour that his preference would be to go home to Winnipeg for the next stage of his career.
Re-signing Stone to a league minimum contract as the seventh defender is possible. Given his play and the fact that they brought in two defencemen at the Deadline, it is likely that they do not see him as anything more than a stand-in when needed. The Flames still have one more season on their buy-out of his original contract.
Depending on performance and price, it is possible that the team may look to re-sign one of Gustafsson or Forbort. It is still likely too early to tell how they look with the club and whether the Flames will look to do that. Both defencemen are technically left handed shots, but Gustafsson can play on the right, as he did in his first game with the Flames. This may be the easiest way forward.
Sign or trade for a defenceman
There should be a number of free agent right shot defencemen coming available at the end of the season. Tyson Barrie has not been a fit to this point in Toronto, and there is a chance that Sami Vatanen, who was picked up by Carolina at the deadline, may be available as well. These two, if available are probably outside of the Flames’ budget in this position, but may be a good starting point to see what is available.
There are a number of other teams who may have defencemen they want to trade in the summer. With the Flames looking to move Hanifin earlier this season, they may try to move him again in exchange for a right handed shooter.
They may also look to move another piece or a combination of prospects and picks to get a deal done. It may be too early to tell, but if this summer is like last summer, expect prices to be high and deals to be harder to come by.
Hockey contracts are zero sum. Any amount of money you spend upgrading your defence leaves less money to upgrade anywhere else. With the Flames still coveting a top-six right winger, on top of having to re-sign Andrew Mangiapane, fill a number of holes in the bottom six, and sign (or re-sign) a backup goaltender, there will be lots of balancing to make it all work by the start of the season.
Hopefully GM Brad Treliving can work his magic this summer.