Unlike the last few seasons, none of the Calgary Flames’ top four or five skaters are up for major contracts. However, the team will have to retool their defense going into next season, and will have to make some key decisions regarding their depth.
Let’s take a look at who will be looking for a new contract, and the likelihood that they will be wearing the Flaming C.
Note: I will be discussing some of the advanced stats metrics. To learn more about these, please read TWC’s explanation and definitions here.
Restricted free agents
Restricted Free Agents (RFAs) are players whose rights are owned by their current team and can only be signed by another team via the offer sheet process. To retain the rights of a RFA, the team must extend a qualifying offer to the player. For more information, see CapFriendly’s FAQ page.
Signed to a one year “show-me” contract, the Flames were looking to see if Andrew Mangiapane could really make an impact in the NHL. And boy did he. Finishing the regular season with 17 goals and 15 assists, good enough for sixth on the team, he showed that he can be a strong second line winger in the NHL. On top of that, he was fourth in individual high-danger chances for (iHDCF), and ninth in individual shot attempts (iCF). Not bad for a sixth round pick.
What really stood out was his two-way play. Playing alongside Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk, Mangiapane faced off against the best players in the league and managed to be a positive possession player. Even while starting fewer than 50.0% of his shifts in the offensive zone, Mangiapane was an incredible two-way asset for the Flames.
On top of being a RFA, Mangiapane was an integral part of the top-six, a player who is only going to get better with age, and a hustler that is hard to beat.
Likelihood he is back next season: 10/10
Coming into this season, Mark Jankowski was best known for his play on the penalty kill. With five shorthanded goals last season to go with acceptable play at 5v5, he seemed like a player who could fill in a slot in the bottom-six role for another season at least.
However, this season was a bit of a step back for the former first round pick. Jankowski could not find the back of the net reliably, only scoring his first of five regular season goals in the middle of January. On top of that, he had the fewest iCF of all Flames who played more than 200 minutes at 5v5. To make things even worse, he shot at an unsustainable 15%.
Given his rough numbers, it would be a surprise if the Flames chose to qualify him at $1.75M. If rumours are to be believed, the Flames were actively shopping him this season with limited success. Paying your fourth line centre $1.75 million dollars is a lot in a flat cap. Expect he may be looking for a new team next season.
Likelihood he’s back next season: 2/10
Oliver Kylington is an interesting discussion. He was a lineup regular until the trade deadline when the acquisitions of Derek Forbort and Erik Gustafsson relegated him to the press box. Kylington has a ton of skill and lots in his toolbox, but is far from a complete player.
He is a very smooth skater and has a good set of hands that allows him to shoot the puck decently well. What he seems to lack is in decision making where he has struggled to get the puck out of the zone.
However, he is still young and seems to be growing into his game. He was second last in iCF, but posted almost the same number of scoring chances (SCF) as first pairing defender T.J. Brodie. There is clearly room for improvement, and on a team with a number of expiring contracts on defence, expect him back at a team-friendly price next season.
Likelihood he’s back next season: 8/10
Unrestricted Free Agents
Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs) can sign with any team they want. Their current/former team holds no rights to them and must compete with all other teams for a UFAs services. A UFA can re-sign with their current team for eight years, whereas the max term with a different team is seven years. For more information, see CapFriendly’s FAQ page.
After a horrendous 2018-19 season in which he was selectively the scapegoat for all the Oilers’ problems, Tobias Rieder found himself a home in the bottom-six for the Flames. He fit in immediately and became the go-to guy for the team when things were not working out on one line or when there was an injury.
He played on all four lines at one point or another and generally slotted in well when called upon. While he did not play in every game, he became a reliable depth option for the Flames and a particularly important penalty killer.
He ended the playoffs playing in the top-six, but that was purely due to Tkachuk’s injury. Rieder is absolutely a bottom-six player, and with a flat cap, every dollar is going to count. If the Flames can get him back at a reasonable cap hit, expect him back next season. Given how he performed, he seemed to be a good fit here.
Likelihood he’s back next season: 8/10
Zac Rinaldo was no doubt brought in this season to add more grit and truculence to the Flames this season. After getting pushed around by the Avalanche in the 2018-19 playoffs, the team was looking to bulk up, and Rinaldo seemed to fit the bill.
Featuring in just 19 regular season games, he finished the season with the lowest CF%, and second lowest expected goals for percentage (xGF%) behind Austin Czarnik. Not great for a player looking for a new contract.
While he was a depth player who the Flames could rely on to generally not be a liability, the bar for a new contract is likely a little bit higher than that. Unless he comes in at a league minimum salary, and the Flames do not see anyone else as their 12th or 13th forward, he will probably be looking for a new home next season.
Likelihood he’s back next season: 2/10
Of the five UFA defencemen that the Flames have coming up for renewal, Brodie is arguably the biggest. A home-grown top pairing defenceman and one who has been reliable at even strength and on the penalty kill, Brodie did it all for the Flames. He finished the season as the Flames fourth-best defencemen in points and iCF, and fifth in both SCF and HDCF.
It is clear that he has strong chemistry with Mark Giordano, but it may be time for Rasmus Andersson to supplant him as the Captain’s partner. What does that mean for Brodie and the Flames? He is still a reliable option, and with the cap situation and the spots needed to fill on the back end, the key factor here is how much he wants.
Brodie has been a Calgary player his entire career, and there is probably a hope to keep him here, but if the Flames see him as a middle or bottom pairing guy, the cap hit would have to make sense for that role. His expiring contract carried an average annual value (AAV) of $4.65M and if Brodie is looking for a raise, it might not fit in the budget for Calgary.
Likelihood he’s back next season: 4/10
Since joining the Flames from the New York Islanders, Travis Hamonic has been quietly effective at both ends of the ice. While not a flashy defencemen, he plays a smart brand of hockey that simply and effectively shuts down opposing teams. Hamonic was most effective on the penalty kill where he was dependable all the way through the season. Although he only had 12 points all season, his defensive play made him worth the price the Flames paid to acquire him.
There are strong rumours that Hamonic is destined to be a member of the Winnipeg Jets next season and beyond. Even if these rumours are not to be believed, Hamonic is coming off a contract with an AAV north of $3.8M and likely wants a raise from that number. Given his hometown loyalties, and unwillingness to discuss his contract situation during the season, there is a very strong chance that Hamonic will not be with the Flames next season.
Likelihood he’s back next season: 1/10
Erik Gustafsson was brought in at the deadline from Chicago after a disastrous season in which he went from 60 points in 2018-19 to a mere 26 when he was traded. He became a stalwart on the Flames’ top powerplay unit, and seemed to inspire confidence in the top Flames skaters.
Through the playoffs, he was third among defencemen with 24 iCF and one iHDCF. The team also seemed to perform better with him on the ice. He finished with a 49.6% CF%, and was the only Flames’ defenceman with over 50% SCF.
As with Brodie, Gustafsson’s renewal will come down to the number. His last contract was for two years at $2.4M ($1.2M AAV). His first year of that contract was incredible, his second year left much to be desired. If the Flames can get him back at somewhere close to where he is currently, expect them to re-sign him.
There is likely only room to re-sign one top four defenceman. Andersson, Giordano and Noah Hanifin are already signed for next year, Juuso Valimaki likely plays a full time role, and the Flames will probably renew Oliver Kylington. This one will again come down to the number. That being said, given where his contract currently is and the year that he just finished, smart money would be on him over Brodie next season.
Likelihood he’s back next season: 6/10
Derek Forbort was the other defenceman brought in at the deadline. While he did not dazzle offensively, he brought a certain stability to the bottom pair. He was strong defensively, and played reliable penalty kill minutes. Forbort finished the season with the Flames with a goal and four assists between the regular season and the playoffs, but also had 25 iCF and blocked 16 shots in the playoffs.
It is unlikely that the Flames will bring him back. Currently on a $2.525M AAV contract, he will almost certainly be looking for something in a similar range. Given what the Flames have coming in next season in terms of Valimaki and Kylington, it seems unlikely that there will be room for him at that price.
On top of that, if the Flames do end up re-signing him, their conditional fourth round pick being sent to the Kings will be upgraded to a third rounder. For all those reasons, it seems unlikely.
Likelihood he’s back next season: 1/10
Michael Stone was bought out and then consequently signed by the Flames at a league minimum $700k salary to be their seventh defenceman. Called into action 33 times during the regular season, he finished with seven points, the exact same number as Kylington.
Most notably known for his booming shot, Stone finished with 57 shots on net and 110 CF, however he had a team low 13 iSCF (minimum 200 minutes). The team also looked worse with him on the ice, finishing with a rough 45.1% CF% and an even worse 42.1% SCF% over the course of the season.
Stone was a fine seventh defenceman. He likely knew that was going to be his job going into the season, but with Valimaki, Kylington, and potentially Connor Mackey being ready for NHL duty next season, Stone’s time with the team may be reaching its end.
Depending on how Brad Treliving constructs his defense, Stone may have a place again in the press box. Assuming he is at the same salary going into next season, it may not be a bad option, but with the number of defencemen who will be looking for spots next season, Stone may no longer have a spot in Calgary. It’s also nicer to pay a player to actually play for you, rather than having dead money in a buyout.
Likelihood he’s back next season: 3/10
Cam Talbot was hands down the best Flames player since the restart and the team’s MVP in the playoffs. He earned and outworked the starting job away from David Rittich down the stretch, and without Talbot the Flames might not have advanced as far as they did.
Brad Treliving is going to have a tricky decision to make here. What will this playoff run do for Talbot’s value going into next season? Can the Flames afford him? If so, what does that mean for Rittich, who was the Flames’ definitive starter for the better part of the year and a first-time all-star? This playoff push might change who the Flames see as their starting goalie for next season and beyond.
Talbot will no doubt be looking for an increase in pay going into next season to go along with an increase in responsibility. There will be a number of elite starting goalies that could potentially be on the market including Robin Lehner and Jacob Markstrom, both of which would be game changing acquisitions for the team.
Alternatively, the Flames may look for a backup goalie like Anton Khudobin or Aaron Dell and keep Rittich as the number one. The way this plays out may be the story of the summer for the Flames.
For now, the answer is very up in the air as to Talbot’s future. He wants to be back in Calgary and the Flames like him, but the role and corresponding salary are still question marks. It could go either way.
Likelihood he’s back next season: 5/10