I’m an old school guy. Every two weeks, I sit down at the kitchen table with a pen and paper and make a list of all the things that I need to get from the grocery store. It’s a therapeutic process, one that helps me organize my thoughts so that I’m not missing anything when I’m trying to cook.
I like to think GM Brad Treliving is also an organized guy. I like to believe that on his desk he has a yellow sticky note pad, and right on top there is a list of all the players and picks he wants to get in this truncated off-season. There are some things that are absolutely necessary to fill out his roster, and a few things that I’m sure are on his wish list.
Unfortunately, I’m not privy to what that list entails exactly, but we can make some educated guesses. Let’s break it down:
1: Redefining the top six
Rightly or wrongly, the top line took much of the blame for the Flames exit at the hands of the Dallas Stars. They struggled to their offense going, and only managed to get their first 5v5 high danger scoring chance of the entire playoffs in the game in which they were eliminated.
Losing Matthew Tkachuk was a big part of that, and the Flames will likely be looking to re-define who is in their top six, and how they should be deployed. There have been strong rumors circling around Taylor Hall, and if they Flames can make it work under the cap, there is a good chance that they do.
The Flames may also be looking at moving one of their top guys. Johnny Gaudreau‘s name has been out there a lot this summer, with Elliotte Friedman and others saying that the Flames may be looking at it. Given Gaudreau is one year removed from being in the Hart Trophy conversation with 99 points, expect that if the Flames get a high calibre player in return, he will likely slot right into the top line.
They may also look at just moving around their top nine. With two players who can play centre in Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm, the team may look to move around their roster and promote from within. If the Flames break up the top line and push Monahan or Lindholm to centre the second line, they will need to move a winger up. That may be an opportunity to see if someone like Dillon Dube can handle more responsibility.
Whatever the Flames do, this is likely top of mind for GM Treliving.
2: Deciding who to draft
With the draft just around the corner, this is likely top of mind. GM Treliving is likely sitting down very frequently with the Flames’ scouts to try to decide who they want to make members of the Flames next season.
With the 19th selection, the Flames know they won’t be getting any of the big names in the top few spots, but that does not mean that there are not excellent players available in the first round. This is being touted as one of the deepest drafts in recent years, so the Flames will be looking for guys who could turn into players for them in a few years.
Treliving will also be looking at the team to see where the holes are. Right shot forwards and right handed defencemen are in short supply in Calgary, and the cupboards in Stockton will be a little barer with Glenn Gawdin and Matthew Phillips challenging for spots in the NHL this summer. The Flames will be looking to enhance their prospect pool strongly this year.
However, given the depth of the prospect pool and the age of the current core, there is always a chance that the Flames move a pick or two to bring in a reliable NHLer. Draft picks are lottery tickets; if you can trade the potential for an NHL player for an actual NHL player, that is not necessarily a bad decision.
It wouldn’t be the first time for Treliving, given he made the move for Travis Hamonic just a couple seasons back. GM Treliving is almost certainly working the phones between meetings, scouting to see what may available and for what price.
2: Re-signing Cam Talbot (or not)
The future of Cam Talbot is very much top of mind for the Flames. He was brought in to be the backup goalie, but ended up supplanting David Rittich to be the team’s starter at the most important time of the year. He’s coming off a contract that paid him $2.75 million, but given the way he carried this team, his cap hit will only increase.
There will be a number of goalies available in free agency this year, and with the current economic climate, goalies may not command the salaries that they did in years past. On top of that, Talbot is 33 with a young family and he may desire playing in the same city for a longer term than having to uproot his life once again. Perhaps that helps bring down his ask.
I wrote about how this will all hinge on the way the team values Rittich, and how their view of the man who was their starting goalie will shape what they do with Talbot. Internally, Treliving will need to decide what the team needs in net, and whether Talbot fits that need.
Maybe Treliving decides to go in a different direction. There have been rumours that the Flames are sniffing around Darcy Kuemper. After the season he had in Arizona, a tandem of Kuemper and Rittich could be just what the Flames need.
3: Fill in missing pieces on the blue line
The Flames have historically had a strong group of defencemen, but there are a lot of pieces that are going to move this off-season. As I wrote earlier, the Flames will likely lose Hamonic and Derek Forbort, and there is a chance that they will not be willing to pay what T.J. Brodie asks.
Treliving will need to try to retain one of Brodie or Erik Gustafsson to shore up the right side and add some veteran presence to their blueline. Alternatively, he may look to the market to see which defensemen may be available. Elliotte Friedman noted some weeks ago that Oliver Ekman-Larsson may be a fit with the team, if they can make it work under the cap. He may be someone Treliving explores signing, but his contract is truly scary.
The Flames will also have to decide on where Oliver Kylington and Conor Mackey fit in the system. Kylington was in an out of the lineup all season. He was a healthy scratch after the trade deadline and did not feature in the playoffs at all.
There has been a lot of buzz around Mackey since the Flames signed him, and there is an expectation that he may end up playing games with the big club next season. However, there is still a dearth of experienced defencemen, and GM Treliving will almost certainly be looking to fill that need.
4: Sign expiring prospects
The Flames have a number of pieces to sign on their Calgary roster, but there are a number of key expiring contracts across the border in Stockton next season. Of note on forward, the Flames have Buddy Robinson (UFA), Alan Quine (UFA), and Gawdin (10.2c effectively an RFA but cannot receive an offer sheet due to a lack of games played). Gawdin is almost certainly going to receive a contract, given his strong play last season, but the other two could go either way.
On defence, the Flames have Rinat Valiev and Andrew Nielsen, but arguably they have a bigger question in net. All their goalies need new contracts save for Artyom Zagidulin who recently signed a one year contract. This leaves Jon Gillies, Nick Schneider and Tyler Parsons still needing contracts. Dustin Wolf isn’t eligible to play in the AHL next season, unfortunately.
It is almost inevitable that Parsons will get a contract right away, but this may be the end of the road for the other two in Calgary. With the two spots in Stockton almost certainly going to Zagidulin and Parsons, there may not be any availability for the other two have had their struggles in the minors. GM Treliving will have to have a tough discussion with both Gillies and Schneider about their next steps, and will almost certainly be negotiating with Parson’s agent on his extension.
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