For the Calgary Flames, general manager Brad Treliving surely has a list of things to do this offseason, as there are some major items that need to be addressed before the puck drops on next season. With the way the NHL schedule panned out, the Flames finished their season midway through the first round of the playoffs. As soon as their season officially finished, there were action items everywhere.
From locker room clean out to sending a handful of players to the IIHF World Championship, the Flames were not short of things to do. While things have cooled off a bit as the playoffs continue—now down to just Montreal and Tampa Bay—teams around the league are turning towards the next season, and the Flames are no exception.
Here is what the Flames should be doing this offseason.
Sign Andrew Mangiapane
This is probably the most important and critical pieces of GM Treliving’s list. Andrew Mangiapane was the team’s best forward this season, putting up the most goals at 5v5, and finishing near the top of the list in all major statistical categories. We have broken down how good he was this season and just how incredible the sixth-round pick has been since joining the Flames a couple of seasons back.
And now the Bread Man needs to get paid. He has been signed short-term twice after his entry-level contract expired—the first contract for just the 2019–20 season, the second for two years spanning 2020–21 through 2021–22. Now it’s time for the Flames to offer him a long-term deal with a deserved raise.
Mangiapane has cemented himself as a key part of the Flames’ middle-six, playing up and down the lineup as needed and being a consistent threat in any game he has played. He’s a part of the core and his contract needs to reflect that.
Decide what to do with the team’s star players
The Flames’ forward core right now includes Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Elias Lindholm, among others. Now is the time to tweak it. Last season, the Flames kept the band together for one more run, just to see if they could do it with a stronger supporting cast, but the team’s best players were not their best this season and now it’s time for a change.
The piece most likely to stay is ironically Matthew Tkachuk, whose name has been in trade rumours for the last couple of weeks. Tkachuk wasn’t able to produce as much as in previous years, and more importantly was not as much of a pest to other teams as he has been in years past. However, his underlying numbers were excellent, and he found a groove on the top line at the end of the season with Gaudreau and Lindholm. If the Flames are keeping him, signing him quickly would be on the list this summer, as his qualifying offer on his next deal—should they not be able to sign him prior to this one expiring—would be $9 million dollars.
Gaudreau has been vocal about his desire to stay with the Flames, and as the season wore on, it felt like the Flames’ coaching staff continued to give him opportunities to succeed. He continued to play with the team’s best players, and had success in that role. While he does have a modified no-trade clause kicking in soon, if the Flames think that they can re-sign him, they should tend to that as soon as possible.
This leaves Monahan as the odd man out, and his performance drop off is likely the reason for this. He has found his way into a second line centre role, which, for a guy who makes just under $7 million dollars, has been a bit of a step back. However, he is still a very good scorer, and for the salary that he earns, will likely have offers on him this summer. If rumours are to be believed, he was part of the proposed deal that would have brought Josh Anderson to Calgary last summer, but that did not work out. With depth at centre, if the Flames can trade him for some help on the wing—in particular on the right side—that would go a long way to helping the team be more competitive next season.
Finalize the protection list for the Seattle Expansion Draft
The Flames likely have almost their entire plan for expansion figured out: the forwards are pretty straightforward, they have to protect Jacob Markstrom with his NMC, and barring them signing one more forward to expose, they have just the defense to figure out. This piece comes down to a choice between Captain Mark Giordano and newly signed Chris Tanev. The Flames will likely opt to retain the latter, with the former being substantially more expensive and older.
We broke down how the decision on Giordano will impact the Flames, both on the ice in terms of not having another defenceman who can slot into the top-four, and off the ice in terms of their leadership core. And while the Flames have to address their core this offseason, losing their captain for free to Seattle without a plan feels like a tough move. However, what’s even tougher is if Seattle opts to select another player, the Flames need to ensure they handle reintegrating captain Giordano into the mix.
Handling the human side of the expansion draft is going to be key for GM Treliving, and then making provisions to find another defenceman in free agency should Giordano be selected is going to jump up the list. This predicament is likely causing more than a few sleepless nights in Treliving’s home.
Sign a backup goaltender
The Flames have had a long history of issues in net, and while Coach Darryl Sutter is back in the fold as the bench boss, he unfortunately doesn’t bring with him a familiar Miikka Kiprusoff. There was a hope that signing Markstrom would be the end of this issue for the long run.
While Markstrom was good for stretches of the season, when he got hurt, there was no strong option behind him once the Flames traded David Rittich to Toronto. The Flames cannot continue to just ride their starter like a camel through the season and not have an option behind him to share starts, because for all the work that Treliving has to do this summer, without a capable backup to Markstrom, this season could be a complete write-off.
The good news is there are a number of options coming available on the market this summer. Tuukka Rask and Frederik Andersen may be above the Flames’ pay grade, but a goalie like Jaroslav Halak, Chris Driedger among others could be a fit with the Flames this upcoming season. The Flames are not going to play their netminders like the Toronto Raptors did Kawhi Leonard, but having someone capable who can step in when needed will go a long way.
Sign complementary pieces
There are a number of key Flames UFAs that will be looking for new contracts, but more importantly, the Flames also have a few key RFAs that will be looking for raises from their ELCs. While these are not as pressing nor as monumental for the future of the organization as a new contract for Gaudreau, they add up when the cap is as tight as it is.
Two names jump out right away: Juuso Valimaki and Dillon Dube. Both are represented by the same agent: Dave Cowan at O2K Sports Management. Both players are young, and coming off seasons where a lot was expected of them, but neither really hit the mark. For Valimaki, after a season recovering from a knee injury, expectations were high, with some saying he could be in the running for the Calder Trophy prior to the start of the season. However, he struggled to really make an impact the way that was expected, and towards the end of the season struggled to stay in the lineup.
The same for Dube, who was coming off of an incredible playoff run last season. However, he was not able to elevate his game quite as effectively as imagined when facing tougher competition. While both struggled, nobody is giving up on either player.
Both have huge upsides that can still be realized in a few seasons, and both showed flashes of elite skill throughout the season. Because of this and the tight cap, expect both to be signed to short-term bridge deals this summer. This keeps them with the team on a low cap-hit deal, and gives the players a chance to show they deserve a big deal in a couple years, hopefully when the cap goes up substantially again.
On the UFA front, the one name that really jumps out is Derek Ryan, who was the Flames’ fourth line centre this year. While he was not a massive points producer, he was a reliable option for this team, and was someone the Flames struggled without when he was injured. Is he worth $3.125 million dollars a season? Maybe on the open market he is, but that’s probably steeper than the Flames feel comfortable paying for a depth role. Unless he gets selected by the Kraken in expansion, expect the Flames push hard to try and sign him for a reasonable amount.
Finally, the Flames have a number of young players on the cusp of making the NHL team as full-timers including Matthew Phillips, Glenn Gawdin, Adam Ruzicka, and potentially even Connor Zary. They will need to decide on either A) whether to pencil these players in to the Flames’ roster, or b) who to sign for the main club as these players push for a role in Calgary. There has to be a healthy competition for playing time, and finding depth options similar to Michael Stone, Brett Ritchie and more goes a long way to showing prospects that making the team is earned.
Decide the draft list
Finally, the Flames have to figure out their plans for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Treliving is never quiet at the draft, from acquiring Travis Hamonic in 2017, to acquiring Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin in 2018, to trading down twice in the first round to select Connor Zary, Jake Boltmann, and Jeremie Poirier last year, and this year has all the makings for him to continuing being active. With the team in need of a shakeup and holding a reasonably high pick at number 12 this year, do not expect him to be quiet.
The Flames have a couple choices this year: they can opt to select right at 12, taking someone like Fabian Lysell, Mason McTavish, or another who is available at this place. This is always the most likely option in theory, but the Flames may want to be bolder. What they could do is make a move to move up in the draft to select a player like Dylan Guenther. While this will be costly, as we have broken down before, it may be worthwhile to select a player who could be a franchise top line winger. This is the piece that the Flames seem to be missing in their arsenal.
Alternatively, they could opt to move that pick as part of a package for an established player with a proven track record. The Flames have filled the hole in net, added a two top-four defencemen in the last three years, but still have a hole on the right wing. If Treliving could move that pick for an established right-handed shot, this could be the final piece that the team needs to get over the playoff hump.
And as exciting as the Seattle Expansion Draft will be, the Flames have generally made their mark at the entry draft. Figuring out the plan and how he envisions this day going will be high on the list. Maybe rewatching Kevin Costner in the 2014 classic Draft Day will be the inspiration Treliving needs to make a mark on July 23rd and 24th.
This is the list that never ends
Making moves in the offseason is just a part of the job. From tending to free agents all the way through to compiling training camp rosters, there’s an abundance of work for every single GM in the league. Treliving has a lot to tend to this year, but he usually stays on top of offseason doings. We’ll see soon enough how big of a splash the Flames actually manage to make.