Free agency season is well underway, and the Calgary Flames have wasted no time in getting started. Right on day one, the Flames added our new pieces: Blake Coleman, Nikita Zadorov, Trevor Lewis, and Daniel Vladar. Then subsequently, the team added a number of minor pieces as well as locked up a couple of prospects. To say GM Brad Treliving has been busy would be an understatement.
With free agency having cooled down a bit, we thought it was a good time to reflect on the major signings by the Flames. This week, we asked which signing by the Flames was your favorite? We asked you answered.
And the winner is….
Blake Coleman! Over 70% of our readers felt that Coleman was the big free agent signing that the Flames need to take the team to the next level. Let’s come back to the former Tampa Bay Lightning forward in a second and talk about the three other players in the poll.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Trevor Lewis received the fewest votes. A depth signing for just $800K, Lewis is not known for his offense, but rather for his defense. A quintessential Sutter player, he plays a heavy shutdown game in the bottom-six and excels on the penalty kill. While this will be great to have for the team, Lewis does not necessarily inspire excitement simply because of the type of game that he plays. However, if he can excel in this role in Calgary, he could become a fan favourite like Derek Ryan was in his time in Calgary.
Ahead of Lewis is Nikita Zadorov, who netted a decent number of votes. A big bruising defenceman, Zadorov brings over 400 NHL games experience to the team and helps to fill the void left by Captain Mark Giordano. However, with Zadorov, there are obviously a number of key concerns. First and foremost, the Flames still need to sign him to a contract. His current qualifying offer on the table is a one-year, $3.2 million offer, but given the Flames gave up an asset to acquire his rights, they likely would like him signed longer than that.
On top of that, Zadorov struggled last season, finishing seventh among regular Blackhawk defencemen with a 44.8% CF%. While the Blackhawks struggled defensively and Zadorov ate many of the heavy minutes, these numbers do not inspire much confidence. Nobody will ever match up to what Giordano brought to the team, but Zadorov can fill a role handling tough minutes against top lines across the league. More defensive than offensive, it will be interesting to see how his play matches with Rasmus Andersson‘s, who will likely be his partner to start the season.
Finally, Daniel Vladar received a good number of votes and is a low-cost, high-reward acquisition for the Flames. He finished last season third in the AHL in save percentage, and his NHL record was also good but not exceptional. Aside from a seven goal stinker against the Washington Capitals, Vladar put up a .971, .926, .864, and a .906 save percentage in his other four starts. Not bad for a rookie netminder.
He also fills a void on the Flames’ roster while the team’s prospects develop. Vladar is signed for the next two years at a very reasonable $750,000 cap hit, and will likely serve as the team’s backup netminder behind Jacob Markstrom. This gives the Flames a couple of years to see whether one of Tyler Parsons, Dustin Wolf, or potentially recently signed Adam Werner could be an NHL netminder. That being said, for the time being, the Flames have an NHL-calibre backup who they can rotate in when Markstrom needs a night off.
Finally our winner. The Flames have acquired a strong right wing option to serve in the top-six, and while he may be a left-handed shot, Coleman brings a wealth of experience and a track record of winning to the organization. With the loss of Captain Giordano, bringing in more experience to change the mix in the locker room was a key objective this off-season, and Coleman brings that in spades.
Unsurprisingly, Coleman was the winner this week. Not only is he the piece that Flames fans have been crying out for for years—a top-six right wing option—but he is signed for south of five million dollars per season for six seasons with a modified no-trade clause.
With the news of the Edmonton Oilers signing Zach Hyman to a $5.5 million deal for the next seven years with a full no-movement clause, Coleman is a substantially better option for the Flames. Although he does turn 30 this season, the hope will be that Coleman’s decline is graceful over the latter part of his contract, but perhaps more importantly, if the Flames feel that they are in win-now mode under Coach Sutter, bringing in Coleman helps them to be competitive, especially in the short-term.
When teams bring in a new coach, and in particular an established coach with a clear way that they like to play, teams often like to bring in players that fit that mould in order to give their new bench boss the greatest chance of success. The three skaters play a very Sutter-esque style of hockey—hard nosed, tough checking, strong defensive style of game—that should give the team a good chance to succeed this season.
All four players also have their concerns, between age, experience, productivity, and more, but there is never going to be a perfect signing. However, Flames fans should be very happy to have acquired four players who bring a lot to the table and should make the team better next year. The Flames still have a few holes to fill, and if the write-in options are to be believed, Jack Eichel may be on the list, but so far, the moves that GM Treliving has made this off-season seem like smarter gambles than he has made in the past.