Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving has been very busy this offseason. From the NHL draft—where he went in with seven picks and walked out with eight—to free agency—where he has been incredibly busy in signing players for both the NHL and AHL squads—Treliving has been working the phones with success this summer.
With there being a lull in free agency transactions to start this week, let’s take stock of what the Flames have done so far, and what still remains to do:
NHL players acquired: Four
The Flames made a splash this offseason, acquiring four new players to bolster the squad. The biggest name of all was Blake Coleman, who should slot nicely into the Flames’ top-six. He is joined up front by Trevor Lewis, another former Stanley Cup winner, who will likely slot onto the fourth line.
On the back end, the Flames traded for the rights to former Chicago Blackhawk Nikita Zadorov. Standing a mammoth 6’6″ in height, the defensive defenceman will likely start the season on the second pairing alongside Rasmus Andersson. He is still needing a contract at this point and has filed for arbitration, but he should be extended for a couple of seasons without too much difficulty.
Finally, the Flames also acquired a goaltender from the Boston Bruins in Daniel Vladar. The Czech netminder will replace former Czech goalie David Rittich in the backup role for the Flames for next season. Vladar is coming off of an incredible season in the AHL, where he finished third league-wide in save percentage.
While these four moves make the Flames substantially harder to play against, as well as add a ton of depth, the Flames cannot possibly be done tinkering. For as good as these additions look now, the team is in win-now mode, and this lineup needs a bit more skill to really compete. With the majority of the strong free agent options off the market, this move will likely come through trade, and if the rumours are to be believed, it may be Jack Eichel. We broke down why Eichel to Calgary makes a lot of sense, but the Flames could also opt for a player like Christian Dvorak from Arizona, who could fit into the Flames lineup with his history providing some chemistry with current players.
Whoever they opt to go with, do not expect that the Flames are done making moves prior to the start of the season. There will likely be a few more adds here.
AHL players acquired: Four
If the Flames are not done on the NHL side, they are definitely not done on the AHL side. They did however manage to get started on filling in their roster down in Stockton, adding four really interesting pieces in Adam Werner, Nick DeSimone, Kevin Gravel, and Andy Welinski.
A former fifth-round pick, Werner came over from Sweden last season, and put up a 0.909 save percentage last season and a 0.908 save percentage this season. While he has only featured in two NHL games so far, he put up a combined 0.914 save percentage and went 1-1-0. He will likely push both Dustin Wolf and Tyler Parsons (who will hopefully remain healthy this year) for starts this season.
A career AHLer, DeSimone spent last year split between the San Jose Barracuda and Rochester Americans and put up 11 points in 22 games as a defenceman. He comes in to bring pro experience and is a right handed shot, which is very much in need in Stockton.
At 29 years old, Gravel is the oldest depth signing by the Flames so far this offseason. The left-shot defenceman spent last season with Bakersfield, and put up 8 points in 37 games on the back end. He brings over 200 AHL games experience as well as 109 NHL games experience to the very young Heat team.
Another right-handed defenceman, Welinski was a third round pick of the Anaheim Ducks, but struggled to make the jump to the NHL. He spent 13 games in the NHL, and just three in the AHL, but was unable to hit the scoresheet at all last year. Probably the most interesting name on the list, Welinski is more than just AHL depth, and could be a useful piece if the Flames run into injury issues next season.
To summarize, so far, the Heat have added three defencemen and one goaltender, which presents an interesting dilemma on the blueline. Assuming the Flames keep their top seven in the NHL with Rasmus Andersson, Nikita Zadorov, Chris Tanev, Noah Hanifin, Juuso Valimaki, Oliver Kylington and Connor Mackey, this leaves them with seven AHL bodies already. Here is how it shakes out
|Left-handed defencemen||Right-handed defencemen|
|Ilya Solovyov||Johannes Kinnvall|
|Yan Kuznetsov||Nick DeSimone|
|Kevin Gravel||Andy Welinski|
The Heat likely want to get their four young players: Kuznetsov, Solovyov, Kinnvall, and Poolman, as much playing time as possible, but will have at least one spare body as it stands right now. If the Flames upgrade their NHL defence or even bring back Michael Stone yet again, there is a good chance Connor Mackey comes back to the Heat, leaving one less left handed spot up for grabs.
There is half a chance Kuznetsov goes to play in the QMJHL with the Saint John Sea Dogs, having been drafted in the CHL’s Import Draft earlier this summer. This would unite him with fellow prospects Ryan Francis and Jeremie Poirier, but given the Flames took him out of college after his sophomore season, they likely want to see his game refined in professional hockey rather than in junior. Where Kuzentsov ends up to start the next season will be one of the more interesting decisions for the Flames this offseason.
The other note is that the Heat have yet to bring on a single forward. The Heat currently have twelve forwards under contract, but there is a good chance some of Glenn Gawdin, Matthew Phillips, Connor Zary, and/or Jakob Pelletier could jump to the NHL next season. There are likely a few more moves coming up front for the farm team.
RFAs signed: 1/12
GM Treliving offered 11 RFAs qualifying offers, then acquired pending RFA Nikita Zadorov to make twelve. Since then, the Flames have signed just one of their players to a new deal: Colton Poolman who signed a $750,000 extension.
There are a few big names that will take some movement to get to a deal: Dillon Dube, Juuso Valimaki, and Glenn Gawdin are the three big names alongside Zadorov. The first three are all represented by the same agent: Dave Cowan with O2K sports, and he will be looking to get the best possible contracts for his clients. Dube and Valimaki both had tough growing years this year, and will likely earn bridge deals for a couple of seasons apiece. Gawdin is likely earning a small increase from last year. Salary projections on the upcoming contracts the Flames have to tender suggest it’ll be a straightforward process.
There are also a few who likely will not sign qualifying offers this year as they have opted to go elsewhere. Carl Johan-Lerby has signed a deal with the Malmo Redhawks (where Rasmus Andersson got his start to pro hockey) while Alexander Yelesin has joined Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL. We wish both players the best on their new teams.
Long-term contracts renewed: 0/3
While not an utter necessity right now, the Flames do have three players who can be signed to new long-term contracts this summer: Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, and Andrew Mangiapane. While the team does have control on Tkachuk and Mangiapane’s new contracts as they are RFAs, Gaudreau becomes a UFA next summer and can sign with any team at that point should he be without a new deal. However, both he and the team have expressed an interest in him remaining in Calgary long-term, regardless of what one “sportswriter” would have you believe.
The Flames would be smart to ink Tkachuk to a new contract between now and next summer as his current contract with a $7 million dollar AAV is one that escalated each year. While he earned $5 million in his first year, he is set to earn $9 million dollars this season. If the Flames do not ink him to a deal prior to this summer, his qualifying offer would be a one-year deal at $9 million dollars or he would be free to sign with any team as a UFA should the Flames not qualify him. Neither side has any stability, and with him having a rough season last year, now may be a good time to sign him to a long-term deal asssuming they think that he will rebound this year.
Mangiapane has taken a number of short-term contracts, and with how his game has grown over the last number of years, it is time for the Flames to give him the long-term deal that he deserves for his services. A former sixth-round pick, the little Bread Man has performed well above his contract value, and the Flames can likely afford to offer their shutdown winger a long-term deal that is still almost certainly team-friendly. This would be a great year to give him a long-term contract.
Core altering moves: 1
Going into this offseason, the Flames talked about needing to redefine themselves in the wake of a disappointing season. And while they did lose Captain Mark Giordano to the Seattle Expansion Draft, it was clear to see that this was a decision that they wish that they did not have to make. The cost to keep him was simply too high, and the Flames were forced to let him walk for free this summer.
However, aside from being forced to lose their captain, the team has yet to make a core-changing move this year. Yes, they brought in new players who are hard-nosed, Sutter-esque players, but all of the Flames’ key forwards still remain with the team. If Treliving is able to acquire a top-six forward by trade, someone like Eichel, Dvorak, or otherwise, it would likely require moving out one of the team’s core pieces, but if they are unable to make a big move, expect the Flames to go into this season with the same key group.
Still lots the Flames have to do
Whether the Flames change their core or do not, there is still a lot of work to be done. From re-signing RFAs, to extending current players to adding depth to their NHL and AHL rosters, GM Treliving has a lot to do between now and puck drop in October. The murky waters surrounding the opening night roster composition will clear as time goes on, but for now, hang tight and enjoy the frenzy.