Nothing could have prepared the Calgary Flames heading into free agency with fresh, painful knowledge that their own unrestricted free agent Johnny Gaudreau was walking away from the team. Mere hours before the start of NHL free agency, the Flames had to make quick decisions on how to move on as a team and build their team in preparation for the 2022–23 season.
Free agency started off with major splashes across the league, and over 150 contracts were handed out in the first 12 hours, including one for Johnny Gaudreau by the Columbus Blue Jackets(?!).
The Flames had virtually no time to react or execute a proper plan for free agency given the circumstances, so they did what any sane team would have done on Day 1: tend to depth signings and figure out the rest later.
Big fish in free agency
The Flames didn’t go and land a big contract on any free agent on Day 1. It wasn’t in the books and general manager Brad Treliving didn’t want to make any moves out of panic. Any reactionary signing would have led to buyer’s remorse and that wasn’t in the books for Calgary after already dealing with grief over losing Gaudreau.
After the dust settled from the first day, there are still a number of big names in the market, including Nazem Kadri. Suffice to say, if there’s a possible fit, the Flames will be exploring it.
Departures from Calgary
Now looking at the team itself, the Flames saw a big chunk of turnover across the organisation. Here’s every player that was a part of the Flames in 2021–22 who have since moved on after Day 1 of free agency.
|Player||Position||2021–22 League||New Organisation||Contract|
|Johnny Gaudreau||F||NHL||Columbus Blue Jackets||7 x $ 7,750,000|
|Erik Gudbranson||D||NHL||Columbus Blue Jackets||4 x $4,000,000|
|Byron Froese||F||AHL||Vegas Golden Knights||2 x $762,500|
|Luke Philp||F||AHL||Chicago Blackhawks||1 x $750,000|
|Andy Welinski||D||AHL||New York Rangers||1 x $750,000|
|Glenn Gawdin||F||AHL||Anaheim Ducks||2 x $762,500|
Of course, the biggest shocker to the entire hockey world was Gaudreau’s signing with the Blue Jackets, but at least he’ll have a familiar face there with Erik Gudbranson having signed there just hours before him.
There was a lot of movement out of the team formerly known as the Stockton Heat, including their captain Byron Froese leaving to join the Vegas Golden Knights organisation. He’ll likely be playing with the Henderson Silver Knights to start the 2022–23 season.
Glenn Gawdin is another big name that signed with the Ducks, and his contract structure is a bit odd.
Overall, the Flames saw quite a bit of turnover with their players, and perhaps if Gaudreau wasn’t a part of this list, the gap wouldn’t feel quite as large. But in any case, the Flames should be calling on NASA to share the findings from the James Webb Space Telescope directly with the club, looking for anything to fill the hole left by Gaudreau.
Contracts signed with Calgary
As for the Flames, they didn’t make the biggest free agency splash by any means. They tended to one restricted free agent (RFA) in Colton Poolman, and then made some unrestricted free agent signings as well, including re-signing a few familiar faces. Poolman’s contract is actually lower than what his qualifying offer was.
|Player||Position||2021–22 League||2021–22 Team||Contract|
|Nikita Zadorov||D||NHL||Calgary Flames||2 x $ 3,750,000|
|Trevor Lewis||F||NHL||Calgary Flames||1 x $800,000|
|Colton Poolman||D||AHL||Stockton Heat||1 x $750,000|
|Nick DeSimone||D||AHL||Stockton Heat||2 x $762,500|
|Kevin Rooney||F||NHL||New York Rangers||1 x $1,300,000|
|Nicolas Meloche||D||NHL||San Jose Sharks||1 x $950,000|
|Dennis Gilbert||D||AHL||Colorado Eagles||2 x $762,500|
|Oscar Dansk||G||KHL||Spartak Moskva||1 x $750,000|
|Clark Bishop||F||AHL||Belleville Senators||1 x $750,000|
The biggest signing of the day was the two-year contract for Nikita Zadorov. Presumed to be testing the market, Zadorov ended up re-signing with the Flames with an identical dollar amount as his previous contract, except now the contract is two years rather than just one.
The Flames also brought back Trevor Lewis and Nick DeSimone to fill various depth positions—the former likely with the Flames, the latter likely with the AHL farm club.
Five new faces were added to the fold with contracts handed out to Kevin Rooney, Nicolas Meloche, Dennis Gilbert, Oscar Dansk, and Clark Bishop. Each signing clearly a depth move, the Flames didn’t overspend on Day 1 of free agency at all.
The team is far from ready for 2022–23, but at least they took steps in the forward direction.
Preparing for the next season
The Flames still have plenty of work to do in the offseason, particularly with their RFAs Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane, and Oliver Kylington. They are in a good position to figure everything out as they spent the first day of free agency being more frugal than not.
The Flames didn’t have to make a big splash in response to Gaudreau leaving, and they didn’t end up making one either. Instead, they keep their flexible cap space in tact, can continue to pursue free agents, all while having room to work with their current RFAs too.
It wasn’t the worst outcome for the Flames in terms of everything that happened since the start of free agency. And that’s saying a lot given it was the absolute worst outcome for the Flames just mere hours earlier.