We have brought back the TWC Mailbag! What is the TWC Mailbag you might ask? Well, it is the opportunity for you to ask me questions based on whatever is on your mind, and I answer! I was quite impressed with the questions that were asked this week, so let’s jump right in to the first question!
Our mailbag questions are found on Twitter @wincolumnCGY, so follow us and stay tuned for the next time we make a call for questions and see if you end up featured!
Which winger should the Flames go after in free agency?
We start off this week’s TWC Mailbag with a very good question from our very own Khalid Keshavjee. I wanted to start with this question because it’s been the talk of Flames Twitter. General manager Brad Treliving even shared a little nugget after meeting with media upon signing free agent Nazem Kadri to a monster deal:
With a limited amount of cap space left around the league, leftover free agents will have to accept cheaper deals. Even if not exactly league-minimum, it’s lower than they would have thought at the beginning of free agency.
That list included Paul Stastny (0.63P/GP), who had just signed with the Carolina Hurricanes on a one-year, $1.5M average annual value (AAV) deal on Tuesday. The deal also a performance bonus of $500K should the Hurricanes win the cup. Phil Kessel, posting an identical 0.63 P/GP to Stastny, followed suit by signing with the Vegas Golden Knights at the same $1.5M AAV for 2022–23. With both signings, Stastny and Kessel set the market for that remaining tier of free agents.
Evan Rodrigues (0.52 P/GP) and Sonny Milano (0.52 P/GP) are a couple of remaining free agents of interest, and we can expect them to sign on for one-year deals between $1.5–2M.
With Kessel and Stastny off the market, I would prefer Rodrigues over Milano, but it is so close. While the duo had put up incredibly similar point-per-game rates last season, Kessel and Stastny both have track records. With both of them coming in at $1.5M, perhaps that sets the ceiling rather than the floor.
The reason why I prefer Rodrigues for the simple fact that he has better defensive metrics than Milano. So Rodrigues might perform the best in a Darryl Sutter coached system. But again, I will take either of them, and I feel an addition of any of these players would boost this Flames team.
What will the goaltending starts for next season look like?
That is in fact my real car, no photoshop here, and you can borrow it whenever you like! All jokes aside, I really like that Justin (C of Red Central) asked me this question, because goaltending starts will play a crucial role this season.
Last year, Markstrom played the most games of his career by a wide margin of 75 games. This includes the 63 regular season and 12 playoff games. His previous career-high was 60 regular season games in both 2017–18 and 2018–19 as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.
That extra 15 games definitely took a toll on Markstrom, who struggled by the time the second round came along. Sutter has always been known to play his starting goaltender a lot. However, scaling him back a smidge would be ideal to help preserve Markstrom for the playoffs, assuming they get there.
Last year, Vladar started 19 games, and I would think he sees around 20 games this season. That would mean Markstrom would play something like 60 games in the regular season. It should end up similar to what he played last year regardless.
However, a more ideal range of games started would be 25 games for Vladar and 57 games for Markstrom. This gives Markstrom a bit more of a break this season, and Vladar gets a further opportunity to showcase himself, as the Flames will soon have Dustin Wolf knocking on the backup door.
Which defenceman could the Flames lose on waivers?
This is another great question, thanks Emir! The Flames currently have a total of ten defencemen on one-way contracts this year. That isn’t even counting the inevitable Michael Stone extension that will likely be announced some point before training camp.
Given that teams only hold seven defencemen on their NHL roster, three or four of those on one-way deals must be sent down. The defencemen that don’t scream NHL roster right away are Juuso Valimaki, Connor Mackey, Nicholas Meloche, and Dennis Gilbert.
I would think the most likely to stick with the team would be Connor Mackey, whom I think should be an NHL regular at this point. Given the ability to play both sides, and an impressive showing with AHL Stockton last year and in his stints with the Flames, he would be my pick to stay with the NHL team.
But the Flames might choose to go with Meloche. Recall that he played in 53 games as a San Jose Shark last year. The case for Gilbert is that if cap space becomes really tight, his salary $762.5K versus the only guys making above $900K could be a factor as to him making it.
However the final roster plays out, we can assume all but one of Valimaki, Mackey, Meloche, and Gilbert will be sent down. I think the two most likely to be claimed are Mackey and Valimaki, in that order. Due to the hype surrounding Mackey as a free agent a few years ago, a team could definitely take a shot on the 25-year-old.
Valimaki is a 2017 first-round pick who just hasn’t worked out so far with the Flames. At 23 years of age, and with a contract of $1.55M, I could see a rebuilding team take a shot on Valimaki similarly to fellow countryman Olli Juolevi last year.
Which defenceman will the Flames trade if they trade for a forward?
Thanks Jamie and Luke for this question, as it is a heavy topic on Flames social media right now. We don’t know what GM Brad Treliving has up his sleeve, but as previously mentioned, we do know he would like to add a winger. Will that be by free agency or trade? That is a great question, and we won’t know the answer until a move is made.
We’ve gone over the free agents available, and I touched on some potential forward options that might be available. If they go the course of trade, I could see Valimaki or Mackey being included to spice up the package. If things become really tight against the cap, moving Valimaki and his $1.55M cap hit could be a solution, especially if they are acquiring a forward with a cap hit above $2M.
Even if Valimaki clears waivers and is assigned to the AHL, he will still count for $425K on the Flames cap. If it’s a big name, maybe the Flames shock us and trade Kylington or Hanifin in a one-for-one swap? The Flames definitely have a plethora of options with their blueline being so deep.
Is Huberdeau a candidate for the vacant Flames captaincy?
This is a good topic of conversation, thanks Daniel! I would think down the line, Huberdeau will definitely figure to be in the captain conversation being that he will be a Flame for the next nine years. Right now though, I think that if the Flames are to name a captain, I think it will be one of Mikael Backlund or Chris Tanev.
Both were leadership figures on the Flames last season as alternate captains and it should remain the same this season. With Backlund being on the Flames roster since 2008–09 and playing his full 826-game career with the Flames, no one knows this organization better. Couple his experience as a Flame with his deep community involvement within Calgary and he seems like the best fit and most likely outcome.
I wouldn’t count out Chris Tanev either though, as he is generally known as one of the most liked guys in any dressing room he is in. With the way he plays the game and can play through seemingly any injury that is thrown at him, Tanev imbodies the warrior mentality that NHL teams covet.
Should the Flames not came a captain for a year or two, Huberdeau will definitely sneak his way into the conversation, along with players such as Blake Coleman, Nazem Kadri, and Rasmus Andersson.
How many points will Monahan score as a Hab this season?
That is a great question, thanks Jerry! My guess is really as good as anyone’s, but if I were to guess, 10 goals and 15 assists for 25 points if he plays a full season? That is probably the best case. Monahan will have to fight for ice team in the very crowded Canadiens forward group. Nick Suzuki, Christian Dvorak, Kirby Dach, and Rem Pitlick likely slot in ahead of him. Monahan has such a lengthy history with injuries that it is so hard to predict what will happen this season.
From question to answer
That’s it for this week’s mailbag! Thanks for all the great questions. Stay tuned on our Twitter @wincolumnCGY for the next time we do the mailbag and see if your question get answered!