Because It’s The Cap: Calgary Flames Offseason Preview

This article is part of a 30-team series based at NHLNumbers.com. Each Nation Network team page will have articles posted relevant to the team’s respective division. 

The Calgary Flames had an eventful 2016-17 season. Armed with a new head coach in Glen Gulutzan, new contracts for Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, and a pair of new goaltenders in Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson, they seemed poised for a big year. They stumbled out of the gate, boasting the league’s worst record through the first month of the season – leading many observers to write them off.

But the Flames managed to turn things around, going on a few really strong runs and adapting over time to Gulutzan’s puck possession system. They managed to make the playoffs for the second time in three seasons and while they were swept in four games by Anaheim, they turned a lot of heads for the way they went toe-to-toe with the Ducks.

This offseason, it’s up to general manager Brad Treliving to make enough tweaks that the Flames can actually beat the Ducks the next time they face them in the playoffs. The team has a few holes due to some expiring contracts, but they also have a good amount of cap space to utilize to fill them.

Roster Analysis

After the failed Troy Brouwer experiment of last season, the Flames need to add to their right wing scoring depth. They used Micheal Ferland and Alex Chiasson on their top line at varying times with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, but neither was an ideal fit with their most potent offensive weapons. They could also use some speed and poise on their fourth line, which has been skewed towards slower, more physical players like Brouwer and Lance Bouma to the team’s detriment.

On the blueline, the challenge for the Flames remains the same: find somebody talented for T.J. Brodie to play with. Additionally, their bottom defensive pairing has mirrored their fourth line and could also use some speed and skill so there’s less of a chasm between the Flames’ top line and their depth groupings.

The club also has zero NHL goaltenders signed for 2017-18. That’s probably something that should be addressed before October.

Cap Situation

The Flames are in a surprisingly good situation cap-wise. Their best players are all signed long-term, with the exception of Mikael Backlund (whose contract expires after the 2017-18 season). But the team’s core players are all signed through 2019-20. The worst contracts have expired (Engelland, Wideman, Smid) or will expire this summer (Stajan, Bouma), with the exception of Brouwer.

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Presuming a $75 million cap, the Flames will have roughly $24 million to sign two goaltenders, three or four defensemen and a handful of forwards. Considering that aside from a starting goaltender and potentially a new partner for Brodie all the players they need to sign are complementary pieces, they’re in very good shape.

Offseason Game Plan

In an ideal world, the Flames would acquire a netminder along the lines of the New York Rangers’ Antti Raanta or Washington’s Philipp Grubauer – ideally for a mixture of prospects and 2018 draft picks – and sign a puck-moving defender along the lines of Cody Franson to play in their top four group. If they can do so while availing themselves of one of their hefty depth players (such as Brouwer or Bouma), then this summer would be considered a runaway success.

The challenge for the Flames – and the aspect of the summer that success probably will be judged by – is whether they can add a goaltender to their long-term core group without losing anything off their NHL roster. Treliving was able to do so two summers ago when he acquired Dougie Hamilton. Does he have another magical trade up his sleeve?

Previously in this series…

30. Colorado Avalanche, 29. Vancouver Canucks, 28. Arizona Coyotes, 27. New Jersey Devils26. Buffalo Sabres25. Detroit Red Wings24. Dallas Stars23. Florida Panthers, 22. Los Angeles Kings21. Carolina Hurricanes, 20. Winnipeg Jets, 19. Philadelphia Flyers, 18. Tampa Bay Lightning17. New York Islanders 

      • Lucky 13

        I don’t want to beat this thing to death, honestly I just want to see our Flames remain in Calgary.
        Could you imagine the Flames in Quebec? Makes me wanna throw up just saying it!

        Burke is a blow hard for sure, however he has validity to his statements, even if there not what we want to hear.

        I love our team so much that I pay $200/ year for Centre Ice just so I don’t miss a game.. call me nuts for lack of frugality.
        Unfortunately, I live on the coast and rarely get to see games live.

        I’d be willing to give up some of my hard earned money for my beloved hockey team, even if by donation… not for the owners sake, but for my personal love of our team and the enjoyment I receive from watching the games. I hate the politics involved in this and I wish this could be resolved soon.

        I understand the public use of money needs to be justified in a difficult economic times, however consider the options of not having a team in Calgary… yuck

        • Al Rain

          I read what Burke said. It’s impossible to believe that even he believes what he’s saying. He’s only saying it so that people like you will say things like this.

          • Lucky 13

            Thanks for that, however I do believe what I say. I’m putting all rhetoric aside and stating my own simple point, sorry if that offends your tax payer feelings.

            I question the tactics of all this between the City and Ken King or Burke (I can’t knot a tie) however my opinion remains unchanged.

            You can disagree, I respect that… however I can comment on something that is important to me… our Calgary Flames

  • Brian Burke is a formidable opponent. I see him building something good in Calgary.

    The new arena deal is turning into a nightmare in Calgary. It doesn’t look like city council is going to spend tax payer money, like they did in Edmonton. Oiler ownership got a sweetheart deal. I don’t see it going that way in Calgary. Seattle Flames.

    • KH44

      Seattle will pay 500 million to the NHL for expansion, whereas the Flames owners would have to pay a relocation fee to a place that has no pro hockey history instead of a city that fills the arena every game with expensive seats, corporate sponsorship, its not going to happen. They can’t move to Quebec either as why would the guys that want a team in Quebec allow the Flames ownership to use their arena? Unless the Flames owners are going to sell, there is no better market. Maybe if the Flames were to be sold and move, but I highly doubt that scenario. No, the posturing will continue, a deal will be cut, the Flames owners will make ridiculous money on it, but it doesn’t have to be as bad as we think it will be. Nenshi and council should keep holding out on directly funding the arena, donate the land and make sure the infrastructure is in place as their contribution.

    • Derian Hatcher

      Disagree here. I think Burke is going to end up doing more harm than good. Why don’t the millionaires / billionaires who own the Flames kick in money?

  • Hemmercules

    I dont think the Flames are getting any favours in the Goalie department. Every team in the league knows how desperate they are for one. The price for a starter will be very high. I imaging they trade some picks for a backup looking to become a starter as suggested above.

      • everton fc

        I agree. We`ll get our goalie. I think Elliott and Johnson are both gone – unless we sign a proven starter and use Johnson as our backup and one of Rittich (most likely) or Gillies (lease likely) as trade bait.

        Personally, I hope Rittich is in the mix as either a backup or “1A”, next season. I have this feeling he may be the next Kiprusoff in waiting. Calm… Aloof…

        • Jumping Jack Flash

          I Agee…..Rittich is underrated. You could tell the Heat coaching staff really wanted to lean on him more but were tied to the Flames big plans for Gillies. At the end when the games mattered he stole The starting position. The difference I see between the two goalies is confidence. Rittich was one of the leaders in shutouts and demonstrated that he could steal a game while Gillies seemed more inclined to let in a softy

  • Lucky 13

    No question this is an important draft/ expansion year. The Flames will have opportunities that just wouldn’t happen given the expansion year.
    So many rumours out there, of course none of them valid yet.
    I just hope BT can get us a #1 goalie. I personally think Elliott is gone, he’ll sign as a UFA elsewhere. Johnson may be here as a backup, however I’d like to see Rittich given the opportunity to do so. Gillies can stay another season in the A to get his game back and Parsons can be backup.

    Defensively, I’d love to have a 4th D man, I’m not convinced that Fransons that guy…I really like Matt Dumba (22 yrs old, shoots right and carries a decent cap hit of just over $2.5M)

    Oh and please BT let’s hope Suzuki is available at #16… I love that kid and although he’s a centre he shoots right and has speed to burn along with amazing passing abilities. He checks all the boxes as far as a top 6 forward …imho

    • KH44

      Everyone really likes Dumba, but the Flames can’t trade for him before the expansion draft without exposing him, and Minnesota will have no reason to trade him after the draft. He isn’t going to be available without a huge package. What is your concern about Franson?

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      Suzuiki is my first choice of a player that could fall in our range. He seems to be ascending out of our range. Tre talked about swinging for the fences which could be an endorsement for Kostin, Vesalainen or Thomas.

      I am intrigued by the comment that an OHL scout made regarding Thomas, when he was asked who impressed him the most in the OHL he referenced Tippett and Valardi but landed on Thomas. I would be happy with Tolvanen.

  • buts

    Burke was being honest and gets roasted by the media. Don’t forget we, thru the province’s crl are paying for edmontons arena. That 100 mill cdn dollar cap where 50 percent annually goes into tax funds is not only funded by players but you can add on management salary tax dollars, tax paying jobs and don’t forget the spinoff dollars from hotels, restaurants and fans whose money spent to see the flames adds towards tax revenues . The creosote will eventually have to get cleaned up and who’s going to pay? You and I that’s who! Nenshi has his agenda and it’s his developer friends that want the west village land. As far as the flames go I believe BT has too soft a core with JH and Monahan and mostly Hamilton. This is his summer to add some goaltending and some grit with talent or it might be a loooong rebuild.

  • freethe flames

    If the cap goes up to $75m that gives them $24m plus the $1m they will save when Bouma goes to the farm.(Which I believe is a real possibility) $6m to sign their own top 2 UFA’s and possible 2 other forwards. Then they have $6-8m to sign a 4 and 5 defender. If they can get one of the young goalies(Raanta and the like) and resign Johnson or even get 2 of the young guys they should have the cash to acquire a top 9 RW. BT will need to use his assets wisely.

    • Puckhead

      If they pull up 3 or 4 prospects they will have lots of room – 1 forward, 1 or 2 bottom pairing D, and a backup goalie.

      I’m not going to hold my breath but one can hope.

      • freethe flames

        I generally agree with this idea. Personally I think Janko is ready. I also think Kulak and Andersson can push the pile. Lazar needs to prove he is worth the 2nd rounder we paid for him. Shinkaruk, Klimchuk, Poirier and Mangiapane all need to push the pile.