The Flames qualified six of their restricted free agents, and up until now, only two have actually signed contracts: Chad Billins, who opted to go to the KHL, and thus won't be signing with the Flames (although they do retain his rights should he decide to return to North America); and Ben Hanowski, who earlier signed a one-year contract worth $850,500, and will likely spend most of his season in the AHL.
That still leaves four RFAs who need to be re-signed: Joe Colborne, Lance Bouma, Joni Ortio, and Mark Cundari. Offers were originally extended to the latter three, but were rejected. The Flames, however, still maintain their rights, and deals will likely get done soon. Colborne, meanwhile, is the only one to elect for arbitrtation.
Colborne, as the Flames' highest-profile RFA - he played 80 games last season, scoring 10 goals and 28 points, the most out of all the RFAs - electing for arbitration isn't a surprise. His arbitration date is scheduled for Aug. 1, but players frequently reach deals before their scheduled hearing. Colborne, as a Calgarian who got to play his rookie season for his hometown team, will probably end up doing just that. Look for a deal with him to get done within the next 10 days or so.
He's a player that's definitely worth keeping. His upcoming contract will be interesting, though. The Flames don't have much to compare him to. There's Paul Byron, who is a year older than him, and is at .358 points per game over his career (Colborne is at .354). Last season, Byron scored just seven fewer points than Colborne in 33 fewer games, and he earned himself a one-year deal worth $600,000. There are a few key differences to note between the two, although both are just starting to break into the NHL now: Byron's shooting percentage last season was 15.2%, while Colborne's was 12.5%, so if anyone's likely to keep scoring, it's Colborne. Also, Colborne is nearly a foot taller than Byron, and about 70 pounds heavier, and that's going to make a difference.
Then there's Mikael Backlund who, upon the expiration of his ELC, earned a one-year deal worth $725,000. That was following a season in which he only scored four goals and 11 points in 41 games, but he was also 22 when his ELC expired. During his one-year deal he improved to .5 points per game, with 8 goals and 16 points in 32 games, but only got a two-year, $1.5 million contract in return.
Whatever Colborne's contract ends up being, it's likely to be a short deal, and not worth much. He got stuck behind Backlund, Sean Monahan, and Matt Stajan in the centre depth chart and was moved to the right wing, an area where the Flames have few players, as a result. He's only about 30 games into his new role, and it still remains to be seen just how effective he'll be there. A contract in the style of Backlund's current deal is probably the most likely result for him.
Bouma is the only other RFA who played a regular NHL shift last season. He scored five goals and 15 points over 78 games in what was primarily a fourth line role, although when injuries struck he was given an increased role (the most he played was 19:28 in a 3-2 loss to the Coyotes), and wasn't completely out of place. Still, even though he's only 24, Bouma is unlikely to turn into a scorer at the NHL level.
His last contract was a one-year, two-way deal with an NHL cap hit of $577,500. Now that Bouma has proven he can take a regular shift at the highest level, he's likely looking for a one-way deal and a raise. As far as fourth liner types on the Flames go, Brian McGrattan - who is more of a straight-up fighter than anything else - earns $750,000.
Brandon Bollig is probably closer to Bouma in playing ability, and his third contract finally saw him get a one-way deal worth an annual average value of $1.25 million, but he's also older, so Bouma will likely get less term and money. (Here's a fun point to note, though: in Bouma's first full season he outscored Bollig's entire career. So maybe Bouma wouldn't be too far off in asking for Bollig money.)
Ortio was one of the AHL's best goalies last year, and he has the chance to reprise that achievement this upcoming season. With both Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo under contract, Ortio will likely only see any NHL time if one of the two gets hurt; however, as both are on short-term deals, Ortio's performance this season could very well be an audition for an NHL job next year.
With nine NHL games under his belt already, Ortio is the organization's most-ready goalie prospect. He's just coming off his ELC, which was a two-way, worth $67,500 in the AHL and $630,000 in the NHL.
It's important to note that while Ortio had a great season, that's all it was: one season. Ortio will likely get a short term deal and a bit of a raise - especially for his AHL salary if he signs a two-way, since that's where he's probably spending the year - to prove himself.
The Flames don't have any other goalie prospects to compare Ortio to. Leland Irving's second contract, following a .913% save percentage in the AHL, was a one-year, two-way with an AHL salary of $150,000, and his final contract with the Flames saw him get paid $207,500 in the AHL: also a two-way deal. Irving's numbers weren't as impressive as Ortio's, though, so Ortio may be looking for more.
Cundari spent the second half of his season playing for a different AHL team, so it's questionable just how strongly the Flames organization wants to keep him around, but he was qualified and aside from Tyler Wotherspoon, is the only remaining call-up on defence from last season. His last contract was a one-year, two-way deal worth $100,000 in the AHL and $600,000 in the NHL, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him get something similar. He may be on his last legs with the Flames, so this upcoming season will be a big one in determining his future.