After the first twenty games of the season so far, it's pretty obvious that the campaign hasn't gone quite as most fans expected yet could have been foreseeable with this being only the third year of the rebuild. The Flames have a few stars with expiring contracts along with other roster players also facing free agency. How these decisions will be dealt with is up to management and specifically Brad Treliving.
With the Canadian dollar projected to hover around 75-80 cents US for the time being, it doesn't seem as though the salary cap will rise much, if at all for 2016-2017. To compare, back in March 2009, the Loonie was at 77.4 cents US, resulting in the salary cap then rising only 100K for the 2009-10 season. This coupled with a few bad/pricey contracts that continue past this year, creates a cap crunch that the Flames will have to deal with this upcoming offseason.
Right now the Flames have 2.36M in cap space and if we forecast the salary cap staying set at 71.4M for next season then the Flames will have just under 26M (25.963M) to re-sign the following players and/or to use in free agency. With ten roster players projected to be free agents, the Flames have approximately 2.6M per player to re-sign while at least 6 or 7 players are candidates to earn more than that.
The Flames have as much less room to maneuver than in past years, and with a slew of upcoming free agents, it's time to evaluate both their performances thus far, and each of their likelihoods of being re-signed at the moment.
*Note: This is organized in order of largest current contract
#1 G Jonas Hiller; Current Contract 4.5M; 2015-16 Stats: 2-3-0 3.67GAA .861sv%
Ever since the contract was signed two summers ago, it has been slightly confusing to why the Flames signed him and created a goaltending controversy that still exists today. Since being pulled in Game 6 against Vancouver last season Hiller hasn't looked the same and with his current injury, the net may be Ramo's to lose for the time being. Coupled with Jon Gillies being one of the Flames' top prospects, Hiller's days may be numbered unless something changes soon.
Re-signing Probability: Low (1.5/10)
#19 RW David Jones; Current Contract 4M; 2015-16 Stats: 7G 1A 8PTS
David Jones is a one of the few Flames forwards who have had a good start to the season. He leads the team with both 7 goals and a 17.5% shooting percentage. He has become a strong checking line player and been effective with Stajan and Ferland on his line.
However, Jones has played a similar role to this in both of his last two contract years, in 10-11 Jones scored 27 goals with a 17.6% shooting percentage, and in 11-12 he scored 20 goals with a 14.7% shooting percentage. His shooting percentage in Calgary before this year was only 10.5%. Interesting eh? I like Jones as a player and if the Flames can sign him short term (2 yr max) in the neighborhood of 2.25M, I would be happy.
Re-signing Probability: Medium (6.5/10)
#24 RW Jiri Hudler; Current Contract 4M; 2015-16 Stats: 4G 9A 13PTS
Let's get one thing clear before I get into this. Last year was a statistic anomaly for Jiri Hudler and probably won't ever happen again. Hudler has been a career 40-55 point scorer every year going to back to his time with the Red Wings. While people are calling for him to step up right now, and it's very possible that he could, he's on pace for 53 points this season which is his norm. I'm not saying he won't suddenly start tearing up the NHL again but like most of last year's team, he overperformed and our expectations should be tempered as such.
If the Flames continue their to fall down the standings, he could be the teams most tradeable asset towards the end of the year. Would I like to see him back next season? Yes, but probably not if we have to pay what will likely be asked.
Re-signing Probability: Low-Medium (3.5/10)
#31 G Karri Ramo; Current Contract 3.8M; 2015-16 Stats: 5-7-0 3.22GAA .898Sv%
None of the three goaltenders on the Flames have had great seasons but Ramo's string of nine consecutive starts has seen him collect five wins while allowing more than three goals only three times. Progress. It's all about progress. While I expect Ramo to keep improving his GAA and Sv% I'm not sure how much he can help. The difference is that he has given his team a chance to win in all of these games, battled through a difficult start to the season and has seemed to have earned the trust of the coaching staff.
Like with Hiller the development of Jon Gillies in the AHL could decide Ramo's fate as he may be seen as a good option with Ortio if Gillies needs another year to develop or even if he's a good option for a third goalie in the organization.
Re-signing Probability: Medium (6.5/10)
#4 Kris Russell; Current Contract 2.6M; 2015-16 Stats: 1G 2A 3PTS 71 Blocked Shots
Is it bad that Russell who set an NHL record in blocked shots last year is on pace to break that record this year? Russell has struggled mightily and some of that can be attributed to playing with Wideman on defense yet Russell still makes his bread and butter blocking shots.
With Russell being the only current Calgary defenceman who's a pending free agent, he may get moved out simply based on numbers, the development of prospects, or even signings.
Re-signing Probability: Medium (4.5/10)
#8 Joe Colborne; Current Contract 1.275M; 2015-16 Stats: 3G 5A 8PTS
I never really was a huge fan of Colborne for a good chunk of last few seasons. He was mostly seen as "that guy that's good in shootouts" to me but ever since he took on a role of being a strong power forward and using his 6'5 frame to fight for the puck more, I've really become a fan of his game. His role on the Flames is crucial because they're still among the smallest teams in the NHL.
I feel as though Colborne still has earned a spot on this team and should be re-signed this offseason for a deal similar to the one he has now and short term. After that, it'll be anybody's guess. Extra credit to him for having a good career despite playing for the Leafs at one point.
Re-signing Probability: Medium-Above Average (7.5/10)
#16 Josh Jooris; Current Contract .975M; 2015-16 Stats: 2G 1A 3PTS
After bursting into the NHL last season after an outstanding run through training camp, Josh Jooris finished with 24pts in 60 games. Not bad for a rookie who wasn't even supposed to be here. This season Jooris has struggled to find the net but has been improving over the last while along with the rest of the team.
After being signed to a one year "show-me" contract this past offseason, Jooris hasn't yet shown what he's fully capable of, but perhaps teams know what to expect of him now and have shut him down. I hope to see Jooris re-signed for at least one more year because I think there is still some untapped potential for him to achieve. Whether the Flames agree with me or not is their decision.
Re-signing Probability: Medium (6.5/10)
#13 Johnny Gaudreau; Current Contract .925M; 2015-16 Stats: 4G 14A 18PTS
SIGN HIM. I DON'T CARE WHAT IT COSTS! SIGN HIM. If he's drawing a consistent comparison to Patrick Kane, SIGN HIM!
Re-signing Probability: It had better be High (10/10)
#23 Sean Monahan; Current Contract .925M; 2015-16 Stats: 6G 8A 14PTS
Yeah he's struggling more this year than in the past, but teams are focusing on him now. He's also 21, let's take it easy! Like Johnny, he's a star in the making if the right steps are taken.
Re-signing Probability: It also better be High (10/10)
#37 Joni Ortio; Current Contract .600M; 2015-16 Stats: 0-2-1 4.27GAA .868Sv%
You can't really grade what you haven't seen enough of. He hasn't played since October 30th and has only been given two starts this season. I thought the idea of a rebuild was to give your young guys an opportunity to develop. It also isn't as though Ramo or Hiller have been outstanding and are keeping him out of the net with stellar play. It seems as though to be more of Bob Hartley's reluctance to play him (can somebody say Tyler Wotherspoon?) than Ortio himself.
Ortio played in four straight games this season, a pattern between relief and starting. He was perfect in relief against the Rangers and Senators, but struggled in his two starts against the Canadiens and the Islanders, both of which are strong contenders in the East.
By no means am I staying I want Ortio to be the starter, but with an expiring contract the Flames need to at least give him a few more games to truly understand what they have. He's only 24 and has potential to be a solid goaltender for the future and the Flames need to start building that now.
Re-signing Probability: High (9/10)
After giving 7 of the 10 players higher than 50% chance of re-signing, it's still clear that the Flames will have a lot of work to do in finding suitable ways to sign each players that they choose to bring back. This isn't including all of the AHLers who will be seeking new contracts as well. I know the re-signing period is still miles away but it's never too early to start thinking about the future.