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A timeline of future events: What's in store for the Calgary Flames

There are a lot of necessary steps and hurdles on the path towards becoming a contender. Hopefully, the Flames can handle it.

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Trying to determine the trajectory, if not the true future of a hockey team can change rather quickly. Pegged for regression much like Colorado, Minnesota, and Toronto before them, the Flames made quick adjustments this summer to hopefully prevent it. By going out and making dynamic, logical decisions, general manager Brad Treliving held firm to his words.

The immediate future, at this current time for the Flames, holds a lot of dead weight. Each year moving forward Calgary does find some alleviation, which helps, though next summer is already on the horizon. There should be a bright future for this organization, but to get there, there is ample amount of strenuous work ahead of them.

The timeline of future events

A summary of the summer so far

This summer was a banner time for the Flames. The re-signing of Mikael Backlund, the acquisition and signing of Dougie Hamilton, and signing of winger Michael Frolik indicated the necessity of designing a new-age, possession-focused team. Opportunistic drafting gave the Flames the ability to plan long-term on the blueline while finding some gems in later rounds.

The only real hiccup this summer came from the arbitration situation involving Josh Jooris, Lance Bouma, and Paul Byron. With four RFAs signed already, and the arbitration hearings pending, the Flames summer looks relatively quiet moving forward. All of the decisions so far are fundamental in creating a stronger foundation, capable of supporting Calgary's pursuit of becoming a legitimate contender.

Summer/Draft/Offseason of 2016

This is the summer that many fans dread, but from a personal standpoint, I am excited for it. Barring some decisions made during the regular season and around the trade deadline, the Flames have some tough choices to make. The first hurdle of solidifying the core happens with:

The Flames need to make decisions on goaltending moving forward as well; though, in the grand scheme of things, this is a lesser concern. With Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo as UFAs, Joni Ortio is an RFA again while Jon Gillies will have completed his first pro-season. There is also some potential flexibility with free-agents. Two final points to make note of:

  • Calgary currently has eight picks total, including an additional fourth round pick from Nashville they acquired for Max Reinhart
  • The World Cup of Hockey returns as it comes to Toronto. From September 17th to October 1st, there is a strong chance several Flames players may make some rosters.
Summer/Draft/Offseason of 2017

As if the prior year of maneuvering through the hellish landscape of salary cap management was any easier on management, up comes a new challenge: another summer of high profile RFAs. Now-19-year-old Sam Bennett and goalie Jon Gillies headline seven total RFAs. The silver lining to all of this is the existing contracts of Mason Raymond, Brandon Bollig, Dennis Wideman, Ladislav Smid, and Deryk Engelland all come off the books which frees up $16M towards the cap.

That is to say, IF they are still Calgary Flames or if their contracts are buried or waived. Again, like 2016, the Flames still have all of their picks for this draft. At this point, with much of the existing core hitting their prime, Calgary should be looking to make strong pushes as a contender in the west.

Summer/Draft/Offseason of 2018

The further we go down the timeline, the more uncertainty exists on where the organization will be at this point. There are a few certainties though:
  • Emile Poirier, Morgan Klimchuk, and Mason McDonald headline seven RFAs for the Flames.
  • Mikael Backlund and Matt Stajan are the only two remaining UFAs  with regards to existing Calgary Flames contracts.
  • Flames coaching staff's existing contracts expire (?)  Pending extensions or termination.
  • Midway through the 2017-18 season, the Winter Olympics take place in PyeongChang South Korea, marking the possible final time in the immediate future the NHL may be involved.
The 2018-19 season and beyond

Finally, as we get near the end of the timeline and beyond, there are two final events to acknowledge. One of which is a complete hypothetical, though fun to potentially explore:
  • Brodie, Hamilton, and Frolik become UFAs in the summer of 2020.
  • The likelihood Quebec City and Las Vegas each have NHL teams.
Overall, if management of resources and the core is handled successfully, the Flames can set themselves up for a strong period of success. The end goal is managing short-term results that parlay themselves into long-term gains. Locking up the core while avoiding dead weight contracts such as the Raymonds and Engellands is paramount.

In a salary cap world, the most effective general managers find ways to navigate the stark landscape of dead salary, under-performing players, and just about everything else that can go wrong. All teams are subject to the ebb and flow of the league in a variety of ways. Being proactive and responsible with asset management can work, or in many cases, it can backfire.