Following the addition of Michael Frolik along with the RFA re-signings of Josh Jooris, Lance Bouma, Drew Shore, and Paul Byron to name a few, the Flames have a stockpile of roster forwards heading into the 2015-16 season. It is expected that Micheal Ferland will also sign at some point this summer, bringing the forward number up to 18 with 15 non-waiver eligible players.
I'll be splitting up the roster forwards into three separate groups that should clear up at least some of the confusion, and should also provide a clearer picture heading into training camp.
Group 1: The Guaranteed On-The-Roster Players (8 forwards)
- #67 Michael Frolik
- #11 Mikael Backlund
- #13 Johnny Gaudreau
- #23 Sean Monahan
- #24 Jiri Hudler
- #18 Matt Stajan
- #17 Lance Bouma
- #19 David Jones
All of these players will definitely be around next season, and they've all earned their spots on this roster. I don't expect to see any changes to these eight prior to the start of the season. Stranger things have happened, though: can anybody say Dougie Hamilton?
Group 2: The Non-Waiver Exempt Players (7 forwards)
- #52 Brandon Bollig
- #8 Joe Colborne
- #21 Mason Raymond
- #22 Drew Shore
- #16 Josh Jooris
- #32 Paul Byron
- #79 Micheal Ferland
Some of these players I wish still were waiver eligible, as I feel some of them are decent players, yet shouldn't be taking a roster spot from Sam Bennett. It also seems that none of the younger players on this list (Colborne, Shore, Jooris, Byron, Ferland) would pass through the waiver wire if they had to be sent down. It is very possible that one of these seven players could be gone before the start of the season and out of the bunch, I'm thinking it'll either be Bollig or Raymond.
Hopefully the Flames can open up at least one or two spots for the players in the next group.
Group 3: The Waiver Exempt Players (3 forwards)
- #60 Markus Granlund
- #93 Sam Bennett
- #57 Emile Poirier
I included both Granlund and Poirier in this article despite the fact that both will most likely find themselves in the AHL for the majority of next season, barring injury problems with the Flames.
Granlund has played in 58 NHL games, including 51 this past season, where he scored eight goals and had 11 assists (including playoffs). It wouldn't be a huge surprise to see him at some point next season.
Poirier made his Flames debut last season on the east coast trip. He also played the final game in Winnipeg. He potentially could push for a spot next season, and should definitely make a strong case a few years from now.
Finally, with the Flames already having burnt a year of Bennett's ELC, it makes him seem like a lock to be on the roster next season. How they'll do that is another issue.
What This All Means
As these lists show, the Flames currently have 15 forwards that aren't able to be sent down to the AHL without waivers. NHL teams can only have three more players on their roster than would be playing in a game, therefore the Flames can only carry 23 players into the regular season. Having all 15 forwards would leave no room for a 7th defenceman. Therefore something has to happen.
Brad Treliving will have some tough decisions to make in September as the Flames, barring a trade, will likely have to send a couple players down to the AHL that aren't waiver exempt. With the Flames suddenly in the NHL spotlight, any waiver move will be magnified even more so.
There are a lot of questions facing the Flames. Should they keep an established veteran like Bollig (probably not) and hope that a Byron or Shore clears waivers? Would it hurt the Flames more in the long-term to lose Raymond or Bollig, or to lose somebody like Jooris or Ferland?
Speaking of Ferland, if the Flames try to send him down now, he would almost definitely be claimed; however, had he not had the playoff performance he had, there's a far better chance he would have been able to sneak through and clear. Does that now make him unwaivable?
Creativity is going to be necessary in order to fit everybody in. Will the Flames be able to swing a deal to ensure a roster spot open for Sam Bennett in the NHL? Should upcoming free agent Colborne be traded to make way for prospects that seem to have more potential?
All of these questions will be answered over the coming couple of months, and as fans, this will be interesting to watch. When I think back to the days of not having any young forwards or farm system whatsoever, it becomes apparent that this is a good problem that the Flames have, and hopefully it won't cost them now.
This crazy offseason is still far from over for the Flames and their fans.