As we surpass the 1⁄4 mark of the 2016-17 NHL season, it’s time to take a first glance at the upcoming restricted and unrestricted free agents for the Calgary Flames.
The Flames organization is in a bit of a cap crunch right now, as they are actually paying over the leagues $73M cap limit. The Flames do have a little cap space though because Ladislav Smid was put on LTIR for likely the whole season, giving the Flames a cap hit of only $70.9M.
Luckily for the Flames, there are some big contracts coming off the books next season and couple with a projected increase in the salary cap, the Flames will have some money to play with.
If we project the cap to rise to $75M next season, the Flames will have around $23.5M in salary cap room. Let’s look at the players who will eat into the margin once their new contracts are signed.
*All NHL/AHL Stats as of completion of Wednesday night games
Restricted Free Agents
#93 C Sam Bennett, 3yr/$925k ELC
22 GP, 4G, 5A, 28 PIM, -4
Sam Bennett has had a bit of a disappointing start to the season. In a year projected to be his next step forward, he has struggled like much of the rest of the team. Coupled with his high number of penalties early in the season, things weren’t ideal. However, Bennett has been the definition of “streaky” and he may be finally starting to turn it around with better efforts in the last 4-5 games. In terms of a contract he’s also the definition of a “bridge contract” at this point. Something along the lines of 2-4 years at maybe $2.5-$3.5M seems in order.
#79 LW Micheal Ferland, 2yr/$825k
22 GP, 4G, 5A, 5 PIM, +1
Ferland has really established himself this season as a strong balance between the hardhitting Ferland from the 14-15 playoffs, and a Ferland who can generate offense. He’s thrown some huge hits this season and lit a fire under the team along with others such as Matthew Tkachuk. He also only 5 minutes of penalties despite his hard nosed play which is very encouraging. If he keeps it up, he definitely should return.
#39 RW Alex Chiasson, 1yr/$800k
22 GP, 2G, 2A, 14 PIM, +2
After Chiasson scored on one of his first shifts of the season against Edmonton, he really should’ve left then. I haven’t been a fan of his style of play as he seems to underutilize his 6’4 frame. He failed to make an impact with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, and is now a place holder on lines missing players due to injury. As it stands right now, I wouldn’t bring him back. It was a low risk-high reward signing and it’s been low reward thus far.
#16 RW Linden Vey, 1yr/$700k
NHL Stats: 4 GP, 0G, 0A, 0 PIM, -2 AHL Stats: 9 GP, 3G, 6A, 6 PIM, +1
Vey started his season in the AHL, and just recently found himself back there again. During his time in Calgary, he didn’t generate too much, but hopefully learned where he could improve in facets of his game when returns to Stockton. Not a bad depth player as a 13th or 14th forward. He’s a similar low risk-high reward signing. But there hasn’t been a whole lot of reward early on either.
#64 RW Garnet Hathaway, 2yr/$690k
NHL Stats: 6 GP, 1G, 0A, 2 PIM, +1 AHL Stats: 8GP, 3G, 3A, 8 PIM, +5
Ever since Hathaway was called up from Stockton, the Flames have had a very distinguishable edge to their game. Hathaway brings the puck hungry energy the Flames need and is a constant instigator of anger from other teams. He does his job very well, and has shown the ability to provide an offensive touch too. Definitely deserves to be brought back in the offseason as he could be a key piece of the future.
#3 D Jyrki Jokipakka 2yr/$900k
13 GP, 1G, 3A, 4 PIM, -3
We have a writer on our site who shall remain nameless, that is not a fan of Jokipakka and would be over the moon if he was either taken in the expansion draft or not resigned. In my opinion though, I’m not opposed to him as I think he provides a good bottom pairing option, but with the emergence of Brett Kulak, and minor leaguers such as Oliver Kylington and Tyler Wotherspoon, he may get squeezed out.
#61 D Brett Kulak 3yr/$656k ELC
13 GP, 0G, 3A, 10 PIM, +2
Speaking of the devil, Kulak has emerged as a strong defensive player since being regularly inserted into the Flames lineup this season. Kulak has had a few rough games (ie: a -4 against NYR), but it’s in the face of these games he’s shown his ability to bounce back. The only danger in his improved play, is he may now become a target for the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft. If they don’t take him, he’d be ideal to bring back for a few years at a still relatively cheap contract.
#26 D Tyler Wotherspoon
AHL Stats: 12 GP, 1G, 5A, 4 PIM, +6
It always seems like “this is the year Wotherspoon makes the Flames”. Alas he found himself in Stockton this season as the Flames brought in Grossmann for cap reasons and Jokipakka as the 7th defenceman. This is probably best as Wotherspoon will get the opportunity to get top pairing minutes with Stockton and continue his development. Perhaps next year depending on how the offseason goes.
#32 G Jon Gillies
AHL Stats: 7GP, 4-1-1, 2.98GAA, .901 sv%
After a season ending injury early last season, Gillies’ development was essentially set a year back as this is shaping up to be his first full season of pro hockey. Gillies suffered a minor thumb injury but just returned to the lineup last night. Gillies could find himself in Calgary next season depending on the path the Flames choose to go with for goaltending. He’s a top prospect in the Flames system and looks to be the future face or mask of the Flames in net.
Other RFA’s: David Rittich, Kenney Morrisonn, Ryan Culkin
Unrestricted Free Agents
#6 D Dennis Wideman 5yr/$5.25M
15 GP, 2G, 4A, 4 PIM, +1
The Flames will finally be free of Wideman’s abhorrently large cap hit in just over half a calendar year. As for Wideman this season, he started out looking even worse than in past years and found himself banished to the press box for a good chunk of time. Since he most recent return, he’s been playing some better hockey including a big play last night against the Blue Jackets which led to a goal by Ferland. Will what we’ve been so far be enough to earn him a new contract? Not at all.
#29 D Deryk Engelland 3yr/$2.92M
22GP, 1G, 3A, 19 PIM, +7
When Engelland signed two summers ago, the consensus was that he was overpaid. It seemed that way for the first three quarters of 2014-15 until he took over after the injury to Mark Giordano. Since then, he has been one of the Flames most consistent defencemen. This season, Engelland has added to his game by including himself in more up ice rushes, along with continued solid defensive play. He also leads the team in +/- so far this year. If the Flames can bring back Engelland short-term with a pay cut, I’d have no problems with it.
#1 G Brian Elliott 3yr/$2.5M
12 GP, 3-9-0, 3.42GAA, .882 sv%
What else can you really say about Elliott’s start to the season other than that something just isn’t working. Whether it’s the team or him, there’s just something not connecting for the Flames when he’s in net and its shown with his bad record and stats. The Flames get a 3rd round pick back from the Blues if they choose not to resign him, at this point that looks like the best course of action unless he turns around.
#31 G Chad Johnson 1yr/$1.7M
10 GP, 6-3-1, 2.08GAA, .922 sv%
Contrary to Elliott, everything seems to have started going right for Chad Johnson in the last couple weeks. The entire team seems to play a completely different game when he’s between the pipes and it’s been getting victories. He also has 2 shutouts of late, and was spectacular last night against Columbus. Perhaps there’s something to be said for a Calgary boy playing for his hometown team but who knows? He currently sits 10th in sv% in the league, and 7th in GAA. If he keeps playing like this, the Flames would be idiotic not to bring him back.
#10 LW Kris Versteeg 1yr/$950k
13 GP, 2G, 3A, 4 PIM, +6
Despite almost being killed by Troy Brouwer, Versteeg’s return from a groin injury was very noticeable including a highlight reel assist on a goal, also by Brouwer, apparently Troy isn’t too grateful for the dish. Versteeg’s signing came out of nowhere after training camp and he has made an impact as he bounced around the lines early in the season. He provides a solid depth scoring option and has shown the ability this season to play solid hockey. Add him to the list of low risk-high reward signings and so far he’s had the highest reward.
#15 D Ladislav Smid 4yr/$3.5M
After a serious neck injury he was LTIR’d which saved the Flames almost his entire contract as a result of some shrewd tactics from Brad Treliving. Hopefully Smid is able to fully recover from his neck injury without any long lasting effects.
#52 LW Brandon Bollig 3yr/$1.25M
AHL Stats: 11 GP, 4G, 1A, 33 PIM, +3
Bollig was finally demoted to the AHL after being seemingly stuck in the NHL under Bob Hartley’s system. It’s unfortunate that his constant presence in the NHL cost us Paul Byron who was waived to Montreal. By the way, Byron has more goals this year than any Flame with 7. I can’t see the Flames resigning Bollig unless it’s a minor league deal for a veteran presence in the AHL.
That’s your list of players the Flames have with expiring contracts. It looks as though the Flames will have some wiggle room to make acquisitions in the offseason if they so choose. The cap crunch may finally start to be alleviated for the time being.