With the 2016-17 NHL season mere days away from completion, 29 other teams have already begun focusing on making improvements for the 2017-18 season.
Before any team can make any big additions, they must first gauge what they have and where their holes are. That’s what we’ll be doing today as we analyse the Calgary Flames roster.
These projected lineups will be using only players that are either under contract with the Flames next season already or are RFA’s that are likely to return. There will be holes left where the Flames will probably fill with outside acquisitions through trades or free agency.
Line 1: Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - TBD
As good as Micheal Ferland was in his brief time on the top line, I’m still not totally sold on him being the long term solution. After slow starts to the season, both Monahan and Gaudreau finished with pretty good numbers.
The biggest issue though is that they need someone with both equal offensive talent, and a willingness to make physical plays on their line. Alex Chiasson and Micheal Ferland both had the physical aspect and some offensive upside, but to really be a dominant top line, the Flames need to find a top end talent. Much easier said than done. Alex Ovechkin anyone? Hahaha, just kidding. Maybe.
Line 2: Mark Jankowski - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik
I know a lot of people reading this are going to say “What the heck? Why break up such a dominating line from last year?”. Here’s my reasoning:
The Flames have been a team that has emphasized the importance of duos on their forward pairings for a number of years. Monahan-Gaudreau, and Backlund-Frolik have been mainstays on this team and now there’s an opportunity for a third duo.
The reason I’m breaking up the 3M line is because I see a lot of potential in a Tkachuk-Bennett duo. They’re both very young, play similar games, and are long term pieces of this team. The reason I’m putting Jankowski in the LW spot is that after a 61 point season in Stockton he’s shown he’s ready for a shot in the NHL.
Brad Treliving has already mentioned this offseason that Jankowski is knocking at the door for a lineup spot, and this could be the perfect place for him rather than playing a fourth line role which is less suited to his skillset.
Both Backlund and Frolik are defensively responsible and would be strong mentors to help Jankowski acclimate himself to the NHL. They helped Tkachuk and Bennett during their rookie years and now it’s Jankowski’s turn.
If it turns out Jankowski is not fully NHL ready, they can keep him in Stockton and just put Tkachuk back on this line. Either way, it’s a 3M line.
Line 3: Matthew Tkachuk - Sam Bennett - Micheal Ferland
In my opinion, this line (on paper) has the makings to be a dominant third line. Whether it comes to fruition or if the chemistry works out is another thing.
All three of these players have high offensive upside, but aren’t afraid to shy away from physical play. With these three paired together, the Flames could have another line like the Backlund line that could both score clutch goals, but also play strong defensive hockey.
While Bennett had a down year, a lot of the blame has to go to his misuse and regular pairing with Troy Brouwer. With a possession driving player like Tkachuk, and a two way player like Ferland, Bennett can really thrive and elevate the play of the entire line.
As already mentioned, I see a lot of potential in a Tkachuk-Bennett duo, and Ferland could complement them very nicely.
Line 4: TBD - Matt Stajan - Curtis Lazar
In an ideal world, two of Brouwer, Stajan, and Bouma are gone from the Flames by next season, but I doubt that will happen. Out of the three, I’d most want to keep Stajan but it’s entirely possible that all three could be back next year.
Ideally the fourth line would involve Curtis Lazar who I have high hopes for, and then the Flames finding a LW somewhere in free agency. If Bouma is still around he could fit in, or perhaps even prospects like Morgan Klimchuk or Andrew Mangiapane could get a shot.
This line is very tough to predict at this point, but we should see more clarity moving forward into the summer.
Scratches: Freddie Hamilton, Troy Brouwer
I think Hamilton will continue as a 13th forward next season, and I’m listing Brouwer as a scratch because I’m not sure how the Flames will use him next year, if he’s even still here. Perhaps he can slot into a bottom six role.
I’m sure some of you have already seen this, but if not I’ve made this roster assuming that the Flames don’t bring back Kris Versteeg. I really liked Versteeg this year and maybe the Flames put him in the 3rd line RW spot, but his stock really went up this year and it’s possible that he finds better offers elsewhere. Sometimes you have to lose good players to move forward and this could be a case of that.
If the Flames keep Versteeg, it could bump Ferland down to the 4th line LW spot which could fill out the roster nicely, but it’s hard to say how Ferland could react to being demoted from the first line to the fourth line in one offseason.
Line 1: Mark Giordano - Dougie Hamilton
No justification or anything needed here. Next.
Line 2: T.J. Brodie - TBD
It haunted them for most of the season and continues to as the Flames really need a strong fourth defenseman. Michael Stone provided somewhat of a reprieve but even his numbers weren’t great.
The Flames could have some options from both within their organization and from outside as they wish to attack the problem. Brodie has shown that he can easily play both sides of the ice so it doesn’t matter much what way the other defender shoots.
On the trade market there could be names like Chris Tanev or Mike Green. In free agency there’s Cody Franson or Karl Alzner. Or they could simply bring back Stone. The Flames could also look at promoting Brett Kulak or Rasmus Andersson from Stockton into the top four. It’s pretty wide open no matter what.
Line 3: Brett Kulak - Rasmus Andersson
I know I mentioned them above for a potential spot in the top four but I doubt the progression happens that quickly.
Provided Kulak doesn’t get taken by Vegas in the expansion draft, I think this has the potential to be a strong, fast, and young bottom pairing.
Had the expansion draft not been a thing this year, I think we would have seen a lot more from Kulak at the NHL level but the Flames may have been trying to hide him somewhat in the AHL. Andersson meanwhile continues to look like a steal of a pick at 53rd overall in the 2015 draft and may be ready to make the jump next year.
Scratch: Matt Bartkowski or Deryk Engelland
Bartkowski was brought in to meet the expansion requirements and that’s it. He probably won’t see much or any NHL ice next year if he even makes it on to the big club. More than likely I think he’s in Stockton.
I think it may also be worthwhile to bring back Deryk Engelland as a 7th defender that could slot into the lineup against tougher teams like Anaheim or Los Angeles. The Flames will need some extra grit in some games and Engelland could provide that along with mentoring the young defense on the team.
Starting Goaltender: No Clue
This will probably clear up in the coming weeks once teams start to prep for the expansion draft and the Flames find out who’s available or they could simply go with Brian Elliott again.
Backup Goaltender: No Clue
This also hinges on the direction the Flames choose to go with for a starting goaltender. If the Flames find a proven starter, they may look to go younger with either Jon Gillies or David Rittich. If the Flames go with a younger/less experienced starting goalie, the Flames may go for a more veteran backup like Chad Johnson or even Ryan Miller.
- 1st Line RW
- Bottom Six Forward
- 4th Defenseman
- Starting Goalie
- Backup Goalie
The Flames will have around $20-25 million in cap space to work with this offseason so they should be able to fill most of these gaps. I don’t totally expect them to fill all of these holes in one summer but I expect some good progress to be made towards finding long term solutions.
Thanks to the expansion draft the Flames will have various options in net, whether it be getting one team out of trouble, or taking one of the plethora of goalies Vegas drafts.
Brad Treliving and company will be very busy this summer addressing these holes and the final roster should start to take shape in the next month or so. It’s going to be an exciting time.