There was a strong call from fans and players alike for change heading into the offseason, and ooh boy, we got a lot of change today. The Flames made some big changes to the squad by shipping out Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland, and prospect Adam Fox, and bringing back Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm.
I’m going to take a pre-free agency stab at how the Flames roster might look come October.
Line 1: Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm
I really don’t think the Flames make today’s trade unless they are very confident that Lindholm will fit right in on the top line. Lindholm has spent time as both a centre and right wing while with the Hurricanes but the Flames reportedly view him as a winger.
If Lindholm can find chemistry with Gaudreau and Monahan, it could create one of the top young lines in hockey and make this trade look very good.
Gaudreau and Monahan both had fantastic years with the former finishing with 84 points (and Top 5 in scoring most of the year) and the latter putting up 31 goals while playing through very difficult injuries.
The Flames have lacked a true #1 RW since the day Jarome Iginla was traded, and if Lindholm can fill that spot, then the Flames are in a great position moving forward.
Line 2: Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - TBD
I left the right wing spot as TBD because I think it makes some sense to move Michael Frolik down to the third line with Mark Jankowski but I’ll get into that more later.
Matthew Tkachuk made huge strides in his second year and the Flames would be wise to get him signed to a new contract as soon as possible. He finished the year just shy of a 60 point pace with 49 points in 68 games. He’s only going to get better.
Mikael Backlund’s points fell back this year but he continues to be a very strong two-way centre. A big reason that his points total fell back was that his shooting percentage fell to 6.5% from a career average of 10.7%. With his career average shooting percentage he would’ve had 9 more goals and we would be talking about another career year for him.
His +/- also wasn’t very pretty this year but most of that also came after the Tkachuk injury when he was saddled with Brouwer and other linemates so I’m not worried about that. Also +/- is becoming increasingly irrelevant as a measurement tool in hockey.
Frolik took a step back offensively this year as well which I think hurt the point totals of his linemates.
The Flames might be wise to try one of their prospects in the right wing spot such as a Spencer Foo or Andrew Mangiapane. Putting one of these rookies with two strong forwards like Tkachuk and Backlund would really help their adjustment to the NHL. It is also entirely possible that the Flames choose to look into the FA market at this spot.
Line 3: Sam Bennett - Mark Jankowski - Michael Frolik
Jankowski made some solid progress as a two-way center in his first NHL season and that’s why I think placing him with Michael Frolik makes that line much better.
As for Sam Bennett I think this may truly be the last season for him to take a step forward before the Flames ship him out.
In my opinion, both Bennett and Jankowski struggled offensively because they were placed with Garnet Hathaway for most of the season who only had 13 points in 59 games. While Frolik isn’t a huge improvement, I think he brings a sense of consistency to that line and helps them become another good two-way line behind the Backlund line.
Should Bennett and Jankowski break out offensively, well that’s a very nice bonus.
Line 4: TBD - Nick Shore - Troy Brouwer
I really have no idea how the fourth line is actually going to shake out next season but I do know that I did like Nick Shore in his limited action last season and I think the Flames did too.
As for Brouwer, yes his contract sucks but we can’t do anything about that and if the Flames don’t NEED to buy him out, then let’s try to get something out of him on the fourth line. At times last year I thought he was a reliable fourth line option, again he’s paid to be much more than that, but we can’t change that now.
Barring the Flames wanting to go after John Tavares, the Flames won’t need the $3M in savings his contract would provide so maybe it makes sense to keep him around in a minor role. It’s safe to say there’s probably 0 trade suitors for him.
Scratches: Lazar - Hathaway
Line 1: Mark Giordano - T.J. Brodie
Did I just jump in a time machine and go back to 2014-15? No?
Well we’re back here again with the Brodano pairing making it’s return. T.J. Brodie will make his return to the right side whilst partnered with Mark Giordano where he’s had the best years of his career.
The biggest worry I had with this trade wasn’t just trading Dougie Hamilton, but it was breaking up arguably the best top pairing in hockey from the last couple seasons.
Can Giordano and Brodie regain their chemistry from a few years ago?
That’s a big question that will be answered this year, and that answer could really determine who ends up winning this trade.
Line 2: Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
I’m very excited to watch Hanifin on the Flames next season and I think Hamonic might be a perfect linemate for him as he continues to grow.
Hanifin still needs some improvement in the defensive zone, and having a reliable defensive defenceman like Hamonic will certainly provide the foundation for Hanifin to branch out.
Hanifin is only 21 and with three years already under his belt, I’m very excited for what’s ahead for him. As for Hamonic, I think he made his biggest strides late in the season away from Brodie, and I’m excited to see if he can be even better in his second year in Calgary.
Line 3: Brett Kulak - Rasmus Andersson (Hopefully)
When all the talk was about potentially trading Brodie, I thought it might make sense to give Kulak a shot at the top four next season. Well that door has been closed for the foreseeable future and with Juuso Valimaki on the way, it may be closed on the left side permanently.
Nevertheless I think Kulak is a great depth option for the Flames as he was a consistent defenceman all year for the Flames.
As for the right side, gosh it had better be Rasmus Andersson and not Michael Stone. There is no reason why Andersson should be in the AHL next year. The minute Stone was signed to a three year deal at his $3M+ cap hit, we knew it would end up this way.
Hopefully Treliving can shop him or eat money on him or something to get Rasmus into the NHL. If they bring him back as the 7th dman, than so be it, but I want Rasmus playing next year.
Scratch: Mike Stone
Starter: Mike Smith
I’m kind of nervous about him at 36 years old but there aren’t a lot of other options out there. Hopefully he can stay healthy and keep his form that he had early in 2017-18.
Backup: Jon Gillies or David Rittich
I think the Flames end up staying in house with this one barring anything crazy. Both showed some flashes last year, but hopefully they can find another gear in 2018-19.
So I ran this potential roster through CapFriendly using the following assumptions:
- Hanifin and Lindholm’s new contracts combine to be around $10M
- The Flames fill TBD spots with prospects like Foo, Mangiapane, or Dube, (all on ELC’s)
- RFA’s: Jankowski signs for $2M, Kulak for $1.25M, Rittich for $900K, Shore 800K, Hathaway 800K
So with that roster the Flames would have about $6.4M of cap space which means they’d have some freedom to look around the free agent market but it wouldn’t make sense to go after the big names like JVR or James Neal. The Flames actually have about $7-8M of cap space if you don’t include the TBD players who would be in Stockton if Calgary brings in other free agents.
Brad Treliving had already mentioned that the Flames might look at some of the less popular names and that lines up with the amount of cap space they have.
I feel like the current roster is pretty close to what we’ll see next year but you never know as there could be more deals or moves in free agency coming.