As the NHL season is now less than a month away, we continue our look at each team’s offseason and preview the upcoming year. Today, we focus on the Calgary Flames.
Last Season: 35-40-7 (77 points), 5th in the Pacific Division. Did not qualify for the playoffs.
Remaining Cap Space: $7.9MM per CapFriendly.
Key Newcomers: Brian Elliott (G) – trade with St. Louis; Chad Johnson (G) – free agent (Buffalo); Troy Brouwer (RW) – free agent (St. Louis); Alex Chiasson (RW) – trade with Ottawa; Linden Vey (C) – free agent (Vancouver).
Key Departures: Jonas Hiller (G) – free agent; Karri Ramo (G) – free agent; Joni Ortio (G) – signed in Sweden; Mason Raymond (LW) – signed with Anaheim; Joe Colborne (RW) – signed with Colorado; Josh Jooris (C) – signed with New York Rangers.
Players to Watch: Johnny Gaudreau and Brian Elliott. Gaudreau and Elliott’s performance this season will determine whether the Flames make a post-season push or whether they will be angling for a lottery pick. That is, of course, if and when the Flames sign Gaudreau.
Johnny Gaudreau is still an unsigned RFA after failing to come to terms with the Flames this offseason. As of writing, Gaudreau’s camp is reportedly firm on around $8MM per season, while the Flames are reportedly in the $6–6.5MM range. Not an insurmountable gap, but one that will only close after one side blinks. Gaudreau led the team in scoring last season with 30G and 48A in 79 games—15 points more than Sean Monahan who re-signed this summer for $6.375MM a year contract. The young winger’s impressive performance in the World Cup of Hockey only adds pressure on Calgary to lock up their potential future star. Look for both parties to settle around the $7.5MM range.
Brian Elliott comes to the Flames looking to shed his inconsistent label once and for all. Despite posting a .930SV% and a 2.07GAA last season, the St. Louis Blues opted to keep a young Jake Allen, and instead traded Elliott to the Flames. Unlike St. Louis, however, Elliott was brought in to be the clear starter, and this is a role that should allow him to finally establish himself despite years of consistent performance.
Key Storylines: Will the Flames make it back to the post-season after suffering a setback last year?
Two years ago the Flames made a surprising playoff run in a year where many predicted that they would challenge for a top-five pick. Both Gaudreau and Sean Monahan excelled in their 1st and 2nd seasons, respectively, and broke 60 points. In retrospect, goaltending looked to hold that team back from even higher heights.
But last year Calgary took a step back and missed the playoffs with largely the same team. This season is a chance to prove that the anomaly was last season, not the season prior. Monahan and Sam Bennett are one year older, and the Flames brought in Troy Brouwer to round out the scoring. Assuming they re-sign Gaudreau, the Flames can mount an exciting offense. The question mark lies in the team’s defensive capabilities. They did not drastically improve their blue line, but they did completely switch out their goaltending. It might not be enough to compete in the Pacific, but this team has been written off prematurely once before.