The Calgary Flames addressed the right side of their blue line in a big way earlier this off-season, stealing free agent Chris Tanev from the rival Vancouver Canucks. Tanev is a solid two-way defenseman who has earned the respect of teammates and opponents alike over his career. He should settle in nicely as the replacement for T.J. Brodie in the top-four for Calgary, with young Rasmus Andersson beginning a new contract of his own that comes with higher expectations. Someone from the left side can slide over as well, with captain Mark Giordano, young standout Noah Hanifin, top prospect Juuso Valimaki, and recent import Nikita Nesterov under contract and restricted free agent Oliver Kylington awaiting a contract extension.
However, that apparently isn’t enough for the Flames on the right side. TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that GM Brad Treliving is still actively seeking another right side defenseman, evaluating both the free agent and trade markets. Whether this is due to Tanev’s injury history or Andersson’s inexperience, it is believed that Treliving would like to add another established right-handed defenseman. However, that may be easier said than done given Calgary’s salary cap situation. The aforementioned six defensemen under contract are part of a group of CapFriendly’s current roster projection of 21 players that comes in just about $1MM under the salary cap ceiling. With Kylington in need of a new deal and one more body required to round out the roster, the Flames don’t have enough cap space as is. Adding a significant name will be difficult without moving out considerable salary.
Ironically, the remnants of the free agent market at right side defense includes a number of familiar names. First and foremost, Travis Hamonic is the exact veteran defenseman that the Flames are trying to replace. Hamonic spent the three seasons with Calgary and alongside Brodie and Andersson made for a solid starting group on the right side. While it was seemingly a done deal that Hamonic would be leaving Calgary, emphasized by his opting out of the postseason, Hamonic’s name has not made much noise this off-season and he could decide to return to the Flames for another year if there are no superior options. Of course, Hamonic will not come cheap. Michael Stone was another member of the Flames’ right side this past season (and for parts of the past four seasons) and could make the easy transition back to the team. Veteran Deryk Engelland is also still available and could return to Calgary after three years with the Vegas Golden Knights, while Dalton Prout could return as a depth option after a one-year hiatus with the San Jose Sharks. If the Flames can move some salary to add a legitimate starter, the top free agent target would be Sami Vatanen. However, more realistic free agent options for Calgary’s budget in addition to Stone, Engelland, and Prout include Jan Rutta, Korbinian Holzer, Yannick Weber, Christian Folin, and Cody Goloubef.
Of course, if the Flames need to move out salary anyhow, the trade market may make more sense than merely signing a free agent. With a number of teams still scrambling to get their rosters set for next season under the shadow of the flat salary cap, there could be plenty of willing partners who might have a right side defenseman to spare in exchange for a similarly priced forward. Backup goaltender David Rittich, whose $2.75MM cap hit reflects a greater role than he will likely play behind big free agent addition Jacob Markstrom, could also be attractive to a number of teams still seeking a reliable backup.
One way or another, don’t be surprised if the Flames are not done making moves this off-season. Between their desire to add to the right side of the blue line and their need to clear cap space in order to complete the roster, Calgary is bound to be scouring the trade and free agent markets for a while longer.