Free agency is now a little more than a month away and teams are looking ahead to when it opens. There will be several impact players set to hit the open market in July while many teams have key restricted free agents to re-sign as well. We continue our look around the NHL with an overview of the free agent situation for the Calgary Flames.
Key Restricted Free Agents
For the Calgary Flames this offseason, they do not currently have any restricted free agents going into this summer’s free agency period. Although the team’s outlook on this front may become a bit more complicated next summer as the contract of Dillon Dube comes to an end, the team currently will not have this issue to deal with this summer, unless making an acquisition.
Key Unrestricted Free Agents
F Milan Lucic – After being acquired from the Edmonton Oilers in the 2019-20 offseason (albeit at a 12% discount), Lucic has become a serviceable player for the Flames up to this point. Being paid $5.25MM per season over the last four years, Lucic has scored 35 goals and 48 assists in 283 games over his time in Calgary. Although not offering the offensive production that most would expect with a $5MM+ player, Lucic’s physical abilities have transferred into the back half of his career.
The number of hits are down throughout his tenure with the Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, and Edmonton Oilers, but Lucic has still managed to accrue well over 100 hits a season, breaking the 200-hit mark during the 2021-22 season with the Flames. Entering free agency for the first time before signing his 7-year, $42MM contract prior to the 2016-17 season with the Oilers, Lucic should be headed towards a familiar role next year.
As he now seems to be unable to crack even the 15-goal mark, Lucic has isolated himself into a depth forward position moving forward. With his tenure, and also having the experience of winning the Stanley Cup in 2011 with the Bruins, Lucic will potentially be able to mentor younger players on any roster. There is a very real possibility that Lucic will have to settle for a training camp invite as this summer closes, but the possibility remains that a team reaches out with a guaranteed contract offering him a very specific role on their hockey club.
F Troy Stecher– After being acquired from the Arizona Coyotes at this year’s trade deadline, Stecher reached the same point totals with the Flames as he did with Arizona, in 50% less of the games played. In 61 games played in Arizona prior to the trade deadline, Stecher accrued seven assists, not managing to find the back of the net. In 20 games in Calgary, the defenseman was able to score three goals and four assists.
After being traded twice in back-to-back trade deadlines, Stecher has been unable to find the depth defensive scoring that he managed with the Vancouver Canucks between 2016-19. In his first three seasons in the NHL spent with the Canucks, Stecher was able to score 58 points in 217 games, playing on the Vancouver team that took the Vegas Golden Knights to the seventh game of the 2020 NHL playoffs’ second round.
F – Nick Ritchie – Acquired in the same trade as Stecher from the Coyotes, Ritchie was wholly unable to find his offensive game in Calgary. Becoming a healthy scratch for several games down the stretch, Ritchie only managed to score one goal and five assists in 16 games played for the Flames.
Unexpected to be retained by Calgary this offseason, the maximum that Ritchie should be expecting on the open market is similar to the 2-year, $2.5MM contract that Derek Ryan signed with the Oilers prior to the 2021-22 NHL season.
F – Trevor Lewis – After receiving a $200K increase from his 2021-22 salary, Lewis decided to renew his contract with the Flames for the 2022-23 season. Being a bottom-six forward for most of his career, Lewis was able to crack the 20-point mark for the first time since the 2017-18 season with the Kings, scoring 20 points in 82 games for Calgary this season. Proving that he is able to handle over 12 minutes a night for a competitive Western Conference team this season, Lewis should be able to find a spot in a lineup next year.
Other UFA’s: D Michael Stone
Projected Cap Space
Unfortunately for the Flames, the problem becomes extremely dire when looking at the projected cap space for next season. Especially considering the team was unable to qualify for the 2022-23 NHL playoffs, the team will only have $1.25MM available headed into the offseason.
Although the team does not have any game-breakers headed for free agency this offseason, if the team hopes to succeed in a tough Pacific Division, Calgary will need to come up with more cap space than what they currently have available. With players such as Tyler Toffoli, Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin, and Mikael Backlund expected to make the jump to unrestricted free agency after next year, it is imperative that the Flames find cap space to retain such vital parts of the organization.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Contract information courtesy of CapFriendly.