- Fresh off being named MVP at the Worlds, Flames winger Andrew Mangiapane indicated in a recent appearance on Sportsnet 960 (audio link) that he would be interested in signing a long-term extension with the team. 2021-22 is the final year of his two-year, $4.85MM contract so he will be eligible to sign a new deal when free agency opens next month. Mangiapane had 32 points this season (the second straight year with that total) so while he may want to stick around for the long haul, he’s probably going to be better off waiting to see how next season goes in the hopes of improving his negotiating leverage heading into those discussions.
The offseason has arrived with roughly half of the league missing the playoffs and several more having since been eliminated. It’s time to examine what those teams need to accomplish over the coming months. Next up is a look at Calgary.
Expectations were fairly high for the Flames heading into the season. They landed the top goaltender in free agency back in the fall in Jacob Markstrom while also adding Christopher Tanev to anchor a defensive pairing. These win-now moves didn’t do much to move the needle, however. Geoff Ward lost his head coaching job before the halfway point of the season with Darryl Sutter being brought in to turn things around but he managed the same .500 win percentage as his predecessor. Their only playoff victory in the past six seasons was the Qualifying Round in the bubble so it appears more changes will be on the horizon. What those changes should be highlights their summer checklist.
Add A Backup Goalie
Calgary had David Rittich backing up Markstrom for most of the season and the results weren’t particularly great although they were able to get a third-round pick from Toronto who brought him in as injury insurance for the playoffs. Louis Domingue served as the backup after that and he’s an unrestricted free agent this summer. That creates an opening that will need to be filled.
The good news is that there are plenty of free agents available so GM Brad Treliving shouldn’t have a hard time finding one. The question here will be how much they want to commit to Markstrom’s understudy. Markstrom, when healthy, has shown himself to be capable of logging heavy workloads and this season was no exception as only Connor Hellebuyck made more appearances. If they want him to play that much over the next couple of years, they can shop at the lower end of the market and free up some cap room for other areas. However, most teams don’t want their starter playing 60-plus games each season and if the Flames feel that way, they’ll have to shop closer to the higher end where it will cost another million or so on the AAV.
The Flames have a core group up front and while they have shown flashes of strong offensive performances, it simply hasn’t been good enough. Returning the same core that has underachieved feels like a complete non-option at this point as expecting a big internal improvement from this group probably isn’t feasible. The question isn’t if the core will be back but rather how much of it won’t be.
The biggest uncertainty surrounds Johnny Gaudreau. The winger is set to enter the final year of his contract and while he has expressed a willingness to sign an extension, it’s fair to speculate if Calgary may feel otherwise. The 27-year-old didn’t have a bad year – he led the team in scoring and improved his per-game rates from 2019-20. But he’s also not the same player he was a few years ago when he put up two seasons of better than a point-per-game average including a 99-point campaign in 2018-19. He’s still a top-line player for now but do they want to commit a long-term contract to him? If not, then he becomes one of the more intriguing trade candidates of the summer as letting him walk to unrestricted free agency isn’t a viable idea.
Sean Monahan has also been in trade speculation already. He also has seen his production taper off in recent years and he had just 10 goals and 28 points this season in 50 games. In terms of output from centers, he was third behind Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund. With two years left, he’s not a rental either although they’d be selling low. With three top-six pivots, do they look to flip one for some help on the wing?
Is one move going enough or will multiple changes be needed to shake things up? That’s what Treliving is going to have to determine in the coming weeks and with it being harder to move money once the top free agents are off the board, he will likely need to make this decision by the end of July.
Add Offensive Help
On top of shaking up their offensive core, Calgary needs to add to it. They’ve been in the middle of the pack defensively the last couple of seasons but have only managed to finish 20th in goals scored in each of the past two seasons. They didn’t have a 20-goal scorer either. The composition of their roster is better suited towards a score by committee approach but for that to work, they need to have three lines capable of scoring. They’re not there just yet.
Yes, younger players like World Championships MVP Andrew Mangiapane and Dillon Dube are capable of improving and providing a boost from within. But adding one more top-six forward would also go a long way towards deepening their attack. However, with nearly $68MM in commitments to just 14 players, that doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for an impact addition so some cap juggling will be needed if Treliving is going to be able to add to the core.
With how well a lot of side deals in expansion went for Vegas back in 2017, some have expected there won’t be as many of those made this time around. But Calgary looks like a team that may want to do so given their situation on the back end.
With Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson, and Tanev, Calgary has three blueliners locked up for at least the next three seasons. It then stands to reason that those will be the three that they protect from Seattle, assuming they use the standard 7/3/1 protection scheme. However, that leaves their captain Mark Giordano on the outside looking in.
Giordano has been a fixture for the Flames for nearly 15 years aside from a brief stint in the KHL. He’s second in franchise history in games played and third in scoring by a defenseman. Yes, he’s nearing the end of his playing career (and has just one year left on his contract with a $6.75MM AAV) but he’s someone the Flames would undoubtedly want to keep around as long as it doesn’t cost them one of those other three protectees, even if it took away from adding up front.
While a 37-year-old on a pricey expiring contract may not seem like the best fit for an expansion franchise, he’d give Seattle some short-term stability and an intriguing trade chip so they could be inclined to take him. Treliving will need to find a way to talk them out of potentially doing that.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Contract information courtesy of CapFriendly.
The Calgary Flames have added an experienced name to the bench for next season, hiring Kirk Muller as an associate coach. Cail MacLean, who served as head coach of the Stockton Heat for the past three seasons, will also be joining the Flames as an assistant. Muller was let go earlier this season by the Montreal Canadiens when the team parted ways with Claude Julien, but didn’t take long to find his next NHL stop. Ray Edwards and Martin Gelinas will not be returning as assistant coaches but are not leaving the organization. Instead, they’ll transfer to the player development department for the Flames.
Muller, 55, has a long history in the NHL, going back to his selection second overall by the New Jersey Devils in 1984. He played parts of 19 seasons in the NHL, suiting up for 1,349 regular season games and taking home the Stanley Cup in 1993. As a coach, he joined the Canadiens for the first time in 2006 before taking a head coaching job with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2011. He went exactly .500 during his three-year tenure with the Hurricanes, before going to St. Louis and then back to Montreal. Though he doesn’t have a ton of head coaching experience, the Flames may well see him as a replacement for Darryl Sutter in a few years.
MacLean meanwhile is getting his first taste of the NHL at age-44 but is an up-and-coming head coaching prospect in his own right. The former minor league player has been in charge of ECHL and AHL teams previously, taking the slow necessary steps to establish himself as a future NHL head coach. During his time with the Heat, they posted a 72-65-16 record.
Dustin Wolf refuses to go along with the scouting norms. The Calgary Flames prospect just keeps winning, collecting the WHL Goaltender of the Year award for the second year in a row. Wolf had another incredible season, posting a .940 save percentage in 22 appearances with the Everett Silvertips, going 18-3 in the process with four shutouts. He added a gold medal with the U.S. World Junior squad as well, while also making his professional debut with the Stockton Heat of the AHL.
Not bad for the 214th overall pick in 2019.
There has been no stopping (or perhaps plenty of it?) Wolf at the junior level, where he has won almost every trophy imaginable during his time with the Silvertips. He will leave the WHL with a career record of 106-34-6, 24 shutouts and a .935 save percentage. He becomes only the fourth goaltender since 2001 to win the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy multiple times, joining Cam Ward, Chet Pickard, and fellow Silvertips alumni Carter Hart.
Now, the question will be whether his size holds him back at the next level. Wolf measures in at a generous 6’0″ and weighs just 168 lbs, which would make him one of the smallest goaltenders in the NHL. That’s exactly why he slipped to the seventh round, but it is impossible to ignore what he has done since the Flames took a chance on him two years ago.
Recently, there has been something of a resurgence of small goaltenders. Alex Nedeljkovic, a finalist for the Calder Trophy this season, faced a similar uphill battle because of his six-foot stature, but took advantage of an opportunity in Carolina and posted outstanding numbers for the Hurricanes this season. Juuse Saros, who many believe should have been a finalist for the Vezina this year is officially listed at 5’11”. Anton Khudobin is also listed at 5’11” and carried the Dallas Stars to the Stanley Cup Final last year. Jonathan Bernier (6’0″), Antti Raanta (6’0″), and Jaroslav Halak (5’11”) are other goaltenders who have found plenty of success in the NHL despite not being quite as lengthy as their contemporaries.
There’s no guarantee that Wolf makes it, but at this point, it doesn’t make much sense to bet against him. He’ll get a chance to show what he can do at the pro level next season, which will end up being the first season of his three-year entry-level deal (the contract was signed in 2020, but will slide forward this year after he spent the season in junior).
There are just eight teams left alive in the NHL postseason and by this time next week that number could be down to four. The off-season has arrived for most, with all other major hockey leagues long since wrapped up. While many will wait for the NHL off-season to officially begin before making a decision on their future, other are willing to make a decision right away. Here are some notable moves from the latter group:
- As previously suggested, Joakim Nordstrom has indeed signed with the KHL’s CSKA Moscow. The club officially announced a one-year contract with the NHL veteran on Friday. While Nordstrom has never been a scoring threat in the NHL, his early commitment overseas is at least slightly suprising. The two-way forward clearly provides value, as evidenced by six straight seasons of starting at least two-thirds of his teams’ games across stops in Carolina, Boston, and Calgary. A solid checker and shot blocker, Nordstrom is a good defensive presence as a bottom-six forward, but does not provide much upside. Perhaps in Russia he will be able to do more offensively and play a more balanced game. He will be surrounded by plenty of talent with CSKA, a KHL juggernaut.
- Another forward heading to Europe is Tanner MacMaster. The former Quinnipiac University standout has played well in the AHL over the past three years, including playing a top-six role with 30 points for a loaded Toronto Marlies team last season, but has not earned an entry-level contract. He will look to Sweden for a bigger role and more substantial contract after spending this season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. MODO of the Swedish second-tier Allsvenskan has announced a one-year deal with MacMaster, who they label as a top-six center for the club.
- After a year off in 2020-21, former NHL enforcer Luke Gazdic has decided to make the change permanent. The veteran of 11 pro seasons has announced his retirement from the game. Gazdic will be remembered most for his three seasons as a fixture on the Edmonton Oilers’ checking line, though he developed into a leader in the AHL as well, spending his final two seasons with the San Diego Gulls.
- Also calling it quits after a long pro career is longtime Cleveland Monsters goaltender Brad Thiessen. Thiessen, 35, has announced his retirement after twelve years at the pro level. Thiessen initially left Northeastern University early in 2009, signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins as a highly sought-after free agent. Thiessen played three seasons with the Penguins, including seeing action in five NHL games, and another with the Calgary Flames, but since 2015-16 has been with AHL Cleveland. Thiessen helped to develop Columbus Blue Jackets netminders Joonas Korpisalo and Matiss Kivlenieks while continually providing reliable play and even leading the club to a Calder Cup.
For the final time for the foreseeable future, all non-playoff teams were eligible to win the first overall pick in the NHL Draft Lottery. Beginning in 2022, a team can only move up a maximum of ten spots, meaning the teams who finish No. 12 through No. 16 in the final league standings cannot move high enough to take over the top pick. The stage was set for a climactic send-off for the old format.
Well, the lottery balls decided not to take a crazy bounce in their last opportunity to move a team from the middle of the first round all the way to the top. Instead, the draft order stayed virtually the same. The Buffalo Sabres, who held the worst record in the NHL this season and thus the top odds in the lottery, retained the No. 1 pick. The expansion Seattle Kraken, awarded the same odds as the third-worst record in the league, moved up one spot, switching places with the Anaheim Ducks. New this year, there were only two lottery draws as opposed to the former three. Here is the official first-round draft order for the top 15 picks:
- Buffalo Sabres
- Seattle Kraken
- Anaheim Ducks
- New Jersey Devils
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Detroit Red Wings
- San Jose Sharks
- Los Angeles Kings
- Vancouver Canucks
- Ottawa Senators
- Chicago Blackhawks
- Calgary Flames
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Dallas Stars
- New York Rangers
(As a reminder, the Arizona Coyotes forfeited their first-round pick this years as discipline for scouting violations)
This will be the second time in four years that the Buffalo Sabres will pick first overall after selecting Rasmus Dahlin at the top spot in 2018. It also means that two teams, the Sabres and New Jersey Devils, will have owned the first pick in four of the past five drafts. The two clubs are happy that the NHL’s new rule limiting teams to two lottery wins in a five-year span kicks in next year with a clean slate. Incredibly, the Sabres lottery win also further advances the mythology of Taylor Hall. Although Hall is now with the Boston Bruins, this is the fifth time in Hall’s career that his most recent team eligible for the draft lottery has won. A No. 1 overall pick himself, Hall has brought luck to the Edmonton Oilers, Devils, and now Sabres.
Perhaps bigger news than Buffalo at No. 1 is Seattle at No. 2, a major opportunity for the Kraken to draft a player who is ready to join the team in their inaugural season. The Vegas Golden Knights, with the same odds in the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery, fell to No. 6 overall and drafted Cody Glass, who has still yet to establish himself as a regular in the Vegas lineup. With the second pick, Seattle will have better odds of adding an instant difference-maker.
The 2021 NHL Draft is unique compared to recent years in that there is no consensus top prospect. In fact, it is difficult to remember a draft class in recent memory that is so undecided at the top. One major factor has been the lack of complete scouting due to canceled and shortened seasons and limited live viewings. However, even with complete information, there is still seemingly no prospect that stands heads above the rest. University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power and forward Matthew Beniers are largely considered the top players at each position and the two most likely candidates for the top pick, with Power having a slight lead according to draft pundits. However, current teammate Kent Johnson and Wolverines commit Luke Hughes, a forward and defenseman respectively, are also in the mix. Canadian junior standouts Mason McTavish, Dylan Guenther, and Brandt Clarke and European pros William Eklund and Simon Edvinsson may also be in play.
After a disappointing season that saw them miss the playoffs, many expect big changes in Calgary this summer. Tweaks to the roster alone probably aren’t going to be enough and players like defenseman Mark Giordano and winger Johnny Gaudreau have been speculated as possible candidates to be on the move, the former due to their expansion situation where he may have to be left unprotected and the latter due to his contract situation as he’s about to enter the final year of his contract.
The other long-term core player that the Flames have is center Sean Monahan and it appears that he’s in play as well as Postmedia’s Bruce Garrioch reports that the team is listening to offers for the 26-year-old.
It was only two seasons ago that Monahan had a dominant season, one that saw him notch 34 goals and 48 assists in 78 games while he and Gaudreau became one of the more productive duos in the NHL. At that point, it looked as if he had arrived as the clear-cut number one middleman they hoped they’d get when they selected him sixth overall back in 2013.
But things haven’t gone well since then. In 2019-20, his production dipped to 22 goals and 26 assists in 70 games in the pandemic-shortened year, the second-lowest point per game rate of his career. Then came this season where things were even worse. Monahan managed just 10 goals and 18 helpers in 50 games. While the fact the pandemic cut the season short again is notable, so too is the fact that his previous career-low in goals was 22. Suddenly, after being one of their more consistent scoring threats, that element of Monahan’s game disappeared and as a result, both Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund were more productive this season.
Monahan has two years left on his contract with a $6.375MM AAV with a 10-team no-trade clause, per CapFriendly. That price tag looked like a bargain two years ago but that isn’t the case now based on his recent performance.
Nevertheless, with what is once again a very weak free agent center market and the fact that impact pivots are hard to come by, there still should be several teams interested in Monahan. While the price tag is high for his recent production, he notched between 58 and 64 points in the four seasons preceding his 82-point campaign so there is a proven level of success and at 26, he still should be in the prime of his career. In terms of upside, there probably won’t be many other centers of that caliber that find their way into trade talks this summer.
With the cap being flat and Seattle’s entry into the league, the trade market could be busier than normal as a result. It looks like Monahan can be added to the list of players that could be on the move in the coming months.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
While things are relatively quiet on the transaction front during the NHL playoffs, there have been a few transactions today around the hockey world. Here’s a rundown of those involving NHL-affiliated players and teams:
- Panthers free agent defenseman Emil Djuse won’t be returning to North America. Instead, Rapperswill-Jona of the Swiss NLA announced that they’ve inked the blueliner to a two-year deal. Djuse spent the 2019-20 season in North America between AHL Texas and Springfield and was actually rather productive offensively for a blueliner with 32 points in 53 games but opted to play in the KHL this season instead of re-signing with Florida. He is set to become an NHL free agent in July.
- Kings prospect forward Alexander Dergachyov has been traded to Avangard Omsk, the KHL team announced. Going the other way to Vityaz Podolsk is none other than current Calgary Flames defenseman Oliver Kylington, as well as minor league forward Alexander Yaremchuk. Kylington, 24, is of course playing in North America, but as a restricted free agent this off-season following a campaign in which he was used very sparingly, perhaps the Swedish blue liner will be intrigued by the opportunity to move the KHL. On the flip side, the 24-year-old Dergachyov was a fifth-round pick of Los Angeles back in 2015 (74th overall) but hasn’t opted to sign with the team yet, instead preferring to remain at home. He signed a two-year contract with Omsk following the trade, so any move to L.A. will have to wait a while longer.
- The Canadiens have signed defenseman Terrance Amorosa to a one-year AHL contract, their farm affiliate announced (Twitter link). The 26-year-old signed a tryout deal with Laval in March and despite playing just five games, he clearly made enough of an impression to get another deal.
The Department of Player Safety announced that they have fined Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber $5,000, the maximum fine allowable in the CBA, for cross-checking Toronto’s Wayne Simmonds Saturday during Game 2 of the playoffs.
The veteran forward was not assessed a penalty against Simmonds on the play, but did receive a two-minute minor for cross-checking on Toronto’s Pierre Engvall during the third period and later received a 10-minute misconduct. Montreal received seven minor penalties during their 5-1 loss to Toronto.
- The Edmonton Oilers look to be making several lineup changes after falling 2-0 to the Winnipeg Jets in their first-round matchup, according to Oilers insider Bob Stauffer. With the hope of being faster on the ice, the team is scratching James Neal, Dominik Kahun and Alex Chiasson, while bringing Tyler Ennis, Gaetan Haas and Devin Shore. The team has also split up defensemen Tyson Barrie and Darnell Nurse, while demoting forward Kailer Yamamoto to the third line.
- Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk, who is eligible to sign an extension with the team, tells Sportsnet’s Pat Steinberg that he hasn’t spoken to Flames’ management about a new contract. The 23-year-old has one more year remaining at a $7MM AAV, but also will have a qualifying offer of $9MM when he becomes a restricted free agent. That’s a lot of money for a player that hasn’t taken that next step the team was hoping for. Tkachuk scored 34 goals and 77 points during the 2018-19 season and looked to be developing into a star player. However, those numbers have dropped to 23 goals and 61 points in 69 2019-20 and then 16 goals and 43 points in 56 games this season. There’s even been talk of Calgary making major changes this year, which could, in theory, include Tkachuk as well.
- The Vancouver Canucks have high hopes they can re-sign defenseman Travis Hamonic to a new contract for the upcoming season. Hamonic, who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, played 38 games for Vancouver, mostly pairing with Quinn Hughes and fared well, despite dealing with injuries and rust. However, The Province’s Ben Kuzma reports that general manager Jim Benning said that there is interest in bringing back Hamonic, assuming the two sides can reach a reasonable deal. The 30-year-old signed a one-year deal worth $1.25MM in hopes of staying in Western Canada, suggesting a deal is legitimately possible.
Mark Giordano has been a fixture on Calgary’s back end for well over a decade and has gone from a role player to a top-line fixture while taking over as their captain. However, Seattle’s expansion draft is on the horizon and the Flames could be inclined to protect players that are going to be around a little longer than the 37-year-old in Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin, and Chris Tanev who all have at least three years left on their respective deals. Accordingly, Sportsnet’s Eric Francis suggests that Giordano would be a viable target for the Kraken who would be able to afford the $6.75MM on his deal for next season where he’d be a valuable mentor (and perhaps a late-season trade chip). For his part, Giordano acknowledged that “there are certain situations where you have to be an adult about it and know there are certain things that have to happen”, suggesting that he seems to see the writing on the wall.