With free agency now less than a month away, many teams are already looking ahead to when it opens up. There will be several prominent players set to hit the open market while many teams have key restricted free agents to re-sign. While the Calgary Flames have one or two key restricted free agents to deal with, they may have quite a few questions that will need answering among their unrestricted free-agent defensemen.
Key Restricted Free Agents
F Andrew Mangiapane – Throughout his career, Mangiapane has done everything right and only continues to get better. A former sixth-round pick in 2015, he worked his way into permanent role in 2018-19 and solidified himself as a top-six forward this year and it showed, posting career highs in his second full season, scoring 17 goals and 32 points. He added another three goals in 10 playoff games this year. The 24-year-old is likely to get a raise after making $800K on his now-expiring entry-level deal. He has proven his value as a key future forward on this team.
F Mark Jankowski – There was a lot of hope for Jankowski, the team’s first-round pick from 2012, but his third season in the NHL was a bit disappointing. In fact, after his rookie campaign in 2017-18 in which the 26-year-old tallied 17 goals, he has seen a continual decline, posting 15 goals in 2018-19 and followed that up with just five goals this year and has seen his playing time continue to drop as he played just 11:06 of ATOI. And at 6-foot-4 and a bottom-line player, he doesn’t play much of a physical game with just 80 recorded hits over three full seasons. However, the team has to decide whether he is worth the $1.75MM qualifying offer to retain his rights.
Key Unrestricted Free Agents
D Travis Hamonic – The Flames gave up quite a bit to bring in the defensive-minded Hamonic back in 2017. While not particularly much of an offensive player, the 30-year-old blueliner is quite a defensive player and was second on the team in ATOI this season at 21:11. Of course, the team was without his services in the playoffs as he opted out due to COVID-19 and family concerns. His daughter has had a significant battle with a life-threatening respiratory virus in the past while Hamonic has a new baby boy as well. However, the blueliner also was dealing with an upper-body injury for a large chunk of the regular season as well. Will the team bring him back? He was quite an affordable commodity at $3.86MM for the last few years, but undoubtedly will be looking for a raise and how many years is Calgary willing to offer to someone who is already 30 years old? With a team as cash-strapped as Calgary, Hamonic may be too pricey to keep.
D Erik Gustafsson – With five unrestricted free-agent defensemen, the team is likely to have to make some tough decisions in the near future. The Flames picked up Gustafsson for just a third-round pick at the trade deadline, which looked like a steal when Hamonic opted out of the playoffs. The team was expecting to lean on the once-high scoring defenseman. Instead, Gustafsson got just third-pairing minutes and wasn’t a big contributor down the stretch, suggesting the team may move on from him. While the 28-year-old’s price tag likely has dropped since posting a 17-goal, 60-point season back in 2018-19 and then following that up with a six-goal, 29-point season this year, a reunion would seem less likely considering the team has limited means as it is.
D T.J. Brodie – A constant trade-rumor candidate last summer, Brodie has found a way to remain with the team and produce quality minutes and may be the best option for Calgary if they were able to re-sign just one starter in the offseason. While his minutes have declined significantly since 2014-15, he still can put of solid defensive numbers and potentially provide solid play for less than the cost of either Hamonic or Gustafsson. He is capable of playing either side of the ice and plays a game that might suggest he could play deeper into his career than other defensemen.
G Cam Talbot – The Calgary Flames added Talbot to their roster as a veteran backup for young David Rittich and instead, Talbot walked away with the starting job, playing in all 10 of the team’s playoff games with Rittich getting just 16:35 of ice time in the final game before they were eliminated by Dallas (he gave up three goals on six shots). Talbot, who posted solid numbers this year, with a 2.63 GAA and a .919 save percentage in 26 regular season games, put up even better numbers in those 10 playoff games, including a 2.42 GAA and a .924 save percentage. The 33-year-old UFA made it clear he is looking for a starting job, but is Calgary willing to give up on Rittich just yet? And are they willing to pay up to keep Talbot, who could have quite a few suitors after his impressive season?
Projected Cap Space
The Flames only have about $16MM in available cap space and plenty of players they need to sign, including at least one or two defensemen and a starting/tandem goaltender. That doesn’t leave much money left for the team to spend on potential free agents unless the Flames find a way to move out some salary or some key players. Of course, with several rumors spreading about the availability of Johnny Gaudreau, it could be an interesting offseason for the Calgary Flames.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.