Johnny Gaudreau is obviously the biggest UFA name the Calgary Flames are trying to sign. As free agency approaches, everyone will be on deck to bring the superstar winger back to Calgary for the next eight years and it looks like the Flames are determined; it will depend on what Gaudreau wants to do.
Lost in the shakeup are several key UFAs that played a big part in the Flames’ division-winning team last season. To round out the roster, the Flames will need good complementary pieces, and we asked which lower-name free agent the Flames should sign. The responses were interesting as always.
Lots of free agents waiting on the roster
There are several big name RFAs that need new contracts, including Matthew Tkachuk, André Mangiapaneand Oliver Kylington, but there’s also a long list of UFAs pending on the roster right now. The list includes Ryan Carpenter, Brett Ritchie, Michael Stoneand the four options from this week’s poll.
Despite a great season for the Flames, Trevor Lewis finished last in the poll with just 7.1% of the vote. Mainly a fourth line, but playing in the top six on a stop line with Mikael Backlund in several key games against top-flight offensive teams like the Edmonton Oilers, Lewis has done everything that was asked of him this season. He also showed leadership in the locker room and as a former Stanley Cup winner, his experience is always invaluable.
He’s a player Darryl Sutter loved and trusted, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him back in a Flames uniform next season. However, he turns 36 next season and is very clearly on the back nine of his career. Lewis may not even want to return for another season at all. If he does, it looks like he’s fitting in well with the team and moving his family again might not be something he’s interested in. He would enter the league at a minimum, so if he is back, that would probably be fine.
We don’t really feel Jarnkrok Street was worth its acquisition price on the transaction deadline. The Flames sent three draft picks to acquire the Swedish center, and he scored just one goal in a Flames jersey all season. He fitted in as a defensive center first, but he just felt like he wasn’t being used properly. Jarnkrok finished second overall in the poll with 26.8% of the vote.
The only way for Jarnkrok to return to the Flames is to earn less than around $2 million. He hasn’t played well enough to get paid more than that, and the Flames (hopefully) won’t have the space to adapt anyway.
Ideally, the Flames can grab a third-line center and move Jarnkrok to the wing where he should be more effective than he was last season with the Flames. He’s a talented and responsible player, so if he’s back, it would be nice to have him in the last six. However, it will depend on the price with Jarnkrok.
I was pleasantly surprised by Nikita Zadorov this past season. He played much better than expected, showing his incredible size and physique early on, but then his mobility and attacking potential as the season progressed. He finished third in this week’s poll with 23.8% of the vote.
The problem with Zadorov will again be the price. He is coming off a contract that has earned him $3.75 million and exceeded his expectations. If he’s looking for a raise, the Flames probably won’t be able to afford it. Players like Zadorov aren’t particularly easy to find, and they usually cost a pretty penny to have on your roster. The Flames clearly loved him, so if they bring him back, let’s hope his hit starts with a three and not a four or a five.
Erik Gudbranson finished at the top of this week’s poll with an incredible 42.3% of the vote. Prior to this season, Gudbranson was widely regarded as one of the absolute worst defensemen in the NHL. He has really struggled in his last few stops in the league and it felt like a very strange decision to sign him this season.
However, you have to give credit where the credit is due, and Gudbranson had a really solid season for the Flames. His highest value minutes came on the penalty spot, playing the team’s second-most PK minutes and 10th-most in the league at 225:49.
At 5-on-5 he was still below par and allowed far more than he generated, but paired with Zadorov, the Flames had a competent and hugely important third pairing. It’s easy to see why and how Gudbranson fell in love with the Flames fan base, but I’m not sure he’s the best option to return to.
By all accounts, he fit in well with the team and the organization, fulfilled a leadership role and was a solid defender for the third pair. But, he’s coming off a $1.95 million contract and will surely be looking for a raise, and I don’t know if it’s necessarily worth paying $3-4 million for a paired third defender who’s basically a specialist. penalties with very low 5v5 impacts.
Brad Treliving explained how his team did a ton of research before signing Gudbranson and felt this could be a great comeback season for him. Maybe we’re just seeing the first leg of a resurgent Gudbranson and he’ll be even better next season. Time will tell us.
Everything revolves around Gaudreau
Hopefully the Flames can finalize an extension with Gaudreau soon so they can focus on signing their other pending free agents. There’s a lot of work to be done with the roster this offseason, and hopefully Treliving can revive it with another division-winning caliber Flames team.