The Calgary Flames made a big splash on day one of NHL Free Agency, signing the biggest contract of the day when they inked Michael Frolik to a five year, $21.5 million contract. The deal comes with a $4.3 million cap hit for the right winger and he becomes the highest paid forward on the team.
Frolik is a consistent two way winger who scored 42 points in each of the past two seasons with the Winnipeg Jets. Don’t expect him to lead the team in points next season, but Frolik will once again hit the scoresheet 40-45 times and be a huge addition to the second line and penalty kill.
Calgary also inked goaltender Karri Ramo to a one year contract at $3.8 million. The Finnish netminder played well in 34 games for the Flames last season, and comes back with a bit of a high cap hit for someone who will probably back up Jonas Hiller, but it’s just a one year deal which makes for very little risk.
The Flames also shipped out Max Reinhart to the Nashville Predators for a conditional fourth round draft pick. Reinhart played just four games with Calgary last season, suiting up in the American Hockey League for the Adirondack Flames where he had 39 points in 69 games.
Though the Flames were pretty busy yesterday, there remains a solid group of players on the open market, and I could see them being in on a few players that are still unrestricted free agents. Calgary has to be careful, as they currently have a little more than seven million in cap space, and still have to sign RFAs Paul Byron, Michael Ferland, Drew Shore, Lance Bouma and Josh Jooris.
With Ladislav Smid unlikely to play next season, putting him on long term injured reserve would also save the team $3,5 million in extra cap space. With that in mind, the Flames could theoretically sign a $4 million player and be safely under the cap next season. The Flames also have David Jones, Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo coming off the books in one year.Feb 22, 2015; Buffalo, NY, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Cody Franson (44) during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
This will help give them some room to sign Sean Monahan, Mark Giordano and Johnny Gaudreau next summer, but they have to be careful not to overspend this year, when they have so many key players entering the final year of their deal.
With that in mind, I could see the Flames kicking tires on Cody Franson, but seeing that Mike Green got three years with a $6 million cap hit and Paul Martin got $4.85 million per year on a four year deal, I’d imagine Franson gets somewhere around $5 million on a four year contract. That’s just a bit much for a team that is deep on the blue line like Calgary.
I think the Flames are more than content with a top five group of defensemen that includes Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, T.J. Brodie, Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman. They may look to add another solid defenseman, or just a depth, number six of seven type guy after letting Raphael Diaz and David Schlemko leave.
Up front, I’m sure the Flames are content with a top six of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Jiri Hudler, Sam Bennett, Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik. They also have a plethora of bottom six options in Matt Stajan, Joe Colborne, Mason Raymond, David Jones, Brandon Bollig, Markus Granlund and soon to be re-signed RFAs Josh Jooris, Drew Shore, Lance Bouma, Michael Ferland and Paul Byron.
In fact, the Flames are more likely to look to move a forward out than add another depth option. The same could be said with their goaltending situation, where Calgary currently has Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo and Joni Ortio who will need to pass through waivers next season for the first time.
So, having looked at the Flames cap situation and roster, the only real players I could see them targeting are decent to depth defensemen at this point. The best of this group still available would be Johnny Oduya who is a defending Stanley Cup champion with the Chicago Blackhawks.Jun 3, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya (27) controls the puck against Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18) in the third period in game one of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Oduya is a strong defensive player who was a great second pairing guy for the Hawks. He would be a great fit on a second pairing in Calgary with newcomer Dougie Hamilton, or he could even slide down to the third pair and be the defensive conscience of Dennis Wideman. It would be a bit pricey, but Oduya’s contract is going to come in closer to Zbynek Michalek’s two year deal with a $3.2 million cap hit, than it would be to Green or Andrej Sekera’s six year deal with a $5.5 million cap hit.
I think Oduya would be the ideal fit when it comes to experience, price tag, where he would play in the lineup and that he would put the cherry on top of the best group of defensemen in the league.
Another solid option would be Christian Ehrhoff who is coming off a one year, $4 million contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He scored 14 points in 49 games but proved he is still a valuable defender after being bought out by the Buffalo Sabres a year ago. He could be an excellent number four in Calgary, playing on a second pairing with Hamilton, but it all depends on the price tag.
If the Flames don’t like the price of Oduya and Ehrhoff, they could circle back and bring Schlemko back on a one year deal with a low cap hit. He fit in well with Calgary last season as the number seven guy and played admirably when he got into the lineup.
The Flames already have 11 forwards signed who played in the NHL last season plus Sam Bennett who will be a rookie next year. They also have to re-sign five RFA forwards who primarily played in the NHL. Calgary also has seven NHL defensemen signed plus Tyler Wotherspoon, but Smid’s status is up in the air, and they have a trio of NHL caliber goaltenders.
This tells me they have no room to bring in a forward or a goaltender, but could still be targeting a defenseman. If they do, it makes this team even better, but if they are done and stand pat, this lineup is already much better than the one that made it to the second round of the postseason last year.
Either way, with the offseason that Brad Treliving has already had, it’s a win-win for the Flames from now on. If they sign more help, great. If they decide to go with what they have and save cap space to give them flexibility, fantastic.
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