As the calendar turns to June, the Flames have a list of pending free agents to attend to. Overall, there’s 18 players on the Flames roster who have contracts that expire on July 1st. These include 13 restricted free agents, and 5 unrestricted free agents. It’s actually only 4 unrestricted now as Jonas Hiller signed in Switzerland, but his contract doesn’t officially end until July 1st. Let’s look at the players who need new contracts in the next month.
Restricted Free Agents:
LW Johnny Gaudreau, NHL, (79 GP, 30G, 48A)
Gaudreau will be resigned. End of discussion.
C Sean Monahan, NHL, (81GP, 27G, 36A)
RW Joe Colborne, NHL, (73GP, 19G, 25A)
Colborne had a stellar season posting career highs in points. Colborne also holds the title of biggest Flames forward which is crucial to have in the battleground of the Pacific Division. It is important that the Flames don’t make the same mistake with Colborne that they did with Lance Bouma by offering him a huge contract after one breakout year. Colborne is good, and I like him a lot on the Flames, but only at the right price.
RW Josh Jooris, NHL, (59GP, 4G, 9A)
Much like the rest of the Flames, Jooris had a regression during 2015-16 after posting 12 goals and 24 points during the 2014-15 season. Jooris was challenged after last season with a one year “show me” contract but he failed to keep pace with the staggering numbers he put up the previous year when he was basically a walk on during training camp. With his down season and the addition of new Flames forwards to the mix, Jooris may be deemed expendable this offseason if Hunter Shinkaruk , Mark Jankowski or Daniel Pribyl are ready to make the jump to the NHL for 2016-17.
C Drew Shore, AHL, (59GP, 10G, 28A) (NHL: 2GP, 0G 1A)
After a lackluster training camp, Shore was waived by the Flames in October but made it through waivers and spent the majority of the season in Stockton. Shore was often overlooked by the Flames during callup situations as he didn't receive his first call to the NHL until April 7th to play in the final two games of the regular season. Shore has shown some potential but his time seems to be running out. I see the Flames signing him at most to a one year deal if they sign him at all.
LW Turner Elson, AHL, (63GP, 14G, 16A) (NHL: 1GP, 0G, 1A)
Elson hasn't been a world beater or scoring champion during his hockey career. He thrives off physical play and hard work, truculence if you will. He has what the Flames organization is looking for and that could give him the opportunity to stay within the organization. The Flames would be smart to continue to develop Elson as he seems to be a fit somewhere in the bottom six down the road.
G Joni Ortio, NHL, (22GP, 7-9-3 2.76GAA .902sv%) (AHL: 20GP, 9-9-0 3.36GAA .893GAA)
Ortio's numbers are inflated after he had a poor start to the season in the NHL, however he ended the season with some strong performances and definitely looks like at least a backup goalie at the NHL level. Ortio showed flashes of brilliance during his 14-15 6 game callup and his time that year in Adirondack. Some of those flashes came through last season, and with Hiller and Ramo most likely departing, he can at least hold the #2 spot next season.
D Tyler Wotherspoon, AHL (53GP, 2G, 8A) (NHL: 11GP, 0G, 1A)
Wotherspoon has certainly logged more than his fair share of time of flights between Calgary and the AHL over the last three seasons. His play actually hasn't been bad as he's developed into a pretty good defender in the AHL. His offensive numbers have never been great, but that may be what the Flames need, which is a defender who can be counted on to play defense first. At only 23, there's still tons of time to for him develop as defenseman often take longer to reach their prime.
LW Bryce Van Brabant, AHL (62GP, 7G, 9A)
Hasn't received a call to the NHL since the 13-14 season and hasn't put up stunning numbers in the AHL with only 16 points this season up from last year's 15. It seems at this point that he may be a career AHLer but he might be worth one more year to show us what he can do.
LW Kenny Agostino, AHL (65GP, 23G, 34A) NHL (2GP, 0G, 0A)
The highlight of the package in return for Jarome Iginla has undoubtedly been Agostino to this point since the trade. Ben Hanowski is off playing in the DEL, while Morgan Klimchuk hasn’t made much of an impression either. Agostino’s best season as a professional should be rewarded, and he may even be able to contend for a roster spot next season in Calgary. He’ll forever hold the title and the pressure of Calgary for being know as “the guy we got for Iginla” but that pressure hasn’t seemed to get to him. At the very least, he should be resigned and kept in the AHL as a leader there.
C Freddie Hamilton, AHL (62GP, 18G, 25A) NHL (4GP, 1G, 1A)
After acquiring him for nothing from Colorado back in October, Freddie Hamilton turned out to be a pretty good acquisition for the Flames organization. During his four game callup to the NHL, he looked pretty good and also assisted the first ever Flames goal scored and assisted by brothers that Dougie scored. He played in the AHL on a line with Agostino and Garnet Hathaway, and all three of the players look like solid pieces of the Flames’ future whether it be in Calgary or in Stockton.
G Kevin Poulin, AHL, (29GP, 14-11-3 2.86GAA, .909sv%)
Acquired for future considerations in November from the Lightning, Poulin actually put up decent numbers in the AHL. Whether the equates to a new contract is anyone’s guess. He was mostly acquired as a replacement when Jon Gillies suffered a season ending injury. With Joni Ortio likely playing full time in the NHL next year, Poulin will at least be a solid mentor in the AHL.
C Bill Arnold, AHL, (52GP, 9G 13A)
Unfortunately for Arnold, the Flames are pretty set right now at the center position, but as a right handed shot, he does hold value to the organization. Perhaps he could eventually replace Matt Stajan as a two way shutdown center, but for now, he needs to keep improving in the AHL.
Unrestricted Free Agents
C Derek Grant (Group VI FA) AHL (36GP, 27G, 18A) NHL (15GP, 0G, 1A)
A group VI UFA means that Grant is older than 25 and has three professional seasons or more played, but has also played less than 80 NHL games. This makes him eligible for unrestricted free agency.
He better not get there. Prior to a freak injury in February, Grant was leading the AHL in scoring and finished with a whopping 45 points in 36 games. Considering he had only 38 points in 73 games the previous year, it's safe to say Grant had an amazing season. However it didn't immediately transfer to the NHL with one point in 15 outings. Grant deserves another contract, even if it's just to keep wrecking the AHL for now.
D Jakub Nakladal, AHL (35GP, 2G, 12A) NHL (27GP, 2G, 3A)
The more I saw of Nakladal this season, the more I liked about him. He turned into a pretty good defender during his first season in North America which he parlayed into a spot on Team Czech Republic for the World Cup. I would definitely play him in my lineup over Dennis Wideman, Ladislav Smid, or Deryk Engelland. However, with limited cap space and defensive roster spots, the Flames might not be able to keep him. That’s horrible.
G Jonas Hiller, NHL (26GP, 9-11-0 3.51GAA .879sv%)
He's already signed in Switzerland. See ya!
G Niklas Backstrom, NHL (4GP, 2-2-0 3.35GAA .881sv%)
Really nothing more than a feel good story towards the end of the season, Backstrom will most likely be off to Europe next year. His final NHL game against Minnesota was a suitable end to a great career that he had with the Wild. All the best Backs!
G Karri Ramo, NHL (37GP, 17-18-1 2.63GAA .909sv%)
Despite an early season trip to Stockton, Ramo rebounded to put together a solid year prior to his season ending injury. He was usually the Flames' best option in net and wouldn't worry me in net like Hiller did. However, with Ramo suffering serious injuries the last few years, I'm thinking the Flames probably won't resign him.
by Michael MacGillivray