With the Calgary Flames set to miss the playoffs in a season where expectations were high, change is most certainly coming this off-season. Whether it’s changes in the coaching staff or on-ice personnel, there will be a shakeup.
One of the major areas of concern this season has been goal scoring. As of March 31, the Flames are ranked 26 in the NHL in goals-for with 204. In addition, the man-advantage was horrendous, currently ranking 27 in the league at just 16.3 per cent efficiency.
One area offense has been especially scarce has been the right wing. With Matt Stajan and Kris Versteeg set to have their contracts expire following this season, the Flames will have a few extra salary dollars to work with. The Flames may very well look to the free agent market this summer to try and bolster the right side.
Here’s a look at six potential free agent targets for the Flames.
It’s unlikely Rick Nash re-signs with the Boston Bruins this off-season, following his trade from the New York Rangers.
Although he’s currently making $8.2 million, that number will fall drastically. He’s now 33 years old, and may be able to be signed for as little as $3 million per year. While he’s not putting up the points he used to five years ago, he’s still managed 21 goals in a down year this season. He would provide an instant boost to both the right wing and power play for the Flames, at great value.
It came as a bit of a surprise James Neal wasn’t moved at the trade deadline. It’s highly unlikely the Vegas Golden Knights will be able to retain Neal next season, so he should be on the open market come July 1.
At 30 years old, he still has plenty of hockey left in him, and would make for a nice fit alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. His acquisition cost may be on the higher end, but he brings offense, toughness, size, and experience to the table. All items the Flames need.
A bit of a forgotten name; Mikhail Grabovski has yet to play a game this season after joining the Golden Knights this past off-season.
His current $6 million salary is misleading, as he won’t be earning anywhere close to that when he hits free agency. In his last season played, Grabovski managed 25 points in 58 games with the New York Islanders. His acquisition cost could be as low as $2.5 million per season, and would make an instant improvement to the Flames bottom-six, with potential for the top-six.
Another Golden Knights right winger who makes for an attractive addition. David Perron has exploded with the Golden Knights this season, tallying 66 points in 70 games so far.
At just 29 years old, he may just be hitting his stride. While his current $3.75 million salary would be nice to maintain, he’s due for a big pay raise. If he were to become a member of the Flames, they would likely need to shed even more salary before signing him. But if it happens, a Gaudreau-Monahan-Perron first line sure sounds good.
For the amount of goals Michael Grabner has scored this season, his $1.65 million price tag is pure value. In 75 games this season, Grabner has potted 27 goals; a number the Flames sure could’ve used.
At 30 years old, Grabner will likely be in for a small pay bump wherever he signs, but nothing the Flames couldn’t make work. He may not be top-line material in Calgary, but he would sure provide a nice boost to the secondary scoring.
Now onto his eighth different NHL team, perhaps it’s time Thomas Vanek took his shot in Calgary. Despite being 34 years old, Vanek has shown a resurgence this season with the Vancouver Canucks and Columbus Blue Jackets.
In 61 games with the Canucks, he totalled 41 points, and has added another 14 points in 15 games with the Blue Jackets so far. He brings everything the Flames are looking for on the right wing (goal scoring, power play specialist, adaptability), and can likely be signed right around the $2 million mark. For the price tag he wears, it would be a worthwhile signing for the Flames.
Addressing the right wing position is just one of many areas the Flames must asses this off-season. But if they can bring in one of these six players, it could go a long way in insuring a playoff berth next season.
I’ve been writing for over three years and have work published by the Calgary Herald, National Lacrosse League, Hard Knocks Fighting and The Weal at SAIT. Although I’ve covered many different topics as a journalist, sports writing remains my main passion and strength.