Between expiring contracts and the loss of Mark Giordano in the expansion draft, the Calgary Flames have over $18.6 million in cap space heading into Wednesday’s start to the free agency period. After a disappointing season where many thought the Flames would be a playoff team, they fizzled out and will now be looking to retool the roster. There are some interesting names the organization could try to bring in and also some names they could bring back into the fold for the 2021-22 season.
The team needs help in their top-6 and on defense to fill the hole left by Giordano. With the amount of cap space they currently have, they could attempt some big unrestricted free agent (UFA) names, but that could make filling out the roster more challenging. The Flames may still go through the trade route to shake up their roster, but adding through free agency could also accomplish that goal without having to give up any assets.
Ryan has been a very serviceable depth player for the Flames over the past three seasons. He has been able to help contribute on offense and also bring a good defensive game. During the 2020-21 season, he was the best forward in terms of Corsi for percentage (CF%) at 59.71 and expected goals for percentage (xGF%) at 61.05. Every teammate that played with Ryan had better underlying numbers. He will turn 35 in December, but the Flames could bring him back on a short-term deal.
The Flames may sign Ryan to a cheaper deal than he was previously on with the team. That would give them an effective depth forward and that much more cap space to sign other players to the roster. He could help to boost Milan Lucic on the fourth line as well as if the Flames have a rookie make the team like Matthew Phillips or Adam Ruzicka. If he isn’t looking to move on from Calgary, the team should absolutely re-sign Ryan.
Leivo is a player the Flames could afford to bring back on a short-term, inexpensive deal. He’s a good two-way player that would help bolster the bottom-six. He was able to play in 38 games but only put up nine points. While the offense didn’t click for him this past season, he could be a responsible shutdown forward for the Flames. Both his 55.56 CF% and his 58.1 xGF% were some of the best amongst the forward group.
The acquisition of Tyler Pitlick from the Seattle Kraken may push Leivo out and force him to find another home. However, if the Flames were to bring him back, they could create a complete shutdown line involving Leivo, Pitlick, and Mikael Backlund at center. All three forwards are very good defensively and could help on the ice when the team’s star players aren’t on the ice. It would be a cheap buy for the team to bring him back for another season.
The Chicago Blackhawks decided not to extend a qualifying offer to Suter, thus making him a UFA come Wednesday. The Flames should extend him an offer as he would create an immediate impact on the team’s top six. He had a very good rookie campaign with the Blackhawks, posting 14 goals and 27 points in 55 games. He played primarily with Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat, so his numbers may be inflated a bit, but he had the second-best xGF% at 47.78 amongst the forward group.
Suter could fit right into the Flames’ top-six rotation and play on a line with Sean Monahan and Andrew Mangiapane. Suter played at center and wing so that the team could rotate him and Monahan in the middle of the ice. Both Kane and DeBrincat’s xGF% dropped when they played away from Suter, which could infer that he helped them drive the play. Playing on a line with a play-driver like Mangiapane would not only benefit Suter but could help Monahan return to form if the Flames were to roll out that line.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will be unable to keep Coleman under their current cap situation and the forward will hit the market come Wednesday. He was a fantastic two-way winger for the Lightning and was one of the top forwards on the team regarding CF% (55.69) and xGF% (58.05). He posted 14 goals and 31 points in 55 games during the 2020-21 season, which was a pace of 46 points in an 82-game schedule, which would have been a career-high.
Coleman would fit right into Calgary’s top six and be a very effective player. Elliotte Friedman has reported that Coleman is looking for a long-term deal at somewhere around the $5 million range. That may be a little rich for the Flames, but they could currently make it work if they value a player like him.
McCabe has become one of the better defensive defensemen in the NHL and would be ideal for replacing Giordano on the left side. Being strong defensively, McCabe could help someone like Rasmus Andersson, who struggled in a bigger role during the 2020-21 season. He is 27 years old and would just fit into the age bracket of the Flames’ core group of players. He had an injury-plagued 2020-21 season, allowing him to only get into 13 games.
McCabe could be a relatively cheap option to help solidify the top four next season. While he didn’t play a ton of games, he had great numbers on a bad Buffalo Sabres team. His 61.97 xGF% was far better than any other player on the roster who played over 10 games. A player like McCabe would give Calgary a great top four for the 2021-22 season and aid them in their quest to reach the playoffs.
Murray is soon to be 28 years old and a veteran of 395 games who plays a solid two-way game. He just finished his first season with the New Jersey Devils, where he posted 14 assists in 48 games. He’s had a history of injury trouble throughout his career as he has only played one full 82-game season in his career. The 2020-21 season was a better outing as he only missed eight games and scored points at a pace near his career points-per-game pace.
He’s a possible target that the Flames could get for relatively cheap and use the extra cap space, created by Giordano’s departure, on more help on forward. He played 780 minutes this season for the Devils, which was third amongst the defensive group. If he can stay healthy, Murray could be a cheap and effective option for Calgary.
The Flames could once again claim a former Vancouver Canuck through free agency this summer in Edler. He’s in his mid-30’s but was still effective for Vancouver in 2020-21. His offense completely dropped this past season as he became more of a defensive defenceman. He could be brought in as a veteran presence and to play alongside the younger players on defense. A short-term deal could work for the Flames as he could play on the second pair until Jusso Valimaki has the ability to take on a bigger role.
Edler is coming off of a $6 million contract and the Flames should only be interested in the big Swede if he comes at a much lower price. He has just turned 35 and he probably has another good season ahead of him, especially if the Flames can give him an easier workload than he had in Vancouver.
The Flames made the move to send David Rittich to the Toronto Maple Leafs when it was looking like playoffs were not in reach. Many fans were sad to see “Big Save Dave” go, but it was ultimately the right decision. The addition of Jacob Markstrom made it clear that Rittich was the backup in Calgary, and he may try to find a starter’s job somewhere else.
However, a reunion may not be out of the question if the price is right for both the team and the player. Rittich played fairly consistently for the team in his tenure and even stole a few games along the way. He will be welcomed back to Calgary if he is comfortable with the backup job at a good price.
Halak has been a fantastic backup for the Boston Bruins the past few seasons and would be a good option behind Markstrom. Even though he is 36 years old, he posted a .905 save percentage (SV%) in 19 games with the Bruins in 2020-21. In his 15 seasons in the NHL, there was only one season where he posted a SV% below .900. He could come to the Flames on a cheap deal and be effective when Markstrom needs the night off.
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His .905 SV% was his lowest since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season when he posted a .899 SV% in 16 games with the St. Louis Blues, which at his age, could be worrisome. The Flames should only want to give him a year-long contract if they intend to sign the veteran goaltender.
Flames Have Options With Their Cap Space
Having $18 million in cap space to begin the free agency period is a big bonus for Calgary as they are looking to shake things up this offseason. They have plenty of options at each position to help make the team better. They may still be in on some trade rumors and may go that route, but they should consider some of the big UFA options that will be ready to put pen to paper. With the assets and cap space they have, management needs to make some big splashes if they want to be a playoff contender come spring of 2022.
Brett is a freelance writer covering the Calgary Flames here at The Hockey Writers. He is an enthusiast of hockey stats and continues to learn every day about the sports analytics movement. Brett enjoys using both statistical analysis and the old-fashioned eye test in his writing to create the best content for readers. His work at THW has been featured on the Calgary Flames’ news feed for The Score and on Yardbarker. Brett is also part of THW’s Flames Faceoff YouTube/podcast show where he brings his opinions each week on the team’s current state of affairs.