In a series that felt much closer than the five games it took to see the Calgary Flames be eliminated by the Edmonton Oilers from this year’s playoffs, the Flames are both scratching their heads and complaining about a disallowed goal that many believe should have counted in their last contest of the season. Unfortunately, when the dust settles and the smoke clears, the Flames are still out of the running for the Stanley Cup after a fantastic regular season and left with some serious questions about their roster.
In an ideal world, the organization would roll it back with the bulk of their club and see if they could battle their way to a better fate. That’s not likely considering the contract situations for some of the team’s biggest stars. As such, change is inevitable and there are a few players that aren’t likely to be back.
Johnny Gaudreau is the big name everyone is watching and Calgary GM Brad Treliving has said the Flames will “move heaven and earth” to keep him. What does that mean for the rest of the roster? Here are four players unlikely to return next season, many of whom will be a casualty of trying to keep Gaudreau happy.
The Flames have already tried to trade Sean Monahan and will likely try to move him again this offseason. He recently had hip surgery and his numbers have been declining year after year, all while he makes way more on the Flames’ salary cap than the team would like. He has one more season with a $6.375 million cap hit on his contract and if the Flames can find a way to move that money, including potentially using a buy-out to do so, they’ll try.
If Monahan does go, it will be a sad day for Flames fans. He has been the ultimate team guy who has been hampered by bad luck and health issues. The team may look first at LTIR. If that’s not an option, another plan needs to be made.
Erik Gudbranson was signed by the Flames to a one-year $1.95 million deal this past season and unless he’s willing to sign again for less, it’s likely the Flames move on. So too, the Flames team was built on being tough and physical and whenever that doesn’t work against a team that is fast and skilled, there’s a tendency to change things up a touch.
A healthy Chris Tanev and a productive Rasmus Andersson on the right side mean the Flames will try to add a different, and likely less-costly element and it was clear when asked to play bigger minutes against top players like Connor McDavid, Gudbranson struggled. He was regularly a minus player for the Flames in that series and with the team needing every available dollar for Gaudreau and future contracts for Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane, the money is better spent elsewhere.
If you wanted to, one could swap out Gudbranson’s name in here and insert Michael Stone or Nikita Zadorov. Their situations are very similar, the only difference being a higher level of skill on the side of Gudbranson and their respective cap hits. If it’s just about money, it might actually be Zadorov that goes.
A couple of pieces from the Flames’ blue line might have to go if the team believes they’ve found something good in Oliver Kylington. He really stepped forward for the team with a breakout 31-point season. If they see him as a pending RFA they want to lock into a long-term contract, they’ll need some space to do so.
While he has a history for Darryl Sutter, 35-year-old Trevor Lewis probably won’t be re-signed by the Flames this summer. A pending UFA, he didn’t provide much in the way of offense, even though he played close to a full schedule, getting in 80 games for the team. Unfortunately, he got exposed by the Oilers, taking a number of bad penalties that led to power-play goals, and the Flames’ mandate that series was to try and stay out of the penalty box. Lewis apparently didn’t get the memo.
Lewis was actually fairly productive for the Flames in their series versus the Dallas Stars so there might be some interest from another team to bring him in on a low-cost contract. For the Flames, he’s a late-summer decision at best, when they tackle a number of other house cleaning items that need addressing.
There will be some people who blame Darryl Sutter for not line-matching against the Oilers and with that will come stats that show Lewis was on the ice far too often against Connor McDavid. Is that on the player or the coach? It might not matter.
A trade deadline acquisition, Calle Jarnkrok played 17 games with the Flames to close the regular season and had no goals. In 12 playoff games, he potted one goal and added three assists. That might not sit well with the Flames who expected more from the forward who had 12 goals and 26 points on a lousy Seattle Kraken team.
Jarnkork is a pending UFA coming off of a six-year, $2 million per season contract he signed with the Nashville Predators. At the age of 30, he’s probably going to be looking for a raise on that deal and it might be hard for the Flames to justify giving him a bump if they need to keep money in the reserves.
The Flames might try to look at a Milan Lucic trade, letting Brett Ritchie walk or even freeing up space by dangling Mikael Backlund out there to see what the return might be. The Flames would rather not move Backlund, but sending his $5.35 million cap hit elsewhere would give GM Treliving some options.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”