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With the off-season fireworks yet to begin, I thought it'd be the perfect time to answer questions about what we could see from the Calgary Flames in the coming weeks and months.
Let's get right to it.
Yes, yes, and yes. I couldn't be more on board with targeting Jason Zucker, especially if the asking price is as low as it seems (word is Michael Frolik, and perhaps a sweetener, almost got it done at the deadline). Over the last three years, Zucker ranks 51st in goals/60 – tied with Nik Ehlers, Jamie Benn, and Jonathan Marchessault – and 75th in points/60 at 5v5. Even after a disappointing 2018-19 campaign, his numbers are still that of an undisputed top line player. He also makes a very positive impact defensively and is versatile enough to play either wing. I think he'd be a great fit in Frolik's spot, and make the 2nd line even more dangerous. He could also move up to L1 any time things go stale and Bill Peters needs to shake things up.
For all his faults, Monahan is still a really good, and valuable, player. Goal scoring is perhaps the toughest talent to find, and it is Monahan's best. He doesn't bring much else to the table but he is only 24 so perhaps his play without the puck could still improve a little bit. The Flames don't really have any other internal options at 1C, and I think trading Monahan would be a mistake because I'm not sure anyone you get back will be as good – not to mention any team acquiring Monahan probably doesn't have a similarly talented center to send back the other way.
If he somehow became available in free agency, William Karlsson would be a very attractive option – he's 26, he can skate, and his defensive impact is much better than Monahan's – but that would take a lot of cap maneuvering and I'm not sure that's possible without giving up really promising futures.
I think it is likely they bring back David Rittich. At 5v5, he was one of the league's best goaltenders and his overall numbers were pretty solid considering it was a down year for goalies across the league. As far as backup options are concerned, I think targeting someone like Curtis McElhinney or Anders Nilsson makes the most sense given their expected budget. I would much prefer that than going with Jon Gillies coming off a sub .900SV% year in Stockton.
With regards to RW2, in a perfect world they can revisit Zucker trade talks and plug him in there (I know he is a natural LW, but he can play there). If there was an appetite for trading someone like Juuso Valimaki or Rasmus Andersson, I think Mark Stone would be a member of the Flames right now. I could see Oliver Kylington moved if the deal is right, though I doubt the Flames will be anxious to include him either.
I think Mrazek – and Lehner especially – will be too pricey for the Flames if they're handing out a few million to Rittich. As mentioned above, I think they'll have to go with cheaper options like McElhinney or Nilsson. If Smith doesn't like what he sees come July and is forced to take a noticeable pay cut regardless of where he plays, I think it's possible he circles back and stays in Calgary.
Unless the Flames walk away from Rittich, and find a way to clear additional space, I don't see that happening. Lehner has posted a .920 save percentage or better in three of the last four seasons (he didn't play a ton of games in some of them, I know) and just put together a Vezina finalist-worthy season while playing for $1.5 million. I expect he'll stay with the Islanders but, either way, I think he'll be looking to cash in. I don't think the Flames can afford to give him what he'd command on the open market, so I don't see it happening.
This is a fun question. I'll go against the grain a little bit and say Matthew Phillips. He doesn't really get much fanfare but he quietly produced 5v5 points at a more efficient rate than tons of highly drafted notables, including Alex Nylander, Jordan Kyrou, Kailer Yamamoto, Michael Dal Colle, and Filip Zadina. He is really talented, and I think his 2018-19 production is a really positive sign for his development. I think he has an NHL career ahead of him.
At this point, the chances of becoming anything close to the player he was expected to be when chosen near the top of the draft are slim to none. He plays hard, he can skate, and he provides energy to any line he is on. There just isn't enough offense, be it playmaking or natural finishing ability. I think he is a middle-6 guy – more 3rd line than 2nd – and that's probably what he'll be for the next decade. If any team still believes otherwise, the Flames might be smart to part ways. I'm not sure that's likely, though.
Calgary Flames contract projections
On the signing of Carl-Johan Lerby
Examining potential backup options for the Flames
On Tkachuk's next contract and a bit of a cap crunch
The Flames should listen to offers for T.J. Brodie
Flames sign Alexander Yelesin
Mark Giordano named a Norris finalist
Flames sign Artyom Zagidulin
Flames among those targeting Joakim Nygard
On the Jason Zucker trade that almost was