Flames Mailbag: Where does Gaudreau end up after incredible season?

Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau is due to become a free agent on July 13. (Larry MacDougal/CP)

Will Johnny Gaudreau stay?

Will any of his teammates sign long-term?

Will the team lose leaders like Milan Lucic, Sean Monahan or Erik Gudbranson?

You have questions, we have, well, attempts at answers. 

Time to wrap the Flames season up with a mailbag.

Considering your historical comments/pieces, what factor makes you most convinced that Johnny will leave – money, family, other? I’m 50/50 on whether he stays – I think the Flames can make the money work, it’s more of a personal decision for Johnny and family.

I agree with you, the Flames can make the money work, and it’s all up to Gaudreau to decide if he believes the grass is greener elsewhere.

Given the incredible season he and his team just had under Sutter, combined with the iconic moment he had in overtime of Game 7 against Dallas, I’m really starting to believe he could stay.

For years I based my belief he’d leave on his desire to be closer to family in Jersey, as well as the notion he could get more money elsewhere.

There are so many cities with better weather and tax rates, and quite frankly I wasn’t convinced in past years the Flames were willing to pay top dollar for a player who had struggled in the postseason as he had. 

Well, he took massive strides as a player in the regular season and the playoffs this year, which I believe has changed the Flames’ mindset on the superstar.

The money will be made available if he wants to stay, and he’s a married man now whose wife likes Calgary. It’s a great place to raise a family while becoming the most prolific Flame of all time.

I believe legacy matters to him, as does comfort, and he’s certainly comfortable here as the star of the NHL’s top line. If he stays, the tight-knit Flames will be one of the NHL’s teams to beat next year.

I believe eight years times $10 million could get it done.

Is there a better chance Andrew Mangiapane or Matthew Tkachuk will sign a long-term deal with the Flames this summer?

I’d be shocked if either one committed here long term this summer, UNLESS Gaudreau chooses not to sign in Calgary.

Both upwardly mobile young stars stand to make more a year from now when they’re on the verge of unrestricted free agency and can threaten to take a peek at what opportunities there are out there. (see Gaudreau above)

Until the Flames have cost certainty with the Gaudreau situation, the Flames aren’t in a position to offer the type of deals that would make either player sign long term.

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If Gaudreau leaves, would Tkachuk want to stay?

Would Mangiapane want to stay if Gaudreau and Tkachuk stay, relegating him to permanent second-line status? 

They’ll have answers to so many questions as time marches on, giving them plenty of reasons not to commit anytime soon.

I know he’s a fan favourite but I thought Lucic hurt the Flames’ depth in Round 2. Fighting became less of a factor in the playoffs. Is there any path out of that contract?

Because of the way his contract is structured, it’s essentially buy-out proof. 

However, with a base salary of just $1 million there is a chance a rebuilding team that needs to get to the salary floor would be willing to make a swap for the last year of the 33-year-old’s $6 million cap hit. (The Oilers are still paying $750,000 of that.)

He’s due a signing bonus of $3 million this summer and has a list of eight teams submitted that the Flames can trade him to. That list changes to 10 teams on July 1.  

It won’t be easy or cheap for the Flames to alleviate the big cap hit he carries, but it can be done.

Popular in the room, he is a leader who adds several important intangibles to the roster, albeit at an inflated price.

With all the raises coming to #13, #19, #58 and #88 how can the Flames afford to keep Sean Monahan?  

As hard as it is to believe they can keep Monahan and his $6.375-million cap hit, it’s harder to imagine how they can get rid of it.

The most logical solution would have been a buyout, but given his latest hip surgery, that’s not possible under the CBA’s rule of prohibiting buyouts of injured players.

If there’s a market for a fourth-line centre coming off major surgery and making that sort of money, you can bet it would come at the steepest of prices, i.e., draft picks the Flames don’t have.

It will take some incredible creativity to see Monahan’s final season under contract in anything other than a Flames uniform.  

Was this a step forward for the Flames?

Yes, winning a round is a step forward around these parts, as is winning the division one year after missing the playoffs.

The team’s core players got a taste of playoff success (and seventh-game euphoria) before a second-round showing that never saw the team get a chance to dictate the play as they did most of the season. 

Ten players had career years statistically, Jacob Markstrom became a Vezina finalist, Dan Vladar proved himself as a legitimate NHLer, Mangiapane scored 35 on the second line and everyone on the team’s top line elevated their status as 40-goal scorers.

Plenty of forward progress to point at.

Who from Stockton is ready for the NHL next year? 

Given their cap crunch the Flames are likely going to have to count on one or two farm hands to start the season in the bigs.

The most likely candidate is Connor Mackey, 25, who led all defenceman in Stockton with 36 points in 53 games. 

Up front, WHL rookie hotshot Jakob Pelletier will likely be the talk of camp, as the 21-year-old’s competition level and offensive skills may just land him a promotion. Named to the AHL all-rookie team, the kid with 27 goals and 62 points finished second in AHL scoring.

Little-known Walker Duehr is another possible starter, as his size and mobility could be an asset as a cheap fourth-liner.

Any chance we can keep all seven of the playoff D?

No chance.

Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev and Oliver Kylington are controlled by the Flames, but Gudbranson and Nikita Zadorov likely priced themselves out of Calgary.

Unless they are willing to take a significant discount to stay, neither of the twin towers will be back.

Stone wants to keep his family in Calgary, and his play late this season and in the playoffs earned him a likely extension to stay. That said, while teammates love him and he’d come at the league minimum, Sutter seemed less than enthused about the play of the 31-year-old free agent.  

Expect Mackey to join the group for the bulk of the season. Juuso Valimaki is also likely to see some time in Calgary.

Is Dustin Wolf too good to leave in the minors?

I’ll put it this way: he’s too talented and valuable to consider rushing him into the NHL.

The Flames want him playing as much as possible for at least the first two years of his pro career, to see if he can acclimate to the pro game.

So far so good, as the 21-year-old went 33-9-4 with a .924 save percentage and 2.35 GAA in Stockton this year to prove his athleticism can help him overcome his undersized frame against men. It earned him goalie of the year honours.

With Vladar under contract for another year, it would take an injury for the Flames to consider calling up Wolf to disrupt his development. 

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