Breaking down all contracts for the 2020-21 Flames roster

Calgary Flames players celebrate a goal against the Winnipeg Jets during first period NHL qualifying round game action in Edmonton, on Tuesday August 4, 2020. (Jason Franson/CP)

In a flat-cap world, it’s hard to imagine the Calgary Flames being able to affect significant changes in an off-season in which observers are clamouring for it.

At best, one could assume general manager Brad Treliving might be able to swap out one or two players of significance if he can find a dance partner willing to respond in kind.

It won’t be easy, which is why many should expect the bulk of the promising young group to be back for another crack at playoff redemption.

One year after finishing the regular season tops in the West, the Flames took a significant step backwards this year as they battled through plenty of adversity. Yet, there were plenty of positives in the resilience of a group that turned its season around by winning seven straight in the midst of Bill Peters’ forced departure.

Progress was made in the form of a gritty play-in win over the Winnipeg Jets, as well as a solid showing against a veteran Dallas Stars team… until giving up a touchdown in the final game, that is.

Today we take stock of the roster Treliving is aiming to refine moving forward, searching for the contracts he’d most like to move or extend with an eye on building a team built more for the playoffs:

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FORWARDS

Matthew Tkachuk

Position: Left wing
Age: 22
Contract Status: Signed for two more seasons
AAV: $7 million

The future captain is the only untouchable forward on the roster. Led the team in points this season (61) and single-handedly resurrected the Battle of Alberta with a toolbox that includes devices capable of sending opponents off the deep end. The Flames sorely missed his ability to swing momentum in the Dallas series, as he was dealing with a concussion.

If the GM is indeed interested in affecting significant change this off-season, he would be wise to find players with an ounce of the heart Tkachuk wears on his sleeve nightly. He only scored once in six playoff games, but his impact was felt through his series-shifting physicality against the Jets and his fight with Corey Perry against the Stars. No one else on the team has the ability to impact games like he does.

Johnny Gaudreau

Position: Left wing
Age: 27
Contract Status: Signed for two more years
AAV: $6.75 million

For the second off-season in a row the No. 1 topic of conversation for Flames fans and observers revolves around his history of being unable to contribute when the games matter most. Although he won’t admit it – for the second year in a row – he was largely invisible in the playoffs. He certainly deserves credit for helping ignite the power play, on which he got six of his seven points. But 5-on-5, nothing.

His regular-season production started picking up in the final few months, but his 18 goals and 58 points were far from the 99-point campaign he had a year earlier. Will he be traded? Grab a coin and flip it to try finding the answer.

Sean Monahan

Position: Centre
Age: 25
Contract Status: Signed for three more years
AAV: $6.375 million

He tied for the playoff points lead with two goals and six assists, as part of a summer stint in which he and Gaudreau continued to fall miserably short offensively while playing 5-on-5. Monahan’s defensive game continues to improve, which he takes great pride in. But he’s the first to admit his line needed more, as it could have been the difference in a Dallas series in which the first three losses were all one-goal shortfalls.

Debate rages over whether he’s a top-line centreman and whether he can continue to be a perennial 30-goal scorer without Gaudreau by his side. We may just find out before too long.

Mikael Backlund

Position: Centre
Age: 31
Contract Status: Signed for three more years
AAV: $5.35 million

Backlund quietly went about a solid playoff showing, highlighted by some stellar penalty killing, which included a key goal in the Dallas series. Backlund was top five in NHL scoring the last month of the season, after switching back to centre between Andrew Mangiapane and Tkachuk. They make up one of the league’s best two-way shutdown lines. Backlund is a valuable part of this team moving forward.

Milan Lucic

Position: Left wing
Age: 32
Contract Status: Signed for three more years
AAV: $5.25 million

Empowered by the coach to become a new man the last couple months of the season and into the playoffs, he led the way by setting the physical tone against Winnipeg and again against Dallas. He had a goal and six points in a third-line role that made him relevant and effective following several years of confidence issues in Edmonton. He gave the Flames exactly what they hoped for in the trade for James Neal.

The question is whether he’ll be able to pick up where he left off. We’ll find out, as his contract makes it tough to contemplate buying him out this year.

Elias Lindholm

Position: Right wing, centre
Age: 25
Contract Status: Signed for three more years
AAV: $4.85 million

Despite scoring a career-high 29 goals in the regular season, another sub-par playoff performance by the versatile Swede will dog him all off-season, as it will for linemates Gaudreau and Monahan. A year earlier he said his playoff failures revolved around changing his game to try focusing too much on hitting opponents. This year his playoff positives came in the form of special teams play, which is crucial in the post-season.

Half his six points came with the man advantage, while his penalty killing was stellar. Yet, the takeaway from most will revolve around the top line’s inability to impact the Dallas series in any way.

Derek Ryan

Position: Centre
Age: 33
Contract Status: Entering the final year of his contract
AAV: $3.12 million

After yet another serviceable season on the third line, the veteran was bumped to the fourth unit for the playoffs, where he focused largely on being one of the team’s best penalty killers. As cerebral a player as the Flames have, Ryan’s role next season may also include mentoring a youngster like Glenn Gawdin or Adam Ruzicka to take over his spot.

Calgary Flames’ Dube (29), Bennett (93) and Lucic (17) celebrate a goal against the Dallas Stars during second period NHL Western Conference Stanley Cup playoff action. (Jason Franson/CP)

Sam Bennett

Position: Centre, left wing
Age: 24
Contract Status: Entering the final year of his contract
AAV: $2.55 million

Playoff Sam Bennett showed up again and was arguably even more sensational than ever before. He followed up another ho-hum season with a playoff transformation he’s known around the league for. He led the playoffs in hits with an intensity and focus fans long for from the former fourth pick overall through the first 82 games. When it mattered most Bennett was once again taking a starring role, leading the lads with five goals, eight points and 32 shots in ten games. He did it all on the third line and power play. We only found out afterwards he did it while playing with a torn triceps suffered in Game 2. The legend grows, as will his bank account next summer when he’s a restricted free agent.

Mark Jankowski

Position: Centre, left wing
Age: 25
Contract Status: He is a restricted free agent
AAV: $1.675 million (last season)

Given the fact he needs to be qualified at $1.75 million it’s likely the first-rounder from 2012 has played his last game as a Flame. With Bennett’s inspiring playoff up the middle and the emergence of players like Glenn Gawdin and Adam Ruzicka there’s no more room for Jankowski at centre, given how far his play dropped off this season. A dependable penalty killer who scored 31 goals over the previous two seasons, the six-foot-four, 212-pounder will ply his trade elsewhere in the league.

Dillon Dube

Position: Right wing, left wing
Age: 22
Contract Status: One year left on his entry-level deal
AAV: $778,333

After the playoff he just had, Dube’s already considerable stock soared to new heights. As former captain of Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the world juniors, people knew of his leadership and offensive upside. Unsure anyone saw him being capable of the grit, intensity and finish he exhibited alongside Lucic and Bennett for what was clearly the Flames’ best line all playoffs.

After opening the season in Stockton, the second-rounder kept building toward what was a monumental playoff showing that solidified him as damn-near untouchable moving forward. His four playoff goals, including three-straight game-openers, came despite missing most of the first week of training camp 2.0. His newfound confidence bodes well for a top-six role in the not-too-distant future.

Andrew Mangiapane

Position: Left wing, right wing
Age: 24
Contract Status: Is a restricted free agent
AAV: $715,000 (last season)

One year after being handed a take-it-or-leave-it contract for what is essentially the league minimum, the sixth-round pick with arbitration rights is in line for a significant raise. He spent the bulk of his first full season with the big club on the second line alongside Backlund and Tkachuk, where a second-half surge had him on pace for 20 goals. Analytics folks love the kid, too, as he’s led the team in 5-on-5 efficiency the last two years.

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Tobias Rieder

Position: Right wing, left wing
Age: 27
Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent
AAV: $700,000 (last season)

Invited to camp on a PTO, Rieder proved to be a solid addition to the team’s depth, especially as a penalty killer. His three short-handed playoff goals put him in elite company, alongside only six others (including Wayne Gretzky) who’ve had as many shorties in a playoff run. All three were high-impact goals, earning the speedy German a promotion to the top six in the final few games of the Dallas series where he was arguably one of the best Flames on the ice.

Not bad for a gent with no goals the previous season in Edmonton. Beloved in the dressing room for his work ethic, surely he’s proven he’s worthy of an NHL contract somewhere, if not Calgary.

Zac Rinaldo

Position: Left wing
Age: 30
Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent
AAV: $700,000 (last season)

Labelled the team’s chief “Rah-Rah Guy” for his energy and enthusiasm, Rinaldo was another PTO signing that turned out well for the Flames. Whenever the feisty winger was inserted into the lineup he often led the team in hits despite limited ice time on the fourth line. In a career marked with transgressions that have earned him several suspensions for over-aggressiveness, Rinaldo did well to tone himself down this season and remain in the league. That said, a bad penalty early in the playoffs earned him a seat in the stands.

Austin Czarnik

Position: Right wing, left wing
Age: 27
Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent
AAV: $1.25 million (last year)

Neither side has any interest in prolonging a two-year relationship that didn’t work out.

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Glenn Gawdin

Position: Centre, right wing
Age: 23
Contract Status: restricted free agent
AAV: $775,000 (last season)

The former Swift Current Broncos star progressed well last year to the point he got a call-up that didn’t result in game action. In his second pro season, Gawdin led Stockton with 47 points in 53 games and is now seen as a more complete player, capable of making a push at camp next season. At the very least, expect him to get his first playing time in the NHL next year.

Adam Ruzicka

Position: Centre, right wing
Age: 21
Contract Status: two years remaining
AAV: $801,666

The knock on the six-foot-four, 220-pound Slovak was his inconsistency, which he shored up in the second half of his first AHL campaign in Stockton. In the final month, he was called upon to play all key roles for the club, giving management plenty of hope that big body of his might soon be skating in the bigs.

Jakob Pelletier

Position: Centre
Age: 19
Contract Status: two years remaining
AAV: $925,000

Pelletier is almost certainly destined for another year of junior action where he can continue to build up his five-foot-nine, 167-pound frame while bulking up on stats that saw him score 32 goals and 82 points in 57 games for the Moncton Wildcats. The Flames’ first-round pick from a year ago is also expected to get a big role on Team Canada at the world juniors – an event he missed due to injury last year. He was traded to Val D’or in the off-season perhaps as the Wildcats feared he’d make the jump to the NHL.

Mark-Giordano-Calgary-Flames-Patrik-Laine-Winnipeg-Jets
Calgary Flames captain Giordano (5) and Winnipeg Jets winger Laine (29) battle for the puck during the NHL Heritage Classic outdoor game in Regina. (Liam Richards/CP)

DEFENCE

Mark Giordano

Position: Left defenceman
Age: 36
Contract Status: Two years left on contract
AAV: $6.75 million

He didn’t have anywhere near the type of season he had a year earlier when he was the Norris Trophy winner. At both ends of the ice, things didn’t come nearly as easy for the undrafted stud, whose 31 points in 60 games were less than half the 74 he had a year earlier.

In the playoffs, he was moved to the second power-play unit and only had three assists in ten games. Still revered for his leadership as captain of the club, Giordano will continue to play meaningful roles for the team moving forward, although his impact dropped off this season. Whether the team will protect him in the expansion draft may come down to being a calculated gamble, as well as how well he plays next season.

Noah Hanifin

Position: Left defenceman
Age: 23
Contract Status: Three years left on his contract
AAV: $4.95 million

Plenty of attention and expectations on this lad since he was taken fifth overall in 2015. Had a very solid playoff showing alongside Rasmus Andersson and is unquestionably a second-pairing staple who skates well enough to make the six-foot-three, 215-pound Boston native a potential top-pairing candidate down the road. He’s still young and has plenty of upside, which also makes him a valuable trade chip if significant changes are in order.

T.J. Brodie

Position: Right defenceman
Age: 30
Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent
AAV: $4.65 million (last season)

After many years as Giordano’s partner on the top pairing, Brodie had one of his best seasons in 2020. His four goals and 19 points were near career-lows, but his defensive play was stellar, as was his consistency following a scary, early season incident in practice that saw him collapse to the ice and convulse as terrified teammates looked on. Of the five unrestricted free agents on his back end, surely Brodie tops Treliving’s wish list. But at what price?

Brodie’s skating is elite, which will draw plenty of interest from teams seeking someone capable of stepping into a top pairing. He’s versatile, too, as the left-shot defender actually prefers playing his off-side, which is where the Flames need help the most. One might assume the soft-spoken Ontario native would prefer to return to Calgary where he’s been comfortable the last decade, but perhaps money could change that.

Travis Hamonic

Position: Right defenceman
Age: 30
Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent
AAV: $3.85 milion (last season)

A pillar of the community and the Flames’ defensive group the last three seasons, Hamonic is destined for a new address next season. Given their options, the Flames won’t entertain paying the Manitoba native what he’s hoping for on the open market. A defensive gem who built solid chemistry alongside Hanifin in the second pairing, his decision to opt out of the playoffs for family reasons almost certainly marked the end of the road for him in Calgary.

Derek Forbort

Position: Left defenceman
Age: 28
Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent
AAV: $1.893 million (last season)

The Flames would likely be interested in re-upping the former Los Angeles Kings D-man, by virtue of his dependability during the playoffs. Acquired at the trade deadline, Forbort was a solid third-pairing defender who played a big role in the team’s penalty killing against Winnipeg and Dallas. However, he’ll likely command a little too much on the open market for the role he’d play in Calgary.

Erik Gustafsson

Position: Left and right defenceman
Age: 28
Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent
AAV: $1.2 million (last season)

The Flames would love to sign the versatile power-play specialist, but the price tag will likely be far too high given the 17-goal, 60-point season he posted in Chicago two seasons back. After just seven games with the Flames, the trade deadline acquisition supplanted Giordano on the top power-play unit throughout the playoffs. A left-shooting Swede who played the right side in Calgary, the Flames could certainly use his skill set moving forward.

Rasmus Andersson

Position: Right defenceman
Age: 23
Contract Status: Six years left on contract
AAV: $4.55 million

No one in the organization is tabbed to be a Flame longer than the Swedish defenceman, by virtue of the six-year deal he signed in the midst of last season. Extra valuable as he’s one of the few right-handed shots the Flames have in the lineup, the former second-rounder demonstrated in the playoffs he’s ready to be an impact player with three goals and five points to lead Flames defencemen.

The GM has turned down plenty of trade deadline offers for Andersson the last few years, as it’s not unreasonable to believe he could be the opening night starter alongside Giordano next season. He was arguably the Flames’ best defenceman in the playoffs despite playing with a broken foot suffered in Game 2 against the Jets. His big shot can anchor a power play, his feistiness can motivate a team and his calmness and decision-making make him a top-four defender for years to come. He and Juuso Valimaki are tabbed as the top pairing of the future.

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Oliver Kylington

Position: Left defenceman
Age: 23
Contract Status: Restricted free agent
AAV: $730,833 (last season)

Drafted in the second round of the 2015 draft, Kylington has spent parts of five seasons in Stockton where he’s been on the cusp of making the jump to the NHL. He has accumulated 86 games in the NHL the last two seasons, which has included being a healthy scratch many times. His skating is sublime, but coaches don’t seem to be able to trust him enough defensively to make him a regular just yet. Certainly could be a trade candidate as part of a bigger deal.

Michael Stone

Position: Right defenceman
Age: 30
Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent
AAV: $700,000 (last season)

Whether he re-signs with the Flames or not he’s guaranteed to be on the payroll next season by virtue of the buyout last summer that will pay him $1.16 million. A serviceable, dependable alternative on the right side, Stone was a late addition as insurance for the back end.

The former Calgary Hitmen star still has a cannon of a shot and was one of the few right-handed blue-liners in the organization, making him a nice fit at the league minimum. He only got into 33 games last season and still has plenty of tread left on those tires for a team looking for a third-pairing fit who is low maintenance.

Juuso Valimaki

Position: Left defenceman
Age: 21
Contract Status: One year left on entry-level deal
AAV: $894,166

The Flames first-rounder missed the entire season recovering from knee surgery, following an off-season training incident. The affable Finn is one of two defensive untouchables in the organization, as he’s talented enough to ultimately be tabbed to replace Giordano on the top pairing. The 6-foot-2, 212-pounder has just 24 games of NHL experience since turning pro two years ago, but showed enough to prove he belongs.

Connor Mackey

Position: Left defenceman
Age: 23
Contract Status: Signed a one-year deal
AAV: $925,00

A standout at Minnesota State U, Mankato, the six-foot-two, 200-pound Illinois native was signed out of school this year to a one-year deal. The Flames think highly enough of him they brought him to training camp 2.0 even though he was ineligible for the playoffs. It was a significant move as the team wanted to see how quickly they felt he could assimilate to the NHL game. An impressive showing gave management crucial information as they plot for next year with an eye on him making the big club and perhaps not having to spend big on a free agent defenceman.

Calgary Flames goalies Talbot and Rittich. (Larry MacDougal/CP)

GOALIES

David Rittich

Age: 28
Contract Status: One year left on contract
AAV: $2.75 million

Will be fascinating to see how he rebounds from a second-straight playoff snub, which was made worse by a hastened insertion into the final game of the year when he was exposed for three goals in less than a period. If the Flames can afford to re-sign Talbot, as desired, Rittich makes for a nice 1B, which is a switcheroo from a year earlier when he was 1A and made the all-star team. Three-straight second-half slumps have hurt his stock, but the Flames have invested plenty in continuing to bring the undrafted Czech character along.

Cam Talbot

Age: 33
Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent
AAV: $2.75 million (last season)

He was the Flames MVP in the playoffs – a gig he earned with a calm, consistent campaign in which surpassed Rittich as the go-to guy. Bouncing back after two horrific years, Talbot resurrected his brand by proving conclusively he can still be a top goalie in the league. He will want to be paid accordingly, while also balancing the comfort of a situation in Calgary he and his family enjoyed. The Flames told him during the pandemic pause they wanted him back, and after the playoff he had, which included a .924 save percentage, that hasn’t changed.

Artyom Zagidulin

Age: 25
Contract Status: Recently signed one-year extension
AAV: $700,000

The Russian’s first season in the AHL went well, prompting his signature on a return engagement in which he will likely be the go-to guy in the AHL. His play levelled off after a brilliant start, but the team believes he’s worth continuing to invest in, a la Rittich.

Tyler Parsons

Age:22
Contract Status: Restricted free agent
AAV: $759,000 (last season)

Injuries have hammered the highly touted prospect, who should get a shot at full-time employment in Stockton this year to get him back on track.

Jon Gillies

Age: 26
Contract Status: unrestricted free agent
AAV: $750,000 (last year)

Neither party has any interest in pursuing this relationship, which is a shame given how highly touted he was as an NCAA champ.

Dustin Wolf

Age: 19
Contract Status: Three years left
AAV: $815,000

The seventh-round pick of the 2019 draft continues to be seen as the team’s goalie of the future. The only question is whether he can overcome a six-foot, 165-pound frame to make the next few steps. He was named the Canadian Hockey League’s goalie of the year in Everett this season with a 34-10-2 record, 1.88 GAA and .935 save percentage. He’s still two or three years away from making the sort of jump his former tandem-mate, Carter Hart, made in Philly.

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