Editor’s note: NHL free agency was fast and furious, and the moves that teams did (and did not) make set the tone for next season. All week, we’ll examine the Sharks’ Pacific Division rivals, and whether their free-agency approach put them in better, worse or the same position. Today, we dive into the Calgary Flames.
When it came to competing for bragging rights in the Western Conference last season, the Sharks and the Flames were neck-and-neck. The season series between the two squads was packed with intense games, some bad blood, and one particular hit that sent fans from both sides into a frenzy.
Then Calgary got the boot early in the playoffs by the Avalanche and that regular-season race became forgotten.
But make no mistake, the Flames aren't going to lose their status as a playoff contender anytime in the near future. While they weren't the loudest team on the first day of free agency -- like the Sharks, they have players they want to sign and not a lot of cap room to work with -- they still made some moves. Here's a look at how Calgary did in the opening of free agency.
Players who signed
Calgary made additions to all parts of its lineup when the market opened up, signing center Byron Froese, defenseman Brandon Davidson, and goaltender Cam Talbot. Sharks' fans are probably the most familiar with Talbot, who started for the Edmonton Oilers for a few seasons before being traded last year to the Philadelphia Flyers. Talbot is also, frankly, the most interesting pickup Calgary made.
The Flames got a big boost last season when David Rittich took over starting goaltender duties for Mike Smith, who was incredibly streaky during the regular season -- although Smith did come up big for Calgary when Rittich was sidelined with a lower-body injury. Talbot saw a dip in his numbers last season, but the Flames have expressed they think he'll have a bounce-back season with them.
With Smith not returning to Calgary next season and Rittich -- a restricted free-agent -- still not signed to a contract yet, one has to wonder whether Talbot was acquired as a backup or to compete right out of the gate for the starting job.
Players who left
In addition to Smith heading to Talbot's old stomping grounds in Edmonton, free agency also brought about the departures of Garnet Hathaway, Curtis Lazar, Oscar Fantenberg, and Dalton Prout -- who, of course, was signed by the Sharks a couple of days after the market opened.
Outside of Hathaway's five game-winning goals -- tied for second-best on the team -- and the grit he brought to the ice, the Flames didn't lose anyone who was a significant contributor. The losses do, however, cut a bit into Calgary's depth. Since they only have $9,473,292 in cap space according to CapFriendly, it would appear the Flames are looking to find depth from within the organization as opposed to going out and signing a free agent.
Better, worse, or the same?
The Flames really haven't come out better or worse after the start of free agency, since the core of their team is still intact. The only major question mark is in goal, and how things pan out between Rittich and Talbot.
The real challenge for the Flames is going to be getting Rittich, Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk signed to deals before the end of the summer with the limited money they have to work with. Without those players, Calgary's depth takes a hit and the grit they've exuded against the Sharks over the last couple of seasons diminishes.