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Season preview: Calgary Flames


Season preview: Calgary Flames

To get you ready for the 2015-16 season, we will be previewing all 30 NHL in 30 days, division by division. Check the bottom of the page for a schedule of each preview.

Today’s team: Calgary Flames

2014-15 record: 45-30-7, 3rd in the Pacific

How they finished: Lost in five games to Anaheim in the Western Conference Semifinals

Coach: Bob Hartley (4th season)

Notable additions: D Dougie Hamilton, RW Michael Frolik

Notable subtractions: D Raphael Diaz

RELATED: With Johansson signed, are the Caps done making moves?

Schedule against the Capitals: Tues. Oct. 20 at Calgary, Fri. Nov 13. at Washington

Outlook: Calgary shocked the hockey world by not only making the playoffs last season, but advancing to the second round. Though the Flames are full of talent, their success last season was as inexplicable as it is unsustainable. Calgary was one of the worst possession teams at five-on-five last season with a Corsi for percentage of 44.5. They also had a lot of late-game comebacks, managing to win or force overtime 14 times when trailing after two periods. The Flames simply cannot expect that success to continue next season without better possession numbers and better starts.

Having said that, there's a lot to like about this Calgary team.

The team managed to keep every key player from last season and also added two key pieces in Dougie Hamilton and Michael Frolik, both of whom will help the team's possession stats. The Hamilton addition also helps shore up a defense that had limited depth. Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie are very good as the top pairing, but everything behind them was essentially a question mark. With Hamilton in the fold, the Flames have a solid top three and can cycle Dennis Wideman, Ladislav Smid, Deryk Engelland and Kris Russell to find where each player best fits.

Offensively, you hope to see the young players continue to develop. Johnny Gaudreau turns 22 in August and had 64 points last season. There is definite superstar potential there. Jiri Hudler is playing the best hockey of his career and at 31-years-old the Flames should be able to get one or two more years out of him before he really begins to decline.

Calgary was in the top ten last season in scoring. With their young players still developing, the addition of Frolik and a healthy Giordano back on the blue line, this offense may be shockingly good this year.

In net, the Flames bring back Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo. Hiller took control in the regular season, but both goalies appeared in seven games in the playoffs. The Flames need Hiller to establish himself as a top netminder not just over the regular season, but in the playoffs as well.

Neither goalie looks good enough to carry the team, but with the offense and an improved defense, they won't have to.

Expectations: One reason the Flames were able to sneak into the playoffs last season was the decline of Los Angeles and San Jose. While Los Angeles could return to playoff form this season, both Vancouver and San Jose look to be on the decline. Calgary is not.

Anaheim showed Calgary that there is a difference between a playoff team in their series last year. The Flames do not look to be on that level yet, but they are on the right track. They will be good enough to make the playoffs again, but it would be a surprise to see them really challenge for the division or the conference.

MORE CAPS: Caps get a good deal with Johansson contract

See more team previews:

Pacific Division 
Anaheim Ducks
Arizona Coyotes
Edmonton Oilers 8/4 
Los Angeles Kings 8/5 
San Jose Sharks 8/6 
Vancouver Canucks 8/7

Central Division 
Chicago Blackhawks 8/8 
Colorado Avalanche 8/9 
Dallas Stars 8/10 
Minnesota Wild 8/11
St. Louis Blues 8/13 
Winnipeg Jets 8/14

Atlantic Division 
Boston Bruins 8/15 
Buffalo Sabres 8/16 
Detroit Red Wings 8/17 
Florida Panthers 8/18 
Montreal Canadiens 8/19 
Ottawa Senators 8/20< 
Tampa Bay Lightning 8/21 
Toronto Maple Leafs 8/22

Metropolitan Division 
Carolina Hurricanes 8/23 
Columbus Blue Jackets 8/24 
New Jersey Devils 8/25 
New York Islanders 8/26 
New York Rangers 8/27 
Philadelphia Flyers 8/28 
Pittsburgh Penguins 8/29 
Washington Capitals 8/30

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Caps GM Brian MacLellan addresses latest Andre Burakovsky trade rumors


Caps GM Brian MacLellan addresses latest Andre Burakovsky trade rumors

Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky dodges trade rumors like Indiana Jones escaped giant rolling stones.

When Burakovsky made it through the Feb. 25 NHL trade deadline still with Washington it appeared he was here to stay a while longer. He even played better down the stretch. But that might not have been enough to save him. 

Multiple NHL sources said Wednesday that Burakovsky would likely be dealt at this weekend’s NHL Draft in Vancouver. There is no question he is drawing interest from teams around the league.  

“We'd like to keep him around, but obviously his name is out there a little bit, so we do talk to some teams about him,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said in a conference call on Thursday. “But we're not going to move him unless we get something we're comfortable with back.”

MacLellan, as blunt a general manager as there is in the NHL, might be employing semantics there. The Capitals are trying to get what they can and won’t undercut their own leverage by saying Burakovsky is out the door.

Burakovsky has frustrated coaches and executives alike in Washington. He flashes great potential and has the pedigree to be a solid middle-six forward. But he’s been stuck on 12 goals three years in a row and can’t seem to find a consistent role. Last year he was a healthy scratch six times. 

Injuries played some role in that in previous years. But Burakovsky hasn’t taken advantage of his opportunities, either. Yet he has also come up with some incredible goals. Three times he’s scored in a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup playoffs. No one can forget his goals against Tampa Bay in the 2018 Eastern Conference Final that secured Washington’s trip to the Stanley Cup Final. He’s also entering his age-25 season and had 17 goals in his second season in the NHL. 

But with a $3.25 million qualifying offer due Monday and the salary cap possibly tighter than expected, Washington might not have a choice even if it has a last-second change of heart on trading Burakovsky. 

It’s not know exactly what kind of deal the Capitals are pursuing: A one-for-one deal with a player who has his own issues? A mix of draft picks and prospects who won’t contribute to a team in “win-now” mode? Washington could always pull back – as they did at the deadline. But without knowing what MacLellan feels he needs from a Burakovsky trade it’s hard to know what would give him another chance to stay.

MacLellan wouldn’t even commit to tendering Burakovsky that $3.25 million qualifying offer by Monday’s deadline. He said Washington will take a look at the salary cap once the NHL gets around to announcing it hopefully by Saturday at the draft. Then they’ll check back with the agents of all their RFAs – Jakub Vrana is safe - and decide how to proceed. 

But if they don’t qualify Burakovsky, the one other RFA they have the rights to who would draw interest around the league, he becomes an unrestricted free agent and can sign anywhere. Hard to see how that benefits the Capitals to lose an asset they claim to value for nothing. Time is running short.

“Andre had a frustrating year this year, but I think he finished it up well,” MacLellan said. “I think from the trade deadline on, I thought he had a good playoffs. We like the player. There's been some inconsistencies there, but when he's on his game, he's a good player.”


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Uncertainty over NHL salary cap has Caps GM Brian MacLellan frustrated

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Uncertainty over NHL salary cap has Caps GM Brian MacLellan frustrated

Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan had a number in his head. It is the most important one for any NHL executive heading into the offseason: $83 million. 

That was the expected salary cap for the 2019-20 season and – with some small margin for error – the amount MacLellan and his staff used to formulate their offseason plan. But it is June 20 and the number that was originally at $83 million could drop to as low as $81.5 million, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. 

Given that Washington has some carryover for bonuses and overages from last season worth about $1.150 million, it could be working with a cap number as low as $80.35 million. That is not ideal for a team where every dollar could spell the difference between upgrading its middle-six forwards or adding a veteran fourth-line player. 

The NHL is expected to come to an agreement with the NHL Players’ Association soon and let teams know the number by Saturday, the second day of the entry draft in Vancouver. That’s a few days later than normal, however, and forces GMs to make decisions during the draft regarding trades and picking prospects they otherwise might not.   

"It's frustrating. We've been projecting using that 83 (million dollars) number for the last part of the year,” MacLellan told reporters in a conference call on Thursday. “At some point, we switched back to the 82.5 because there was some rumblings there, and now it seems to be going back a little further. I know it seems like it's not a large amount of dollars, but it does impact teams that are right at the number as far as salary.”

On an $82 million cap, the Capitals have about $9.7 million in room according to the great web site But they need to sign restricted free agent Jakub Vrana and add four other bottom-six forwards and a depth defenseman. That is an extremely tight fit and might rule out some free agent options MacLellan had interest in. 

The free-agent “interview” period begins Sunday when teams can talk to agents of pending free agents and gauge what their demands will be and if they are a fit when the market opens on July 1. 

That, in turn, effects negotiations with Vrana and any other RFAs (Andre Burakovsky, Chandler Stephenson, Christian Djoos) that Washington might want to bring back. Burakovsky is likely to be traded at the draft this weekend, according to multiple NHL sources with knowledge of Washington’s thinking. A further budget crunch would seem to seal his fate.  

MacLellan wouldn’t confirm that and even said “we like the player.” But Burakovsky is due a $3.25 million qualifying offer by Monday so the decision might have been made for them. If the cap is the worst-case scenario ($81.5 million) the Capitals are in a real bind. But they’d like to know for sure.   

“When you see it go down to maybe 81.5, I think there's a pause on our part,” MacLellan said. “We want to see the number before we move forward because it's going to affect our roster decisions even on the bottom end - on fourth line and what we have to do going forward because the margins are that slim for us."