First, the Flames were one of the first teams to change up their coaching staff after their season had concluded in April, as recent results likely dictated a change and a very qualified candidate in Bill Peters emerged.
The summer really kicked off with a huge deal that saw the Flames and Hurricanes engage in a blockbuster deal, which took some issues out of both dressing rooms and gave some players a new start in fresh surroundings. Free agency was good to the Flames, adding a little bit more scoring depth, veteran leadership and a couple more roster-worthy grinders to the mix.
Now with all of those changes done and in the mix, the Flames will have to answer the bell on the ice, because their market and their fan base are in desperate need of some playoff hockey and more answers than questions.
Table last updated on August 14th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
We're definitely going to go with one of the new faces from the summer in Elias Lindholm for the Flames, under the most intriguing player, likely to break out with his new team. Of all the additions, Lindholm, acquired in the trade with the Hurricanes, has the speed and skill, which they have not really had for their top line, to play with the likes of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.
The 23-year old Swede's contract situation was making him ripe for the picking in a new deal from Carolina and I think the Flames had really come out well with this deal. They get a guy that they've desperately needed, adding more speed and scoring punch to the mix. I would be expecting some big things from him this year.
First Round Picks
Right now, I would say that Gaudreau is the only 1st round pick on this team, but if the top line indeed adds Lindholm to it, that could mean some big things for Monahan as well, but it's just too early to tell. Gaudreau finished 23rd in pool scoring, just inside the top 25, and that's based on just his skill alone. He's a point-per-game producer, no problem.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
Matthew Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund, Mark Jankowski and newcomers James Neal and Derek Ryan should all be considered to be worthy as well. The addition of Neal and Ryan certainly fits the mould of where the Flames want to go with this roster and that's to the net, quickly. There's going to be a fair bit of excitement surrounding the Flames at the draft and it all leads back to the new faces.
Other Pool Worthy Defensemen
The defense did see a bit of an overhaul, which isn't quite complete yet, but out went Dougie Hamilton in the Carolina deal, leaving much of the big minute duties to Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie right now. There very well could have been a power struggle with so few minutes to work with on the blueline and too many guys that could give the Flames those minutes, so now that it has thinned out a bit, you could see some improvement there.
It will be Mike Smith's second season as the number one with the Flames and he'll get a new backup partner, which is likely to be Jon Gillies, but the job remains on the bubble with a guy like David Rittich in the mix as well. Currently, we're leaning towards Gillies. Either way, the goaltending will need a little bit more help in front this season or else it could be much of the same. Smith should do well enough to make a big push for points, but he'll eat so many minutes, that the backup might not see enough.
Team to Pick From Late?
There is a bit more depth on the forward side of the ledger, which could offer up a sleeper pick or two, but you might want to wait and see how much excitement the top part of the lineup generates, before you invest in the bottom.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
The other big acquisition in the Carolina trade is defenseman Noah Hanifin and he is in need of a new contract as well, one of the reasons why he was included in the trade. Hanifin is a restricted free agent, just out of his entry-level deal, and has shown some good upside to his NHL game. The Flames have a shade over $6 million in cap space with a full 23-man roster today, so they have some money to play with still. The team remains positive that a deal will get done, it's just a matter of when.
The Flames had some concussion issues at the end of last season with both T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic, but there hasn't been any reports on any lingering issues through the summer, which is definitely some good news.