The off-season officially kicked off with the newest NHL club, the Vegas Golden Knights, going through the expansion draft process, giving the team a chance to select one player from each team that was provided to them on a list. In the end, the Flames would lose a valuable role defenseman who was slated to be an Unrestricted Free Agent on July 1 in Deryk Engelland, who just so happens to call Las Vegas his home having played for the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers.
There wasn’t much time to breath though as the Flames staff had to be prepared for the NHL Entry Draft in Chicago just days later. Going into the draft the team had five picks and while they’d make a trade (more on that in a moment), they’d still utilize all five of those picks to select one defenseman and four forwards.
Their first round selection, Juuso Valimaki is an offensively gifted defenseman who plays in the Western Hockey League with the Tri-City Americans.
The Flames Director of Amateur Scouting, Tod Button, seemed very pleased with the remaining picks he and his staff helped make on Day 2 of the draft, selecting Adam Ruzicka out of the Ontario Hockey League, Zach Fischer out of Medicine Hat in the WHL, D’Artagnan Joly of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Filip Sveningsson out of Sweden.
In addition to filling the cupboards with new prospects, the Flames took care of some needs for the big club as well through way of trade, including a pre-draft trade to bring in goaltender Mike Smith from the Arizona Coyotes, and on the second day of the draft, the Flames stole the early headlines with a trade acquiring talented defenseman Travis Hamonic from the New York Islanders, solidifying their top four defenseman as some of the most formidable in the AHL.
After the draft and tradewinds calmed, the Flames had to make some decisions regarding their younger prospects who also happened to be Restricted Free Agents (RFA). For players like Jon Gillies, Tyler Wotherspoon and many others who are in need of new contracts and tagged as RFA’s, the first step for many is to receive a qualifying offer, which essentially doesn’t sign the player, but ensures that the rights of the player still belong to the Flames.
Nine of the 12 RFA’s in the Flames organization received qualifying offers, meaning the other three, Ryan Culkin, Kenney Morrison and Alex Chiasson, become Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA) that can sign with any club starting on July 1.
The Flames did qualify Sam Bennett (C), Micheal Ferland (RW), Jon Gillies (G), Garnet Hathaway (RW), Brett Kulak (D), Curtis Lazar (C), David Rittich (G), Linden Vey (C) and Tyler Wotherspoon (D).
While it wasn’t official until July 1, the Flames got an early start with a highly sought after NCAA free agent in Spencer Foo, beating out a number of other teams courting the talented winger. Foo, who suited up for Union College the last three seasons, was a finalist last year for the Hobey Baker Award given to the top collegiate hockey player in the county. In 113 NCAA games, Foo has recorded 112 points, including a 62 point campaign last season.
The Flames would swing another trade just before Free Agency figuring out their backup goalie conundrum with the acquisition of Eddie Lack along with defenseman Ryan Murphy from the Carolina Hurricanes. Going back the other way to Carolina was defenseman Keegan Kanzig who had spent parts of the last two seasons with the Stockton Heat.
With Free Agency opening up last Saturday, and the Flames re-upping the contract of Kris Versteeg while also buying out Lance Bouma and Murphy acquired in the Carolina Hurricanes trade, the Flames have some money to spend. The question now becomes who’s done enough to earn an internal look and who, outside of the organization, can help the Flames win a Stanley Cup.