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Flames Free Agency; Using their cap efficiently, who should they pick up?

There are a lot of notable free agents, and the Flames have a lot of cap space. Some positions for the Calgary Flames are not deep enough, so instead of waiting for the prospects should they pick up a few players? Someone with the likes of Michael Frolik, Mike Green, Antti Niemi. There are also a few notable RFA’s, such as Dougie Hamilton. The Flames have a lot of options this year, which is always nice. They must use their cap wisely and make sure there is enough there for the future of the Flames when needed. But I’m not too worried, they should and could spend a little bit of money this season in free agency to pick up some guys to solidify the team. Justin Williams is another good free agent, whom the LA Kings probably won’t resign. He is a solid scoring forward and who knows, when by himself might turn into a scoring machine. If the Flames don’t resign Ramo they could trade Hiller for a draft pick and then maybe try and pick up a goalie with the caliber of Antti Niemi. Niemi has a Stanley Cup ring and could be very valuable to an organization such as the Flames.

Top UFA’s

14. Michael Frolik
Age on July 1: 27
Position: Right wing
2014-15 cap hit: $3.3 million
Contract year report: With 19 goals and 23 assists, the Czech winger enjoyed his best season as a Jet. Frolik contributed zero points to during Winnipeg’s sweep to the hands of the Ducks, however.
Latest dirt: Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press figures Frolik is worth about $4 million per year and suggests a four-year re-signing, but he guesses agent Allan Walsh will be looking to get his client closer to $5 million per. “The Jets won’t overspend on Frolik,” Lawless writes. “They can’t.”

13. Justin Williams
Age on July 1: 33
Position: Right wing
2014-15 cap hit: $3.65 million
Contract year report: With 18 goals and 23 assists this year, Mr. Game 7 kept pace with his regular-season production in 2013-14. We all know he peaks in May/June, but the Kings never made it that far.
Latest dirt: Williams’ agent, Thane Campbell, told ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun in January extension talks would resume after the season. “All I want to be is part of a team that can continue to win,” Williams told Kings Vision in March. “You just want to keep winning, and I think I have the best shot to do it here. I love L.A.” The Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins are just two teams openly looking to add a top-six forward.

12. Francois Beauchemin
Age on July 1: 35
Position: Defence
2014-15 cap hit: $3.5 million
Contract year report: A reliable horse on the Ducks’ back end — he leads the club in ice time by about a minute per game — Beauchemin survived the mumps and a broken finger this season and put up 23 points in 64 games. In May he set the franchise’s all-time record for playoff assists by a defenceman.
Latest dirt: Quiet on the contract front, likely due to the Ducks’ focus on the playoffs. Anaheim’s young blueline depth — Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm are all under 24 — could make things interesting in the off-season.

11. Joel Ward
Age on July 1: 34
Position: Right wing
2014-15 cap hit: $3 million
Contract year report: The late-blooming Ward is following up 2013-14 (a career year) splendidly. Playing top-six minutes, he had 19 goals and 15 assists in the regular season and was a workhorse stud in the post-season, putting up nine points in 14 games.
Latest dirt:I’d love to stay,” Ward told Sportsnet 590 The Fan on May 15. “I had moments where I thought we could go all the way with this group. I’d definitely like to stay, for sure.” Washington is his first choice.

10. Antti Niemi
Age on July 1: 31
Position: Goaltender
2014-15 cap hit: $3.8 million
Contract year report: Solid numbers (.914 save percentage) and another winning record (31-23-7) should make Niemi the second-most valuable available netminder come summer.
Latest dirt: It’s widely believed Niemi’s is one contract the Sharks will be looking to get rid of at the end of this season, but GM Doug Wilson said he’s still evaluating. After the season, Niemi told reporters he and the Sharks will speak “sooner or later.” But would he like to return? “Yeah, we’ll see what happens.” Agent Markus Lehto told CSN Bay Area on April 28 there had been “no serious discussions” with the Sharks. Younger, cheaper backup Alex Stalock is less proven but is capable of nice stretches.

9. Paul Martin
Age on July 1: 34
Position: Defence
2014-15 cap hit: $5 million
Contract year report: After missing the bulk of last season due to injury, Martin — a playoff performer — got back on track toward season’s end and put up 20 points.
Latest dirt: “I am most comfortable playing with him,” partner Kris Letang toldTrib Live of Martin, who has been praised by Sidney Crosby as well. A Jan. 30 report by Dejan Kovacevic said not to expect any contract talks till season’s end. With the Penguins tight against the cap, expect Martin to move elsewhere unless he’s willing to take a pay cut.

“It may mean [our UFAs] going into July and testing the free-agent market to see how much they can get out there,” GM Jim Rutherford told the Post-Gazette. “Because of our [salary-cap situation], they may work their way back to us with a more reasonable number.

“I don’t think I’ll be saying that we don’t want anybody back until we at least get into July, to see how the dust settles.”

8. Antoine Vermette
Age on July 1: 32
Position: Centre
2014-15 cap hit: $3.75 million
Contract year report: With Mike Ribeiro gone, Vermette stepped up for Arizona and was flipped to the Blackhawks at the trade deadline. He left as the Coyotes’ leading forward (35 points) but failed to click in Chicago and was even a healthy scratch to start the playoffs. Vermette’s line rebounded nicely in the Anaheim series, however.
Latest dirt: With Chicago tight against the salary cap, Vermette is a pure rental expected to see what he can fetch on this summer’s open market.

7. Martin St. Louis
Age on July 1: 40
Position: Right wing
2014-15 cap hit: $5.625 million
Bargaining chip: A respected leader, Cup and Olympic winner and two-time NHL scoring champ who wanted to be in New York so bad he demanded out of Tampa Bay, St. Louis still produces in his dotage. His 21 goals placed him second on the Rangers; his 52 points were good for fourth on the team.
Latest dirt: St. Louis made it crystal clear this April in a New York Post interview that he wants to re-sign as a Ranger and has zero intention of retiring, but his lack of production in the 2015 playoffs is noteworthy.

6. Matt Beleskey
Age on July 1: 27
Position: Left wing
2014-15 cap hit: $1.35 million
Contract year report: Perfect timing for a breakout season. Beleskey scored a career-high 22 goals to go with 10 assists and a plus-13 rating. His solid playoff performance, including a showtime OT game-winner in the Western final only improved his stock. A raise awaits.
Latest dirt: “We continue to work through the process,” Beleskey’s agent, Murray Kuntz, told Pro Hockey Talk in March. “Matt’s priority is to remain in Anaheim for many years to come. Hopefully we can make that happen.” Sportsnet’s Doug MacLean believes the Maple Leafs should take a run, and Elliotte Friedman figures he’ll be asking for something in the ballpark of $5 million a year now.

5. Carl Soderberg
Age on July 1: 29
Position: Centre
2014-15 cap hit: $1 million
Contract year report: The Bruins’ second highest-scoring centre (behind all-star Patrice Bergeron) has 35 points. Late to the league, the Swede has fit in nicely and could triple his salary this summer.
Latest dirt: Tight against the salary cap, the Bruins have not begun negotiations with Soderberg’s camp. He’s playing like a No. 2 centre, but the Bruins’ might be hard pressed to give him top-two-centre dollars. Boston made RFAs Tory Krug and Reilly Smith more of an in-season priority, but Soderberg maintains he wants to re-sign.

4. Cody Franson
Age on July 1: 27
Position: Defence
2014-15 cap hit: $3.3 million
Contract year report: After three consecutive one-year deals, Franson stepped up his game with unrestricted free agency in sight and earned a trade back to Nashville. The big body with a nasty point shot had a career high in points (36) but never fit in with a deeper Predators blue line.
Latest dirt: Franson is expected to swing for the fences on a multi-year deal this summer, and a Nashville return is unlikely. He hit the campaign trail early, saying he’d be open to a Toronto return and would love Vancouver to be in the mix. In hindsight at his year-ender, Predators GM David Poile essentially said he regretted trading for Franson, a right shot who contributed two assists in the playoffs.

3. Mike Green
Age on July 1: 29
Team: Washington Capitals
Position: Defence
2014-15 cap hit: $6.08 million
Contract year report: Though he used to be a No. 1, Green’s minutes placed him fifth on a good-looking Capitals team. Nice little bounce-back campaign for an under-30 defenceman who has 38 points and was a plus player (+15) for the first time in three years.
Latest dirt: “My heart and soul is here in Washington,” Green told CSN Washington on Jan. 20. “I want to win a Cup here.”

Wherever he goes, it comes with a pay cut. Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan has said he’s been impressed with Green this season but is still evaluating. With McLellan needing to pay free agents Braden Holtby, Joel Ward, Jay Beagle, Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov… well, Green appears to be the odd man out.

“I want to play a significant role, whatever that is,” Green told reporters after the season. “I take pride in whatever my role is on the team. I feel like I can play top-two [pairing] for sure.”

2. Mike Ribeiro
Age on July 1: 35
Position: Centre
2014-15 cap hit: $1.05 million
Contract year report: David Poile’s low-risk gamble has paid off big-time, but now he (or someone else) will have to pay up. A resurgent Ribeiro racked up a team-high 47 assists (and 15 goals) for a major Western Conference threat and added five points in six playoff games.
Latest dirt: “I would love to be back,” Ribeiro said after the Predators were eliminated from the playoffs. Poile echoed that sentiment in his end-of-year conference. “It was exactly what the doctor ordered,” the GM said. “If we don’t have Mike Ribeiro, it would’ve been hard to make the playoffs.

1. Devan Dubnyk
Age on July 1: 29
Position: Goaltender
2014-15 cap hit: $800,000
Contract year report: From a believed-to-be washout to the hottest goalie in the league, Dubnyk turned his career around in Arizona, then found a whole other level in Minnesota. The third highest-paid goalie on Minny’s roster ranks among the league leaders in goals-against average (2.08), shutouts (six) and save percentage (.929).
Latest dirt: “It just doesn’t make sense right now to introduce a contract negotiation dynamic into the room,” Wild GM Chuck Fletcher told Hockey Central at Noon earlier this post-season. “We’re a good fit for Devan, and he’s a good fit for us, and there will be plenty of time at the end of year to address this.”

Complicating matters, Wild backups Darcy Kuemper ($1.25 million cap hit) and Niklas Backstrom ($3.417 million) are both signed through 2015-16. Talks between Fletcher and Dubnyk’s agent were set to begin May 26, reports Michael Russo.

Fletcher told Russo a Dubnyk deal will get done. “It was a pretty good fit for both parties,” the GM said. The deal will be well north of $3 million per year, Russo writes.

Top RFA’s

Vladimir Tarasenko
Age on July 1: 23
Position: Right wing
2014-15 cap hit: $1.75 million
Contract year report: Dude became a superstar this season, scoring a silly 37 goals — many of the highlight-show variety — and 73 points in 77 games and was a career-best plus-27. While the Blues were ousted in Round 1, Tarasenko was the last guy to blame. He had six goals in six games, plus a helper.
Latest dirt: During the Blues’ year-ending press conference, GM Doug Armstrong said the No. 1 off-season priority is to re-sign Tarasenko. Expect St. Louis to try to buy some UFA years.

Braden Holtby
Age on July 1: 25
Position: Goaltender
2014-15 cap hit: $1.85 million
Contract year report: All the workhorse did was turn in one of the most prolific and successful seasons in the Washington crease ever: 41-20-10, 2.22 GAA, .923 save percentage. Then he put up a .943 save percentage in the first round of the playoffs and won another Game 7.
Latest dirt: Beloved by teammates, Holtby wants — and has earned — a long-term deal. “I want some security. I love the city, I love the group here,” Holtby told ESPN.com. “It’s a great place. It’s very underrated. Not many people [in hockey] think of Washington as a great place to go when you’re from out West. But it’s phenomenal. My family loves it. I would never want to leave.”

Alex Galchenyuk
Age on July 1: 21
Position: Centre
2014-15 cap hit: $3.225 million
Contract year report: Twenty-one-year-old centres who score 20 goals for offensively starved teams and already have three seasons of NHL playoff experience are hard to find.
Latest dirt: While Montreal will also have to make a decision on RFAs Brian Flynn and Nathan Beaulieu, Galchenyuk is the priority here. Expect Marc Bergevin–who played hardball with P.K. Subban last summer–to try for something long-term here, though it might be in the best interest of the player (and agent Igor Larionov) to ink a bridge deal and knock the next one out the park, like Subban.

Derek Stepan
Age on July 1: 24
Position: Centre
2014-15 cap hit: $3.075 million
Contract year report: Despite missing the start of the season with a broken leg, Stepan came back like a beast, putting up 55 points in 68 games.
Latest dirt: GM Glen Sather should prioritize his best centre over Carl Hagelin — another RFA worth keeping happy. Fans may recall things got testy the last time Stepan hit RFA, in 2013, but the sides eventually agreed to a show-me deal. He showed and proved. Time to lock him up.

Mark Stone
Age on July 1: 23
Position: Right wing
2014-15 cap hit: $873,000
Contract year report: Solid in the first half and a tornado in the second half of his rookie season, Stone scored 26 goals and 38 assists with a healthy wrist. Up for the Calder.
Latest dirt: The Senators are not a cap team and have a slew of RFAs worth keeping: Stone, Mika Zibanejad, Mike Hoffman, Alex Chiasson, Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Plus, the Hamburglar turns UFA. No way they can let Stone slip away, though.

Dougie Hamilton
Age on July 1: 22
Position: Defence
2014-15 cap hit: $3.3 million
Contract year report: The young D-man surpassed Zdeno Chara as the Bruins’ most effective power-play point man and saw his ice time leap past the 21-minute mark. A career-best 42 points won’t be a career best for long.
Latest dirt: While his next contract may include a don’t-talk-to-Celtics clause, the Bruins will learn from the Johnny Boychuk debacle and find a way to keep their 2011 first-rounder and No. 1 blueliner in the making. They need a GM first, though.

Jonathan Bernier
Age on July 1: 26
Position: Goaltender
2014-15 cap hit: $2.9 million
Contract year report: Like the rest of the Maple Leafs, Bernier had a down year and a losing record; his goals-against average swelled to 2.87 and his save percentage dipped to .912.
Latest dirt: Though no Maple Leaf appears safe, and the No. 1 goalie was subjected to in-season trade rumours, Bernier is part of the team’s leadership group. Toronto needs a GM in place before player decisions are made.

Brandon Saad
Age on July 1: 22
Position: Left wing
2014-15 cap hit: $894,000
Contract year report: Saad’s value to Chicago just keeps growing. The forward upped his goals (23) and assists (29) to career highs while dropping his penalty minutes to just 12.
Latest dirt: Worthy of a significant raise, Chicago should do its best to shoehorn Saad into a tight cap situation. But something’s gotta give here. Last year it was Nick Leddy; this year UFAs Brad Richards, Antoine Vermette and Daniel Carcillo may walk and GM Stan Bowman may still need to shed salary through trade.

Nazem Kadri
Age on July 1: 24
Position: Centre
2014-15 cap hit: $2.9 million
Contract year report: The second-line centre with first-line aspirations was actually one of the few bright spots in Toronto, when he wasn’t serving suspensions. A fantastic possession player who draws penalties and tries hard, Kadri failed to score at the rate of the previous two seasons — 18 goals failed to meet the team and the player’s expectations.
Latest dirt: The belief is, president Brendan Shanahan has been hard on Kadribecause he sees the potential and wants to keep Kadri in the fold at a reasonable rate. Tough to see a long-term deal coming this summer after last season, though.

Jonathan Huberdeau
Age on July 1: 22
Position: Left wing
2014-15 cap hit: $3.194 million
Contract year report: After a wicked sophomore slump, Huberdeau upped his value in 2014-15, putting up a career-high 54 points and becoming a plus player (plus-10) for the first time in his career.
Latest dirt: GM Dale Tallon loves his young core, but as the Jaromir Jagr deadline deal showed, he thinks the Panthers can contend sooner than later. If the right deal comes along, we think Tallon would be more likely to offer up Huberdeau than, say, Aleksander Barkov or Brandon Pirri. The Panthers must also come to terms with RFA winger Jimmy Hayes, who busted out with 19 goals.

Gustav Nyquist
Age on July 1: 25
Position: Right wing
2014-15 cap hit: $950,000
Contract year report: One of the sharpest shots in the league continued scoring after a breakout 2013-14 campaign, putting up 27 goals and just as many assists.
Latest dirt: With Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk on the second half of their careers, Detroit needs young Nyquist’s offence injection. With Mike Babcock’s future undecided and rumours of a Dion Phaneuf trade persistent, it should be another compelling summer in Motown.

Brock Nelson
Age on July 1: 23
Position: Centre
2014-15 cap hit: $2.825 million
Contract year report: His entry-level deal was loaded with bonuses, and Nelson lived up to them with his first 20-goal campaign. He potted two more in his first taste of a full playoff series.
Latest dirt: Nelson is worthy of a pay bump, but GM Garth Snow needs to sort out Anders Lee and defenceman Thomas Hickey as well.

Evgeny Kuztensov
Age on July 1: 23
Position: Centre
2014-15 cap hit: $2.825 million
Contract year report: A stellar rookie campaign for the Russian saw him hit 37 points, improve his plus/minus to plus-10, and play Game 7 hero while contributing three goals in the Caps’ first-round victory over the Islanders.
Latest dirt: Expect Washington to work on a deal after Holtby gets sorted out. Fellow RFA Marcus Johansson, a 20-goal scorer, needs to fit in somewhere too.

Jake Allen
Age on July 1: 24
Position: Goaltender
2014-15 cap hit: $800,000
Contract year report: Despite his poor performance in Game 6, it speaks volumes that St. Louis tapped the kid as its playoff starter over the more experienced and higher-paid Brian Elliott. Allen’s regular-season record (22-7-4) was sparkling, and his .913 save percentage was a step up from 2013-14.
Latest dirt: As mentioned, Allen falls under Tarasenko in terms of re-signing priority, but the Blues have said publicly they plan to roll with an Allen-Elliott tandem in 2015-16.

Mika Zibanejad
Age on July 1: 22
Position: Centre
2014-15 cap hit: $1.744 million
Contract year report: Another Senators forward with a breakout year, the slick Swede scored 20 goals, added 26 assists and managed to register four points in six games against Carey Price. Exciting player.
Latest dirt: GM Brian Murray restated the importance of the Senators youth movement at his year-end press conference. With so many forwards needing new deals, we expect something shorter-term for Zibanejad.

Mike Hoffman
Age on July 1: 25
Position: Centre
2014-15 cap hit: $750,000
Contract year report: While teammate Mark stone stole the headlines, in most years Hoffman would be a Calder finalist. The rookie had 27 goals, 21 assists and a plus-16 rating. If only all fifth-rounders turned out like this…
Latest dirt: “Depends how long,” Hoffman told the Ottawa Sun about his next deal. “Three years, yeah, no problem. But five and six … it would all depend on the numbers, right?” We’re guessing they settle at two or three.

Anders Lee
Age on July 1: 24
Position: Centre
2014-15 cap hit: $786,000
Contract year report: Though he wasn’t called up until late October, Lee played his way (albeit briefly) into the Calder conversation with a scoring touch to the tune of 25 goals.
Latest dirt: With a strong forward core — and too much money tied up in Mikhail Grabovski — GM Garth Snow will likely look to sign Lee to two or three years at a modest raise.

Justin Schultz
Age on July 1: 24
Position: Defence
2014-15 cap hit: $3.675 million
Contract year report: Amidst the turmoil and turnover in Edmonton, Schultz failed to build on a decent 2013-14 campaign — 31 points, minus-12 rating — but the wekness of the Oilers’ blue line hasn’t allowed him to develop slowly.
Latest dirt: New GM Peter Chiarelli’s to-do list is long. Trading Schultz — or getting him to take a pay cut — is one of them. Right now, the kid’s overpaid.

Tyler Toffoli
Age on July 1: 23
Position: Right wing
2014-15 cap hit: $870,000
Contract year report: When linemate (and fellow RFA-to-be) Tanner Pearson signed mid-season, attention turned to the other That 70s Line kid with the breakout season: 23 goals, 26 assists, plus-25 rating. Yikes.
Latest dirt: Kings GM Dean Lombardi has done an excellent job keeping his forwards at reasonable rates. Pearson agreed to a $1.4-million average annual salary for two years. Toffoli’s numbers are better; he will be gunning for more.

Jakub Silfverberg
Age on July 1: 24
Position: Right wing
2014-15 cap hit: $851,000
Contract year report: How good was the forward’s season? Good enough that critics are now reconsidering who won the Bobby Ryan trade. A career-high 39 points and plus-15 rating was a nice start, but torching the Jets for six points in a four-game sweep put Silfverberg on this list.
Latest dirt: “I’ve been showing up more on the scoresheet,” Silfverberg said in aglowing article in the O.C. Register. “I’m trying to hold onto more of the puck and try to make more plays out there. That has a lot to do with where the confidence level is right now.” They must keep him.

Martin Jones
Age on July 1: 25
Position: Goaltender
2014-15 cap hit: $550,000
Contract year report: GM Dean Lombardi is lucky Jones’ numbers fell off a bit from 2013-14’s magic. A losing record (4-5-2) and .906 save percentage may have reasserted his backup status.
Latest dirt: We wonder if Jones is falling into Bernier’s footsteps–the backup who will never supplant Jonathan Quick as the No. 1 and may want a shot to be the man elsewhere. Not yet. We expect another two-year, show-me deal.

Mikkel Boedker
Age on July 1: 25
Position: Left wing
2014-15 cap hit: $2.55 million
Contract year report: When Boedkker left the Coyotes in January to have his spleen removed, he was the team’s leading goal-getter. Potential is still high for the franchise’s first-round pick in 2008.
Latest dirt: “I’ve been in discussions with his agent, and we’ll continue to arm-wrestle to try to get something done,” GM Don Maloney told AZ Central on April 22.

Mikael Granlund
Age on July 1: 23
Position: Centre
2014-15 cap hit: $2.1 million
Contract year report: Though his regular-season production dipped slightly — 39 points, down from 41 — Granlund is again proving to be a big-game player. He had seven points for the Wild in last year’s playoffs and already put up five in six games this spring.
Latest dirt: Keen to keep all the offensive talent it can, the Wild should barter hard but keep Granlund in the fold. Talks had reportedly started mid-season, andGranlund was looking at a two- or three-year deal with hopes of striking it rich later.


Other Notable RFAs: Michael Del Zotto (Flyers), Matt Calvert (Blue Jackets), Josh Jooris (Flames), Linden Vey (Canucks), Jimmy Hayes (Panthers), Marcus Johansen (Capitals), Carl Hagelin (Rangers), Erik Haula (Wild), Riley Nash (Hurricanes), Tomas Jurco (Red Wings), Beau Bennett (Penguins), Brendan Dillon (Sharks), Richard Panik (Maple Leafs)

Coleton MacDonald
The Founder of Weliveforhockey.com
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