In evaluating a long term plan for a team it is essential, and fairly obvious, to determine your core and players that make sense to build around. For the Calgary Flames and their plans to re-build, it seems fairly obvious they are planning on being in a playoff spot within three seasons after this one. Contract expiry is the biggest clue with only 7 players signed through 2016-17.
Currently the core of players that make up the long term plan consist of:
To omit players like Gaudreau and Backlund at first seems an oversight, and their importance can not be denied, but if it came down to a choice to keep five players I believe these are the players that are kept currently. Why Ramo and not Hiller? Simply age. Ramo has looked like shades of Kipper lately and is only 28 years old. Hiller is just signed until the end of next season so in my mind they know Hiller is older and not a long term solution. Ortio is also knocking for a back up position.
So what is the plan?
I think the Flames are still looking for another Center or large scoring winger at this coming draft. McDavid is the dream, sure. The Flames are not the worst team in the league however, their young talent and solid goaltending will push them to be anywhere from 5-10 in the draft. The positive aspect of this is the fact that this upcoming draft is incredibly deep and there is no less than 3-5 centers that will be drafted in that range that are very talented. Strome, Zacha and N. Roy are all players they will have their eye on for this draft.
In that two year time frame it is likely you will see some younger D move their way up in the system, namely Wotherspoon and Sieloff to occupy 2 of the 4 remaining top 6 minutes after Giodano and Brodie. After this season a lot of forward positions will also be up for grabs and the spots could be held by Granlund, Ferland, Reinhart, Poirier, Beartschi etc. After next season the Flames will be stocked with young talent to play at the NHL level but will need to surround it with Veteran leadership. Hudler and Jones’ contract will be expired after next season, along with Glencross at the end of this season as well. The good news is they will have a ton of money to do so.
I would also predict the Flames to eventually move Bennett to the wing. So at the beginning of 2016-17 years the flames Line up could look like this if they do not go after veterans:
Gaudreau- Monahan- Bennett
Poirier- Granlund- Colborne
Beartschi- Drafted Center/Backlund?- Raymond
Bollig- Stajan- Reinhart
That is a lot of youth and it does not really include room for Backlund, Russell or many others who are among the leaders today. I could forsee the Flames moving some prospects for skill players like Beartschi and Klimchuck. The Flames may also be able to move Wideman, Stajan and Smid prior to this time thus creating more room. I think they would prefer to keep Russell over Wideman/Smid or Engellend.
No matter how you cut it, it is tough to decide on who the Flames will want to surround their core with moving forward and that is a sign the team is drafting well (finally) and moving in the right direction.