In this edition of Calgary Flames News & Rumors, I’ll speculate a bit about who might be staying and who might be leaving – or at least the rumors to that effect.
Item One: Let’s Start with the Coach: Will Geoff Ward Stay or Leave?
As it stands currently, Geoff Ward isn’t certain he’ll be asked to come back as the head coach of the Flames next season, but he’d like to. He was designated as the “interim” head coach of the Flames late in November when Bill Peters resigned. However, Ward also said he’d consider staying with the Flames organization if the team decided to hire a new head coach.
It seems Ward should deserve a chance to continue. As coach, he helped the Flames post a 24-15-3 record, however the team lost in the Western Conference First Round to the Dallas Stars after their winning a qualifying-round series against the Winnipeg Jets.
From my perspective, Ward did a couple of things well. First, he made a wise choice about who to play in goal during the postseason. Cam Talbot, by and large, stood tall and helped the Flames stay in the series. Second, he pushed Milan Lucic to a new level of play – one Lucic hadn’t found in several seasons.
In short, Ward seemed both competent and motivational. It seems hard to pin the postseason loss on his chest. My guess is that Ward will stay. I’d be surprised if he didn’t.
Item Two: Will Johnny Gaudreau Stay or Leave?
Johnny Gaudreau’s name has been brought up in redundant trade rumors since the end of the postseason play. He’s been a good soldier for the team, but when the playoffs come the rumor is that he can’t find his game when the checking gets tighter. As a result, he lets the team down when it needs him the most – at least that’s the talk.
The 27-year-old Gaudreau had a single good playoff series – his first, when he was a rookie. In that playoff run, he scored five goals and nine points in 11 games. However, he hasn’t done much lately and he’s scored only four goals and 10 points in 19 games after 2014-15. During this postseason, he scored seven points in 10 games but didn’t score an even-strength point against the.
Gaudreau’s heard the about the trade speculation and rumors that his career in Calgary might be over, and he hopes that isn’t accurate. From what he says, he’s clear that he wants to stay with the Flames for the count and hopes his future is with the team.
Specifically, Gaudreau noted, “Calgary has been a second home to me. I love playing there. It’s a team I could see myself playing for the remainder of my career.”
As noted, Gaudreau still performs during the regular season. This season, for example, he scored 18 goals and added 40 assists (for 58 points) in 70 games. That’s not bad. There’s still another two years before his contract (a $6.75 million salary-cap hit) expires.
In short, the question is, will Gaudreau still be around next season? I don’t know the answer, but my guess is that he’s the kind of high-end player another team would desire. At the same time, don’t you get the feeling that if he landed with another team he just might be the kind of player who would suddenly explode?
Item Three: Will Cam Talbot Stay or Leave?
Cam Talbot is eligible for unrestricted free agency, but he’s more than open to staying with the Flames. And, his reason is solid: “I loved it there. My wife and family loved it there. It would have to be the right situation for myself and for them.”
Talbot’s obviously a solid family guy and, given the situation of the COVID-19-implicated salary structure in place – in other words, logic would tell me that most UFAs will not likely sign for high salaries – his note that “we’d be very open to coming back next year and beyond” has probably been heard loud and clear by Flames general manager Brad Treliving.
During the 2019-20 regular season, David Rittich was the team’s goalie of choice and had a 24-17-6 record. In contrast, Talbot played 26 games with a 12-10-1 record during the 2019-20 season to go with a goals-against-average of 2.63 and .919 save percentage. However, Talbot became Ward’s goalie of choice during the postseason. His postseason record was 5-4 following the NHL’s return to go with a goals-against-average of 2.42 and .924 save percentage in 10 games.
In short, I’m inclined to believe that Talbot is no longer seen as a top-flight goalie and won’t sign a big contract; however, if he chooses to take a discounted contract, he would be a good backup goalie. I think he’ll stay with the Flames, especially if Ward stays on as coach.
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