Free Agency Forecasting
Let's face it - this year's crop of free agents can be described as underwhelming ... at best. Brad Richards is really the only big name in the class and given the amount of teams reportedly in the running for the pivot, he'll likely fetch around $8 million per season mark and will be given a long-term deal. That kind of contract doses cold water on the thought the club may take a run at Richards but when general manager Jay Feaster shipped Robyn Regehr and Ales Kotalik to Buffalo, he opened up $7 million in cap space.
"We wanted to create that flexibility," Feaster said on Monday. "We're in a much better position today with flexbility than we were going into the draft."
Right now, the Flames have 13 forwards and four defencemen under contract next season. RFA blueliners Chris Butler and Brendan Mikkelson have been given offer sheets. While both RFA's give the Flames more depth, they won't be filling a top-four role. With the departure of Regehr, the team is likely in the hunt for a shutdown defenceman who can slip into that role.
My guess is the team will look at adding to the defence via trade and will look for forwards through the open market. While the entire UFA crop is thin, there are hardly any top four blueiners available. The forward group has a bit more depth so it's easier to get more bang for your buck at this position.
Here are a few players I think the Flames may take a look at on July 1st:
RW - Niclas Bergfors (2010-11 cap hit: $818,333)
In short, Bergfors possesses an abundance of natural talent but ran into a scoring slump that has left him without a home. The Panthers seem to have been soured by his inability to put the puck in the back of the net but with only 20 games played for them, it seems odd to let go of a guy who could potentially be a top-six forward. He's extremely talented offensively thanks to his skating and soft hands but also is responsible in his own end. He's a big body who isn't muscled off the puck easily, can play the role of set-up man or scorer and has a highly developed hockey sense. One downside is that his compete level has come into question throughout his career.
LW/RW - Scottie Upshall (2010-11 cap hit: $2,250,000)
With Columbus squashing any notion they'd be re-signing Upshall, the UFA pool got a bit deeper with this forward. He's coming off his first 20+ goal season in the NHL and that may put him out of the running for the Flames thanks to how much money the market may offer him. However, if they're able to clear up more cap space, the Alberta boy would add a ton of speed to the club's offensive crew and could play on almost every line. The 27 year-old isn't afraid to go to the dirty areas to score and that's a trait head coach Brent Sutter loves in his players. He can also play on either wing, making him even more valuable.
LW - Sean Bergenheim (2010-11 cap hit: $700,000)
During Tampa Bay's run in the postseason, Bergenehim had his coming out party. He notched nine goals and a pair of helpers while helping his club reach the Eastern Conference Finals. That performance has left him and the Lightning miles apart on contract renegotiation's and it's likely he'll be moving from the Sunshine State come July 1st. If his asking price isn't obscene, the Flames could benefit from his speed and his versatility. He's defensively responsible, an absolute must for Sutter, and while he has lacked consistency, he would be an excellent addition to a forward group.
Who do you think the Flames will target once free agency opens on Friday? Join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #FlamesFA and let us know what you think!
Follow Torie Peterson on Twitter | @ToriePeterson