It's the 11th annual off-season look at each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint. In keeping with tradition, I run through the teams alphabetically – but switch starting points each year. This year I began with Anaheim and will finish up with Winnipeg in early September. Time to take a look at the Flames and Hurricanes.
Pending UFAs: Roman Cervenka (already signed to play in the KHL), Brian McGrattan, Steve Begin, Anton Babchuk (already signed to play in the KHL), Brett Carson, Leland Irving, Danny Taylor
Pending RFAs: Mikael Backlund, Akim Aliu, Paul Byron, Carter Bancks, Chris Butler, T.J. Brodie, Mark Cundari, Greg Nemisz, Lance Bouma
Looking to add: Would I make a lot of enemies in Calgary if I just wrote “a hockey team” here? It would certainly save me a lot of work. Essentially, Calgary has a second line, a fourth line, a backup goaltender and second/third pairing defenseman. The rest of the spots are open and ready to be filled both from within and outside the organization.
The Flames will possibly look on the free agent market for a starting goaltender, but I suspect they will push hard to get Karri Ramo signed over from the KHL and Reto Berra brought in from the Swiss League. In fact, I highly recommend securing Berra in your keeper league because he'll have every opportunity to make a splash, especially if Ramo decides to stay in Russia.
While the Flames are indeed in rebuild mode, they need a legitimate first-line forward. If they can sign one and, fingers crossed, Sven Baertschi can take the next step, then maybe the rebuild won't be quite as painful. Top free agents available with first-line upside include Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy, Nathan Horton and – stretching the definition a little bit – maybe Stephen Weiss and Valtteri Filppula.
They may add a defenseman or two, but the only available free agents out there are either starting to or are well into a decline (Sergei Gonchar, Marek Zidlicky, Mark Streit and Ryan Whitney).
Ready for full time: Forwards Max Reinhart and Baertschi have likely made the jump for good. They could conceivably fill third-line (Reinhart) and first-line (Baertschi) roles. Roman Horak also seems to be close to staying with Calgary for good, after a lot of yo-yo action to Abbotsford the last two seasons.
Defenseman Mark Cundari was acquired in the Jay Bouwmeester trade and it looks as though GM Jay Feaster may have snuck a good one out of St. Louis. A small, but feisty rearguard, Cundari made a splash in the last four games of the season, picking up three points. He could make the team as part of the bottom pairing and post 25 points and 80-plus penalty minutes.
Goaltender Berra has had strong seasons in the Swiss League and projects well for the NHL game. The trend these days is size and Berra checks in at 6-foot-4. If they don't sign a goalie and if they can't bring Ramo over, Berra is a solid dark horse.
Fantasy Outlook: In fantasy circles, the best options in Calgary are the prospects. The kids, including goaltenders, will get more of an opportunity than they otherwise would in any other city. The veterans are probably capped in terms of production, because this team will be scoring its goals by committee – and there won't be many of them. Fantasy Grade: D+ (last year was C-)
Pending UFAs: Chad Larose, Tim Brent, Joe Corvo, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Bobby Sanguinetti, Dan Ellis
Pending RFAs: Jared Staal, Zac Dalpe, Riley Nash, Andreas Nodl, Marc-Andre Gragnani (already signed to play in the KHL), Zach Boychuk
Looking to add: This is a good team, remember? A sure playoff team last season. But remove a healthy Jeff Skinner, Tuomo Ruutu and Cam Ward and the team's lack of depth was wildly exposed. The return of those players alone will be all that the Hurricanes need to get back on track.
That said, look for Carolina to shore up its depth in all areas – forward, defense and goaltending. The Canes won't want to go through what they went through in 2012-13 again.
Ready for full time: Is it finally the time for Zac Dalpe? He could use one more season in the American League, but he'll be 24 in November and that's getting a little close to the expiry date on a top 50 draft pick (45th overall in 2008). He's improved his offense at the AHL level and has been excellent defensively…but he's shown little of either trait at the NHL level. Failure to make the team in the fall won't kill his NHL hopes by any stretch, but it will kill his hopes of being a second-line NHL player. Delaying another year pretty much ensures that he'll be a third-liner at best.
And while the likes of Dalpe and Zach Boychuk get opportunities that fail, a less-hyped player by the name of Chris Terry gets ignored. Terry was “only” a fifth-round draft pick and thus gets the leftovers when the team is handing out opportunities. Despite leading Charlotte (AHL) in scoring in two of the past three seasons (he was second by a point in the other one), Terry didn't get his first call-up until this past season. Terry wasn't considered one of Carolina's top 10 prospects in the latest THN Future Watch issue. He's the red-headed stepchild of the organization. The knock on him has been his defense, but he has improved that enough for an extended look on the third line. For more on Terry, check out his profile page over at DobberProspects.
Although Ryan Murphy has twice spent time with the team after training camp, the 20-year-old defenseman could use a full season in the AHL. That's not to say he won't get a serious look in September though.
Fantasy Outlook: Carolina finished in a tie for 13th in goals for. A healthy Skinner and Ruutu will help boost that closer to the top 10. From a fantasy standpoint, the NHL team looks great, but the system is void of any high-end slam-dunks. No stars on the way. Then again, from another perspective, that means there is more opportunity for a sleeper prospect to speed through the system. Fantasy Grade: B- (last year was B)=
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.