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Johnny Hockey: ‘I love Calgary, don’t get me wrong’

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Johnny Gaudreau made headlines last week when he went on Philadelphia radio and said it would be “sweet” to play for the Flyers one day.

Gaudreau — a South Jersey native who grew up cheering for the Flyers, but currently stars for the Calgary Flames — has now been offered a chance to clarify a few things about that interview.

“I think if you ask any player in the NHL if they’d like to play in their hometown at some point they’d all say it would be pretty sweet,” Gaudreau told the Courier-Post in a Q&A. “You’ve got friends, you’ve got family, you’ve got kids you went to school with, you’ve got teachers, you name it. You’ve got people that will be supporting you. The people support me down here, like it’s crazy down here. I’m just really fortunate they follow me up in Calgary.

“I love Calgary, don’t get me wrong. It’s a great city and they’re so passionate about our team. It’s a real hockey city. I really enjoy it up there, don’t get me wrong, but I think if you ask any player if he wants to play in his hometown they’d say it would be pretty cool to do that.

“I’ve still got five more years on my contract and who knows…if we’re playing well up here in Calgary I could end up staying another four or five years there because I love the city so much. It’s tough to have all those articles come out when it’s something so small, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

It’s certainly possible that Gaudreau opts to explore unrestricted free agency when his contract expires. But he doesn’t have that option until 2022.

For now, Gaudreau’s excited about the next few years in Calgary, where the Flames are trending the right way, possibly soon into legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.

Related: Stability, Stanley Cup aspirations ‘a breath of fresh air’ for Mike Smith

Flames re-sign RFA goalies Gillies and Rittich

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The Calgary Flames have re-signed goalies Jon Gillies and David Rittich to one-year, two-way contracts, the club announced Saturday.

Both spent the majority of last season in the American Hockey League, but did get in some game action with the big club in Calgary. The 23-year-old Gillies, the Flames’ third-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, played in 39 games with the Stockton Heat, posting a .910 save percentage.

He then made his first career NHL start on April 6 against the L.A. Kings and stopped 27 of 28 shots faced for the win. He then began the playoffs as Calgary’s back-up because of an injury to Chad Johnson.

Rittich made his debut two days later, allowing one goal on 10 shots in 20 minutes of ice time versus San Jose.

The Flames have already taken care of their goaltending situation at the NHL level for next season, bringing in Mike Smith from Arizona and Eddie Lack from Carolina.

Penguins GM confident they can find third-line center with Bonino gone

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August is nearing, and the Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t made a trade or signing to replace Nick Bonino, their outstanding (but former) third-line center.

On the bright side, the Penguins have remarkable breathing room considering their status as repeat Stanley Cup champions. Cap Friendly places their 2017-18 room at about $10.38 million.

That robust space likely explains why GM Jim Rutherford seemed fairly calm about the whole situation, as Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

“I do feel confident that, by the start of the season, we’re going to have a third-line center that we’re comfortable with,” Rutherford said. “Whether it’s one of those guys on the list or one of the guys that I could go and get right today.”

Rutherford (jokingly?) said that he had a list of “hundreds of names” as options, although it’s difficult to top Mackey’s suggestion of Phil Kessel‘s buddy, Tyler Bozak. After all, Bozak is a competent player who carries a $4.2 million cap hit that Pittsburgh could comfortably absorb (and the Toronto Maple Leafs might need to shed). It doesn’t hurt that Bozak’s contract expires after 2017-18, so the Penguins wouldn’t be on the hook if things don’t work out.

Of course, Matt Duchene is another name worth considering. It almost feels a little strange to ponder that speedy Avalanche forward being a “third-line center,” especially if Pittsburgh would want to get the most out of him.

MORE: Duchene might begin next season with the Colorado Avalanche

After that, though … the pickings could be much slimmer than Rutherford indicated to Mackey.

Shallow pool

Take a look at this current list of forwards who are unrestricted free agents.

There are some potential bargains here (P.A. Parenteau, Jiri Hudler, anyone?), but the situation gets significantly shakier if you’re picky enough to look only at centers. The likes of Daniel Winnik and Ryan White are reasonable roster additions, but the drop-off from Bonino could be pretty drastic.

What about other trade possibilities?

That’s a shaky group, too, especially if you apply Bozak-like terms as far as guys who only have one year left on their current contracts.

Honestly, the Penguins’ best bet in looking at that list would probably come down to an in-season move with a team that realizes it’s not a contender or simply understands that a player won’t be back.

Maybe the Calgary Flames would want to cut bait on Matt Stajan or (less realistically) Mikael Backlund? Would the Ducks move speedy, versatile sometimes-center Andrew Cogliano? There are other remote possibilities, such as the Leafs instead trading Leo Komarov (or especially unlikely moves in Paul Stastny or Tomas Plekanec).

Even if the above list seems enticing, how many of those teams would really want to move those players now, especially the bigger difference-makers?

If you’re the Penguins, you’re probably hoping that a Bozak deal could take place. And maybe you’re sweating this situation more than you let on.

(Note: There’s also the slight possibility that the Penguins might identify a replacement from within, though a contending team like Pittsburgh might not be so comfortable with that approach.)

Flames plan to start year with the Ferland, Monahan, Gaudreau line

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The Calgary Flames signed restricted free agent Micheal Ferland to a two-year contract this week and seem really excited about his potential in the coming seasons, with general manager Brad Treliving saying (via Postmedia’s Kristen Odland) “the sky is the limit” for him going forward.

He also added that the team plans on starting training camp with him skating on a line alongside star forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, and then they will go from there.

It’s an interesting mix because Gaudreau and Monahan are high-skill players (two of the the best and most productive in the league) while Ferland is more of a bull in a china shop kind of forward that hits everything that he can.

But he also has some skill to his game (he did score 15 goals this past season) and has worked well with that duo in the past.

In 2016-17, for example, they spent more than 250 minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time together and were one of the Flames’ most impactful lines, outscoring teams by a 16-10 margin and controlling the shot attempt differential. In close to 400 minutes over the past two seasons it’s a 21-16 goal edge with a 52 percent Corsi for that line (data via Puckalytics). Given the success it certainly makes sense to start the year trying it out.

Expectations in Calgary are going to be through the roof this season. Not only because they have a promising young core coming back from a playoff appearance, because they went out this summer and picked up two key pieces in defenseman Travis Hamonic in an effort to build a Nashville-style top-four on defense that can control the game, but also because they went out and picked up Mike Smith to hopefully solidify their goaltending position.

Flames give Curtis Lazar two-year extension

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The Calgary Flames have taken care of another restricted free agent.

The day after coming to terms with Micheal Ferland, the Flames announced today that 22-year-old forward Curtis Lazar has signed a two-year extension with a cap hit of $950,000.

Calgary acquired Lazar from Ottawa at the trade deadline. For the Flames, it was a calculated gamble on a young player whose development had stalled.

“We’re not making this bet based on what he’s doing today. We think there is significant upside,” GM Brad Treliving said. “He fits right in with our age group. He’s got a lot of work to do to get to the level we want him to and he’s committed to doing that.”

Lazar responded with one goal and two assists in four games for the Flames: however, he was a healthy scratch for three of Calgary’s four playoff games.

The Flames still have one RFA to sign in forward Sam Bennett.