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31 in 31

Three questions facing Calgary Flames

Signing restricted free agent Tkachuk, readiness of Rittich among concerns

by Aaron Vickers / Independent Correspondent is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the Calgary Flames.


[Flames 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]


1. When will Matthew Tkachuk sign?

In his third season, Tkachuk had NHL career highs in goals (34), assists (43) and points (77) in 80 games. The 21-year-old restricted free agent forward had 28 more points (including seven more on the power play) than he did in 2017-18. He has 174 points (71 goals, 103 assists) through the first 224 games of his NHL career.

"There's certainly no magic wand or trick to it," general manager Brad Treliving said. "You continue to work at it. I know Matthew and his camp have been very committed. They're committed to trying to get something done. We're committed to get something done. When you have a starting point of that, then at some point you find a way to get something done. That's really all it is."

Video: 31 in 31: Calgary Flames 2019-20 season preview


2. Can the top forwards continue to raise the bar?

Including Tkachuk, each of the Flames' top four scoring forwards reached an NHL career high last season, and the expectation is that they'll carry the bulk of the offensive load again in 2019-20.

Johnny Gaudreau had 99 points (36 goals, 63 assists) in 82 games, and Sean Monahan had 82 points (34 goals, 48 assists) in 78 games. Elias Lindholm, the third skater on the top line with Gaudreau and Monahan, had 78 points (27 goals, 51 assists) in 81 games.

"This isn't a group that, up front, those four guys aren't in the twilight of their careers," Treliving said. "In a lot of cases, they're just now entering the primes of their careers. It gives you confidence that your group is still young and growing and their best days are ahead."


3. Is David Rittich ready to take the reins?

Rittich, who turns 27 on Aug. 19, split time with Mike Smith last season and is the incumbent to take over the No. 1 goalie job after Smith signed a one-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers on July 1. He'll compete with Cam Talbot, who signed a one-year contract with the Flames on July 1.

Rittich was 27-9-5 with a 2.61 goals-against average, a .911 save percentage and one shutout in an NHL career-high 45 games (42 starts) last season. However, he did not start a game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Flames were eliminated by the Colorado Avalanche in five games in the Western Conference First Round.

"Every year I've played with him he's gotten better," captain Mark Giordano said. "He's fun. He's easygoing. He's a great teammate. You know what to expect from him night in and night out, and every year he's gotten better and better. We need him to take another step this year and be the guy we count on. He's been great. He's a guy you're rooting for, for sure."

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