BOSTON -- Forward Johnny Gaudreau thinks the Calgary Flames have a window in front of them to, as he put it, do something special.
"I think we have three great years ahead of us," Gaudreau said from the Commonwealth Avenue Charity Classic Hockey game at Boston University last Friday. "I'm really looking forward to these next three years."
Gaudreau, who represented Boston College, his alma mater, at the charity game, put the opening at three years because the majority of Calgary's core players are signed for the next 2-4 seasons, including defensemen Travis Hamonic and Michael Stone.
Hamonic, acquired from the New York Islanders on June 24, has three years left on his contract. Stone signed a three-year contract with the Flames on June 30. Defenseman TJ Brodie and forwards Michael Frolik and Troy Brouwer each has three years left on his contract.
In addition, goalie Mike Smith, who was acquired in a trade from the Arizona Coyotes on June 17, has two years left on his contract. Forward Micheal Ferland and Curtis Lazar each recently signed a two-year contract. Forward Matthew Tkachuk has two years left on his entry-level contract.
Gaudreau and defenseman Mark Giordano each has five years left on his contract. Forward Sean Monahan has six years left on his and defenseman Dougie Hamilton has four years remaining. Forward Sam Bennett is a restricted free agent.
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"When you look at a lot of the contracts on our team, a lot of them end in two or three years so that's a window and we can do something pretty great," Gaudreau said. "Who knows, if we do something great in the next three years, maybe guys will want to keep playing with us, keep playing in Calgary and we can keep going. I think it's a great direction."
Gaudreau's optimism comes from Calgary's somewhat surprising success last season, considering expectations under then first-year coach Glen Gulutzan, and the additions general manager Brad Treliving made this offseason.
The Flames were considered underdogs by many but got into the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the first wild card from the Western Conference with 45 wins, including 41 in regulation or overtime, and 94 points, largely because they went 20-9-1 in 30 games after the All-Star break.
Calgary was swept by the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference First Round, losing the first three games by one goal. It stung, but it didn't take away from the progress the Flames made last season after they finished the 2015-16 season with 77 points.
"It was a huge step," Gaudreau said. "We battled back throughout the season. We were winning games as a team. We went on a good streak there where we were playing good hockey and beating good teams. It wasn't quite the bounce we wanted in the playoffs, but I'm really looking forward to this coming season. I think we learned from last season and we'll go from there."
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Calgary beefed up its defense last month by acquiring Hamonic from the Islanders. With Giordano, Brodie, Hamilton and Hamonic, there is a growing expectation for the Flames' top-four defense group to rival that of the Nashville Predators for best top-four in the NHL.
The Predators, who were the second wild card in the West last season, reached the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.
Stone and Matt Bartkowski are projected to be Calgary's third defense pair.
"I think we've got probably one of the top defensive corps in the League now and a pretty good goalie [Smith] in there too," Gaudreau said. "[The Predators], what they did so well in the postseason was have their 'D' jump into the play. For our 'D' at least, I think that's something they can do."
If they do it well, the Flames should also be able to keep up in the reenergized Battle of Alberta with the Edmonton Oilers, who got one step further than Calgary last season by reaching the Western Conference Second Round, where they lost to the Ducks in seven games.
Gaudreau said the Oilers' ascension toward the top of the NHL puts pressure on the Flames to keep climbing.
"The Battle of Alberta, it's been getting more and more interesting," Gaudreau said. "In the past years it hasn't been as interesting, but now I can feel the energy in both buildings and it's exciting to be a part of. It's exciting to bring that Battle of Alberta back, bring that passion back."