In a salary cap system, getting value from players on entry level contracts (ELCs) is huge. With the second contacts for players rapidly becoming massive, finding young players that can become main roster contributors in their first few seasons is crucial to staying competitive.

The Calgary Flames have done a pretty decent job lately, but how are things looking on the horizon as far as ELCs go?

The summer of 2019

Expiring ELCs (7): goaltender Mason McDonald, defenseman Josh Healey, forwards Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane, Ryan Lomberg, Spencer Foo and Brett Pollock

The 2019 cohort of ELCs looks pretty decent all things considered. Tkachuk is a high-end NHLer and Mangiapane is a regular. Lomberg is serviceable depth. Foo bolted to Europe, while McDonald, Healey and Pollock weren’t tendered qualifying offers. Still, two regulars from a cohort is pretty strong.

ELCs beginning (7): goaltender Artyom Zagidulin, defensemen Carl-Johan Lerby* and Alexander Yelesin, forwards Luke Philp, Eetu Tuulola, Adam Ruzicka and Martin Pospisil

Lerby’s ELC counts against the team’s total despite him being loaned to the SHL’s Malmo RedHawks. Beyond that, the group of ELCs beginning this coming season include precisely zero high draft picks and a lot of interesting projects.

The summer of 2020

Expiring ELCs (7): goaltenders Artyom Zagidulin, Tyler Parsons and Nick Schneider, defensemen Rasmus Andersson, Andrew Nielsen and Oliver Kylington, forward Glenn Gawdin

The 2020 cohort of expiring ELCs includes at least one regular (Andersson), and another playing in Kylington who’s making a push for a full-time gig. Three goaltenders expiring at the same time is an interesting quirk of timing – I wouldn’t expect all three to be brought back if only because of a finite number of spots.

ELCs beginning (1): forward Dmitry Zavgorodniy

ELCs potentially beginning (4): forwards Milos Roman, Lucas Feuk, Filip Sveningsson and Linus Lindstrom

The 2020-21 crew includes potentially five brand-new forwards, all of which were born in Europe. With few internal defensemen going pro, one would expect the Flames to go hunting for some free agent defenders next off-season.

The summer of 2021

Expiring ELCs (4): defenseman Juuso Valimaki, forwards Dillon Dube, Matthew Phillips and Luke Philp

This cohort looks pretty good already. Valimaki is basically a regular and Dube is getting close. The jury’s still out on the other two.

ELCs potentially beginning (3): goaltender Dustin Wolf, forwards Jakob Pelletier and Ilya Nikolayev

This is an early projection, but three high-end players could being going pro in 2021-22. This excludes the possibility of a few of the team’s college prospects – potentially Emilio Pettersen or Demetrios Koumontzis – going pro after three years of college.

Staggering ELCs isn’t an exact science, but from this we can glean a general idea of which seasons will have a big change-over and which ones won’t. Also: which off-seasons will be pricey for the Flames as they need to ink new deals for the likes of Andersson (2020) and Valimaki (2021).