Although we don’t currently know if the Flames are going to be sellers or buyers at the deadline, we do know what the organizational needs are: younger guys, quality prospects, possession forwards (particularly centers) and draft picks. And future stars, of course.
Whether buy or sell, "go for it" or "burn it down", the club should be targeting worthwhile targets in the above categories as much as possible given organizational needs. Naturally, it’s more likely the team will be selling but that certainly doesn’t mean they can’t be looking at NHL ready bodies coming back in some of their deals, on top of futures.
With that in mind, here’s some guys I’d like to see the Flames asking about come April 3:
Michael Frolik – CHI – RW
I’ve been banging the drum for Frolik for a few years. He’s one of those players whose SH% has cratered for whatever reason after scoring 21 goals per season as a rookie and sophomore in Florida. As a Blackhawk Frolik has scored just 9 goals on 266 shots for a personal shooting percentage of just 3.3% (!!), which is about what you could expect someone like Cory Sarich to average over his career – so either Frolik has been grossly unlucky over the last couple seasons or he has a worse shot than a defensive-minded blueliner.
The lack of production has seen him drift to the bottom of the rotation in Chicago, which is fair given their other options. The reason Frolik is of interest isn’t just because he’s a "buy low" candidate, but because his possession rates are consistently top-notch. This year, for example, he is third amongst regular Chicago forwards in terms of corsi (+16.53/60) despite the second lowest zone start ratio on the club.
Frolik may never recover his scoring tough, although I’d be stunned if his SH% stays in the toilet forever. Even without the scoring he’s a useful middle-tier forward thanks to his ability to push the play in the right direction. His lackluster point totals means he could be had (and kept) for cheap and he’s only 25 years old.
Sean Couturier – C – PHI
The 8th overall pick from the 2011 entry draft has been thrown into the deep end of the pool with weights tied to his ankles by the Flyers organization. Couturier is seeing "Malhotra-like" minutes in Philly this year with an offensive zone start ratio of just 36.6%. Those are circumstances that would bury even seasoned NHLers, but Courturier is sawing off possession (-0.58 corsi/60). Unfortunately for the kid his percentages stink, particularly his on-ice SV% of 86.4%, so his counting stats are ugly resulting in steadily declining ice time. Last night, for example, he played just 8:10 against the Tampa Bay Lightning – two minutes less than tough guy Zac Rinaldo.
Couturier is only 20 years old, a capable two way forward with high-end pedigree (he scored 96 points in just over 50 games in his draft year) and a guy who could significantly improve the Flames center depth both now and for the foreseeable future. Even with his current usage Courturier probably wouldn’t come cheap, but it’s possible the Flames could pry him out of Philly by dangling one of their own high-end vets.
Jake Gardiner – D – TOR
The #freegardiner story has been a big one the last week or so, with the young defenders agent famously tweeting that message last Tuesday, suggesting the player might be available in the near future. The Leafs under Carlyle have made some bizarre decisions this year, elevating marginal replacement level guys like Korbin Holzer while pushing Gardiner – who held his own in the show as a rookie last year – to the periphery.
Gardiner is 22 and a former first round pick by the Ducks back in 2008. He has 31 points in just 43 AHL games this season and projects to be a capable top-4, two defender in the NHL. Aside from TJ Brodie, the Flames lack kids on the blueline who could contribute sooner rather than later, particularly at both ends of the ice.
The Leafs organization may still be high on Gardiner despite the recent kerfuffle with his representation, but it would be worth inquiring at the very least. Besides, Toronto owes Calgary a few lopsided trades in the Flames favor at this point…
Alex Burmistrov – C – WPG
Another kid getting the stink-eye from his current team is the Jets Alex Burmistrov. Despite the second best possession rate amongst forwards on Winnipeg this year, Burmistrov has been a healthy scratch since March 10. Burmistrov isn’t big, isn’t a high volume shooter and can tap dance with the puck sometimes, which can drive button-down coaches a little nuts, especially when the production isn’t there to justify it, which is probably why he’s found his way into the dog house.
This is Burmistrov’s third season in the league even though he’s only 21 years old. He’s never really put up big numbers in the show, but then he was rushed out of junior by the Thrashers and has never really landed in a scoring role with the club. At this point he’s finally finding his legs at the NHL level, but a lack of ice time and opportunity is sinking his stock in Winnipeg.
Burmistrov might be had relatively cheaply as a result.
Carl Hagelin – The 24 year old Swedish winger came out of nowhere to become a top-6 forward for the Rangers last year and this season he has continued to put up good surface stats and great underlying numbers. Hagelin is an established piece in New York at this point and would be hard to pry away from the Rangers. We know that Glen Sather can be somewhat mesmerized by big names and flashy resumes, though, so if the blueshirts are looking to add a big piece for a playoff push at the deadline, maybe Feaster could get Hagelin included as the main guy coming back.
Mikhail Grabovski – Recently signed to a 5-year deal worth $5.5M year, his ice time has nevertheless fallen to just 16:42/game under Randy Carlyle. Grabovski’s stats line is unappealing this season in light of his pay check, but it’s mostly due to circumstances: he faces some of the toughest opposition in the league and starts in the offensive zone just 36% of the time. He is also only getting less than 2 minutes of PP time per night.
Grabs has been the Leafs best possession driver/two-way center for years and can put up better than average offense when he isn’t being deployed like Sammy Pahlsson. His age (29) and 5-year contract make him more of a long-term risk, but he’d instantly fill the Flames need for another quality, top-6 pivot.