So far we’ve investigated at the Flames primary trade priorities (defenders) and their expendable trade assets. With just a couple weeks until the trade deadline, it’s time to take a look at some of the forwards who could be available to help the Flames in their drive for the playoffs.
We’ll proceed with similar assumptions as before: that the Flames are taking the long view, meaning major future assets like their first round pick and core prospects are off the table. The corollary is that any player they target would also have to be a possible long-term addition, meaning they still have term on their deal or would be a good bet to be re-signed in the off-season.
These stipulations are important to note because they limit our pool of targets. While it’s true that Phil Kessel, James Van Riemsdyk and Dion Phaneuf may be available in Toronto, for instance, it’s unlikely the Flames would be willing to pay the very steep price to acquire any of them.
So, without further adieu…
Depth Forward Targets
Toronto – Daniel Winnik
I’ll admit I’ve liked Daniel Winnik since his Phoenix Coyote days. Every time he’s been available as a free agent, I’ve hoped the Flames would sign him.
A big, tenacious winger, Winnik doesn’t have the best hands in the world, but he’s very good at driving play. So far this year, for example, he has the second best relative possession rate on the Leafs behind only Nazeem Kadri. He also leads Toronto in short handed ice time.
At 29 years old, Winnik is young enough that the Flames could reasonably re-sign him to a two or three year deal and not expect a major drop-off. He’s not the type of guy to add much offense to the line-up, but as a big, versatile, shut-down forward who can play in any situation, there might not be a better option on the auction block.
Buffalo Sabres – Chris Stewart, Cody Hodgson
Let’s start with Chris Stewart. I include him here only because the Flames have been tied to him in rumours for most of the season, but the fact is adding the erstwhile Av/Blue is a bad idea.
Stewart is one of those guys that sticks around the league because GM’s love his physical description and scouting report: a big, strong winger who can fire the puck and has scored 25+ goals in this league.
The problem is, if Chris Stewart isn’t scoring goals for you, he’s useless and he often goes long stretches between goals. Every team that has acquired Stewart over the years has had the same dream of “rehabbing” him into the power forward his package of tools hints at. And every team has moved on soon after, disappointed.
Stewart isn’t fleet of foot, doesn’t think the game at a high level and doesn’t like to play in the defensive end. He’s been a healthy scratch for Buffalo, St. Louis and Colorado for a reason. He gets heavily outshot even if you shelter him:
In short: no to Chris Stewart. The Sabres are going to try to home run any deal they make at the deadline, but I wouldn’t even take Stewart for free.
As for Hodgson, it’s been a terrible downward spiral for the kid since he left Vancouver. In fact, one could argue his difficulties started before that with back injuries that delayed his NHL debut and seemed to put him at odds with Canucks organization. Once considered one of the best prospects in the game, Hodgson’s stock has plummeted to the degree he’s being regularly healthy scratched in Buffalo. He has just two goals and eight points in 52 games this year.
Strangely, Hodgson actually managed career highs in goals and points on a similarly terrible Sabres team last year (20 goals, 44 points), so either something has gone very wrong or he’s been very unlucky this year. His personal shooting percentage this season is just 2.9% (!), which is what one would expect out of a defensive defenseman at the NHL level. Unfortunately, he’s not getting a lot of pucks at the net either (just 70 shots so far), so he hasn’t been able to make up for his lack accuracy with volume.
Hodgson is only 24 and is signed at 4.25M/year until 2019. He’s a somewhat interesting reclamation project, but probably isn’t worth giving up any sort of asset to obtain. The Sabres may keep him around to make the cap floor next season anyways.
Florida – Sean Bergenheim
The Panthers are still kinda in the playoff race, but it’s expected they will move on from Sean Bergenheim anyways. The 31-year old in an intriguing player: he gets more goals than he gets assists (95g, 84a in his career) and he has crazy good underlying numbers.
Like Winnik, you can stick Bergenheim anywhere in your lineup and he’ll probably drive play. Unlike Winnik, he’s not big, but is good for double digit goals each year and can pinch hit in the top-6 rotation if need be.
On the downside, Bergenheim is a couple years past over 30 and starting to approach the downslope of his career. He may not be the kind of guy the team wants to re-sign in the off-season as a result.
Carolina – Jiri Tlusty
At 27 years old, the former Maple Leaf first rounder seems like a good fit for the rebuilding Flames. Unfortunately, his age is the only really noteworthy thing about the player. Tlusty seemed to break out during the lockout season with 23 goals and 38 points in 48 games, but that was all percentages driven. Since then he’s returned to career norms of about 15 goals and 35 points a year.
Tlusty doesn’t generate a lot of shots (less than 2 per game) and doesn’t tend to drive play (although he’s having a career year in that regard), so unless the Hurricanes are giving him away he’s not of much interest.
Arizona – Antoine Vermette, Martin Erat
There’s no doubt speedy centre Antoine Vermette is going to be heavily pursued at the deadline. That likely puts his asking price at a first round pick to start, meaning he’s out of the Flames price range.
Martin Erat was a useful middle rotation winger at one time, but at 33 he’s begun to fall off the cliff. There’s no reason for Calgary to acquire him.
New Jersey Devils – Jaromir Jagr, Michael Ryder
Jaromir Jagr is an ageless wonder. At 43 years old he is leading the punchless Devils in scoring this year. The big right winger is still a pretty effective NHLer and will likely be moved at the deadline for whatever Lou can get for him.
Adding Jagr to the Flames rather shallow right side holds some appeal, but he would be the very definition of a short-term rental. Not only is he way past the point that most players have long since retired, he’s unlikely to re-sign in Calgary even if they wanted to keep him around.
As for Michael Ryder, he’s been in steady decline since his unlikely 35 goal, 62 point performance for Dallas back in 2011-12. He hasn’t topped 40 points since and is on pace for just 34 over the course of a full 82 game schedule this season.
Ryder was never fleet of foot and it’s likely that weakness is finally catching up to him in his later years. At 34, there’s nowhere to go but down for Ryder. I’ll be surprised if the Devils can move him at the deadline.
As you can see, it’s fairly slim pickin’s for depth rentals out there. Unfortunately for the Flames (unless they decide to become sellers), that will probably drive the price up on the few worthwhile options that are available. Unless Calgary wants to put some of their better future assets in the mix, I can image Brad Treliving avoiding the forward crop altogether.