The National Hockey League trade deadline is an interesting time. Doubly so for the Calgary Flames, who are in the bizarre situation of being in Year 2 of a rebuild AND contending for a spot at the post-season. This after several years of “going for it!” and missing the post-season entirely.
In many ways, GMs at the trade deadline can operate like children in a gift shop – rather than focusing on what they have and what they need, they can fixate on what they want. So as we kick off the wildest week of the hockey year here at FlamesNation, we begin with a glance at where the Flames are organizationally and where they need to go.
Come along, Bort!
Areas of Need
The Flames have established themselves as a hard-working team this season. In the words of Steve Dangle, do you know what you call a hard-working team that’s good? A good team. So the Flames have some work to do, still, upgrading the talent on their roster. There probably isn’t an area that can’t be improved on this roster. That said, the club has a few players who can be difference-makers up-front and three real solid defenders in Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Kris Russell. Jonas Hiller is a good goalie, as well.
If you asked the Flames general manager if there’s a single area he’d like to improve – and he was asked this earlier this week – he’d say the defensive group. The team is very top-heavy defensively, and the way to beat the Flames is to isolate and wear down Giordano and Brodie, the team’s two best players. Getting a right-handed defender who can play with Kris Russell would allow the Flames to open things up, similar to how developing the Bouma/Backlund/Jones line allowed them to use the Gaudreau/Monahan/Hudler group differently. Depth helps everywhere.
The team would probably also love to add defensive prospects to bridge the gap as their first-year AHL defenders mature, and some additional tough-minutes forwards. With Curtis Glencross likely on the way out, the team probably hopes they can find a rugged winger like him to eat up minutes and provide some physicality.
In essence, Calgary could use a bit of everything. Until the team emerges from the rebuild wilderness with a clear-cut direction, they need to provide themselves with options at every position to complement their existing core.
It’s quite early in the silly season to judge specifically what the price will be for specific players, but based on the moves made so far by other teams we can make educated guesses.
The Flames most likely to be moved are Curtis Glencross and Karri Ramo.
Glencross is a middle-six forward at this point, but he’s got an underrated scoring touch and a mean streak, something a lot of teams covet. Here’s a comparable for a moment: back in December, the Chicago Blackhawks sent Jeremy Morin – a perfectly capable bottom six player – to Columbus for Tim Erixon – a fine third-pairing defender. Considering Glencross is better than Morin, has a track record and a scoring history, one could surmise that he should garner Calgary at least a comparable player – a middle-six forward of some kind or a second or third pairing blueliner. (Or a second rounder, depending on a team’s level of desperation). In other words, should Glencross move, I expect them to get something good. This shouldn’t be a Ruslan Zainulin situation here where they lose a good player for nothing. (See also: Rene Bourque netted the Habs Bryan Allen, and Glencross is better than Bourque.)
Ramo is a capable netminder who seems to have settled into the NHL niche of “good back-up,” in that when he plays the team doesn’t get lit up. Like Glencross, he may be an injury concern, but once again, I think as a short-term option, he has value. The Jhonas Enroth deal seems to give an indication that Ramo could net something in the vicinity of a third or fourth round pick.
Per our pals at NHL Numbers, the Flames present boast roughly $13.39 million in available cap space. They also play to a full house on most nights and have an ownership that, while having been diminished of late due to commodity prices falling, are still financially solvent to the Nth degree. The Flames have cap space and are authorized to spend to the cap by ownership.
For next season, the team has most of the key pieces locked up. T.J. Brodie will be in the first season of his new deal, paying him roughly $4.65 million annually. Key pieces Mikael Backlund and Lance Bouma will be restricted free agents and likely to get nice raises over the summer. But even with all of that, the departures of Glencross and Ramo will open up that financial space, and barring the team going hog-wild with acquisitions, it’s unlikely that their cap situation will be that much different next season. Earlier this month, I projected they would have in the vicinity of $17.4 million in cap space, putting them around the cap floor (again).
The Flames have the space and the financial wherewithal to basically do anything they really want to do, cap-wise.
Draft Picks and Future Assets
Back in the Darryl Sutter era, the Flames had few picks to work with and were lousy at drafting.
Flash forward to today, and the team has a few picks and are a bit better at drafting. Right now, the club has several young assets that could be put into play.
In the 2015 Draft, the Flames currently hold almost all of their original picks. Their fourth round pick went to San Jose in the T.J. Galiardi deal (and subsequently was sent to Nashville). Beyond that, the club has a single pick in each round and hasn’t acquired any other picks. I would expect them to do so by the draft, so keep an eye on that. (For the curious, the Flames haven’t traded any other future picks for the next few drafts, either.)
Brad Treliving has repeatedly state that he’s unwilling to part with what he terms “A assets”: young players, top picks and prospects. That does mean, though, that he would be willing to move – for the right price – complementary assets and secondary prospects.
That would likely include forwards like Max Reinhart, Kenny Agostino, David Wolf and Ben Hanowski, and defenders like John Ramage, Brett Kulak and Ryan Culkin – guys that are good, but maybe not quite a fit (or in a position that could stand to be upgraded) I wouldn’t also be shocked if Mark Jankowski was available, though it’d shock me if he were moved. I would image that the players who would be off the table would be names like Emile Poirier, Markus Granlund, Bill Arnold, Michael Ferland, Sam Bennett and Morgan Klimchuk.
However, I wouldn’t be shocked if Sven Baertschi wasn’t on the move. Like Jankowski, Baertschi is an asset from a previous regime with some baggage, and if Treliving is trying to put his stamp on the organization and potentially simplify things a tad, one could see him packaging Baertschi with another asset in an effort to get some young defensemen for the organization. Beyond Baertschi and Jankowski, though, I cannot see any high picks from recent years being on the move.
It’s hard to get a precise handle on what the Calgary Flames will do at the deadline. It seems extremely likely that Curtis Glencross is on the move, though his destination and the potential return are mysteries. However, the deadline is also an opportunity for Brad Treliving to put his mark on this organization, particularly with so many forward prospects performing well and a lot of players in contract years.
It’s going to be a fascinating next several days around here.