An (extremely brief) history of the Calgary Flames trading up in the first round

This year’s draft is expected to be a deep one, and the Flames should be able to get a good player at 15th overall. The only real downside is that they aren’t picking higher, because that’s where the better players are usually taken.

It’s a shame, too, because there are a number of players expected to go before 15th that would be perfect fits for the Flames. Ivan Provorov or Zach Werenski on defence aren’t happening, and neither is a big bodied right winger like Mikko Rantanen. (Timo Meier is a possibility, though.) 

One way to rectify that would be to trade up. Of course, trading up – especially to get into the top 10 – is a costly proposition, and may require assets the Flames won’t be willing to part with.

In anticipation of the potential for the Flames to do just that this draft, though, here’s a look back at every time the Calgary Flames have traded up in the first round.

1990: Deal with the Devils

In the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, the Flames held the 20th overall pick. They had their eye on a goalie. His name was Trevor Kidd, and the Flames wanted him, so they made a deal to swap first round picks with the New Jersey Devils.

Calgary jumped up to the 11th overall pick, and selected Trevor Kidd. The Devils, meanwhile, now with the 20th overall pick, took the only other goalie from the first round: Martin Brodeur.

To put it lightly, it ended up being a pretty big blunder. While Kidd had really cool pads, he also only ended up winning 140 NHL games, 72 with Calgary. Brodeur ended up becoming one of the greatest goalies of all time, so… it’s a shame there are no do-overs.

That was just the Flames’ first time trading up, though. Mistakes happen on your first time. After all, it’s rare to get it perfect from the get-go.

The Calgary Flames have never traded up in the first round in any other NHL draft ever

Uh… yeah. Once upon a time, the Flames jumped ahead of themselves specifically to get Kidd, leave Brodeur on the table, and have that backfire spectacularly.

They never traded up ever again.


Maybe one day in the future they will. Maybe that future is this year. But so far, the Flames’ track record when it comes to trading up in the first round is, uh, extremely poor.

That’s not to say they’d have a repeat performance if they were to do this again (well, maybe if they traded up for Lawson Crouse). After all, drafting has improved, and there are generally fewer busts, especially in the higher picks.

Then again, there are still busts, and come to think of it, I don’t trust this organization. Sure, management has changed since 1990. It has changed several times. This team’s history from 25 years ago has literally nothing to do with how it is run today.

Still don’t trust ’em.

Times when the Flames had no first round picks

So this isn’t the shortest article ever, we can take a look at other unique drafts the Flames have taken part in.

This organization has only failed to pick in the first round twice in their existence: in 1989, and then 21 years later in 2010.

The Flames’ 1989 pick – which was 21st overall, and the final first round pick of the draft – went to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs selected Steve Bancroft. He played six NHL games.

Who did the Flames get in exchange? Their first round pick originally went to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Brad McCrimmon. McCrimmon went on to win a Stanley Cup with the Flames a couple of seasons after the Flyers traded him, so that one worked out rather well.

In 2010, the Flames’ first round pick – 13th overall – went to the then-Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for Olli Jokinen. The Coyotes ended up taking Brandon Gormley. That pick could have gone better, but at least Jokinen accomplished some things with the Flames, like playing more than 32 games (the number of NHL games Gormley currently has after being drafted five years ago).

Times when the Flames traded down

This has happened a bunch of times: in 1983, 1999, 2001, and 2002. Then Darryl Sutter happened, and first round picks were traded down in 2004, 2007, 2008, and 2009 throughout his tenure. Jay Feaster did it once in 2012.

Of the nine times the Calgary Flames have traded down in the first round, Sutter is responsible for nearly half of them, which is a lot, and does go partway towards explaining why the Flames’ cupboards were so bare by the time he was fired.

Most of these trades were relatively minor, and involved an extra draft pick or two, plus the occasional awesome player (i.e. Marc Savard) coming back. 

Sometimes these trades worked out. In 1983, as part of a bigger deal with the Buffalo Sabres, the Flames ended up giving their 10th overall pick in exchange for the 13th. The Flames took Dan Quinn, who played 805 games in the NHL. The Sabres took Normand Lacombe, who played 319. Quinn scored 191 points for Calgary; Lacombe scored 30 for Buffalo.

In 1999, the Flames traded down from 9th overall to 11th with the New York Rangers. While the Rangers took Jamie Lundmark, the Flames ended up with Oleg Saprykin. Saprykin scored 76 points for the Flames, and also he scored that one goal that one time. Lundmark scored 30 points for the Rangers. And 39 for the Flames later on.

In 2001, the Flames traded down from 11th overall to 14th. The then-Phoenix Coyotes took Fredrik Sjostrom with the higher pick, a right winger who ended up scoring 104 points over his career. The Flames took Chuck Kobasew with the lower pick, a right winger who scored 210 points.

In 2002, the Flames traded down from 9th to 10th overall with the Florida Panthers. The Panthers took Petr Taticek, who played all of three NHL games. The Flames took Eric Nystrom, who is awesome. (At least compared to Taticek, he definitely is.)

And in 2007, the Flames made a bigger jump, trading down from 18th overall to 24th with the St. Louis Blues. While the Blues took Ian Cole, who certainly isn’t bad, the Flames took Mikael Backlund, who is way more awesome.

Sometimes, these trades ended up not working out at all. For example, in 2004, the Flames traded from 19th overall to 24th with the New York Rangers. The Rangers took Lauri Korpikoski, and though the Finn didn’t really spend much time in New York, he should play his 500th NHL game next season. The Flames took Kris Chucko, who has yet to play his third.

In 2008, the Flames originally had the 17th overall pick, but ended up with the 25th thanks to a series of trades involving Alex Tanguay, Mike Cammalleri, and four different teams. The Anaheim Ducks ended up with that 17th overall pick, who turned into Jake Gardiner, who the Flames could really use right now, seeing as they’re lacking in good, young defencemen. The Flames took Greg Nemisz, who nobody really needs at the moment, or probably ever.

In 2009, the Flames traded down from 20th overall to 23rd with the New Jersey Devils. The Devils took Jacob Josefson, a young centre who is only just starting to cement his place in the NHL, but should play his 200th game next season. The Flames took Tim Erixon, who is hilariously irrelevant.

And in 2012, the Flames held the 14th overall pick, but decided to jump down to 21st. The Buffalo Sabres ended up taking Zemgus Girgensons at 14th, and he’s already cracked 50 NHL points over two seasons (not to mention captured the hearts of all of Latvia). The Flames, meanwhile, took Mark Jankowski, and we’re all still hoping he makes the NHL sometime after he graduates college.

Moral of the story

It is much easier to trade down than it is to trade up. You actually get more stuff for trading down, and sometimes, you end up with the better player, anyway (five out of nine times in the Flames’ case).

It is much more difficult to trade up than it is to trade down, because, well, you have to give up more. The Flames are still rebuilding, and every asset is important, so it’s probably in their best interests to hold on to those and not potentially overpay, especially when there are still going to be so many good choices at 15th overall.

And also so they can avoid another Kidd/Brodeur situation.

Don’t ever do that again.

  • RedMan

    “The Flames took Tim Erixon, who is hilariously irrelevant.” Lol – line of the day.


    Not sure I see much movement in the top 15 this year because the cost could be prohibitive. But I don’t see much need to be honest, because the depth is so good and you really should be able to get a good player at 15. If someone offered you a great deal, I could see some teams, probably not the Flames, trading down because you should be able to get a good player throughout the first round.

    I could easily see some serious horse-trading in the second round because some teams will really, really, want a guy they think is a quasi-first rounder, a bunch of slots ahead of where they pick. I can see the Flames being in that camp too, btw.

  • CofRed4Life

    I don’t really see the point in trading up a couple of spots, because it seems the 2nd tier of 10-25ish is jam packed, and most of the guys are really closely ranked. If a great deal presents itself, though, I wouldn’t be opposed to trading down a couple spots, for the same reason. I still think we’ll just sit tight and pick at 15. Only one more week ’til we find out! I’m getting pretty excited; are you?

  • RedMan

    Sit tight at 15!

    The folly of moving up is well illustrated by giving up what turned out to be Brodeur to get Kidd.

    There are good picks higher up, but there are also good picks (sometimes even better) lower than 15.

    • RedMan

      Good point assuming the Flames would have picked Brodeur in their original spot. Chances are they would not have which is why these retrospective draft reviews are fun but not necessarily that illuminating.

    • supra steve

      Would be very interesting to know who Button WOULD have selected in each of the last 10 to 15 drafts if the team were to have managed to move up 3 to 5 spots in draft order by making a trade. Ryan Suter instead of Dion? Oshie instead of Pelech? Eberle instead of Nemisz? Of course could have just as easily been Anton Gustafsson instead of Nemisz, but would still be interesting to know. Naturally you would also need to factor in the asset cost of moving up, but would make for some interesting discussions in the Flame’s board room, considering what could have been and thus what value should be placed on moving up this or any other year.

      • supra steve

        ” Naturally you would also need to factor in the asset cost of moving up…”

        Aye, there’s the rub! You have to give up asset(s) to move up….probably NHL teams do have a post-mortem of each year’s draft a year or two down the road (especially, when considering the GM – extend or fire! lol) It probably has more to do with analyzing the drafts to see how they could improve their scouting if they screwed up or proceed as is if they did well!

  • KH44

    Part of trading down is acquiring other things as well. Could you compare the trades including those other assets? Or playing out the string? Trading down for Erixon was a meh, but we traded him for some stuff, and that has worked out well. More details!

    • We took Sieloff with the extra pick when we traded down and took Janko.

      Teraveinen or Girgensons stil looks better.

      Hope we take BPA at #15.

      If there’s a chance to move into the late first with a combination of a second rounder and a player, I’d be into that.

  • Franko J

    Six teams are without a pick in the first round. How many of those teams are desperate to move into the first round? Hypothetically speaking, if the Flames were willing to trade their 1st round pick, who could they target and at what price?

      • supra steve

        I don’t think it is necessarily a dumb question. Who knows, maybe Jersey offers up one of their decent young dmen & their 2nd for the #15. Maybe Ottawa covets someone at 15 & BT extorts their #19 & #24 for our #15 & #53. It seems to cost us so much to try & move up, why shouldn’t we consider extorting a ridiculous price for #15 if someone wants it that bad.

        Some would go nuts if we gave up Tspoon, #52 & #53 for the Bruins #14 & Marc Savard. Not so crazy if the Flames wanted someone real bad at #14. Personally, I would hope BT is exploring every angle.

  • Franko J

    @ Nik

    Was just putting out a different tangent on an unlikely scenario. I agree in a draft deep as predicted the smartest and safest thing to do would be staying the course and picking at 15.

    No different than some who think we should trade Giordano and try to move down in the draft to obtain a better selection. The Flames should take who they feel will develop the best into a Pro and contribute to the rebuild in the next few years. The team right now still doesn’t have enough prospects and must continue to build their pool of talent.

    If your are going to fire me, what is my severence package? I could go for a couple of tickets to a game next season.

  • Franko J

    In a draft that is supposed to be as deep as this years having 4 picks in the top 53 is good. However think how good of draft this must look like if you are one of Edmonton, Buffalo and Arizona all with 3 in the top 35(3 de-facto first rounders). Arizona is just starting it’s rebuild but has a couple of very good pieces, Buffalo is a couple of years in but also has some good pieces and then there is our favorite whipping boys north of us; 9 years in 4th time first overall and 2nd time with 3 first rounders. Will this be the year that we look back on say this began the change in the balance of power in the NHL?

    I wonder what the cost would be to get one of the 21-35 picks? Would it be worth it?

    • supra steve

      I hate to agree about Edmonton, but I do. In addition to McDavid, Draisatl and Nurse look good; and with 6 picks in the first three rounds, they could give up a 1st, 2nd and a 3rd for a goalie and Dman, and still somewhat stock the cupboards.

      You can’t be that bad for that long and not eventually get good (unless Mike Milbury is your GM). I’m just hoping they run into cap issues before they get good.

      • supra steve

        And next year Edmonton will have a another 3 cracks at the lotto as the rule changes to include the first 3 picks. Might as well give them one of them now.

        Bettman is a fool.

    • Canrock 78

      Interesting . . .

      Say this happens who do you thinks the Flames should pick with the extra pick?

      The one prospect that is getting some attention and consideration in the 20 – 30 range is Brock Boeser. RW with some size and edge.. Really good shot.