After a busy offseason the Calgary Flames were a sexy pick to rocket up the Pacific Division standings this season. Instead, the 1-5-0 Flames have yet to win in regulation. They’ve laid an egg out of the gate, which is enough to send general manager Brad Treliving scrambling in an effort to shake things up.
Sportsnet’s Mark Spector is reporting that Treliving is burning up the phone lines, looking to make a move. It’s often hard for a team in Calgary’s spot to shake things up though. This isn’t Mario Kart, and rival teams aren’t generally keen to provide their opponents with a steady stream of Turbo Stars and Lightnings. Instead, they throw anvils.
Which is perhaps why the Flames are, as part of their efforts to make a move, hunting bigger game. Like Sasquatch-sized game.
According to Spector the Flames have, as part of exploratory trade talks with the Tampa Bay Lightning, kept tabs on super sniper Steven Stamkos, an unrestricted free agent at seasons end. And they’d reportedly be willing to move one of their bluechip young stars to make it happen.
No small trade is going to fix his Flames, who are entirely broken right now, and word is out that Treliving is willing to talk about a very big deal if he can find one. We even heard that his conversation with Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman was all about the Lightning’s obvious issues with signing soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Steven Stamkos.
The Flames would be willing to deal a top young player, perhaps Sam Bennett, to acquire Stamkos at this point. That’s risky but wise, in our opinion. But there’s one problem: This early in the proceedings (a full five months prior to the NHL trading deadline) the conversation from Tampa’s end would start with centre Sean Monahan, who we believe to be the most untradeable Flame.
We have no doubt that Treliving is asking about Stamkos — why wouldn’t he? — and he’s not the only GM interested. If everything was perfect in Tampa, Stamkos would be signed by now, and the fact he isn’t makes us wonder if Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is resigned to losing him, and as such, will try to trade the asset.
(Our personal feeling is that no one will meet Yzerman’s price, he’ll sign Stamkos in Tampa, and if the two sides can’t mend fences then a trade will be found that will largely be controlled by Stamkos and his agent Don Meehan. That way Stamkos gets market value and goes where he wants — Tampa or elsewhere —and the Lightning are not left empty-handed.)
It’s probably an understatement to describe that as scintillating stuff.
Trading Sean Monahan should be a non-starter, obviously, and Spector implies that indeed it is. Though he perhaps benefitted from some favourable bounces in the offensive end, the list of players who’ve scored 30 goals in a season before turning 21 as Monahan managed a year ago is extraordinarily impressive. None of those players were ever dealt in their prime, and there’s a good reason for that.
You might be able to understand parting with Bennett if it nets you Stamkos, but the Flames should only be willing to do that if they can work out an agreement on a contract extension prior to pulling the trigger on the deal (and honestly, maybe not even then). You can’t send away Doug Gilmour 2.0. to a team wearing Blue and White in exchange for a rental, even if that rental is one of the best goal scorers in the game…
Obviously the Stamkos stuff is fun, but a bit farfetched as Spector makes clear. There’s a lot of moving pieces, and more than anything, Spector’s reporting just underlines the aggressiveness that has characterized Treliving’s Flames tenure. The Flames may get bit by regression this season, but we can rest assured that Treliving will leave no stone unturned.
The other big picture takeaway is that Flames brass isn’t too impressed with their team’s start, and could consider something radical in the coming weeks. Spector lists defensemen Dennis Wideman, Kris Russell, Jiri Hudler and Mason Raymond (in a contract dump-type deal) as players that Flames would be willing to move.
Considering the club’s need to preserve cap space for Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, and where they are in their rebuilding cycle, netting a quality return for the expiring contracts of Russell and Hudler would seem prudent. There’s no rush to make those deals though, and unlike the spot they find themselves in today, Calgary will be in a position of relative negotiating strength at the deadline.
Still, if the Flames aren’t contenders yet, and it sure seems like that’s the case, they should keep their eyes squarely on a year or two down the road.