The Flames should be ‘open for business’ – as long as it’s sensible

Lowkey rumours have been swirling the Calgary Flames. Nothing overt, and it doesn’t sound as though anything is impending, but there have been rumours.

Of course, this is a team that was expected to take a step forward and is currently sitting 28th in the NHL in points percentage. While they aren’t as bad as they were to start the season, and there have been flashes here and there, problems have persisted, and we’re about at that time where we start considering if the playoffs can even happen.

There have been rumours about Dougie Hamilton, about the Flames wanting another defenceman, about being “open for business” in general. And why shouldn’t they be? This is an incomplete team.

What do the Flames actually have?

Assuming everything goes right for the Flames, they have, in theory:

  • A goaltending tandem (Brian Elliott, Chad Johnson, and Jon Gillies waiting directly in the wings)
  • Three top four defencemen (Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, and Dougie Hamilton)
  • Centre depth (Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, Mikael Backlund, Matt Stajan, perhaps Mark Jankowski sooner rather than later)
  • Two (potentially) high-end wingers (Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk)
  • A couple of solid wingers (Michael Frolik, hoping Micheal Ferland can get there, and praying Troy Brouwer can stave off his inevitable decline due to age and Kris Versteeg can maintain some semblance of health)

But not everything has been going right. Monahan and Bennett have not been playing at the high-end levels this team needs them to, which has been crippling. Having just two high-end wingers – one of whom is 18 years old, the other injured – isn’t a recipe for success, either. The Flames’ leading scorer is on pace for 52 points this season, which isn’t good.

The Flames’ goaltending of the future is relying on Gillies to be a success, too. It’s pretty much him, or bouncing around hoping to strike gold with a younger free agent or waiting for one of the other prospects, all of whom are still years away.

What do the Flames need?

That said, for the meantime, goaltending should be left alone. That bridge can only be crossed when we get to it, and Gillies is 14 games into his professional career.

They need another top four defenceman, though. Dennis Wideman is currently filling that role, and Wideman’s best days are behind him. This is also the last year of his contract, and it seems unlikely he’ll be brought back – and even if he is, really, in a top four role again?

You can hope Brett Kulak or even Oliver Kylington step into that role sooner rather than later, but neither is there right now. 

The upcoming free agent market does offer some potential pickings – Kevin Shattenkirk is far and away at the top of the list – but there are still 29 other teams to compete with on that front, and that’s assuming the good options even make it to free agency at all. The Flames could always try trading for someone and signing him before he hits the open market, but that requires giving up assets, something they don’t have too many of at the moment and can’t necessarily afford to part with.

They also need greater impact scorers. Centre is actually the least of their concerns; remember a couple of seasons ago when the Flames were asking their wingers to line up down the middle? (First line centre Alex Tanguay, anybody?) It isn’t that bad, at least. 

Again, there’s hope for internal development – Hunter Shinkaruk, Andrew Mangiapane, Daniel Pribyl or a 2013 first rounder – and there’s hope for the draft, if the Flames continue to bottom out. Free agency offers really slim pickings, though; the only name that piques my interest is Jarome Iginla, and that’s just emotions over logic.

Gaudreau, Tkachuk, and hopefully Ferland and Frolik should not be for sale barring extremely good offers; anyone else, though? Well.

There’s still a lot of building left to do

It’s not as though all hope is lost. Maybe the Flames completely adjust under Glen Gulutzan’s system and go on a tear. Maybe the team figures out what’s ailing Monahan and returns him to his 60+ point self. Maybe Bennett takes that next step forward sooner rather than later, maybe Gaudreau returns to the lineup and plays at an above point-per-game pace, maybe Ferland gets a greater opportunity with more ice time and runs with it.

There are a lot of maybes, but there’s still plenty of reason to have glimmers of hope regarding all of them.

That doesn’t change the fact that the Flames definitely need another defenceman who can reliably play 20+ minutes, though, as well as more wingers of greater scoring impact, particularly on the right side. The holes are obvious, and the Flames should be open for business regarding anything that can be done to fix them, without creating new ones.

Preferably, while avoiding doing anything rash (which, admittedly, Brad Treliving has been good at) and without trading any player with potential under 25 (or Brodie or Backlund, who are on great contracts, or Frolik, because he’s young enough and the Flames don’t really have anybody else who could fill his role any time soon).

And while hoping things don’t go horribly wrong while considering what they already do have – in which case, they’ll be, well, kind of screwed for a while yet.

  • everton fc

    Versteeg’s generally been healthy, as a pro.

    I think Kulak is a top-4 defender.

    We need wingers. We have Gaudreau, Tkachuk and Ferland on the left side. I feel pretty comfortable with those three. Add a healthy Versteeg, and we are not bad (Bouma will be moved, I suppose). I am still up in the air about Shinkaruk – unlike Hathaway, Shinkaruk has sort of fizzled, in terms of offence up here. And they can always put Bennett there, if a “can’t miss” centre lands on our laps in the draft.

    We have Brouwer, Frolik, Chiasson, Hathaway… Sometimes Hamilton… Vey, if need be… It is painfully obvious where our needs are. The Brouwer contract may come back to bit us. Ditto Gio’s.

    Moving Gio… Bouma… Wideman, if they can (he’s playing well enough to move)…

    Brouwer’s contract is really starting to look bad. When do we have to re-up Brodie and Frolik??

  • DoubleDIon

    You can’t address the needs on the right side and the need of a top 4 defenseman without giving up something you don’t really want to. I’ve never been sold on Monahan as a legit #1 center. He is a finisher, but a below average play driver and defender. I know he’ll score again eventually when Gaudreau comes back, but can you pay over 6M per season for a player that can’t create anything himself? He might get you a decent #4 and a top 6 winger. You’d need to be pretty sure Bennett is going to pan out as a centerman though.

    • cberg

      Monahan on the 1RW with Gaudreau and ? I would like to try. At this point in time this season our young Centres are struggling to find their place so that needs to be worked through before we really know where we stand.

      • Dan the flames fan

        I have Said before that Mony on the RW with Jankowski centering may just be our ticket. Jankowski is adept at ozone entry and more fluid in his game than I’ve seen with Mony. Given that you would have three players with superior playmaking skills and soft hands with the puck, may give us a killer line.

    • DoubleDIon

      I was one of them. Like I said at the time I’d be happy if he proved me wrong. Would still be happier if we’d done one of the two no brainer moves though. Teravainen was there for the taking and would be second on the team in scoring presently. If we had traded down Maatta was the no brainer. We’d have a top 4 defenseman. Jankowski has progressed very well the last year and a half, but before that he didn’t look like much of a prospect.

      • jakethesnail

        We did have a #4 D-man in Kris Russell but the analystistas chased him out of town. Just kidding…he just priced himself out of the Flames market and then out of the Free Agent July 1 market by asking for 5 million greenbacks. Oilers are 9-3-1 with him in the lineup. Word is that he settles everything down when he is playing resulting in better performance by all…

        • Derzie

          For the playoff run 2 years ago, Russell and Byron were the mighty mites that drove the mood of the team. The players looked like they liked each other, didn’t get down when the they were behind and were inspired by the character, drive and determination of Byron & Russell. Treliving sees them team going in a serious, all-business direction. Guys like Russell & Byron were left out. Now we have a team that is tight as drum, looking like they’d rather be mowing the lawn than sitting on the bench. Bottom 5 in the league with the worst goal differential of all 30 teams.Our coach has one look: coiffed & confused.

          Meanwhile, Shelbyville fans are seeing what Russell brings to a team. Action. Never quit. Walk through walls. Habs fans are touting Byron for the all-star game. Meanwhile, we are going firmly in the wrong direction. A great-on-paper team that is missing that ‘something’ that makes them a team that wants to fight for each other. We are learning a lot about what is valuable in hockey but unfortunately it is by going in the opposite direction of where we should be.

          As to being ‘open for business’, we are sellers with low value assets. The vultures are circling so coming out ahead will be really tough.

        • DoubleDIon

          I’m not a Russell hater, but he’s not a top 4 defenseman on a good team. He’s a number 5 that can fill a variety of roles. I’d take him ahead of Wideman, but he’s not comparable to a Maatta and he was asking for 5 million per initially.

  • Upkeeper

    I don’t think the Flames should be open for business. If you move a mediocre player, and get better then it just adds to problems with the Expansion draft. For example if you make a move for a top 4 d man then who do you not protect.

    The Flames are in a great position to protect of all of their assets that have value. Close the doors this year, play with who you have and re evaluate after Vegas has their pick and ugly contracts come off the books.

    • The GREAT WW

      You don’t want to improve our 28th place team because you are afraid that one of our 28th placed players may get picked up by Vegas?

      (I have the feeling there may be some good players available at the deadline.)

      Ok……how about trading veterans for picks or prospects then?

      WW

      • Upkeeper

        Because of our 28th place players we don’t have any hard decisions at the Expansion draft. Why make that harder on ourselves.

        Between the expansion and deals coming off the books we are already coming out ahead with the bottom half of the roster. In talent and cap space. Addition by subtraction.

        I am only ok with trading UFA’s for picks and prospects. If we trade for anything of any more value that isn’t a UFA then they are going to be picked up. Or we end up not protecting someone with value or potential value.

  • RKD

    We do need a top line RW but at the same time we shouldn’t mortgage our future. Trading guys like Hamilton or even some suggesting Monahan as of recent just to escape from their contracts is ridiculous unless you are getting a king’s ransom back. Of course teams are kicking tires on Hamilton because they know what he brings to the table. Trading Hamilton now and you are short another d-man. Dougie had a career year last season and now paired with Gio on the top pairing he’s elevated his play. Monahan will break out of it eventually, you don’t go from scoring 25-30 goals to forget how to play hockey. There’s got to be a taker for Wides, even if we have to eat half of his salary. I don’t see any takers for Stajan or Engelland those contracts will have to run out.

    • everton fc

      I’d not move the young ones.

      Brouwer’s and Gio’s contract pose issues…

      Brouwer’s still new here. Gio’s the captain. Doubt we’ll move either.

      Kulak will get scooped by Vegas. I wouldn’t expose him. He’s far better than Jokipaaka.

      No one is taking Engelland. Or Stajan. Agreed. Both aren’t hurting us.

      Some team might take Wideman. Might. But that doesn’t close the dilemma of Kulak and the expansion draft. My feeling is Kulak’s a quiet diamond in the rough like Brodie. Same ceiling.

      Gio’s 34 when next season starts….

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        I would rather not be in the same position with Gio than we were with Iggy. None of the pieces we received for Iggy really panned out. I can See Gio and to a lesser degree Stagan being key cogs in a contending team’s playoff push.

        We need an elite gritty RWer….Simmonds seems to fit the description. Kevin Hayes still seems to be a good fit and maybe Grabner. I am excited to see Janko’s debut. I think he will stick.

  • Jay (not J)

    ‘It’s not as though all hope is lost. Maybe the Flames completely adjust under Glen Gulutzan’s system and go on a tear. Maybe the team figures out what’s ailing Monahan and returns him to his 60+ point self. Maybe Bennett takes that next step forward sooner rather than later, maybe Gaudreau returns to the lineup and plays at an above point-per-game pace, maybe Ferland gets a greater opportunity with more ice time and runs with it.’

    How many of these ‘maybes’ are even remotely likely? How many of them do you really think that this team can make the playoffs without? Do you think that there’s a playoff game in GG’s future with the team at all? If not this year, next or one or two later?

  • jupiter

    Wideman should have been bought out instead of Raymond.For political reasons as well as diminishing skill.

    No one on this team has really excelled under the new coaches, so how do you know what you have? Shinkaruk is a good example. He certainly doesn’t look as promising as he did last year. I personally don’t like the coaching staff, but can see improvement in some areas and like many, hope the players become more confident as they become more accustomed to system.

  • MontanaMan

    The most marketable player on the team (especially closer to the trade deadline / playoffs) is Ferland. There will be plenty of teams calling about him but let’s hope BT doesn’t listen to any of them.

  • KiLLKiND

    Why do any of you downvote the people saying Brouwer’s contract will come back to bite us? He has been playing horrible lately and is only going to get worse, he never produced or played like a top 6 player, yet we are paying him top 6 money. If we can get a team to take him off our hands that would be perfect. Iginla isn’t the only good RW on the UFA market this year, TJ Oshie has been looking pretty good and would be far easier to justify paying him 4.5m. I would love to hear an argument for Brouwer, but his play speaks louder than any argument and his play has been just as bad as Monahan’s sometimes even worse. Ship him out for a 4th round pick and call it a day, we will improve simply by putting Hathaway in his place. Hathaway does everything Brouwer was supposed to do; hit, drive play, provide some offense, and strong defensively. Hathaway reminds me of Byron with his hardworking attitude and style of play. He doesn’t have quite the wheels, but the same energizer bunny style of play.

    Frolik, Versteeg, Hathaway, and even Chiasson have been better than Brouwer this year. It’ time to admit Feaster added another horrible contract thi summer, and fix the mistake before other teams realize how bad Brouwer is.

    • Avalain

      Wait. Feaster added another bad contract? To which team?

      Since the NHL implemented the cap, fans have been very critical of big contracts. Of course, that makes sense. But at the same time, people seem to forget that removing a bad, expensive contract doesn’t make the team better by itself.

      Now, is the Brouwer deal bad? Probably. But is it so bad that we would be better off without him? No. Is the money that he makes better going to someone else instead? Maybe at the start of the year, but then again maybe not. It’s not like every free agent is clamouring to join the Flames. Getting a free agent means that the team gains an asset at the cost of cap space (and actual dollars, but we don’t care about that as fans). It’s a free draft pick for a veteran player who is immediately ready. There is value in that. Avoiding free agency completely is a mistake, because if the team can afford it, it gives you a way to acquire assets without having to give something else up.

  • Dan the flames fan

    I think we would be better to stand pat for a bit longer; at least until we get JH and Versteeg healthy. With some consistency happening we need to truly see what we have.

    I fear that if we trade now we will do so under panic. Too often I have read both here and on the Flames message board, people offering trades of our players for others as usually 3:1. We too often undervalue our players. Yes, Gio is aging, and yes, he started off slowly. But traditionally, he starts slowly. It’s no reason to write off either the player, or his captaincy. If turning 30 or 31 is so bad in the NHL, no contract should be past that.

    I also think it’s a mistake to get rid of our youth in a time of struggle. Monahan was the best player on his junior team, and translated well for the first 3 years years of the NHL. He did not have JH in the juniors and his first year on the team, and was still able to put up numbers. He may not be a true number 1 center, but until Bennett proves otherwise, Mony is number 1 by elect.

    Do we need to make changes? Sure, like any team, we can improve. But I have to believe we have had wisdom in our drafting. I’m excited by the players in the juniors and the minors. We will have players come out of these development systems.

    We already know that contracts and players will be coming off the books this year’s. BT’s big job this year if figuring out how to get the most from them and protect who we need going forth from expansion.

  • JoelOttosJock

    Kulak better than Jokipakka? Neither Stajan nor engellyand hurting us? Wow. Giordano should be traded..asap. Shea Weber was just traded..10x the dman and alas a captain. The flames made a few big mistakes..one..signing Giordano to the term and money they did..he is a #4 dman tops. Also over paying Brouwer the way they did..he is a great 3rd line winger whom can step up and play 2nd line minutes for short amounts of time. Get rid of treliving..glutzman..and Burke..who ever hired Burke should be shot and pissed on..have seen him run 3 teams in the dumps.anahiem Vancouver and Toronto..and to you idiots that say they won a cup in anahiem..he inherited a a championship caliber team.