What should the Flames do at the trade deadline?

Here’s a fun stat: at present time, the Calgary Flames are in a playoff spot.

Here’s another fun stat: they are just on the outside looking in regarding points percentage. If the playoffs started today, the Flames would be the team in the West closest to have, but ultimately failing, to make the dance.

That’s much better than where they were before, as not too long ago, the Flames were right among the NHL’s worst. But if history can tell us anything, it’s that the odds are still stacked against the Flames when it comes to the playoffs this season. (Of course, there’s that one team that might just get in anyway; and if they can keep up their current level of play – minding that that’s a rather big “if”…)

So, what do you do when your team doesn’t make the playoffs? You sell. This season, the NHL trade deadline should fall on Feb. 28, 2017.

The trade deadline: Brad Treliving’s time to shine

In the 2014-15 season, the Flames were in a playoff spot at the trade deadline. Treliving sold what he could. And good thing he did: the picks he got for Curtis Glencross who, at the time, was over half a point per game, allowed the Flames to trade for both Dougie Hamilton and Oliver Kylington.

The following season, the Flames were out of a playoff spot; Treliving went ahead and acquired more picks. Those extra draft picks became Tyler Parsons, Dillon Dube, and Matthew Phillips, and I’m sure we’re all happier having those guys in the fold than losing three impending unrestricted free agents for nothing.

As we’ve seen the past couple of seasons, the draft is Treliving’s other time to shine. When he’s got picks to work with, he’s generally done a good job with them. So the more picks he has? Generally the better – even if he does have a team that might still be in playoff contention come the trade deadline.

Expiring contracts

Turning expiring contracts into future assets is something the Flames have excelled at these past couple of seasons. This year, their upcoming UFAs are:

  • Kris Versteeg
  • Dennis Wideman
  • Deryk Engelland
  • Brian Elliott
  • Chad Johnson
  • Brandon Bollig

Of that group, I’m guessing nobody’s going to take a flier on Bollig. At least one of Elliott or Johnson pretty much has to stay, but the other could be a trade possibility. I can’t really fathom Wideman having trade value at this point, but Engelland? He’s the embodiment of grit and heart and sometimes he gets breakaways and scores sweet goals for some reason. If there’s any interest in him at all, trade him.

Versteeg is a whole other issue entirely: someone who has been really good for this team when healthy, but also someone who could probably net an extra asset or two. What to do with him probably won’t become clear at all until much, much closer to the deadline; however, he could very well be worth retaining even if the Flames are out of it.

Everyone else with an expiring contract is an RFA, so the Flames will still maintain some control over them. They are:

  • Sam Bennett
  • Micheal Ferland
  • Alex Chiasson
  • Garnet Hathaway
  • Jyrki Jokipakka
  • Brett Kulak
  • David Rittich
  • Kenney Morrison
  • Jon Gillies
  • Linden Vey
  • Ryan Culkin
  • Tyler Wotherspoon

Most of these guys are what I’d consider “meh” guys – maybe they turn into something, but every team has their own handful of these players, so they probably aren’t worth much. That said, pretty much anyone not named Bennett, Ferland, Kulak, or Gillies (or, at this rate, maybe even Rittich, too) should probably be available, just in case.

The expansion draft wrinkle

This is all well and good, but fact is the Flames will have to keep some players on board in order to make available for the Vegas Golden Knights. Specifically, they need to have at least two forwards and one defenceman under contract for 2017-18 exposed who have played 40+ games this season, or 70+ games over the past two seasons. They also need to have a goalie under contract for next season exposed as well.

This is easy.

Matt Stajan already meets those requirements, and Lance Bouma is 13 games away from meeting them. If Bouma somehow ends up too injured to fulfill this, or one of them gets traded beforehand, Freddie Hamilton is 24 games away from meeting the requirements. There are your forwards.

The Flames will have to extend one of Jokipakka or Kulak; almost no chance Kulak doesn’t get an extension, though whether he plays the remaining 25 games he needs to in order for the Flames to meet their exposure requirements is up for debate now that he has been sent down to the AHL. In case he doesn’t, however, then Jokipakka is 22 games away. And Tom McCollum covers the goalie situation.

So basically, there shouldn’t be anything stopping the Flames from trading everyone who isn’t nailed down at the trade deadline – even if they are on the playoff bubble. 

  • Ole YELLEr

    The way Rittich has been playing he absolutely shouldn’t be available. His stats are incredible, especially for a guy who is still theoretically learning the NA game. I think he’s getting all the starts because Gillies is injured what does Huska do when Gillies is good to go? Speaking of which I feel for Gillies and Culkin I think they’ve missed more AHL games than the’ve played.

    If Rittich keeps it up I wonder if one of Elliot or Johnson becomes available. Experienced goalies on expiring contracts is probably exactly what Tampa or Pittsburgh will want if they move Bishop or Fleury.

  • Newbietwo

    I can see Montreal going for Vey right now given their centre injuries as a cheap option.. as for trades I see Bouma and Stajan as the only true possible trade options at deadline but given expansion draft who knows

  • PrairieStew

    Way too early to make this projection. Are the Flames the 1-4-1 team that started the season or the 13-9-1 group since? Or are they as good as the 7-2-1 bunch we’ve seen the last 10?

    If they are hovering around a wild card spot in 10 weeks, then by all means move veterans. If, however they get 14 or 15 points in each of the next 10 game segments and have 60 points at the 50 game mark, then I’m not moving anyone because a division title is possible.

    The difference between this year and 2 years ago when the Flames moved Glencross is considerable. Glencross was asking for a big raise that the Flames weren’t willing to pay. The Flames were not a strong team possesion wise – they knew if they made the playoffs they didn’t have much of a chance to go far. They were lucky to draw a weak team in the Canucks in the first round. This year – they are a far stronger possesion team with better goaltending.

    Moving defencemen while in a playoff spot is never that good of an idea – even if they are Wideman and Engelland. With no right shot guys knocking on the door now, I’d say they both probably stay. Having said that – if they do move them I think they both have value – especially if the Flames retain salary.

      • PrairieStew

        I think they are better than just over .500. The new coaching staff and system took some time for guys to adjust to. GG wants puck pressure in all zones, but backing it up was what was going wrong early. How many breakaways and 2 on 1’s were there early in the season ? The special teams were terrible, and have recently improved, again showing adaptation and learning. They kept going back to Brian Elliot when he struggled and that hurt them too. Now they know what Johnson can do, but I don’t think he gets a very long leash if he struggles.

        The schedule has been tough They’ve played back to back 5 time in the first 25 games – and only do so 4 more times the rest of the way. In their next 14 games they have Arizona 3 times, Vancouver 3 times, and Colorado and Winnipeg twice each. By January 9 – this team could ( maybe should !) be leading the division.

  • cjc

    Over 2 months to go, so difficult to answer. There are a few smaller pieces that could garner interest. If a good team loses a goalie for a long time, maybe there is interest in Elliot. Only if Calgary is out of the hunt though.

    Bouma might get a late pick if he plays okay after returning. Versteeg seems to get traded every year, so if Calgary is out of the hunt I’d put money on getting a mid round pick for him.

    Wideman or Engelland? Stranger things have happened, would need to retain salary on Wideman.

    Calgary has next to no cap space, so adding a roster player is out of the question.

    We don’t have a Russell or a Hudler this year, so I expect the deadline to be fairly quiet.

    • cberg

      As soon as they put Smid on LTIR they have lots of cap space and could add a couple of roster guys.

      I believe we also have multiple players that could draw interest. The issue will be if they continue to play well, which is more likely than not, we will be right in the mix of playoff teams and we’ll be looking to be buyers rather than sellers. In that context the only moves I see likely are perhaps fringe guys like Vey, or excess goalies, like Elliot (assuming continuation of current play).

      We might be able to get a couple of picks AND add a couple of depth roster players for a playoff push….

  • The GREAT WW

    Get Wideman to wave his NTC and trade him to Edmonton for Kassian; we could really use an a-hole like that on our team, we have too many nice guys….


  • Xcameron

    Not so much about the TDL but about expansion. I’m open to considering exposing Gio. According to the list the NHL sent out he doesn’t have to be protected. The question is whether Vegas wants a 34 year old (next year) with a $6m+ cap hit. My guess is no, so we get to protect one of Kulak or Jokipakka on top of TL and Dougie.

    • PrairieStew

      Vegas will be subject to the cap floor of $54 million. It might be hard to get to that with alot of the flotsam that will be available through the expansion draft. They might take on some salary in trades to gain assets, but if they have to pay somebody – it might as well be a useful player like Gio. The only thing holding them back might be the length – but they aren’t probably going to be a cap team in the first 4 years anyway. Conclusion : Don’t do it unless the wheels have fallen off.

    • cjc

      If Giordano were exposed, he’d instantly be the best defenceman available. They’ll want a few veterans on board and wouldn’t hesitate to grab him. He’s shooting 3.2%, which is less than half his career average. With Monahan and Gaudreau struggling, it has hurt his numbers too. He’s been above water in terms of possession (52.4% adjusted) despite facing the toughest competition. Team has scored 65% of goals 5v5 with Giordano on the ice this year. He may not be earning every cent of his contract, but he is still a very useful piece. LV would claim Giordano in a heartbeat, and it would make no sense to lose him for nothing.

      • Derzie

        GG does not unleash the D very much at all. Our D-men with offensive skill are being underutilized. Low shooting % when you’re blasting them from the blueline or neutral zone.

    • Kevin R

      Are you nuts???? Gio & Hammy have been an awesome top pairing here the last 10 games & you want to expose one of our top pairing D who just happens to be our Captain for free. Thank God you aren’t the GM. I am sure we would have no problem finding a trade partner for Gio & you would be quite happy with the return.

    • cberg

      I hope that you’re not a true heart-felt Flames fan, or just too …..young to know the difference, but suggesting putting Giordano on the available list for the expansion draft has got to be the most ridiculous, preposterous and ……stupid idea I have read on these blogs in many, many years. You never, ever, ever even think of trying to trade an All-star, all-around tough D with a good contract in his prime unless it’s a ridiculous offer coming back, much less give him away for NOTHING.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say nobody should be moved. This is just my own hunch, but I think the Flames we’ve seen the last 10 are the real team. They are getting past all the drama that started this weird year and starting to play a solid system and believing in the win. As individuals, and as a team.

    Bouma is the only guy I’d consoder shopping since I think he’s not any better than the guys who stepped in for him, and maybe he’s worse.

    I bet Wideman would sign for $950k next year (1 year deal) and I think he’s worth that as a 5-7 D-man. Engellend also.

    Maybe some cup hopeful will be desperate for something we have come that time but it’s hardly the kind of thing you hold your breath for.

  • Deef

    Its to early to be a buy team even if we make the playoffs. It might make sense if were buying some long term needs, but outside of that we are still in sell mode.

    I also don’t agree that this team, in its current state, needs to prove itself as a contender this year or next. The rebuild aint over yet guys. 1 or 2 more first or second round studs in the system + the graduation of some key picks needs to happen first.

    • cberg

      I get what you’re saying, i.e. The “most likely, best chance window” for the Flames is still to come, but I disagree with the concept that ALL focus should be on THAT year and slough off the rest as “building” or “declining” years.

      History throughout sports, much less the NHL, has proven again and again that the time for success is now and if you make the playoffs you have a chance. Hey, just look at the CFL this year….

      In case people haven’t noticed, the Flames today (Friday am) sit atop the Pacific Division and 3rd overall in the Western Conference. At this point, if we were at the TDL, selective buying and selling would be in order because we’d definitely be charging towards the play-offs and the possibilities there.