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.
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.