The end of January seems have brought about the end of the Flames’ perilous dry spell. Since returning to work from the all-star break, Calgary has scored nine goals in two games. That’s more than they managed in the previous four losses combined.
That’s good news because the club needs to make hay this month if they are to have any chance at a playoff berth. The race in the West is starting to tighten up with St. Louis, Winnipeg, Los Angeles, Nashville, and Calgary all battling for a handful spots. The Flames (57 points) currently own the wildcard position ahead of the Blues (55 points) and the Jets (54 points), though St. Louis has three games in hand.
So now would be an ideal time to get hot. Reel off a string of wins in February and Brad Treliving can look to add at the deadline and hopefully pull away from at least two of the competitors listed above.
In this edition of the mailbag, we focus on the Flames’ potential for wheeling and dealing as the trade deadline rapidly approaches.
— alex (@SKRollins) February 3, 2017
It’s hard to tell from this far out. The Flames’ deadline activity will depend on their position in the standings and the nature of the trade market that emerges. The market will be moderated by who’s selling what and at what prices, which we can only kind of speculate on right now.
As noted, the Flames don’t have a lot to put on the auction block if they are out of it by March 1. Maybe Deryk Engelland or Lance Bouma gets you something nominal from a team looking to bolster their grit heading into the postseason.
According to recent Elliotte Friedman interview, Treliving is actively looking for a new partner for T.J. Brodie, which should come as no surprise. If the Flames are in contention by the end of the month, look for them to target the players we mentioned in the recent WWYD.
@Kent_Wilson With Wideman’s recent and recurring play, why is he still given ice time over Kulak? Coaches make the calls on who play 1/2
— cdec17 (@cdec17) February 3, 2017
@Kent_Wilson but it does seem like they worry playing Kulak too much and having to expose him. Can’t imagine Wideman is being showcased 2/2
— cdec17 (@cdec17) February 3, 2017
Dennis Wideman getting top four minutes, despite his obvious failings, comes down to the fact that the coaching staff doesn’t think they have any other options. Jyrki Jokipakka and Engelland can’t play against top six opposition for any length of time and Brett Kulak is young and relatively untested.
The temptation is to slide Kulak up the rotation, but coaches are often hesitant to do that with kids who have no prior history of taking on heavy lifting at the NHL level. For good reason – for every Brodie who stepped into a top four role and flourished at a young age, there are 10 guys who immediately drown.
The other option would be to move Kulak up to play with Hamilton so Brodie can switch back to the right side with Mark Giordano. The Brodie-Gio duo could be given the toughest matchups and defensive zone draws while Hamilton-Kulak could see more offensive deployment. This gets Brodie back to the right side where he seems most effective and it gives Kulak a chance to prove his worth in the top four, albeit in a position to succeed with a partner who can likely do most of the heavy lifting.
Of course, that would also mean breaking up Gio-Hamilton, who have been stellar since being united early in the season. Of course, the other, minor concern here is if Kulak flourishes, then he becomes a prime target for Las Vegas in the expansion draft. Of course, at this point that would be a good problem for the Flames to have.
@Kent_Wilson Despite his tumultuous start as a Flame, would you like to see Deryk Engelland back on short term contract?
— Darcy Hume (@realdarcyhume) February 3, 2017
No. Engelland’s reputation far outstrips his on-ice utility. Over the last couple of seasons, the Flames have been outshot by 238 attempts with Engelland on the ice (CF% 46.03) and their expected goal ratio was less than 45% with his at 5on5. Even though he mostly faces off against third and fourth liners.
If we look at how he compares to the rest of the league in terms of shot suppression and total shot impact, we can see he’s likely below replacement level:
The stuff to pay attention to here is on the right side: shots generated, shots conceded and shot impact. As you can see, Engelland is in the first, third and, uh, 0 percentile league-wide by these various measures.
On top of all that, Engelland will be 35 years old in April.
@Kent_Wilson with rumours of TB, PIT prob. Losing goalies to exp. What is the asking price for Fleury/Bishop? Can they be had for little?
— Mark Willms (@MarkWillms11) February 3, 2017
Maybe, but the question is “would the Flames want either guy?”
Marc-Andre Fleury will turn 33 in November, is coming off a mediocre season and has a price tag of $5.75M for the next two seasons, meaning that is a bet that can go south in a big hurry.
Bishop is a couple of years younger but is a pending free agent. Although his relatively poor season might suppress his asking price somewhat, there’s a chance he either flees in free agency or demands what is still likely to be an expensive, long-term contract.
If Brian Elliott or Chad Johnson both fail to make an impact in February, maybe Treliving looks at renting Bishop. Of course, if that happens it means the Flames are probably out of the playoff picture anyway.
— Spencer (@sathome14) February 3, 2017
There are a couple of teams the Flames could target. Aside from the Ducks, the most vulnerable team up front is the Lightning.
Tampa Bay must protect Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan, and Valtteri Filppula. That leaves them with four spots for Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin, and Alex Killorn.
Of those guys, Killorn is the most likely to be considered expendable. Though not a big name, he’s a decent middle rotation guy who can play wing or center. The issue with Killorn is he is signed to a long-term deal that pays him $4.45M for the next six seasons. He’s 27 years old so it’s not an awful bet, but that is a lot of years and dollars to commit to a guy who will likely be a third line forward over the majority of his deal.
— Kyle Lentz (@kyleslentz) February 4, 2017
Aside from the cost of acquisition, there are a few other complications when it comes to Landeskog.
1.) He’s a left-shooting LW, which is the least of the Flames’ needs up front. Maybe adding him moves Matthew Tkachuk to the RW or maybe Landeskog can switch sides, but it’s still less than ideal.
2.) Landeskog is pretty good at everything, but not outstanding at anything. He’s certainly an upgrade on many of the Flames’ current options, but he’s not going to come in and be a dominant presence. Something to keep in mind when considering the asking price.
3.) Landeskog’s contract is $5.5M for the next four seasons. It’s not an outrageous number, but it’s big enough to make Brad Treliving’s life complicated. After adding his deal, Calgary would enter the offseason with about $17M in cap space to sign four defensemen, two goaltenders and three forwards (including RFAs Sam Bennett and Micheal Ferland), which comes out to a budget of only $1.89M per player.
So either Treliving would have to find a way to get rid of another moderately substantial deal like Lance Bouma or Troy Brouwer, or he’d have to find a lot of quality filler to round out the roster.
@Kent_Wilson They are going to have to trade someone. Pinder raised in interesting point about going for a #4 and exposing Gio. thoughts?
— Nikolas Morianos (@NikolasMorianos) February 3, 2017
I don’t see any need to move on from Mark Giordano right now. Though his contract might become problematic down the road, he remains the Flames’ best all around defender, despite his slower scoring pace this season. Losing him would create a huge gap in the Flames’ top pairing and the club doesn’t have any clear options to fill that gap at this time.
Let’s pretend for a moment the club did want to get rid of Gio for whatever reason. In that case, the right move is to trade him for a substantial return, not risk losing him in the expansion draft for nothing. Even with his big deal, I’m certain Giordano would demand a package of quality assets in return.