What might the Flames do at the trade deadline?


(Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports)

In just over three weeks, the Calgary Flames are going to take part in one of the most unpredictable National Hockey League trade deadlines in recent memory. Due to a combination of league parity, a flat salary cap for next season and the impending addition of the Vegas Golden Knights via an expansion draft, we could see few big trades. Or because of the parity, a team or two might make a big swing to try to break away from the pack.

In terms of the local sports club, it’s hard to tell exactly what the Flames will do on March 1. But here’s what we can decipher as of right now.

Expansion Draft Protection and Exposure

The challenge for teams is they don’t want to go out and spend assets acquiring a player that they’ll lose in the summer, either via free agency or this year’s expansion draft (which is why I’m not so sure that they’ll add a top-four defender before March 1). Just who does it seem like the Flames need to keep for the expansion process?

For protection, it seems like Calgary will go the route of one goalie, three defensemen and seven forwards:

  • Goalie TBD
  • Defenders Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Dougie Hamilton
  • Forwards Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Troy Brouwer, Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, Sam Bennett and Micheal Ferland

For exposure, the Flames have AHL third-string goalie Tom McCollum, defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka (who still needs to be re-signed) and forwards Matt Stajan and Lance Bouma.

Any moves that impact a projected protected player would probably have to replace them with an upgrade at that position and any moves that ship out a player needed for exposure requirements would also probably need to involve replacing them.

What Might They Do?

Upgrade their forwards

The obvious player involved here would be Ferland. Bless his heart, but Ferland is a bottom six guy who hasn’t really ever clicked consistently when moved into the top six to play with skilled players. That’s not to say that he’s bad, but if the hope was that he’d eventually become Milan Lucic the sands are running low in the proverbial hour-glass.

An Eastern Conference playoff team may covet Ferland, though, because he plays a rough-and-tumble style of game and he could be very useful during a playoff series. Sending Ferland to an Eastern team for future assets could be married with another deal that brings another forward to Calgary, ideally one that’s a long-term upgrade over Ferland.

Send away a goalie

The Flames don’t have a clear-cut starter and I wouldn’t expect them to do much of anything at the deadline unless (a) one of Chad Johnson or Brian Elliott emerge as The Guy or (b) a team comes to them with a deal they can’t refuse (ala a second round pick for Reto Berra). But the Flames will probably be using one of David Rittich or Jon Gillies on their NHL roster next season. It’d be useful to know if they’re any good, or if they need to go buy a goalie this summer.

There are eight teams with worse goaltending (measured via even strength save percentage) than the Flames: the NY Rangers, Tampa Bay, Winnipeg, Philadelphia, Boston, St. Louis, Carolina and Colorado. Ruling out the Flames trying to help out teams they’re fighting for playoff spots with out West, the Rangers, Bruins and Flyers have designs on being playoff teams out East. Might one of them like to have Johnson or Elliott for the rest of the season?

Sell off pending UFAs

Aside from their two NHL goaltenders, the following players will be unrestricted free agents as of July 1: Dennis Wideman, Deryk Engelland and Kris Versteeg. I could see the Flames shipping any of those three gentlemen out of town in order to capture an asset for them. That said, Versteeg is probably the least likely to be moved because he’s extremely useful and probably should be re-signed by the club.

Fresh starts for prospects

In the spirit of Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund to Vancouver, I could see Brad Treliving sending prospects that don’t really seem to fit into the Flames’ long-term plans elsewhere in order to (a) recoup an asset and (b) give them a fresh start. So don’t be shocked if somebody like Emile Poirier, Tyler Wotherspoon or Ryan Culkin are traded by March 1.

Nothing

The Flames are in a playoff race. They don’t have a clear-cut top goalie. They likely need to hold onto their pending UFAs if they want to make the playoffs. Most teams have their own versions of Poirier and Wotherspoon in their systems. Honestly, it’s not hard to think that the Flames won’t do anything significant before the trade deadline.

  • PrairieStew

    As much as I’d like to see assets coming back, more 3rd 4th and 5th round picks just add to the mediocre depth. I know teams are reluctant to give up first and second rounders, but in a sellers market like this one – this may be the time to get those higher picks. To that end I think that moving those lower level prospects in addition to the veterans might increase the return. It helps the acquiring team by adding a long term asset in addition to the rental.

    Not to be forgotten, the European and US College prospects because they don’t take up a contract,have a little more value perhaps making it is easier to extract a second round pick out of say Washington for Deryk Engelland if you can offer a Wotherspoon or Rafikov as well. With the Euros – I’d definitely target some for certain teams. Rafikov and Karkuhanov might be quite enthused to be traded to Washington to play with Ovie. Adam Olas Mattson might look at Ottawa favourably to play with Karlsson etc

    • SydScout

      Rather than think of those 3,4,5 round picks as mediocre, remember that BT has a penchant for accruing these mid round picks then parlaying them into a higher pick or as trade bait. Kylington and Hamilton immediately come to mind. We may not have had either without his trade magic.

  • Just.Visiting

    If I were able to get back a suitable return, I’d free up roster spots by: (i) moving a goalie (and bringing up someone from Stockton to see how close they are); (ii) moving Engelland (his best year here and a warrior, but we know the ceiling and a move reduces the temptation to resign him-then bring up Wotherspoon. Besides, I’d like to see him have a shot at going deep.); (iii) moving Versteeg because someone might offer something interesting (e.g., Stempniak).

    If no one is prepared to pay, I’m very comfortable holding on and watching them all leave in the summer with no return. You actually negotiate your best deal by being clear that you’re OK with holding the player and potentially watching them walk away as a UFA in the summer. Even if this approach doesn’t offer an immediate return, other teams will know you are serious about not giving away talent in the future. Put simply, my pitch is that it doesn’t matter whether what I want is a bit more than you would prefer to pay, as long as I’m not being silly about my ask. What matters is whether the acquisition is a good deal for you in the context the immediacy of your playoff run. Is your team as well positioned to advance without this player?

    I’d be willing to move Stajan, Chiasson, Bouma and, of course, Wideman too and bring up some of the Stockton talent for a look insofar as I didn’t get viable talent coming back to me in any of the trades above. For Wideman and Chiasson, there’s actually an opportunity cost in continuing to play them even if they stay here, as you are missing the opportunity to look at other talent in their roles.

    If I don’t move Wideman, I have Kulak playing instead. It seems bizarre that this hasn’t already occurred. While we knew that we weren’t going to see defence from him, we’re actually hurting the team by continuing to believe that the offence of the past is still there when we’re not seeing the offensive justification for playing him either. (To put things in context, I thought he did an excellent job when Gio was hurt in the playoff run a couple of years ago. But that was then and this is now.)

    As noted in other posts on other topics, I don’t understand why we wouldn’t at least test Tkachuk on the RW with Monahan and Gaudreau as a potential long term number one line before going into the market to try to trade for a top six RW. Can we at least give it a try? Please……!!!

  • The GREAT WW

    There is some talk of teams trading away potential top 4 D (like Kulak) just so they aren’t lost for nothing in the expansion draft. I say do the opposite: load up on them; Vegas can only pick one per team….

    WW

  • Prototype369

    You have to look at your favorite team’s roster from the perspective of someone who doesn’t necessarily like your favorite team to find real value. We have some coveted assets, but they are all necessary and manageable. We have a lot of middling depth that’s not important to 90% of the teams. What that leaves the flames with is some rental players that we could unload for decent return, namely Engelland, Versteeg and Stajan. A right handed grinding dman, a skilled playmaking winger, and a decently reliable 2 way center. Any team with locked playoff spots needing some patchwork here and there would be interested in these pieces, and the ideal return back would be 2nd-3rd round picks.

    Now we have to look at how many teams out there with locked playoff spots need patchwork.

  • Stan

    Gostisbehere has been healthy scratched three games in a row in Philly, could he be had? I know that complicates things expansion wise, but adding him to our top 4 would be deadly. I could see Philly having interest in Ferland and one of our goalies as a starting point.

  • freethe flames

    There are a number of deals that could be made at this time.

    1.You actually make a hockey trade. 2 teams see a need to move on from a player and both teams see the fit.

    2. You trade assets for rentals because you see yourself as play off team.(rentals are guys you have little interest in long term ie Vanek, Parenteua)

    3.You trade you UFA assets for draft picks/prospects as you don’t see yourself as a playoff team.

    4. You are a bubble team and you trade your UFA’s and other assets for draft picks and then flip those new assets for what I call test drives; rentals who you think could have a future in your organization long term. (Franson, Stone)

    Personally I would love to see us make a hockey trade and acquire a RHC. Ryan Strome from the Islanders would be worth considering; he for Bouma and a B prospect might get it done.

    I would also be okay with acquiring some test drives by trading our FA’s and other fringe assets. UFA’s Engs, Wides, Versteeg and one of two goalies might give us some draft picks that could be used to get some players to test drive. Chiasson, Bouma, Stajan, JJ, Kulak and even Ferland could all be traded and replaced through this way. There are guys on the farm that we have soured on that might be moved as well. Unlikely you move everyone nor would I suggest that you do but there are moves to be made. None of know for sure who is available or what the market price will be.

    Add all of this up; add in a the salary cap and the expansion draft and who knows what will happen. Stay tuned to see what BT does.

  • Pond Hockey

    Time for Tre to take some GMs out for drinks, get them blurry-eyed, and work some magic!

    Explain to them that the cross check thing was a Trumpian falsehood, Bouma is a first line sniper, statisticians are measuring the wrong metrics and Engs is a Corsi beast, Poirier is a late bloomer and will be a superstar one day….

    Oh, lucky be the ? fly buzzing around that table listening in.

  • VoRaCS

    The one thing that I hope the Flames don’t do is add another older/expensive player just for the sake of making a move. It seems like we’ve done that a lot in recent times and we’re paying the price for it.

    I think your list of players the Flames will protect is accurate, but I’m not sure that I agree with the strategy. I would expose Brouwer and possibly Giordano. However, I’d like to know what we could get for the captain—a terrific player at one time and always a great person—whose best playing days are probably behind him. One thing that most elite teams seem to understand is asset management. We’ve got to be a lot smarter about how much we pay our players and continue to provide opportunities for younger players so that Calgary can attract the top older university/college and European prospects that seem to gravitate to the Chicago’s of the league.

  • Pond Hockey

    If I post dumbass stuff sometimes it’s because of some of the ridiculous comments people make or how they over analyze things. As I see it, the trade deadline should be pretty straightforward for the Flames:

    If they are in the playoff race they likely won’t do much of anything due to the exapansion draft and low probability of the team going deep into the playoffs. Hopefully they surprise everyone and pull off some upsets.

    If it appears that they’re out of the playoff race they will divest what they can for picks and get ready to retool for next year. We all know Tre loves his picks.

    It’s easy to sit back and complain but the team is headed in the right direction and things will only get better.

    GFG!

    • freethe flames

      And people are happy with that. Somehow this roster has managed to be a bubble team and may remain in playoff hunt for most the next 5 weeks. That despite inconsistent goaltending (something we thought had been fixed in the off season). Sub par play from our big three young up and comers(Johnny/Monny/Sam). The other big season acquisition has been a big disappointment. We have been forced to play both Wides and Engs every night and Wides poor play has impacted Brodies play significantly.

      When I look at who this team needs to protect I say boy are we short of talent. Neither goalie has earned the job this year, the top 3 defenders are easy to decide (Dougie, Gio, TJ) but at forward I count 4 that have earned it (the two Mikes, Johhny and Monny) no one. Bennett will be included but has he earned it through his play this year, nope. Brouwer? Nope but he will likely be protected because it would look bad to other FA if we abandoned him after 1 year. Versteeg? Unsigned, injury prone, 3rd liner, older and inconsistent; no thank you. Ferland? Nope, he is a 3rd liner at best and seems destined to be a 4th liner. Stajan, Bouma, Chiasson, Hathaway, and FHamilton? Nope, all 4th liners. Looking for help from the Heat, they are currently struggling so little help there. Inventory check complete.

      So BT do nothing before the deadline; it seems many here are happy with being a bubble team without enough talent to even truly protect at the expansion draft. I for one say go for it; try and add some talent to this squad and maybe make this team more than a bubble team. Just don’t overpay.

      • supra steve

        The belief that the Flames will protect Brouwer “because it would look bad to other FA if we abandoned him after one year” makes no sense to me.

        Brouwer has admitted that he has not played to the level that is expected of him. If he is left unprotected, that will be the reason, and any future FA with half a brain (or the agents of those with less than half a brain) will see that as the reason. No one will hold that against the Flames.

  • ComeOn

    I’m betting Treliving adds one roster player somehow at the deadline. How can you take a team that’s close to, or in the playoffs and not add a helping hand before the playoff race?

    I’m not saying he’ll sacrifice the future…but if I know anything about BT, I know he’ll dig something up.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    Most gms make their big deals in the summer. Everybody wants to see the team get better. However, some patience is required. And luck too. The trade deadline is mostly for teams that are shoe ins for the playoffs who are looking for rentals to go over the top, and for the disaster teams going all in on a rebuild. The flames are neither. Maybe you’ll see a low tier guy move out, but that’s not going to change anything quickly or drastically anyways.

    And for the people asking for carting out the middle and low rank players for picks in this upcoming draft….it’s a big gamble on a very mediocre draft class.

    I never understand people saying “we need a better team RIGHT NOW. Trade everything not nailed down.” It’s not that easy. If I want a Ferrari, then I need something worth very close to the price of a Ferrari to get it. That’s business and hockey is the same. People have this dream like their going to turn an Engellend into a Duncan keith with a quick trade mid season. Get real.

  • Nick24

    I’d really be confused if they traded Ferland. One thing this team really needs if good depth, and Ferland fits the bill. The coaching staff still isn’t playing him as much as he should be. I don’t understand how Brouwer or Chaisson get more time than him. Also, anything you get back will not likely have the impact that Ferland does now. You actually want to upgrade the forward ranks? Move Bouma. Move Brouwer. In the interest of winning games, how do those two help?