The trade deadline is almost upon us and with that comes the usual speculation about what assets the Calgary Flames may move before the clock strikes 1 p.m. MT on March 1.
They already made some moves involving futures when they acquired Michael Stone. But for a few key reasons, I really doubt that the Flames will be shipping out any top prospects or more of their draft picks in an effort to get into the playoffs this year.
The cupboards aren’t full (yet)
Let’s give credit where it’s due: the Flames improved drafting a lot under Jay Feaster, actually producing some NHL players. When Brad Treliving arrived in Calgary in the spring of 2014, he made some tweaks to scouting. Since his arrival, he’s drastically overhauled the team’s reserve list.
Two main things about the team’s reserve list, when it comes to promising young players, give me pause about the Flames trading away picks or prospects. The first is the fact that Sean Monahan (2013), Sam Bennett (2014) and Matthew Tkachuk (2016) went directly to the NHL after being drafted, which is great but also impacts the organization’s talent levels outside of the NHL roster. While the top prospects from other organizations have spent some time simmering before joining their NHL clubs, the Flames have had their top guns go straight to the show.
The second thing is connected and this question is probably the easiest way to explain it: Where do the Flames have enough prospect depth that they can afford to trade away picks or prospects? So which players do the Flames have positionally that people are excited about?
- In goal: Tyler Parsons, David Rittich and Jon Gillies
- On defense: Brandon Hickey, Adam Fox, Oliver Kylington and Rasmus Andersson
- Up front: Dillon Dube, Matthew Phillips, Mark Jankowski, Morgan Klimchuk and Andrew Mangiapane
Aside from perhaps in goal, where the Flames have two guys who have been fairly decent (if inconsistent) pros, it really doesn’t seem like the Flames have a critical mass of talent at any position that would allow them to ship bodies out or give up a chance at accumulating more talent.
The 2017 draft isn’t great
While this year’s draft undoubtedly will produce some players that will do some cool things at the NHL level, the overall consensus heading into this year’s cattle call isn’t great.
This is the worst draft class since 2012, maybe earlier. https://t.co/9GpY1iwNRA
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) February 17, 2017
Let’s look at the three Treliving drafts: The 2014 draft produced Bennett, who’s an NHLer, and Hickey, who’ll probably be pro next season. The 2015 draft got the Flames the likes of Andersson, Kylington and Mangiapane, who are all pros but haven’t really gotten into the NHL yet. The 2016 draft looks decent so far thanks to Tkachuk, Parsons, Dube, Fox, Phillips and maybe Eetu Tuulola, but it’s still one NHLer and a bunch of question marks at this point.
My point is this: the organizational depth has definitely improved, but the last three Flames drafts under Treliving have produced two NHLers and the six drafts since 2011 have produced four NHLers. Even in a weak draft year, the Flames don’t yet have an abundance of prospect riches that allows them to throw chances to get more depth away. If nothing else, they might want more picks to compensate for the lack of high-end talent in this year’s pool.
In other words…
Teams get to the postseason for a single season by selling off assets to load up for a stretch drive. Teams become perennial playoff teams by drafting and developing assets and building a team that doesn’t really need loading up – or that has enough depth that they can afford to move youngsters to shore up weak spots. Either way you wish to see it, the Flames haven’t amassed the prospect depth yet to justify sending prospects or more of their picks at the door this spring.