The Flames have fewer assets this year than they’re used to.
To be a little more specific: they have fewer draft picks. So, for example, when the Carolina Hurricanes traded a third round pick for Scott Darling in an effort to solve their goaltending woes? That’s a price the Flames couldn’t match: because they don’t have a third round pick this year. And so goes perhaps the best free agent goalie option this offseason.
In 2015, the Flames had nine picks with which to work. They only selected five players, but used their excess picks in order to acquire Dougie Hamilton and trade up for Oliver Kylington; in other words, use them for worthy means. In 2016, the Flames had 10 picks to work with, and used all but one of them on prospects, trading their own second round selection for Brian Elliott.
As things stand right now, they have… five picks. This is the first year in a while they didn’t sell at the trade deadline, instead choosing to buy two players: one for the season (Michael Stone), and one for the future (Curtis Lazar) (with the caveat that Stone could be for the future, as well). This, however, leaves them with just one pick in the top 100, which is probably not ideal.
What’s to be done?
Remember how the Flames got Mark Jankowski? Of course you do, Jay Feaster’s words have ensured it lives with us always.
For the uninitiated: in 2012, before the Flames had solidly committed to a rebuild, they had the 14th overall pick. They traded it to the Buffalo Sabres for the 21st overall pick (Jankowski) and 42nd overall (Patrick Sieloff), recouping a second round pick they otherwise wouldn’t have had that draft. Sieloff turned into Alex Chiasson, while Jankowski is Jankowski, so it probably worked out okay.
This year, the Flames are looking at the 16th or 17th overall pick, depending on whether the Nashville Predators beat the St. Louis Blues or not. (Conference finalists get the last four picks of the draft.) They’re in that mid-pack where the draft gets much more crapshoot-y than it is at the top picks, so it’s possible they’re able to trade down and get an extra pick or two, and still get the guy they want in the first round.
When the Flames drafted Kylington in 2015, it was by virtue of trading up. Going into the draft, Calgary had two third round picks – their own, plus Washington’s from the Curtis Glencross trade – and gave them both to the Arizona Coyotes for the 60th overall pick, which they used to take Kylington.
As things stand right now, the Flames could, say, combine their fourth and fifth round picks for a third rounder, should they feel a need to. Or how about a fourth and a gently used, I don’t know, Keegan Kanzig? The Flames don’t really have quite the assets right now to trade up, but a little creativity can go a long way. (Something else that can go a long way: re-signing the general manager who has set your franchise up well for the future through a number of shrewd moves, probably.)
The Flames could always just stick with their first round pick and wait patiently for the fourth round, too.
That would be disastrous if this was a rebuilding team – but at this stage, they shouldn’t be anymore. They’re a team getting ready to start contending. Having picks is better than not having picks, but this is a team that has already worked to build through the draft and is looking to reap the fruits of its labour instead of planting more seeds.
Trading their second round pick is defensible on the merits that Lazar is 22 years old and fits into this team’s age group. Trading their third rounder is less defensible in that Stone wasn’t the solution for the team’s fourth defenceman, but at least he isn’t super old or anything. One pick in the top 100 isn’t ideal – but those two picks could have been used in much worse ways.
The Flames aren’t necessarily looking at a forfeiture of assets from just this season. If they re-sign Elliott, they give up their 2018 third round pick. (Hey, a third is what Darling’s rights went for!) If they re-sign Stone, they give up their 2018 fifth round pick. (Hey, a fifth is what Dennis Wideman’s rights cost! And Kris Russell! … Is this like, a warning, then?) They do have an extra fourth next season courtesy of trading Jiri Hudler, but that’s about it: the Flames could be looking at having anywhere from six to eight picks in 2018 based on what we know right now.
But there’s still plenty of time to build up more picks and assets for 2017 – let alone what next season will look like.