We’ve talked a lot about the Flames’ need for a starting goalie and how the expansion draft will create pressure the organization can leverage to get one (or two) via trade this offseason.
We’ve talked less about skaters, in part because adding new guys forces the team to make decisions about who to keep and who to expose. That’s the main reason we’ve never brought up adding another top four guy prior to the expansion draft. Because Calgary already boasts Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, and Dougie Hamilton, the Flames would be forced to expose whoever else they add (or, alternatively, choose only four forwards to protect).
So that’s a no-go.
Up front, however, the Flames may have some options. After the usual suspects (Mikael Backlund, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Michael Frolik, and Sam Bennett), Calgary has the opportunity to add a notable player or two.
Assuming the Flames are willing to add one more protection-worthy forward, what options does the trade market provide?
First, we have to determine which teams are vulnerable to the expansion draft. A cursory glance at forwards rosters suggests this list:
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Minnesota Wild
- New York Rangers
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Washington Capitals
That’s a surprising amount of clubs who have expansion concerns. It generates a nice list of potential trade targets for the Flames:
Columbus Blue Jackets
Flames targets: Cam Atkinson, Boone Jenner, William Karlsson
The Blue Jackets are weighed down by three NMCs to Scott Hartnell, Nick Foligno, and Brandon Dubinsky. As a result, they only have four spots left for the guys mentioned above. That leaves at leaves one of Wennberg, Jenner, Calvert or Atkinson exposed and almost certain to be snagged.
Karlsson is the most likely guy to be sacrificed if they can’t move anyone since he’s only a third/fourth line forward at this point in his career. At 24 years old, he might have more growth in him at this point.
If the Jackets are interested in dumping some dollars, however, they may want to move one of Atkinson ($4.5M) or Jenner ($2.9M).
Flames targets: Nino Niederreiter, Jason Zucker, Erik Haula
Like Columbus, the Wild have a couple of spots taken up by three NMCs (Jason Pominville, Zach Parise, and Mikko Koivu). That leaves four spots for Charlie Coyle, Eric Staal, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, and Erik Haula.
The big prize here is Niederreiter, who Elliotte Friedman noted might be available yesterday. Nino is 24, has size at 6’2″ and 212 pounds and is an accomplished 200-foot player. Adding him would be like adding another, more mature Matthew Tkachuk to the Flames’ top six:
If Minny really is listening to offers for Niederreiter, then Calgary should go all-in in trying to land him. Of the players discussed here, I would consider Nino the biggest priority.
That said, a good consolation prize would be Zucker, who seems somewhat underused in Minnesota given his scoring rates:
New York Rangers
Flames targets: Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast
Micheal Grabner’s big season makes life pretty difficult for the Rangers. In addition to Grabner, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, and Jimmy Vesey, they also have to consider Kreider, Miller, Mika Zibanejad and Hayes.
Even if the Rangers decide to sacrifice Nash for cap reasons, they’ll still have one too many guys to protect. That potentially leaves former Gaudreau college linemate Kevin Hayes up for grabs. If the Rangers don’t want to move him, Calgary could inquire about 28-goal scorer Chris Kreider, or capable guys like Miller and Fast.
Flames targets: Matt Read, Michael Raffl
Adding Val Filppula from Tampa Bay also added another NMC to the Philadelphia roster. With Claude Giroux (NMC), that leaves the Flyers with five spots for Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Matt Read, and Michael Raffl.
Read and Raffl are the obvious fringe guys. Neither is particularly gifted offensively, but both are great possession players. They probably couldn’t play consistently in the Flames’ top six, but could round out a third line nicely.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Flames targets: Jonathan Drouin, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn
Tampa Bay must protect Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan thanks to their NMCs. After that, they have Drouin, Palat, Johnson, Killorn, J.T. Brown, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Nikita Kucherov to consider.
In addition, The Lightning may be extra motivated to move a guy because of a pending salary cap crunch with Palat, Johnson, and Drouin all in line for healthy raises.
Palat, Johnson, and Drouin are all worthwhile targets. It would just depend on what Tampa is asking for in return.
Flames targets: Brett Connolly, Lars Eller, Daniel Winnik
Even though they are poised to lose T.J. Oshie to free agency, the Washington Capitals still have a few too many forwards to protect. Aside from the top end (Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Andre Burakovsky), the Caps have Lars Eller, Tom Wilson, Daniel Winnik, and Brett Connolly vying for the last protection spot.
Eller, Winnik, and Connolly all have good possession results in supporting roles, although Connolly also has above average scoring rates, albeit as a fourth liner. At 25 he’s the right age and might just be poised for a breakout season if he’s given a bigger role somewhere else.
And that’s the shortlist.
So, assuming any or all of these guys are available, who would you target? And what you pay to land him? Is it worthwhile to go after supporting guys like Connolly or Read, or should Brad Treliving aim high for a target like Niederreiter?