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Photo Credit: James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports

WWYD Wednesday – How do you solve the Flames’ problem at right wing?

We’ve talked at length about the Calgary Flames’ main weaknesses entering this offseason: defensive depth, goaltending, and right wing. Brad Treliving went all-in to fix problems one and two with the additions of Travis Hamonic, Mike Smith, and Eddie Lack.

Unfortunately, Calgary’s organizational depth at right wing is still abysmal. While signing college UFA Spencer Foo is a nice summer bonus, Calgary’s starboard flank remains the team’s biggest area of concern.

What can be done to fix it?

What do they have?

Let’s first establish just how ugly things are on the right side.

NHL Team:

Michael Frolik (left shot)

Kris Versteeg (right shot)

Micheal Ferland (left shot)

Troy Brouwer (right shot)

Curtis Lazar (right shot)

AHL:

Spencer Foo (right shot)

Garnet Hathaway (right shot)

Emile Poirier (left shot)

Daniel Pribyl (right shot)

Hunter Smith (right shot)

Minors: 

Eetu Tuulola (right shot)

D’Artagnan Joly (right shot)

Zach Fischer (right shot)

To say this isn’t terribly impressive is an understatement.

At the NHL level, Frolik is a natural left hander who happens to prefer the right side, as is Ferland. Versteeg is a depth veteran signed to a one-year deal. Brouwer might be the worst regular skater on the team next year. And Lazar is a converted center/reclamation project.

Below the surface, things are equally as bleak. The Foo addition gives the team at least a spark of hope, but after him it’s longshots all the way down. Poirier will aim to get his career back on track after battling personal demons, Pribyl is a late bloomer from Europe who struggled through injuries last year, Hathaway is a replacement-level grinder, and Smith should probably never have been drafted into the NHL.

Calgary hasn’t been able to draft any high upside right wingers at the draft recently either. Right now, sixth rounder Tuulola is arguably the best of the lot.

As things stand, Calgary only has a single established top six right winger in Frolik, and a guy they hope they can maybe develop into one in Ferland (both of whom are actually left handed). Versteeg is a middle rotation option at this point in his career, while everyone else is a fourth liner or unknown commodity. On top of that, there is no obvious help on the way, with the potential exception of Foo.

It’s fair to say there isn’t a single high impact right winger in the entire organization.

What are the options?

1.) Sign a stopgap

This was the direction Treliving was headed on July when he targeted Patrick Sharp for a cheap, low money deal. After expending so many assets on Brian Elliott, Curtis Lazar, Michael Stone, Mike Smith, and Eddie Lack over the last year or so, Calgary is running out of bargaining chips.

Unfortunately, the list of viable stopgaps is already dwindling and the Flames won’t have much in the way of cap space once all of their RFAs are signed. The best guy left standing right now is Jaromir Jagr, but he’s 45 years old and may not care to come to Calgary for what could be his final season.

2.) Make a trade

As mentioned, the Flames don’t have a lot of assets in terms of draft picks after all Treliving’s wheeling and dealing, but trading for a legit top six winger might be their only option at some point. Can they pry James Neal out of Las Vegas by dangling one of their younger, high-end defensive prospects for instance?

3.) Rearrange internal options

If Calgary can’t sign anybody and can’t trade for anybody, they may be forced to create new combos out of what they have. This process will be made easier if Mark Jankowski is a legit NHL center, which would allow the team to move Bennett back to left wing.

What something like that could do is bump Matthew Tkachuk up the depth chart or to RW, balancing Calgary’s attack on both sides.

For example:

Gaudreau – Monahan – Tkachuk

Bennett – Backlund – Frolik

Ferland – Jankowski – Versteeg

Stajan – Lazar – Brouwer/Foo

If Calgary can develop Tkachuk on his off-wing, it plugs the top six hole in the lineup for the foreseeable future. On the downside it disrupts one of the best even strength lines in the league, but it also gives the Gaudreau/Monahan line a legitimate play driver and down low presence – something they desperately need. In addition, Bennett’s best stretch in the NHL came on a line with Backlund and Frolik.

The other possibility is to run with Ferland as a top six guy and hope that he takes a step forward on the top line. However, that leaves question marks further down the lineup:

Gaudreau – Monahan – Ferland

Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik

Versteeg – Bennett – ? (Lazar? Brouwer? Foo?)

Stajan – Jankowski – ? (Lazar? Bouwer? Foo?)

Conclusion

Clearly, there’s no obvious solution here. The free agent pickings are slim, Calgary doesn’t have the assets to be aggressive on the trade market, and there’s a certain amount of hope and prayer that comes with sticking with internal options.

The existing game plan may be that Lazar turns into worthwhile RW depth, but that’s essentially banking on a toad turning into a prince. I know the team really likes the player and he had a good junior career, but there is almost no evidence to suggest he’ll be anything more than replacement-level fodder at the NHL level.

Glancing at the depth chart, we can certainly see why Treliving would be motivated to add someone like Lazar or Foo, however. Without them, the right side is more of a desolate wasteland, even if neither guy is a sure bet to make an impact.

So what would you do? Charge hard for the stopgap, start dangling your high-end defensive prospects for a return, or skip all that and hope you find the answer internally?

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  • Eggs Bennett

    There have been a lot of additions already. I say keep the team as is and see how they do this season with internal options. As WSH has showed us, having a complete roster on paper through trades and and free agency doesn’t mean much come playoff time…

  • Parallex

    Charge hard for the stopgap. BT has already parted with all the futures you can realistically afford to part with and gave to much term and/or money to Stone to shore up the bottom pairing… leaving RW to a hope and a prayer would be silly after pushing so many chips in. Go out and get a Jagr/Vanek/Iginla/Parenteau on a reasonable 1 year ticket. It’s go time.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Go compare Jagr’s HERO chart to that of Vanek and Iginla. Jagr or Parenteau or the only two I’d consider. If you look at Iggy’s shot rates and point production over the past 4 – 5 years they have been steadily declining each year. His shot suppression barely shows up on the HERO chart as a 1, while Vanek isn’t much better. Stay away from both, but especially Iggy.

      • Parallex

        That’s a fair point but I’m talking about getting someone for line 3. As currently composed we’d have to endure having one of Lazar (Yuck) or Brouwer (Double Yuck) there… I’ll take any of those four for meaningful minutes over Lazar and Brouwer. Although Jagr and Parenteau would be my preferred options (Particularly Jagr).

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      This I can get on board with. The guy may not have the footspeed anymore but is a monster in the offensive zone. If we win an O-zone draw he will get the puck to Johnny and Monny. His HERO chart is off the charts still!

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    I’d also give up defensive assets for James Neal if we can somehow push Brouwer that direction. I see a window opening. Let’s jump through it.

    • Kevin R

      Agreed. Ari Rome wasn’t built in a day & you can’t build a contender in 1 year. When Tre came on board, we had nothing much on our blue line & Kipper freshly retired. Tre has built up our D to one of the better ones in the league & we have solid prospects coming down the pipe. We have a stop gap goaltender & some nice prospects coming up as well. We aren’t eating the fruit of the goalie prospects yet but we can certainly see the growth of the crop coming in. Since our rebuild started, our higher picks have had to go to getting future cornerstone centres. We had nothing. Feaster & Tre drafted the best possible centres with our high 1st round selections. We have only had one high pick allocated to a forward position in MT & I think we are pretty stoked about it. I look at a team like Buffalo who have been rebuilding way longer than us & have had way more higher end draft picks than us & their window should be opening too but they have lots of holes. It’s a process. I think Jagr would be a great stop gap & if not, stay the course, find an opportunity to trade or it wouldn’t surprise me that Tre addresses next years 1st rounder to a high ceiling RW forward.We have time, the window just opened & next year may not result in a Cup but it sure will be fun.

      • Bawcos

        First up, Buffalo has not been rebuilding for longer. They were 3 points out in 2012 (CGY was 5), made the playoffs in 2011 (CGY missed), won they’re division in 2010 (CGY missed). In 2013 they had the 8th pick (CGY had the 6th). Buffalo has made 2 pretty bad trades that screwed things up. But they also signed Okposo for 6M the same year CGY signed Brouwer for 4.5M. Second, this isn’t a 1 year turn. The Flames have been building to this since the 2013 draft. Third, BT did start with something. He had Gio + Brodie he also had Gaudreau, Backlund and for that matter Janko. To the original question, are we ruling out Shinkaruk. What if:
        Gaudreau – Monahan – Tkachuck
        Ferland – Backlund – Frolik
        Shinkaruk – Bennett – Versteeg
        insert 4th line here

      • supra steve

        Agree with most of what you said, except….next years 1st rounder (and 2nd) may go toward a high ceiling right winger, but it will be the Isles that make the selection, not Tre.

  • Ole YELLEr

    If the Flames go the internal route which I hope they will, swapping Tkachuk and Ferland makes sense to me. The first line could be deadly. The second line would be solid defensively and chip in points. The third line of Bennett and Jankowski and Versteeg could get softer minutes and who knows maybe Bennett and Jankowski become a solid pairing for the future. I’d still prefer Bennett and Tkachuk as a pairing, but if that isn’t happening I’d rather Tkachuk play on the top line. Having either Tkachuk or Bennett (Janko too) play on a shutdown line at this point in their career seems sub optimal to me.

    • Ole YELLEr

      Having said that I’d leave Bennett at 3c and have Jankowski as 4c if he makes the team. I’ve kinda bought into the idea of line pairings so i’d have Gaudreau and Monahan, Backlund and Frolik, Tkachuk and Bennett then Jankowski and Lazar as the teams 4 pairings then slot whomever works best as complimentary pieces to fill out the lines.

  • Baalzamon

    ignoring the cap implications of signing everyone, imagine a top 9 as follows:

    Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
    Gaudreau – Monahan – Ferland
    Versteeg – Bennett – Jagr

    Is that not… intriguing?

      • Sterls

        If we sign Jagr this would be optimal, almost having 1a,1b and 1c lines. It would make a good mixed attack. Backs line is balanced attack but defensive shutdown line. Monahan’s line has speed and skill. Bennett’s would be a nightmare to play against and in the offensive zone. All three lines likely could handle top line minutes, meaning Gully could lean on the top three lines heavily, giving them equal playing time and only throw out the 4th line (which likely will be a liability) when needed.

      • Baalzamon

        2 reasons.

        Ferland and Bennett have never shown any particular affinity for one another
        through two seasons (nearly 400 minutes) Gaudreau – Monahan – Ferland has scored nearly 57% of the goals and controlled over 52% of the Corsi events while they’ve been on the ice. Frankly, there’s 0 reason to break that unit up. Meanwhile, Bennett needs wingers.

  • GriffinJeff

    It is fun to discuss potential lineups, but If history has taught us anything BT and GG will:
    – Sign a free agent winger
    – Give Brower every chance to succeed on a line other than the fourth (to the detriment of the team)
    – Play Bartkowski as a 6th or 7th def.
    – Give preference to veterans over rookies to a fault
    I would love to see some of the young guys get a shot, but I don’t see it happening.

    • Torchy

      And I’d suggest you overvalue youth to a fault.

      The Flames have recently had many young players jump into the lineup earlier than expected so it is not like they are blind to the possibility that a young player can be successful in the NHL.

      Easy for you to suggest they take a shot on a young guy when it is not your job on the line, not your money, not your loyal guys being kicked to the curb, and you are not responsible for the decisions that could either enhance or end a player’s pro career.

  • Lucky 13

    Some good thoughts Ari.
    I expect at this point we will see a patient Treliving. After all the acquisitions brought in it’s important not to act in haste.
    None of the UFA’s available really solve our needs for any length of time.

    I like the first lineup you suggested Ari. Tkachuk is our best option for #1 RW at the present. Bennett could really get his game back playing with Selke Backlund again.

    Give the kids a chance to make this team… we might be surprised!

  • OYYC

    Any time Troy Brouwer played with Bennett that line sucked! Give Brouwer another shot on the top line.
    Switch Frolik to LW. Sign Jagr for 3 years x $4.75M a year. He can show Backlund how to play a little D.
    Trade Bennett for a 5th rounder. Freddie deserves a shot at 3rd line centre anyway, obviously.
    Waive Lazar. Nobody will pick him up, he only got 4 points last year. Four freakin’ points.
    Jankowski needs another 2 years (minimum) in the AHL, and he’ll never be any good. Too old.

  • Fan the Flames

    It would be interesting to see if Johnny can switch to the off wing and have Mathew Tkachuk play the left side on that line that would probably make for an easier transition . Teams are trying to shutdown Johnny and moving him around can create some havoc.

    • RegHen

      I agree with you on this one. JG is talented enough to play either wing. He’s not an up and down the boards kind of winger. When he has the puck he’s all over the ice anyways. Mony is a left shot center so feeding the right wing is natural. It would open a position on left wing for a back log of lefties in Stockton to fill out the 3rd or 4th lines.

      • Just.Visiting

        Notwithstanding that Ferland played his best hockey on the first line, it seems clear that he is not regarded as a longer term first line solution. I like the idea of JG on the off wing because of the vision of the ice this offers, the flexibility when moving to the net, the different shooting lane, etc. It works for Kane. I’d like to see statistics showing JG’s shot and goal distribution, since I believe he spends a lot less time actually on the left side than what people think. I’d then have Tkachuk on the LW of that line.

        Failing moving JG to the right side, I’d like to see Tkachuk tried there. He adds the required physical presence to the line, has a sound defensive game after a year with the Mikes and played RW in junior. It continues to puzzle me why this was not even tried last year when it was obvious that RW was an organizational weakness and that MT was projecting out as a first line talent whose skills could complement SM and JG. Logical asset management would dictate that this would have been done in order to assess more fully the degree to which MT was a solution to the gap or whether the Flames had to find another way to fill the gap.

        Giving up assets to bring in a RW when we haven’t even attempted to ascertain whether we had someone on hand who could do the job just seems pretty short sighted to me. This is particularly so when they could backfill on the Mikes line with Ferland or Janko.

  • The GREAT WW

    I like McCarron. He is the type of player we need in our bottom 6 and he may be available after his very slow start in Montreal.
    Kylington is too much.
    I was thinking a package including Poirrior, Shinkurak, McDonald type players.

    WW

    • Puckhead

      Nice idea but I can’t see Montreal giving away a 22 year old RW who is 6’6″ and 231 pds for smaller unproven LW prospects, ECHL goalies etc. The conversation would start at Kylington-type prospects.

      • Baalzamon

        McCarron is a below replacement-level forward who hasn’t shown the slightest indication that he’ll ever be more than that. Shinkaruk straight across would be an overpay.

          • piscera.infada

            I mean, what was your scouting report though? “He’s big, and can fight”? I mean, I guess Tim Jackman played on the first line for a bit once upon a time…

          • piscera.infada

            And to clarify, Shinkaruk has 3 fewer NHL points than McCaron in 36 fewer NHL games, and the same AHL points per game, in nearly double the games played.

          • Burnward

            @piscera

            For some reason I can’t reply to your comment. But I’ve seen him live about five times in Montreal at the NHL level. Here’s my thoughts: Above average skater for a guy his size, will punish on the forecheck and eat up space in the o’zone. Has a good motor and is quick to defend teammates. Decent hands, but won’t blow you away with his skill. On the down side, he isn’t flashy at anything and can take too many penalties.

            He’s got some bust potential for sure, but his upside is that of a Maroon-ish player.

            Given his age and skillset I’d roll the dice given the logjam on the backend.

            I like the kid more than most I see. But that’s fine.

          • piscera.infada

            Fair enough. You like the player. I’m not sure the “logjam” at defense is such an issue that you give up on a player with Kylington’s ceiling. I get that everyone seems to have soured on Kylington (because narratives and “reasons”), and that’s fine (I guess)–I’m obviously not one of those people at all. And yeah, I’ll agree, “trade him for the right price”. McCaron is surely not the right price though. You can like his motor, his size, and his skating (“for a guy his size”–which honestly, is a caveat which never gets me excited for anyone, but I digress…). The point stands though, he doesn’t have the production that separates him from a player like Shinkaruk. Also, a Maroon comparison doesn’t get me excited. Agree to disagree.

          • Burnward

            Totally understand everything you said, different strokes as it where.

            I also look at the kids and think he fills a need. Johnny needs an enforcer who can play. Ferland is perfect for that.

            Tkachuck and Bennett are both little pricks though, so they’ll need someone to watch their backs and take the penalties so they can play.

            I think he could fill that role and grow with the team.

    • TheoForever

      Is this guy a Bollig clone? Right now he doesn’t look like much of a player. I wouldn’t include Poirier, he is going to be a player. The other two, sure why not.

  • Rockmorton65

    Unless something falls into his lap (ie – Neal for a song) I think BT should stand pat. See where the team is at in training camp. Watch the waiver wire & if necessary, pick up an upgrade. There’s bound to be something come up between now & opening night.

  • everton fc

    Leave Ferland w/Gaudreau and Monahan and I bet all three clear 20 goals. Why “fix” what’s not broken??

    I’d only sign Jagr if he was to slot on RW w/Versteeg and Bennett. But that will be Brouwer’s spot, unfortunately. If we can build a 4th line that can pop in some goals and play great both ways… From the goalie out we appear much less dangerous to ourselves….

    I don’t see much more need for unnecessary capital expenditure. Then again, it’s not my money!

  • oddclod

    Sign Jagr, Vanek, or Iginla if only to keep Brouwer off the PP

    Or get one of the kids to pair with Stone, shelter him, boost his numbers and package him for a top 6 RW at the deadline. Abdelkader would be good, Simmonds would be better.

    Another basement dweller that needs to improve their D could see Colorado’s prospect Rantanen be pried away.

    Either way, you don’t go into the playoffs without one or the other.

  • Jay

    Acquire Niederreiter, bury Brouwer and Stajan to save cap space, and ice an all-kid 4th line.

    Gaudreau-Monahan-Niederreiter
    Tkachuk-Backlund-Frolik
    Versteeg-Bennett-Ferland
    Jankowski-Lazar-Foo

  • oilcanboyd

    By my eye Ferley scored some very creative goals and so is the perfect linemate for JG nd SM. Leave that line together along with the 3 M line to start the season. Why try and fix something that aint broke. Bennett and Versteeg together for sure as number 3 line with Jankowski, maybe.

  • Cheeky

    Stay the course and fir once try some prospects – they might surprise (just like how Monny and Tkachuk did). Enough of the sign Jagr and Iggy and Doan, trade all top prospects for 1 yr of this (fill in the blank) over rated player…Im prettysure there will still be enough washed up ufa’s available after camp if needed.

  • Franko J

    Irony is for years the Flames had an elite RW and subsequently little else.
    The opposite is true for the current club. With the team trading away valuable assets and very few picks in the top 100 in the next two drafts they will be hard pressed to find another elite talent on the right side. The decision was made by Treliving to target the holes on D instead of on the right side. Therefore the Flames can only hope that someone in the list above can somehow become that elite RW. Remember the days of Mullen, Loob, and Macdonald patrolling the RW for this team. It was so deep that Fletcher traded away one of the most prolific scorers in the nineties to the Blues.