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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

WWYD Wednesday: Trade a Calgary defender for a Toronto right wing?

It’s no secret the Calgary Flames have enviable organizational depth on the blueline. With the addition of guys like Travis Hamonic and Juuso Valimaki this summer (as well as the emergence of Adam Fox), the Flames may end up with more defenders than they know what to do with in a couple of years.

The same can’t be said for the club’s depth at right wing, however. After Michael Frolik, things drop off precipitously, with little hope of help from the organization’s farm or minor league systems.

So what should the Flames do? Continue to hoard their defensive talent and hope they can plug holes in the forward roster as needed? Or should they trade from a position of strength to shore up a position of weakness?

Before we proceed, let’s do a deeper comparison between the Flames’ RW and defensive depths. Here’s how Calgary’s blueline shakes out:

LD:

  • Mark Giordano (33)
  • T.J. Brodie (26)
  • Brett Kulak (23)
  • Oliver Kylington (20)
  • Juuso Valimaki (18)
  • Tyler Wotherspoon (23)

RD:

  • Dougie Hamilton (24)
  • Travis Hamonic (27)
  • Michael Stone (27)
  • Rasmus Andersson (20)
  • Adam Fox (19)

For simplicity’s sake, I have excluded long shots and fringe guys like Matt Bartkowski, Josh Healey, Adam Ollas-Mattsson, etc.

As you can see, it’s an embarrassment of riches on the backend for Calgary. Only Mark Giordano is over 30 years old and he’s still a premier defender. Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington are both good bets to press for an NHL spot in a year or two while Valimaki and Fox are bluechip prospects. Brodie, Hamilton, and Hamonic are in the meaty part of the typical NHL career arc, with Hamilton figuring to be a top 10 offensive defenseman for the foreseeable future.

In contrast, here’s the Flames’ RW depth:

  • Michael Frolik (29)
  • Micheal Ferland (25 – converted LW)
  • Kris Versteeg (31)
  • Troy Brouwer (33)
  • Curtis Lazar (22)
  • Spencer Foo (23)
  • Garnet Hathaway (25)
  • Emile Poirier (22)
  • Daniel Pribyl (24)

Hoo boy that’s ugly.

Versteeg and Brouwer are both older than 30, with Brouwer figuring to be a buyout candidate before the end of his contract. Ferland is a quality utility winger who will likely be shifted to the right wing out of necessity. Foo, Poirier, and Pribyl are all unknown commodities, although none of them figure to ever be impact players. Lazar is a darkhorse the team is betting on despite lackluster results in the NHL so far and Hathaway is what he is: a replacement level bang and crasher.

Even if we dig deeper into the org’s coffers, there still isn’t much to get excited about. The last five right wingers the club chose at the entry draft were: Zach Fischer, D’Artagnan Joly, Eetu Tuulola, Hunter Smith, and Tim Harrison. It’s long shots all the way down. (Harrison isn’t even a member of the organization anymore.)

Frolik is the only time-tested top six right winger in the org (and he’s actually left-handed). Maybe Ferland gets there this year, or maybe he remains merely a decent middle six option who can move up to the scoring line a pinch (he is also left-handed). None of the club’s right side attack is naturally right-handed or currently at peak age, unless you count AHLers Hathaway and Pribyl (you shouldn’t).

This lack of depth matters both and now in the future. Presently, the Flames are entering a contention window with the Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, Dougie Hamilton core.

Unfortunately, the unimpressive right side opens the Flames up to significant injury risk as they try to compete this season. Imagine, for instance, both Frolik and Versteeg experience injuries at the same time in 2017-18. Unless Foo steps fully formed into the NHL, the starboard side becomes something of a tottering junk pile:

  • Gaudreau – Monahan – Ferland
  • Tkachuk – Backlund – Lazar
  • F. Hamilton/Jankowski – Bennett – Brouwer
  • Shinkaruk/Mangipane – Stajan – Foo/Hathaway

In fact, the Flames RW is so bad it forces the club to “borrow” from its left wing depth, rapidly depleting the other side as well.

The future is also a concern since both Versteeg and Frolik are aging and don’t figure to be around forever. Guys like Fischer and Joly are low bets to ever make the NHL and even if they surprise, they are probably five years away at best. As such, the club’s internal RW development is currently pinned on guys like Foo and Poirier, which seems like a big bet on long odds.

The Toronto Maple Leafs as a trading partner

The good news for the Flames is good defensemen are always in demand. Almost any guy in Calgary’s top six (with the possible exception of Kulak) would probably be of interest in a trade to one degree or another. In addition, Andersson, Kylington, Valimaki, and Fox would all likely garner significant interest if they were included in a trade proposal.

If we scan the NHL for trade partners, one team jumps out as an obvious fit: the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Now I know trades with the Leafs have typically not gone the Flames’ way, but they are a club with an inverse problem: lots of quality wingers versus lackluster defensive depth. Check it out:

Notable wingers:

  • James van Riemsdyk (28)
  • William Nylander (21)
  • Mitch Marner (20)
  • Connor Brown (23)
  • Kasperi Kapanen (21)
  • Kerby Rychel (22)

Nylander and Marner are converted centermen, which technically makes them more valuable. Both guys figure to be impact NHLers.

JVR is a good offensive LW, albeit not great defensively and already 28. Brown, Kapanen, and Rychel are lesser options, though with good enough numbers and pedigree to be of interest. The ideal candidate from a Flames perspective, of course, is Nylander. He’s young, right-handed, and already a high-quality offensive weapon. Of course, Nylander will also be not available for purchase, or very expensive to acquire.

Before we go on, here’s the Maple Leafs’ blueline:

  • Morgan Rielly
  • Nikita Zaitsev
  • Jake Gardiner
  • Ron Hainsey
  • Martin Marincin
  • Connor Carrick

Some good players, but also some huge question marks.

Like the Flames, the Leafs are moving into a contention window with the likes of Auston Matthews, Nazem Kadri, Freddie Andersen, and Marner/Nylander. However, their backend is a clear Achilles heel with no obvious help coming from the org’s minor league or draft picks any time soon.

So the question is: would you trade one of the Flames’ defenders for a Leafs winger? If so, do you swap middle tier guys like Kylington and Andersson for Brown or Kapanen? Or do you dangle a high-end asset in order to try to pry William Nylander out of Toronto?

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  • Special K

    I would trade Brodie and either Lazar or Kylington for Nylander.
    With the additions made this summer on defence and the promising crop of defencemen ( who need to be in the NHL at some point) Brodie is expendable. I really like Brodie, he skates great, his first passes are great, but he can’t hit the net and if he does there is nothing on his shot. He seemed distracted this past year, his wife’s health issues I’m sure adds to that, he may do better in Toronto nearer home for him and his wife.
    Nylander could play with Bennett and Versteeg, combined with the other two top lines this would be a scary top nine.

    • supra steve

      “I would trade Brodie and either Lazar or Kylington for Nylander.”
      If Adam Larsson can fetch Taylor Hall, then why would you give Brodie plus Lazar or Kylington to get Nylander? I think you are undervaluing Brodie.

      • cberg

        Yes and no. First off, we are talking Hall here, with quite a bit of baggage around his leadership, attitudes, etc. Not saying they were all justified, but… Second, Larsson was one of the league’s top defensive D with size and youth. Brodie has his own strengths I agree but in Ari’s scenario I’m not sure who you might dangle otherwise…. Gio?

  • Special K

    Maybe I am undervaluing Brodie, you could get a pick coming back too???
    You have to give up something to get something. FN has blamed all of Brodie’s problems on Wideman. Wideman was not impeding Brodie from hitting the net or having some zip on his shot.

    • Off the wall

      If Hamilton skates like a deer, then is Brodie an Impala?

      After acquiring a formidable top 4, we’re now discussing trading one of them… pfft

      Brodie is by far the best skating defenceman we have! I love D Hamilton, but no contest in the way Brodie can get back in a real hurry. He’s never been known to shoot a lot, but his passing game is definitely his forte.

      Just out of curiosity, when Stone arrived last year we saw a much more confident Brodie. It’s not a coincidence. Brodie wouldn’t gamble when you know who was with him on the ice. ..Can’t jinx this thread.

      To say otherwise would mean you really didn’t watch the same games the rest of us watched.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    The Leafs see Nylander as part of their core therefore not a trade chip. I think Kapanen is waisted on the Fourth line and would be a good acquisition. I would be willing to part with Kjillington.

    If both Kjillington and Liljrgren pan out they would have an explosive pair. Kapanen reminds me a bit of a younger and faster Hudler and we know how that worked out on the top line.

    It is possible that the Leafs might have to move a core player to land a missing top 4 D but I think we are going to hear a lot of Mathews to Nylander for many years. If Calgary is not a contender this year…I could them moving Gio for a first and second/or prospect.

  • cjc

    Andersson is a no no for me. Not because of ceiling, but because I don’t have the same confidence most seem to have that both Stone and Hamonic will have bounce-back seasons. I don’t think Toronto needs defence as badly as Calgary needs a RW, so the price for a guy like Nylander will be astronomical. Kapanen is interesting though. Very good AHL numbers, but not much shot at the NHL level. Guys who can post a point per game pace in the AHL as a 20 year old almost always turn into solid NHLers. I could see trading Kylington for him especially as we now have Valimaki in the fold.

    • Baalzamon

      I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Stone will be traded before the draft to recoup picks (or one pick). Andersson isn’t going to have players in his way for long.

      • Carl the tooth

        I Agree I believe stone was signed for depth and a bidge for our younger guys plus we will get atleast a aecond round pick for stone . Hamonic is also expendable if trev gets the ri

  • Kevin R

    For cap reasons I think the Leafs are feeling a little more urgency for a top4 D & Kylington wouldn’t be a target. I guess we could always take JVR & their 2017 1st for Hamonic but why would we do that. Personally, stay the course on RW & if we bring anyone, I would sign Jagr & lose no assets & try to enjoy a D group that doesn’t have the baggage we carried in Wideman, Smid & to some extent Engellend. We have some young guys like Foo, Lazar, Porrier that have something to prove. Lets give them this year to do that.

  • everton fc

    Kapanen is a prospect. He’s worth no more than a defencive prospect straight-up. Same with Rychel.

    Nylander’s going nowhere. The Leafs will never move him.

    Which brings us to Connor Brown… A 6th round pick who continues to improve. Now with a full-year of NHL experience. He’d be the player I think the Leafs might dangle for one of our young d-men. As for JVR… He’d be a nice addition. But what’s the cost – Andersson/secondary prospect, or something along those lines? Is JVR worth that much?? Just shy of a 30 goal scorer since 2013-14, one injury-year aside….

  • Gojo

    R u clowns still harping on a # 4 defence making a difference to a teams season? Can Arizonas #7 def be better than anyone cal had last year? TJ’s prob r most complete D . Wides was w him cause GIO had to babysit the biggest defensive liability. Has any serious SC contender in the last few years had a 4th def who could crack this lineup. This team needs 3 legit top 6 forwards as Frolic is 3rd line RW at best.

  • Gojo

    It does not really matter how good calgarys prospects on def and goal are. As long as Burkie keeps trading for other teams cast offs – yes I’m still harping on Burke as the teams real GM – I can clown with the best of em’ . This management refuses to give their legit kids in the minors a real chance. Guys like smith and lackey and stone have eliminated any chance deserving kids in the minors will get in calgary.

  • Avalain

    I would look at a trade, yes. Everyone always talks about drafting the best pick available, but the other side of that is that you need to trade to help round out the roster.