If there’s one thing that’s simultaneously fascinating and frustrating about the run-up to the National Hockey League’s trade deadline, it’s the attention paid to scouting lists at every game. Most of the time, they don’t matter one bit. But if you’ve been following Twitter over the past two weeks, one constant has popped up in many of the scouting lists: the Calgary Flames have people at just about every single Ottawa Senators game.
For some background, the Flames brought in all their pro scouts for a family meeting prior to the Flames’ game with Winnipeg on Jan. 20. Everyone who works on the pro side of hockey operations was in town to plan for the trade deadline. Since then? The Flames have sent a lot of their key scouts to watch Ottawa.
Of the scouting lists for the Ottawa games that have happened since Jan. 20, the Flames have sent five different scouts to four different games:
- Jan. 25 (Ottawa at Boston): assistant general manager Craig Conroy
- Feb. 1 (Ottawa vs. Anaheim): director, pro personnel Derek MacKinnon
- Feb. 3 (Ottawa at Philadelphia): vice-president, hockey operations Don Maloney
- Feb. 4 (Ottawa at Montreal): director, hockey analysis Chris Snow and hockey analysis staffer David Johnson
With this many people checking and cross-checking Ottawa games, it’s probably safe to say that the Flames are very interested in a Senators player (or players).
Who could they be looking at?
Here are the three names that have popped up in reports from folks like Bruce Garrioch, Elliotte Friedman and Chris Johnston as being available.
Mike Hoffman (28)
A left-shooting forward who can play center and the wing, Hoffman is in his prime years and is signed through 2019-20. He’s making $5.188 million a season, though, so it would be a challenge for the Flames to acquire him and stay under the cap without sending something big the other way.
Hoffman’s one of the prime players reported to be available at the deadline, so it would probably take a big package of assets – including the 2019 first round pick and a key prospect – to land him.
Zack Smith (29)
Another left-shooting forward, Smith is primarily a center who’s also in his prime years. He’s signed through 2020-21 and carries a cap hit of $3.25 million. He’s easier to fit under the cap, but he’s also not really an offensive player. All due respect to the guy, but he’d basically be a left-handed Troy Brouwer. It probably wouldn’t cost a ton to get him, as Ottawa would probably be content with a B-level prospect just so they can save themselves his cap hit.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau (25)
The youngest of the three players thought to be available, Pageau is another left-shooting forward. He’s a better offensive talent than Smith and fits the Flames’ need for speedy bottom six forwards, but his $3.1 million cap hit is a bit pricey. He’s signed through 2019-20.