The Calgary Flames enter the 2018 trade deadline in a bit of precarious spot: they could use a significant upgrade but lack a lush of significant assets to make said upgrade.
A bit of a dilemma.
That’s not to say the Flames don’t have the assets to chase the marlins of the deadline this year – the Hoffmans or the Paciorettys – it’s to say they probably shouldn’t. With no first rounder this year and no second rounder until, like, 2035 (2021 actually, depending on some conditions, but still), the Flames aren’t likely to be refueling the pipeline in any significant way in the near future, and shouldn’t go mortgaging the top end of the existing pipeline.
Rasmus Andersson, Adam Fox, Juuso Valimaki, Tyler Parsons, Oliver Kylington and Dillion Dube are all the types of prospects that could centerpiece a Hoffman or Pacioretty deal, but could bite the Flames in the rear end when the need for quality, cheap depth arises in a few years and said depth is nowhere to be found.
Given the Flames have pushed a good chunk of their chips – and picks – to the middle already with the Travis Hamonic and Mike Smith deals, a half-assed “going for it” doesn’t make much sense. May as well attempt to give it your best go this year, and if it falls short, at least you didn’t mortgage the future for half-a-try.
The obvious need is for right wing scoring help – on the third line specifically – and New York Rangers forward Rick Nash – once a big-ticket marlin himself – presents a unique opportunity for the Flames to still raise the stakes, without taking out a second mortgage.
Good and cheap
The ideal addition any deadline would be a good hockey player with a low acquisition cost, but for the Flames this year, that almost becomes a prerequisite for making any deal. They should be loathe to give up quality assets, but could really use an upgrade on the third line.
The target you’ll most hear about leading up to the deadline is the Rangers’ Michael Grabner. He’s the ideal middle six forward: lightening quick skater with special teams usability, goal-scoring ability and a cheap contract to boot.
But that’s exactly what will make him such an expensive add.
Grabner’s $1.65 million cap hit will fit under most anyone’s cap, he already has 21 goals on the season and is a tried option on both the power play and penalty kill. Patrick Eaves was in a similar “cheap goalscorer” mold last year – albeit minus the Flash skating ability – and extracted a first rounder from the Anaheim Ducks. Grabner is actually scoring goals at a better clip than Eaves was at the time of his trade last year. I think (I hope?) it goes without saying that giving up a first is a non-starter.
Luckily, Grabner has a teammate who might just fit the “good and cheap” bill perfectly: the aforementioned Nash.
Nash has traditionally been looked at as among the NHL’s elite scorers, having compiled eight 30-goal seasons, and over 400 total goals in his career. His numbers haven’t been anywhere near that of a top scorer for going on three years, and at 33 years of age, his career might be beginning to wind down – which makes him the perfect trade candidate for the Flames.
He isn’t cheap in the traditional sense – carrying a cap hit of $7.8 million – but likely would be from the perspective of acquisition cost. Nash is on pace for his worst statistical season ever, and is a UFA at season’s end. The case for the floundering Rangers to keep him past the deadline is non-existent; meanwhile, the line up for suitors isn’t likely to stretch around the block.
Given Nash also has an 18-team no-trade list, I doubt there’s even a lineup for him. Assuming the Flames aren’t on it – they’ve been residents of no-trade lists though, so they very well may be – Nash could be a terrific value add at the deadline.
Still got it
Though his counting stats have declined, Nash is playing on a Rangers squad that is a shell of its former self. For most of the season he’s been in a leading role with Kevin Hayes as his centre and Mats Zuccarello on the opposite wing. Though Nash shoots left, he’s been deployed as a right winger for much of his career, and is still listed as one on HockeyDB.
Though a move to the Flames’ third line would certainly be a large reduction in role, Mark Jankowski isn’t much of a step down from Kevin Hayes. There’s also something to be said for facing weaker competition, especially when Nash has been among the Rangers’ most effective forwards despite getting the opposition’s toughest defenders night in and night out.
|Rick Nash||5v5 metric|
|Corsi For %||47.38|
|Shots For %||50.35|
|Scoring Chances For %||48.54|
|High Danger CF%||53.19|
What stands out is that Nash owns the High Danger Corsi For share, something the Flames as a team have done extremely well this season. He’s also on the right side of the overall shot share at even strength. He does fall behind in the Corsi and Scoring Chance battles though, but the Rangers as a team have gotten crushed possession-wise at even strength.
When examining the relative rates, we see Nash has managed to show extremely favorably relative to his teammates.
|Rick Nash||5v5 metric||Team rank|
|Corsi For % relative||2.16||5th|
|Shots For % relative||4.39||3rd|
|Scoring Chances For % relative||1.98||7th|
|High Danger CF% relative||4.74||4th|
It seems Nash is actually unlucky to only have scored only 15 goals through 53 games given the way he creates chances. The majority of the Flames team has been mired in miserable shooting percentage slumps, so Nash would fit right in. However, it’s clear he’s been a better offensive generator than his stats might show, and facing third liners alongside Sam Bennett and Jankowski – though a drop in minutes – might see a spike in counting stats.
Nash is also that big body – he’s 6’4, 211 lbs – with actual scoring ability the Flames have been craving for their power play. Imagine Troy Brouwer, but can actually make plays and bury chances.
So what would it take to acquire Nash, assuming the Flames are one of the 12 teams he can be traded to? Well, at the time of the writing of this original piece, I said:
If I were to design a trade I’d expect to see from a Flames perspective, it would be Morgan Klimchuk and Florida’s 2018 fourth round pick for Rick Nash with 50% of the salary retained, making only a $3.9 million dent on the cap. Not horrible given the upgrade it gives the Flames on their third line with an acquisition cost that doesn’t completely cripple them.
However, Bob McKenzie decided to ruin my article mere hours after writing it.
McKenzie: As of this moment, three pieces seem to be the asking price for Rick Nash. "A first-round pick, a top prospect, and another lesser player or prospect or pick." #NYR
— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) February 6, 2018
Well, that’s obscene. What I’ve just detailed above turns from an argument for adding Nash in a value trade to not adding Nash at that absurd price. This is no longer your premier power forward Rick Nash, it’s decent depth scorer Rick Nash, and I’d expect NHL teams to see that.
However, teams always ask for the sun, moon and stars this time of year, and prices tend to plummet closer to the deadline. Additionally, there are a lot of UFA rentals this year, and it seems to be a buyers market given the reasonably large contingent of sellers, so the price could drop significantly.
Nash is still an effective offensive forward in a support role, and given the Flames are looking to add a scorer with minimal asset capital, Nash might still be a good candidate given the rental market takes after the cryptocurrency market and comes tumbling down. Pierre LeBrun mentioned the Flames would be willing to part with one of David Rittich or Jon Gillies at the deadline, and with Lundqvist getting all kinds of old, perhaps a package centred around of them would make sense?
Jon Gillies and Florida’s fourth rounder would be as high as I personally would be willing to go, though. As mentioned above, if the talk turns to Kylington, Andersson or any of the top prospect squad, hang up the phone. Especially if New York is as delusional in their asking price at it seems they would be.
So with that I ask you: Would you like to see Rick Nash in a Flames jersey, and if so, what sort of return would you be willing to give up for him? Let me know in the comments!