The Flames are pretty much done, and all that’s left are a handful of games, a faint mathematical possibility, and two recall slots.
Following the trade deadline, teams are only allowed to call up four players in non-emergency situations. (If it’s an emergency, i.e. a team literally can’t dress a full lineup, then the rule doesn’t apply.) The Flames have, so far, used up two recalls: one on David Rittich, who was papered down to the AHL to ensure he’d be eligible for the playoffs if the Heat make it; the other on Rasmus Andersson, as T.J. Brodie was rendered unable to play.
That leaves two recall slots left for the final handful of games this season. Andrew Mangiapane is out as a candidate, his season prematurely over due to a shoulder injury requiring surgery. But what about the other possibilities?
After he finished his third year of college with 62 points in 38 games, the Flames won the Spencer Foo bidding war and signed him to an entry-level deal. At 23 years old, he’s in the midst of playing his first professional season. His 35 points in 56 games for the Heat has him fourth in team scoring, and second among active players.
He has 19 goals on the season – behind only Mangiapane – but leads the entire Heat team with 145 shots on net, good for roughly 2.6 shots per game. It took him some time to break out, but once the pucks actually started going in, he’s been on a roll.
And Foo fills a pretty big need for the Flames: both for today, and the near future. He’s a right-shot right wing, something the Flames are in desperate need of. Perhaps giving Foo a bit of a taste of the big league could set him up in a position to succeed next season?
With 36 points in 55 games, Morgan Klimchuk is now the Heat’s leading active scorer. Five seasons after being drafted, he finally got to make his NHL debut: the last player drafted in the 2013 first round to do so.
Though this is his third season a professional, he still only just turned 23 earlier this month. Klimchuk could still develop into a solid player, and getting another couple of NHL games in could help give him a leg up for next season, as well.
The Flames have had a stacked defensive group all season, and Andersson has only been able to break into the lineup when someone else has been injured. With so many exciting defensive prospects, though, it may be best to use this time to give the ones already in professional leagues NHL time, and see if it can help give them that little extra push to forcing the Flames’ hands and making them full-timers.
Though the Flames have plenty of time with Oliver Kylington. While he’s already in his third AHL season his entry-level deal only just started; he’s still only 20 years old, and under contract for the next two seasons. He’s also in the midst of his best offensive season, with 30 points over 52 games so far this season. With Adam Fox and Juuso Valimaki potentially moving in, it may be best for the Flames to see if Kylington could be ready sooner rather than later.
Tyler Wotherspoon is set to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career following this season. He’s in his fifth professional year, but this is the first time he hasn’t been called up to the NHL. With 34 points over 56 games, he’s the Heat’s second-highest defensive scorer, and it may be the Flames’ last chance to see if they should try to re-sign him.
There’s nothing stating the Flames have to use all four of their recalls. While bringing prospects up can serve a number of different purposes – a reward for a good season, a chance to show them what they still have to do to make the NHL, because they just genuinely are the better option – there’s still something to be said for staying in the AHL.
The Heat still have a chance to make the playoffs. They have, however, lost one of their better goaltenders and their top scorers in that quest. Playoffs in Stockton are by no means a guarantee, and the Heat could likely use all of the help – and stability – they can get.
Besides, which is better for a developing prospect: a couple of minutes in a meaningless NHL game, or playoffs in one of the top leagues in the world?
What would you do?