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FlamesNation Mailbag: The prospects, the Pacific, and the preseason

With the preseason officially underway after the Flames and Bruins kicked it off in China, we can only count down the days until the actual season begins. Until then, let’s look at the new and improved Pacific division, the kids who could make the team, and what the preseason has revealed thus far.

Remember that you can email questions in at flamesnationmailbag@gmail.com.

Kzak writes:

Mark Stone could push the Flames over the edge, but what would we have to give up for a mid-season trade and how would we fit him under the cap if we gave him a long term extension.

Ottawa is an odd trade partner too, so it’s kind of hard to say. The obvious package to give up would be an NHL asset, an A prospect and a pick, but the Erik Karlsson (traded for depth defenceman, depth forward, B+ prospects, and picks) and Mike Hoffman (traded for depth winger, depth AHLer, sixth round pick) trades are proof that they don’t really have much of a rebuilding strategy besides acquiring multiple assets, actual quality be damned. As long as they’re young and able to play in the NHL now, it’s good enough for the Sens, as their latest big deals suggest.

With that in mind, it’s honestly hard to say what Ottawa would want from the Flames. Maybe you could sneak Mark Stone out with players like Brett Kulak, Spencer Foo, and/or Morgan Klimchuk with a couple of high-ish picks. Maybe Ottawa learns a lesson sometime between now and next trade deadline and demands higher end players like Dillon Dube, Rasmus Andersson, and/or Juuso Valimaki.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s probably best to remember that the Flames probably can’t afford it anyways. The first hurdle the Flames have to clear is moving out $5M in salary to bring in Stone, assuming that they don’t have any LTIR cap relief by midseason. The first to go is brother Michael Stone, but that only saves you $3.5M (also worth noting that Mike has a 15-team NTC. It’s likely that Ottawa is on the list, and I don’t think he’d waive it if he wasn’t playing with his brother). Then the decisions get tricky. You’d have to likely ditch one of Mark Jankowski ($1.675M) or Sam Bennett ($1.95M) to make the deal work. If you can convince Ottawa to take on these players, great, but it’s unlikely and probably forces you to sweeten the pot a bit more.

If the Flames want Mark Stone, they should probably wait until 2019 UFA season. They’d either have to rob Ottawa blind or give up a lot for less than a full season of him. Either way, unrealistic.

Mike probably starts on the ice. I think both management and player know the writing is on the wall, so he probably gets one last shot at redemption before the team parks him for good. Andersson is likely an upgrade right now, but until he wins the job, Stone gets to keep his.

And besides, it’s pretty bad business to keep a $3.5M man in the press box when he has two more years left on his contract. Parking him in the box squashes any potential trade value, and you can’t really ride it out (like they did with Dennis Wideman) because he’s still under contract for 2019-20.

Bennett is also a player whose job might be threatened by prospects from below. The difference between him and Stone is that Bennett still has runway to actually reach his potential.

But it’s not a long runway. I think he gets this year to see if he can figure it out and develop some sort of consistency, but if nothing happens, he’s likely gone. If management is wise, they know Sam isn’t going to be the player that he was projected to be when he was drafted, but they certainly hope he can turn a corner. They have a new coaching staff and a better supporting cast, one that doesn’t put the weight of the bottom six scoring on Bennett. If he doesn’t go anywhere despite the changes, it’s on him.

I’d say the Mendoza line for Bennett is 30 points. If he can put away more than that, he will stay. Teams pay a lot more for regular 30-point scorers, so if you can keep him under $2.5M, everyone’s happy. Under 30 points and he’s going to become easily replaced by players like Andrew Mangiapane and Dube. Perhaps the mystery box factor pushes the needle in favour of the prospects (i.e.: we know what Bennett is, we don’t know what the prospects are, ergo they are more exciting than Bennett), but Bennett is certainly on thin ice. If he can’t succeed in the face of low expectations (arguably for the second year in a row, depending on what you thought he could do last year), he really hasn’t earned his spot on this team.

The Pacific has definitely become a tougher place in the last week. Let’s break it down.

I don’t think the Sharks adding Karlsson will actually do much for the Flames. They were likely the division winner anyways, so adding Karlsson will probably just widen the gap between them and whoever finishes second. Second place is likely the Golden Knights, who have added insurance in Max Pacioretty (and Paul Stastny earlier in the offseason) to prevent them from extreme regression.

Those are probably the only two teams that are out of reach for the Flames in the Pacific. For the rest of the West, the Wild and the Preds are likely out of reach, too.

The Pacific teams that will really be in the mix with the Flames are the remaining California teams. Although the Kings are a very old team, they’ve been playoff mainstays for the past few years and will likely be just as competitive this season provided everyone doesn’t just fall off the aging curve. The Ducks are annoyingly lethal as always, but suffer from the same problems as the Kings: they’re old. Corey Perry is rapidly declining and Ryan Getzlaf could be next. The Ducks also have a health problem (Ryan Kesler and . Patrick Eaves are both out already), so perhaps a slow start for them could seal their fate, although that didn’t stop them last season.

The Flames should finish ahead of those two teams, although it’s going to be pretty tough. They will also face tough battles against the Avs (very talented, but one Nate MacKinnon injury away from irrelevancy) and the Blues (added Ryan O’Reilly) for wild card spots, although the Wild should come crashing down this season.

However, we also must consider that there are teams that will likely try and usurp Calgary. The Coyotes look to take another major step forward with the addition of Alex Galchenyuk, but they’ve been unrealized potential for the past two seasons, so they’ll need to be seen to be believed. The Blackhawks are another aging team, but the talent on their roster through name value alone should be enough to warrant a scare. The Oilers didn’t do anything to improve on a disappointing 2017-18, but you can’t ever really count out a team with Connor McDavid on it (on the other hand, it is incredibly easy to count out a team with Ty Rattie as their #1 RW)

So briefly: they can feasibly pass LA, Anaheim, St. Louis, Minnesota, and Colorado. However, they should watch out for Arizona, Edmonton, and Chicago.

It’s very preliminary – the three have played four combined games thus far, and rookie showcase games at that – but I would go with Dube. He’s looked to be the best of the three with his speed and smarts looking to be up to NHL snuff already. It’s a very close competition, but Dube is looking like more of a complete package with a higher upside.

We’ll have to wait until the China squad is back and the preseason is underway to get a better viewing, but from what we have right now, Dube is the leader.

That being said, realistically, it’s Mangiapane. What does the kid have left to prove at the AHL level? Although Dube outshined him in the rookie showcase, Mangiapane has the actual pro resume that backs him up. The team is very pragmatic with prospect development, so they’ll likely keep Dube down anyways for the sake of it.

Tyler Parsons is probably going to take a major step forward. Again, we’ve only seen him for four and a half periods thus far, but he’s looked incredible. After his troublesome pro rookie year, he has nowhere to go but up and could feasibly finish the year as the starter for the Stockton Heat depending on how things shake out.

My dark horse prospect to take a big leap is D’Artagnan Joly. He’s been an extremely strong player on a weak Baie-Comeau team and another year of growth plus an injury-free offseason could turn him into one of the best QMJHLers next season. He is definitely one to watch.

Klimchuk is the do-or-die player. The Flames purged fellow 2013 first rounders Emile Poirier and Hunter Shinkaruk from the org, so he’s likely next. He’s been consistent for the Heat the past two seasons, but he has to face off against a new crop of CHLers (Dube, Glenn Gawdin, Matthew Phillips) vying for NHL spots. If he doesn’t make an NHL impact this year, he’s also gone.

Garnet Hathaway is likely an extra. If you read too deep into the China lines, he might get a start on the ice but given that they didn’t bring over the prospects who could feasibly crack the lineup, his spot is shaky at best. He’s a fine fourth line option who can provide some energy, and at 26, I don’t think the Flames will send him down to Stockton to take time away from younger players.

Curtis Lazar is probably the one starting the season in Stockton. Again, reading too deeply, but the Flames have him on the spare line for the China games. I think Anthony Peluso might win out the 14th forward spot (which is fine: if he’s not on the ice, he’s not hurting anybody and it’s certainly better that the older vet sits than the kid under 25), so Lazar gets demoted. If they think the “Ottawa screwed up his development” narrative is true and that Lazar can salvage his game, then the AHL is the best place for him. At best, he finally rounds out his game and actually become a fine bottom six option. At worst, he’s that in the AHL.

Lazar’s time with the Flames isn’t long anyways considering the strength of the prospect pool, so there’s no real need to keep pushing him to make it work. Guys like Foo, Gawdin, or Phillips can easily fill the right hand gap on the fourth line and potentially provide more than that. Lazar has had a lot of NHL time to prove what he is, and unfortunately he has only proven that he’s a replacement-level player.

  • Calgarycandle

    Flames are said by the Athletic to have the 29th best or 3rd worst prospect pool. Yes, we lost first round picks, but then I look at Dube, Valamaki, Andersson, Kylington, Foo, Mangiapane and they all seem close to NHL ready. Parsons seems like a solid goalie prospect. Gawdin could be a dark horse if his skating strengthens. I wonder if they are looking for one super-star, or I view things through Flames’ colored glasses?

    • Korcan

      Prospect rankings vary so much, because everyone has a different criteria by which they assess. Part of Calgary’s “problem” is some of what would be their top prospects are already playing on the big team, Tkachuk being the obvious example. That being said, apart from Valimaki, Dube(?), and possibly Parsons, Calgary lacks in blue-chip, high-end talent in their pipeline. Thay have a number who will likely make the NHL as depth players, but not many real difference makers. IMO this is not a big concern as their core of high-end talent is pretty much already in place and are mostly young enough (apart from Gio) that they won’t need to be replaced for some time. That being said, they do need to stop giving away their first round picks or it soon will be a problem.

    • Parallex

      Sure but the thing is every team has guys like that. Really the reason Calgary ranks so low is because of Dougie Trade 1 & Hamonic Trade. The Flames traded away a bunch of futures for nows (which is what you do if you fancy yourself a contending team). The return hasn’t garnered the result that folk were expecting which is where the perception problem of having such a lowly regarded farm system. Team making deep runs in the playoffs = “Who cares about farm rankings!” Team failing to even make the post-season = “why are our farm rankings so low!”

    • Kevin R

      I think most teams prospect ranking will be up & down all the time. If you have the top prospect ranking for too long then your NHL team is going to really suck for a long time. Most prospects need some seasoning & usually just reach the NHL when they hit 21-22. Consider this list:
      Monahan 23
      Lindholm 23
      Bennett 22
      Tkachuk 20
      Hanifin 21
      Gaudreau 25
      Jankowski 24
      I wouldnt get too concerned with a group of young players like this already on the NHL roster. No wonder our prospect rating is so low. Also note that there is only 1 defence man on this list, & arguably our top 3 prospects that are about o be NHL ready are all D in Andersson, Valamaki & Kylington. Sounds like Tre knows what he has on the roster & in the pipeline.

    • MDG1600

      I doubt Calgary has the 3rd worst prospect pool but I think it is fair to say Calgary lacks blue chip prospects that project to be top line forwards or top pairing defencemen. As Calgary fans we see guys like Valimaaki and Dube as blue chip but they clearly aren’t in the same category as an Elias Peterssen, Rasmus Dahlin or Casey Middlestadt. A lot of prospects never live up to their billing while others surprise so I wouldn’t get to worked up over it. Having said that it would be nice if we keep our first rounder for the next few years.

    • Hockeysense9393

      It took a few years for BT to even reach this point and now it’s finally showing some consistent prospect production. The Flames are getting to a point now where they can actually discriminate against age in a way and lean harder into teaching as apposed to pushing. As well as Treviling and Tod Button are doing, filling needs with higher draft picks and undrafted…there are quite a few teams that are ahead in the game.

  • freethe flames

    In many ways you are right when you say it’s far to early to read into who makes it and who does not make it and I’m actually happy with that; competition is good for this team.

    Two questions were asked and could have been linked together: What would the cost be of acquiring Stone and what is the future for Bennett? Bennett very well could be a piece used to acquire Stone later in the season. We should always remember the further the season goes along the greater value cap space becomes. (the $2.6m we have now can get us a value of somewhere around $12m at the trade deadline)The other two stories could very well be linking the Stone brothers together in Ottawa; what could we get with Stone and a package from Ottawa that helps them resign their Stone and at the same time makes us better.(would Stone and Bennett get us Duchene as a rental at the trade deadline?)

    • Jeremy

      The only way I’d trade Bennet for Stone is if he’s signed to an extension before the trade. Doing a trade deadline deal for a rental is very bad business for a young team like the Flames.

      • freethe flames

        I make suggestions that I think will work for both teams. I agree that I would want an extension in place before making a deal. Personally I’m hoping Bennett and Janko make huge strides this year and that the Flames don’t have to go shopping at the deadline for more help upfront.

        • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

          If I read you correctly you are suggesting trading Michael Stone and Bennett to Ottawa for a package that doesn’t include Mark Stone? I do believe that might have some appeal to Ottawa to try to make Mark more comfortable. The question is what do we want back? Our offering consists of a salary anchor and a question mark. What could we reasonably expect in return? Formenton? More?

          • freethe flames

            Probably my bad communication here. First I am not advocating that we need to trade for Stone, what I was trying to say was if Stone was the target that Ottawa would likely want Bennett plus.

            The second and different idea I was suggesting was if wanted an incentive to keep their Stone; then maybe our Stone and significant piece might get Duchene as a rental. It might be a mute point anyways if Duchene or Stone sign extensions prior to the trade deadline. My whole point was in response to the article and questions being asked about adding Stone at the trade deadline.

            I hope that clarifies the ideas, personally I’m very hopeful that we will not need to go shopping at the trade deadline.

    • everton fc

      I think Stone costs us Bennett and Andersson or Kulak, and maybe a pick. Not saying I’d do the deal… Or that I wouldn’t… Duchene wants to stay in Ottawa, from what I’ve read (or heard somewhere). Of course, players say this all the time…

      I doubt Mark Stone wants to play in Ottawa much longer. But would we be willing to pay him more than Gaudreau/Monahan/Tkachuk, because that, with term, will be the asking price…

      As for moving our Stone… And Bennett… To Ottawa… Good question below – for whom???

    • The Doctor

      I know, and check out his numbers at his age against Backlund’s. Very similar. Many of us, myself included, thought at the time that Backlund was looking like a draft bust. Then suddenly he wasn’t. Fer Crissakes, some players take longer to develop. Plus Bennett had garbage for linemates like the early Backlund did and only got one scoring linemate last year and that was a rookie. It’s also clear that he and Gulutzan were oil and water. Frankly if You don’t get along with Gulutzan I like you.

    • Mickey O'Reaves

      Czarnik and Ryan might get you into the playoffs. But when the second season begins, I’ll go into battle with Sam Bennett. He’s the kind of player you win with when the intensity ramps up to another level.

      • mrroonie

        I’m inclined to wait and see what Ryan and Czarnik are like in the playoffs before I make any judgements on how they are in the second season. Either one or both could have that same stuff that Bennett has.

  • Off the wall

    I’m curious if we could see this for our next game against Boston.
    I’d like to see Tkachuk away from Backlund and see if Bennett could have a decent showing with Backlund and Frolik again.

    Although, I must admit Czarnik and Ryan had great chemistry, it would spread out the talent a bit.

    Am I out to lunch?

    Gaudreau- Monahan-Neal
    Tkachuk- Lindholm- Ryan
    Bennett- Backlund- Frolik
    Lazar- Jankowski- Czarnik

      • Flames Fan in Edmonchuck

        I think this is definitely one way to go. If CZar and Janko click, this line would cause some serious match up problems for other teams… In theory you could have two 15-20 goal scorers on our “4th” line…..

        • BlueMoonNigel

          Along those same lines, I too have been wondering if the apparent uptick in bottom 6 talent might mean a reduction in playing time for the top 6. A minute or more less playing time per game for the top 6 because the bottom 6 is not only holding its own but driving play can’t possibly be a bad thing over the long regular season schedule.

    • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

      I don’t think you are out to lunch and I’d actually like to see that lineup, other than Lazar (I’d rather see Klimchuk in that spot). The issues I see are (a) two right shot centers on one line (b) no second center with Monahan. Also I don’t know why I have this bias but I’m more comfortable with Ryan at center. I have nothing to base that on but that’s what lands for me.
      What I wonder

        • Off the wall

          Good points Johnny. Thanks.
          I totally forgot about Klimchuk as well. We should definitely give him a look on the 4th line.

          I know, it’s nice to have left- right centers on the same line.
          I just thought Monahan looked good taking draws, he didn’t seem to be bothered by it.

          How would you configure the lineup?

    • everton fc

      I think you may see Lazar replace Czarnik, and Klimchuk replace Hathaway, or vice versa. Can’t see any other moves, unless they want to rest Monahan’s wrist…

    • Korcan

      Why not. That’s what the preseason is for, right? Another option to try could be:

      Gaudreau / Monahan / Neal 
      Bennett / Lindholm / Tkachuk
      Frolik / Backlund / Ryan 
      Klimchuk / Jankowski / Czarnik 

    • Hockeysense9393

      It always comes down to chemistry of course. I’m sure the starting lineup is going to look quite a bit different then the one that will be competing in the playoffs. Not so much the players, but how they are used.

      Gaudreau-Monahan-Lindholm
      {Switch depending on faceoffs}

      Tkachuk-Backlund-Neal
      {can switch LW/RW as needed. I mean hasn’t Tkachuk been training for that? Who better to mentor the off-wing then a player like Neal?

      ~Backlund as 2nd line centre would be perfect. Right WW?~

      …Anyways …
      Bennett-Ryan-Frolik
      {Centres again that can take lefty/righty faceoffs, with a LW/RW}

      Dube-Janko-Czarnik
      {mainly special team players that can move up when needed/wanted.}

      That’s 2 great prospect centre/wings in depth mode, with Janko always controlling his own line.

      That is how I see Janko in the plans (he’s that good) and that shows how much deeper the Flames are now.

      • Hockeysense9393

        For Defence?

        I have a weird feeling that Andersson gets his fair share of time with Gio. That would leave Brodie on the 3rd pairing with whomever, but he CAN play either side can’t he? That’s an expensive 3rd pairing I know (if Stone plays), but that is the type of depth that becomes very valuable during the season and playoffs. Either of those guys are more then capable of playing higher in the lineup when needed. Play them on special teams, and you have a lot of minutes covered. So essentially…

        Gio-Andersson
        Hanifin-Hamonic
        Brodie-Stone

        I would actually play 7 defensemen on quite a few nights, especially early in the season. Ease Andersson in, and then after he takes playing with Gio, rotate the extra man with a deserving call-up.

        Build moral and push with some minutes for prospects and look for that diamond in the mean time. Sometimes players just never go back.
        lol

  • Garry T

    Unless a guy just jumps off the page during training camp, I think you look at essentially the veteran roster that encompasses Klimchuk and you move him up. Supposedly a responsible two hundred foot game player, he scored well in junior and has scored well in the AHL. Turn him loose and let him play. Advise him to use his skill sets and shoot on every opportunity and he may blossom. Doing this gives Dube and the rest of our kids an opportunity to play against men and develop so that when next year comes and some contracts are not extended, we have options.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    This is the time to experiment.

    Tkachuk-Janko-Neil
    Johnny-Ryan-Czarnik
    Bennett-Lindholm-Frolik
    Klim-Lazar-Peluso

    Monny and Backlund out

    Gio-Ras
    Han-Ham
    Stone-Prout

    Brodie sits

  • buts

    If you could pry Nylander out of TO that would be the target I say. How about Brodie, Bennett and Anderson? Is that enough? Nylander is sitting out right now and they still have to sign Matthews and Marner.

  • Afterburn

    I’d trade Bennett, Janko and Kulak to Ottawa for Stone. Opens up some space for players like Mangi, Dube and other defensive players/prospects. Would hate to move Janko but what you would be getting back in return for this package would worthwhile I think.

    • everton fc

      But Mangiapane is not as good as either Bennett or Jankowski, and may never be. And Dube is one of the most exciting propsects we have. I’d trade Mangiapane, over Dube. But I wouldn’t make any of these deals.

  • MDG1600

    I don’t understand the infatuation with trading for Stone. There is no way he fits in to the salary cap after Tkachuk and a goaltender are signed next year. Unless Neal turns out to be a fafu (free agent **** up) we shouldn’t need Stones scoring anyway. In the long run the only way to manage the salary cap is to develop good players internally.

  • “Those are probably the only two teams that are out of reach for the Flames in the Pacific. For the rest of the West, the Wild and the Preds are likely out of reach, too.”

    uh… did you mean the Jets and the Preds? I’m not sure the Wild are a lock for a playoff spot, let alone top of the conference.

  • The Beej

    Stone is actually do-able without moving the older brother.

    First move Brodie to TOR to address two needs. Goalie and First round picks/prospects. Pickard and TOR 1st 2019 comes back our way.

    That frees up the cap we need so we trade Bennett Kylington Gillies and 1st 2019 for Stone.

    Or maybe… here’s a thought – we just sign him in summer of 2019… hmmm…. might be a good idea to hold onto his older brother.