The Calgary Flames are atop the Pacific Division standings and are potentially looking to shore up their depth heading into the trade deadline. Two prominent hockey insiders have suggested that the Flames’ primary need will be left-shot defensive depth.
In his weekly notebook over at The Athletic (paywall), Pierre LeBrun broke down the Michael Frolik saga and then added his assessment of Flames general manager Brad Treliving’s primary need at the deadline:
His primary need, I believe, is a left-handed, third-pair defenceman. Every team that aspires to win in the playoffs wants to bolster its blueline before the deadline in one form or another. Another lefty on D is what Treliving will aim for I think, preferably a rental.
In the latest edition of 31 Thoughts, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman went a bit further and reported that Treliving doesn’t just need left-shot depth, he’s already looking at options:
Calgary GM Brad Treliving said defenceman Juuso Valimaki is out until at least late January with a high-ankle sprain. The 20-year-old is a tremendous talent with an excellent future, but the Flames wonder what this means for a return to full speed in 2018-19. They are looking at left-handed options for the blue line.
The Flames’ present left-side defenders are Norris Trophy contender Mark Giordano, Noah Hanifin and American Hockey League call-up Oliver Kylington. Kylington’s in a situation similar to where Rasmus Andersson was last season: the Flames like to evaluate their players by giving them a long stint in the NHL in a depth role, assessing the holes in their game, and then they’re sent back to the farm to work on those holes. Andersson did that and now he’s in a position where the coaching staff can put him onto the ice in most game situations.
Kylington’s been pretty good, but his defensive game is still arguably the weak spot in his game. That might be alright if the Flames were stuck in the NHL’s mushy middle, but they’re a division leader and they believe they could make some noise in the playoffs. From a developmental standpoint, it might be rough for Kylington’s long-term development if he’s put in over his head in the playoffs and makes a mistake at a key moment. The same rationale goes for Valimaki, who would be returning to the NHL after not playing for two or three months and has even less pro experience than Kylington.
In this context, the Flames are looking at shoring up their depth with a short-term acquisition so that they can make a deep run in the playoffs without damaging the development of a pair of young defensemen that they’re going to rely on in future seasons. The big question is what the cost will be to get that kind of depth – history suggests a mid-round draft pick.