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Flames looking for left-shot defenders, per Friedman and LeBrun

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:

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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.

    • The Beej

      One of the reasons that was done was to give Kulak an opportunity. Flames org is well respected around the league by players for a reason.

      You will notice even with FA acquisitions that dont pan out the Flames still treat the players with respect. This is a focus so that players will want to sign with Calgary. Brouwer for all the hate from the fan base was never thrown under the bus by the org. There are many examples.

      3 hours to the north of here they have not done that and now they usually have to massively overpay with cap and term to land a FA.

      • deantheraven

        He’s struggled, he’s sat. He’d be doing the same here and we’d be developing one less Vali or Olli. Solid move, even if you don’t look at the ‘give the guy a chance to play somewhere’ narrative. From what we’ve seen of the two taking his spot, I’d say win-win-win.

      • MontanaMan

        Kulak’s time was done in Calgary. He was a passable 8th d-man and would be good on the farm but clearly something occurred in arbitration that assured him of a trade. My guess is that he demanded out but only a guess on my part.

  • Flaymin Frank

    Our 3rd pairing is the envy of many clubs in this league. Ras & Oli are the future blue liners as the team transitions away from the Gio era in the next few years. But I get it. Playoffs are not the place to rely too heavily on rookies. And you are going to need 8 dmen over the course of a deep SCPO run. Maybe more.

    • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

      Good luck finding a better defender than Kylington for anything less than giving away a first rounder at the deadline though, in a really deep draft year, I sure hope that doesn’t happen. If we had been eliminated early from the playoffs the last couple of years I could buy needing to get more, but right now with expectations lower I say see what Kylington is made of. He’s done a fairly flawless job so far in the role he has been given, I honestly can count his bad turnovers on one hand, so far.

      • Getpucksdeep

        Actually Kylington is as awesome a skater as advertised, but he’s been lucky more of his defensive errors haven’t cost him and the team more. He’s not very big and gets pushed around easily at this point. Brodie got pushed around when he started as well but he soon learned to use his skating as his edge. Hard to let Kylington learn board work D on the job IF you can score a better option.

        • MontanaMan

          Kylington wasn’t ready to step in when he was placed in the top six but I credit Peters (and Huska) with bringing him along nicely. His progression has been excellent as he gets better every game.

    • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

      I’d rather Lindholms 44 Points in 40 GP.

      Goals win the Stanley Cup. People will point to Tom Wilson helping last year, but the Capitals won because they had Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Backstrom, Carlson, Oshie, etc. Chicago and Pittsburgh were both bottom five smallest teams in the league when they won all those cups. Tampa Bay is also dominating the league right now with one of the smallest teams. Grit and winning is really just all rhetoric, you need some, but it’s usually overrated. Tom Wilson’s 15 Points isn’t something different than what Matthew Tkachuk, Sam Bennett, etc can do.

  • Atomic Clown

    Other than a good backup, I don’t think the flames need anything this season. Yes they need to stock up the cupboards again, but that’s a draft day issue. We have forward depth, we have defensive depth once Stone and Valimaki are healthy again. But we do need a good backup. Because once either Rittich or Smith get injured later on in the year, Gillies IMO is not good enough to hold down a backup spot for long

    • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

      They do need to restock the cupboards this year, that’s why it would be ill advised to trade away a pick for a defender when they likely are not going to be any better than Kylington in that role. This years Draft is loaded with talent, BT better hang on to some of those picks or else it will hunt us in 2-3 years when we’re under a cap crunch and need young cheap talent.

  • Jimmyhaggis

    I don’t think the talking heads know what they’re talking about. BT is probably looking for a physical forward, once the playoffs start the play becomes more physical and you don’t want guys roughing up Johnny, Sean and the other skilled players. I know Bennett and Tkachuk can stick up for the boys but you’ll need me than that.
    And the goaltending needs shoring up, once teams figure out they’re out it, things will loosen up. Left shooting D men are the least of his worries.

  • Chucky

    The defensive weak link is Hanifin not Kylington but if Valimaki can return sometime in February and get a good conditioning stint in Stockton they will be OK.
    This is written like the Flames are going to the Stanley Cup finals. If they get that far then Valimaki and Kylington will have plenty of experience, more games than Giordano currently has. Of course the talking head will gladly tell us that the Flames don’t have enough playoff experience to make it to the post season.

    • MDG1600

      Hanifin plays far tougher minutes. It is easier for OK to look like he isn’t making any mistakes when he only plays 12 minutes a night and against 3rd and 4th line opposition.

      • Chucky

        The third pairing played some tough minutes against San Jose and did not look bad, Hanifin looked bad and it is not the first time that he has crumbled under pressure.
        He needs to learn to play in the area below the faceoff dot in the corner or he will never be more than a poor second pairing guy. If he doesn’t start winning more than 50% of those puck battles he will be third pairing in the future. That said he is still a young guy and has a lot of good abilities and it looks to me like this coaching staff is capable of developing young defensemen.
        Treliving should look to fill the goaltending gap rather than worry about the fact that his defense has 46 playoff games between the 9 of them.

        • His Dudeness

          Hanifin is younger then Andersson and the same age as Kylington.Plays more and harder minutes, and yeah make some mistakes. He also has more points then Andersson, Kylington, Stone and Valimaki combined…

  • Skylardog

    I don’t buy it that the 2 “experts” have any clue in this case. Friedman and LeBrun are off the mark.
    If Kylington had not panned out, I could understand it, but he has survived, improved, and in his role thrived. Talk is of whether Vali can crack the lineup now, yet was shown to be a capable blueliner at the NHL level.

    Not sure you can say the same at RD with Prout now that Stone is out for an indefinite term. I could understand us looking for a RD before a LD.

    • freethe flames

      The Flames had between 6-8 defensive tweeners in camp and signed none of them. Had they signed 1 RHD and 1 LHD from this group the Heat would have been better and they would not need to be looking now.