WWYDW: Is this the season the Flames should go for it?

This season, the Flames are a top team in the NHL. They have some of the league’s top scorers, they have one of the best records, and they have some of the best underlying numbers. This continues to beg the question, though: are the Flames a true Stanley Cup contender? And if they are, is this the year to go all in?

The Flames’ rebuild probably officially kicked off when they drafted Sean Monahan with the sixth overall pick back in 2013. It was their highest draft pick in years, and they got a pretty good player out of it.

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Now in his sixth season in the NHL, Monahan has lived up to his promise, particularly as the Flames have added an increasingly talented cast of characters around him: Johnny Gaudreau. Matthew Tkachuk. Elias Lindholm. Travis Hamonic. Noah Hanifin. Players like Mark Giordano, Mikael Backlund, and TJ Brodie were already there, but the Flames have gone from a scrappy team with a handful of good players to a relatively young group loaded with talent. There have been some bumps along the way, but it’s pretty much exactly how a rebuild is supposed to play out.

The next big item for the Flames, then, will be the NHL’s trade deadline on Feb. 25. It could be what makes or breaks their playoff hopes. Because, as good as the Flames are, they could still be better: they need a backup goaltender they can count on; depth defencemen ready to provide more than talented, but green, rookies can; and another top six forward and/or more reliable depth scoring. Adding one or two of those positions would probably give them another leg up on the rest of the Cup hopefuls; adding to all three positions could make them unstoppable.

Unfortunately, in order to get quality, the Flames are going to have to give up quality. It’s probably safe to say those aforementioned nine players, plus David Rittich, are safe and won’t be traded; anyone else could potentially be up for grabs, but they wouldn’t yield as good of a return. That means, in order to upgrade their roster, the Flames will probably have to give up something else of value: be it one of Rasmus Anderson, Oliver Kylington, or Juuso Valimaki; high draft picks; or perhaps both.

The problem with doing that: after trading a number of picks in order to build this team, the Flames’ cupboards are pretty much bare. There’s hope for Dillon Dube and Andrew Mangiapane, and maybe Matthew Phillips is pretty awesome, too. There’s the three rookie defencemen, who all look to have graduated to the NHL (or at least will have officially by next season, in all likelihood). And then there’s, uh… well… nobody, really? Not any time soon, at least.

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That’s all well and good for the present, because most of the Flames’ best players are still relatively young, but things could spiral out of control within just a couple of seasons if there are no additional replacements from within. (As good as the Flames have been this season, we’re starting to see it a bit already: there’s a forward spot open in the NHL because nobody has outright grabbed it yet.) It would likely be in the Flames’ best interests to retain at least some of their picks and prospects.

Besides: even if this year continues to shape up to look like a year in which the Flames will contend, that doesn’t mean it’ll be the only one. Next season could be the year, too. Or the season after. Giordano has continued to defy age (and even if he doesn’t, four of the Flames’ top seven defencemen of present are 22 and younger, so defencemen’s ages may not be the biggest concern), and Gaudreau will still be signed to a laughably low $6.75 million cap hit for another three seasons after this one. This is a team that has the potential to be good for a while longer yet, and it isn’t as though the 2018-19 season is Cup or bust.

At the same time, it’s really tough to win a Cup, so if the chance to do just that presents itself, wouldn’t the Flames have to go for it? There’s no guarantee they have four forwards scoring well over a point-per-game in any other season. Combine them with another top six forward, and this team could be lethal.

So what would you do? Is it the right time for the Flames to go all in and spend big, or should they play it a little more conservative, see how this year goes (probably with at least a minor upgrade here or there), and keep regrouping for the next few seasons instead, all without completely selling their longer-term future?

What are the expectations for the Flames this season – and can they match them, with or without going big?

  • 420

    This team has 3 glaring holes.
    2nd line winger
    2nd line center
    Back up goaltender.

    I’d like to see the Flames use Frolik, Brodie, and Stone to fill these, as welk as this years 1st round pick.

    • Porcupine at a balloon party

      Don’t think they can afford to give up Brodie this season, just too important and no one to really replace him. But maybe in offseason as sad as I would be to see him go, he is one of our better assets for clearing cap space and getting something of value in return.

      Stone we aren’t getting anything for, even if his blood clot heals, he’ll be several steps behind. No one will be taking risk on him. Frolik certainly is an asset we could extract some value from, but in all likelihood, you’ll be looking to replace his role as soon as you trade him.

      • Bawcos

        With what? A third line FW who plays PK – That’s at best what their using him as. Many teams at the draft will look at Frolik and see value, but, at 4.6M the Flames should(and likely will) move him.

    • Bawcos

      1st RD pick is off the table (imo) go with the bargain deals. Back up G is almost a must. But beyond that it’s go with what you got (NHL/AHL) unless a guy comes along too good to refuse – aka Dzingle. Otherwise look for bargain deals like Vanek or whatever a 6th (LS)D-man looks like. This team just now opened the window – Please don’t sell off what little is left.

  • Jobu

    Jobu thinks the only thing we really need this year is a winger for the second line. It puts everyone below in their proper places. Jobu wants Nyquist for this job, but not at a cost higher than futures: 2nd or lower round picks and/or prospects not named Phillips, Dube, or any of our stud D.

    Jobu also knows that we need to make some cap space in a bad way next year (offseason). Smith coming off the books and Rittich being at a reasonable price will help somewhat, but we’ll very likely need to push a Frolik (possible), a Neal (not very possible), or maybe even a Hamonic/Brodie (very possible) to make enough space to sign Tkachuk and our long term guys in Janko and Bennett. Hopefully in that process we can recoup some picks. Then we pick up any ol’ backup in FA that would likely play better than Smith for under a mill.

    • withachance

      Again, how are you going to get Nyquist for less than a first rounder and/or A prospects?? Just not possible. Maybe if Chiarelli is the GM of the Red Wings…

      Holland got THREE picks for Tatar for gods sakes last year… Unless the team is willing to give up valuable futures (which i dont think is the right way to go forward at all), then BT is most likely unable to even get to the negotiation tables with these teams.

        • withachance

          Rentals market is pretty consistent every year I’d say. Teams must overpay, and forwards at the top of the rental markets generally nets a first rounder return. See Tatar, Statsny, etc.

        • Jobu

          To elaborate:
          Everyone said Vegas got fleeced last year for that deal, but Vegas had a PLETHORA of picks at their disposal to make that splash – not many teams have this or will want to give it this year.
          Secondly, the Tatar trade didn’t work out for Vegas, like, AT ALL… GMs will not be eager to make a similar mistake again.
          So unless Vegas does the same thing again (they still have tonnes of picks), then I expect Nyquist to go for much less than Tatar.

          Time will tell.

  • Off the wall

    I’m really enjoying the comments. Interesting observations from all of FN.

    Here’s my take. I will prelude this with, I stepped on my rake yesterday and bashed my head pretty good. So a concussion might be driving my thought process.

    You know possum’s often play dead when threatened? Yup, they can appear dead anywhere from 40 minutes to 4 hours.

    That’s James Neal. He’s our possum. Unfortunately, he’s been playing dead for 3 months.

    I’m going out on a limb and saying he gets back to being the Real Deal. He was great with Vegas, we all know that. As much as we are disappointed in his play, he isn’t Brouwer. He can and WILL be much better in the 2nd half. It’s already coming and I can feel it. We’re impatient, but patience brings rewards. Either that or I’ve severely damaged my brain. Take your pick.

    Smith isn’t going anywhere. Treliving isn’t going to deal him unless Smith agrees to it.

    From my perspective, we’re probably going to pick up a D, that’s about it. I’d be surprised if Treliving does anything else.
    However, remember how pissed he was with our team last season? I’m not going to rule anything out, but I’d still be surprised if he makes any substantial deal.

    Let me say this though. I agree with Skylar, our season merits challenging for the Cup. These opportunities seldom present themselves the way it has this season. It’s magical to watch our Flames. We’re not even playing our best and yet we lead the Conference and the Pacific!
    Piss off Vegas.

    I think we could go all in and win, however Treliving is more patient than you and I.

    Besides, you never know what your players are capable of, until you push them into the fire.
    And a FIRE can bring out the BEST in our team, that’s why we’re Flames! ?

  • Greg

    Hard Buy!

    You only get 3-5 year windows where a given roster will be peaking. Even at your best, the odds of winning a cup are maybe 10%. So you should be spending everything you’ve got to run hard at the cup while you are in that window, and then use the off-season to sell in order to manage the cap and reclaim as many futures as you can.

    That’s what the hawks did and it worked pretty well. Sure it falls apart eventually, but it will regardless, at least you have a few good cup runs to remember for it.

    This team is peaking… gio still strong, Gaudreau and several others way under paid, mostly young core that won’t need replenishment from the farm for a few seasons. Eventually gio will get old, Gaudreau will double his salary, etc, etc. Make hay while the sun shines! Buy! Buy! Buy!

  • FlamesFanOtherCity

    Obviously, the biggest issue is a reliable backup. Smith can be counted on for a win for every four games he played, nothing more. He might get you two out of four, not two games in a row. That’s not good enough. Check with our buddies in Carolina to see if Mzarazek or McBackup is available for a 3rd + prospect.

    As far as foirwards, I think it may be time to cut bait with Bennett. I keep hearing how great his fancy stats are, or how great a playoff performer is. I just don’t see it. In fact, I see the impact negatively on Backlund. Trade Bennett for a top 6 C/RW. Check with STL about Schenn or Tarasenko. Would need to add to that, but if Schenn was coming back, you could include Janko. Gift them Smith to help finish out a lotto season.

  • Lazarus

    Goalies are crazy. You just never know what can happen. Younger Flames fans won’t remember 1993 when Kelly Hrudey sucked and got yanked after Game 3 and Robb Stauber came in to win the next 3 and eliminate us 4 – 2. Robb F#$&*@% Stauber!
    Or 1995 when a shell shocked Irbe was yanked and Wade Flaherty came in to finish the Flames off winning game 6 and 7 (in double OT) .
    So never say never regarding Smith.

  • somewhereoutthere

    I really dont think Calgary is in a position to make big trades. Im not giving Neal a pass here but hes probably the best option that we have for 2nd line rw, its been a pretty big sample size but maybe the playoffs get him going, the game becomes grittier in the playoffs and like Bennett that game suits him better. As much as I would love a Wayne Simmonds I just dont think giving up Dube or Mangipane is worth it considering they could be core pieces in a year or 2. There isnt any backup options that are going to better then Mike Smith unfortunately and the ones that are all on the teams we will be playing in the playoffs. I can see us picking up a decent depth dman if stone cant make it back in time but Id assume we stay pat through the deadline. I hope Im wrong on all of this hahahaha.

  • everton fc

    Call the L.A. Kings. Inquire about Petersen and Crawford. They could be decent backups, for the right cap hit.

    I still say Smith played decent vs. the Wings. The back-to-back has us all in a panic. Cal Petersen (Kings) is playing on the AHL team. He’s on an ELC. And Crawford’s sign league-minimum, I think, for another year. They aren’t moving Quick. They may be willing to move one of their two backups.

    • Greg

      There’s a lot of trashes on the “buy now” comments. I gotta ask the people trashing these, what are you keeping the powder dry for? Do you think we’ll have a better chance of contending later?

  • Chucky

    I do not see the scary cliff. Everything about this team indicates that it will be better next year, with the exception of Giordano who MIGHT lose a step. Any deal that would have a long term positive impact is a good idea. Anything that sacrifices the future for current success is a sing of immature impatience, hopefully Treliving feels secure enough to accept this years result for what it is and focus on winning the cup several years in a row.
    If you want comfort in this position, think about which player is having a worse year this season than last. I have trouble getting anyone past Smith. Next season Smith is gone and there is a large group who will have some playoff experience and be in a strong position to make a run.

  • Sterls

    Kylington plus a piece for Kapanen is the only thing I consider at this point. The reasons I’m keen on Kapanen are thus: He should be capable of a 2nd line scoring winger role in the NHL over the course of his career. He is the exact age we want him to be. He hasn’t had an outstanding year yet, so if Tre gets to negotiate his next deal the chances of getting another Lindholm like situation is high. He might be good enough to play in Lindholm’s slot on the top line, allowing Lindholm to move to a line with Byng and Backlund (or even Janko) spreading out the scoring without losing to much from the first line (and forming a potent scoring line that can also shut down other teams top lines). If not, Byng gets a winger who can score to work with. He should replace one of the plugs on the 2nd PP unit. Kapanen would potentially solidify our top 6 and make both lines 1st line caliber.

    I get that Kylington is just coming into his own, and it would hurt to lose him, but the upside of Kylington for the Flames doesn’t match the upside of Kapanen for the Flames. Kylington will likely be behind both Valimaki and Hanafin long term so he is likely a 3 LD playing limited minutes. In my opinion Kapanen helps the Flames more now and in the future than Kylington does, so in this scenario I would trade one of our rookie D-men. Otherwise leave him be.

    Would Toronto make such a deal… I don’t know, but they need dynamic D-men who can skate, and they have 2 high calibre RW already in Marner and Nylander, so it isn’t outside the realm of possibility. They also have Kadri as a 3rd line center, so Kapanen on the 3rd line still has value against other 3rd lines.

    • withachance

      Why would Toronto trade Kapanen on a year that they are also contending for a cup? We’ve seen that Dubas is willing to wait on contract negotiations. I think the only time he’d even consider trading away Kap is in the off season.

      No chance Dubas trades a valuable piece to a fellow cup contender in midseason.

      • Skylardog

        For a much needed and cap friendly DMan they make a deal now. They can’t sign Kapanen anyways because all the guys ahead of him are going to break the bank. A Dman gives them a shot at a cup run.

  • Honkydonk

    Keep the status quo. Do not give up draft picks! Do not trade our young players like Kylington Anderson or Valimaki.

    Keep the team as is and win or lose with that team. Keep using draft picks and draft good players. It’s the best way for where we are at. Johnny was a fourth round pick! Keep making good picks while we slowly move out older bodies.

    I do not see Neal staying beyond the expansion draft. We have to really decide between Brodie and Hamonic I feel. Because our young D is cheaper and simply that good a year or two from now

  • Davebot

    LGK gives up 1st, 2nd and a 3rd for Tatar who is benched for most of the playoffs and they lose in the final. Sharks give 1st and 4th for Kane, fail to reach final. Jets give 1st, 4th and a prospect for Statsny, fail to reach final. TBL give 1st, 2nd and prospects for McDonough & Miller, fail to reach final. Preds give 1st, 4th and prospect for Hartman and 5th, fail to reach final. Washington, gives nothing, no significant moves, wins Stanley Cup. The Flames will probably not win the cup this year, but do we really have to pay a high price for the privilege?

  • FlamesFanFromMI

    Funny thing we want to fire the coach and gm and trade everyone when team is not playing well. When they are great still tweak guys we got this. Chill

  • Garry T

    Rychel could come up and play. Has the size. Playing well in AHL.
    Then…… move Killington to forward for last 3 rd. Of season. Reimer
    Played well in Edmonton yesterday. He would not cost much. In the interim watch the waiver wire.

    Bond Chance

  • Inglewood

    I think you have to kick the tires and start thinking about how your team is going to match up against the likes of others come playoff time. Last game against the Avs we recorded a season low in hits. Although the game is moving away from the physical brand, everybody knows that come playoff time, the game changes. This is an area the Flames need to shore up, as Sammy can’t be the only guy banging body’s and scrapping come playoff time.

    While I agree with most that TDL deals usually back fire and are dangerous in terms of leveraging your future, I also agree with the other half that nothing is guaranteed and when you have a team in position you must look at all avenues to improve it.

    What we need:

    – Reliable experienced back-up with a low cap hit
    – 2-3rd line winger, preferably with size but that will certainly help in the scoring department
    – Depth defenseman with a little experience to play 3rd pair minutes.

    Players that I think we have no business discussing include: Brayden Schen, Duchene, Stone, Couturier, and even Howard. All are much to expensive and would cost at least a 1st.

    Players that I think we can kick the tires on:

    – Wayne Simmonds (Likely to expensive, but this addition I think would be massive to our forward group) Do you part ways with one of our goalie prospects, someone from the farm and maybe a 2nd or 3rd? If that’s the area we can play in, do it. If we play our cards right as well we could potentially sign him in the offseason so long as he doesn’t ask for 7M.

    – Bring back Ferland… How gross would that be. Doubt CAR would endure that embarrassment, but you might be able to get two birds stoned at once by pairing Ferland with Mc’Backup and providing CAR with something of a little more value. That would solve a few needs and would please me no doubt.

    – Kronwall/ Nyquist are the two other names I’ve been hearing. Nyquist likely far to expensive but it is uncertain where the current market is set with far more sellers then buyers. Kronwall, I think could be that 3rd pairing LH shot D depth were looking for. Again, might be costly but that’s I think the area were playing around in.

    Obviously, we will learn in the coming weeks where the market will be set in terms of costs. The team to make the first splash always set’s the tone for rest of the TDL deals.

    Players I am fine to part with if the deal is right and improves our team now while ensuring we don’t leverage our future.

    Obvious one’s: Frolik, Lazar, maybe Dube, Smith or Neal if someone is dumb enough to do it, Gillies (Maybe), and any pick from 2 up.

    One guy said, make hay while the sun shines and I couldn’t agree more. No need to make the hay like in incompetent Hill Billy, but no one wants a front office playing scared. It’s about time to start building this team to win, no reason why that doesn’t have to start this year.