Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW: Adding a forward at the trade deadline?

The trade deadline is just over a month away, and the Flames definitely look like they’ll be buyers. A backup goalie is probably on their minds, and perhaps another veteran defenceman, depending on how trusting they’re willing to be of a number of rookies in the playoffs.

But what about the forward group? The Flames’ is already formidable – but if they’re able to add to them, then they could potentially become unstoppable, able to roll out scoring line after scoring line. This is already one of the highest scoring teams in the NHL; what if they could be made even deadlier?

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It’s hard to see Bill Peters messing with the top line anytime soon. Not only do Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan have well-established chemistry, but Elias Lindholm looks like he’s belonged alongside them all this time. Throw in the fact they’re all about the same age, and it isn’t just a top line for this season; it’s a top line for years.

The middle six, on the other hand, has been tinkered with throughout the season. Before, it seemed as though there was at least one staple: Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund would be linemates, as they have been for most of Tkachuk’s NHL career. That’s changed over the past couple of games, however, with James Neal playing with Backlund and Michael Frolik, and Tkachuk bumped down to what would typically be called the third line.

The Flames’ middle six has mostly looked like this:

Tkachuk Backlund Frolik
Bennett Jankowski Neal

But lately, it’s shifted into this:

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Frolik Backlund Neal
Tkachuk Jankowski Bennett

Will the new groupings stay? That might not be something one should bet on; not with Peters’ penchant for mixing things up until he finds the right combination. That doesn’t seem to have happened yet: just as the 3M line was finding its success once again with a now-healthy Frolik, and Neal seemed to be developing chemistry alongside Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski, the latest line changes happened.

Neal has taken some time to get going to start his Flames career, though. (That, and he’s had absolutely horrible luck – not only is he shooting about seven percent below his career average, but there aren’t really many other explanations for the puck bouncing over his stick on a wide open net. That’s been a summation of his entire season.) But, whether it’s just taking a really long time or playing alongside Backlund and Frolik has invigorated him, Neal certainly looks like he’s been playing his best hockey as a Flame as of late.

Which would be all well and good, except it bumps Tkachuk down to a lesser line: something of an odd decision for a 57-point forward. Is it worth downgrading Tkachuk’s linemates to get Neal going?

Or, to pose another possible solution: would it instead be worth it for the Flames to trade for another forward at the deadline?

Micheal Ferland’s name has started coming up in rumours, and that’s all well and good: he’s familiar with Calgary. We know he’s capable of playing a hard-nosed game, especially in the playoffs. If you were worried about the Flames not having enough grit in the lineup, then he’s a pretty good solution: one who can still score, at that.

On the other hand, Ferland wouldn’t be back playing with Gaudreau and Monahan. He’s still a little ahead of his previous season’s scoring pace, but he is playing primarily with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen; on the Flames, he’d be more of a middle six player, so he wouldn’t be playing with a team’s top scorers. This isn’t to say he isn’t worth looking into as a rental – he absolutely is – but would reacquiring Ferland upgrade Tkachuk’s linemates? Would he be able to play well alongside Neal?

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Or, when regarding forward upgrades, could the Flames aim even higher? Say – to pick on a hypothetical target – could they trade for a Mark Stone or Matt Duchene, or any other unquestionably top offensive player who could so happen to end up on the market?

If the cost isn’t too extreme (and a first round pick isn’t too extreme – the way the Flames are playing, it’s going to be a late first. Don’t forget Jay Feaster’s insistence on getting a first rounder back for Jarome Iginla; Morgan Klimchuk isn’t exactly doing much for the organization nowadays), then adding another player of that caliber could make the Flames’ lineup deadly. Tkachuk already has 57 points; he’s in the top 20 in league scoring. Perhaps the solution for him is to acquire a player who can unquestionably keep up with him offensively – and then, in addition to loading up a potential second line, the Flames would still have a dangerous third line, and a fourth line that would be receiving a former middle six player.

How does a team defend against a forward lineup that stacked? Maybe it makes sense for the Flames to load up this season, after all: while the window shouldn’t be closing any time soon, it’s still a very, very good team that just might be able to win it all.

And while getting Ferland back might help, getting another deadly forward – one who’s closer to matching Tkachuk’s scoring pace, or one who’s capable of keeping Neal’s resurgence going – could potentially put this team over the top.

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Or maybe the Flames shouldn’t focus on adding a forward at all, and sticking with the team that’s gotten them where they are today is the best move?

The trade deadline is in just over a month. The Flames are already good, but they might have the chance to get even better – and significantly so, at that. What would you do?

  • loudogYYC

    I say they bring in a proven vet like Justin Williams. He’s still a quality winger who can help a young centreman and he’s very versatile, the lineup could potentially look like this:


    Neal needs to step up for sure but you can’t expect too much more with almost-rookie Janko as his centre. This way you also solve the 4LW problem by playing Bennett with Ryan.

    On D, Schlemko can be had for a song and probably have half of his salary retained to minimize the cap hit.

    In net, you absolutely can’t go with Smith as a backup so do what it takes to land McElhinney or Howard.

    In a perfect world they land Kevin Hayes as a 3C and move Janko to LW but I think he’ll be crazy expensive.

    • Atomic Clown

      I’d love to add Justin Williams. Most game 7 game winning goals I believe? Or just game 7 goals. Still, amazing veteran presence, right handed shot, and all around great player. Only problem is that he’s the captain for the hurricanes, and I think neither him nor Carolina have any plans of letting him go. Especially with their push for playoffs

    • Getpucksdeep

      I agree wait for the return after the break up to a week or so before the trade deadline. If they maintain a .600-.700 winning percentage on the road trips no need to mess with chemistry. If they falter and I see no signs of it ( just a tough road schedule) then consider a minor adjustment at he deadline.

  • SeanCharles

    For everyone who is worried about messing with team chemistry by adding one significant forward hear me out..

    – The Flames have been more or less running 11 forwards out, when healthy, all season and cycling through guys for the final spot so adding one forward won’t result in any regulars being scratched.
    – The others who have filled in haven’t consistently been able to carve out a niche on the team.
    – Most of the time team chemistry is disrupted when a new guy comes in and takes over the icetime of another guy and takes special teams time from others. This shouldn’t be a concern here because the top line and the top PP unit is not going to be dismantled no matter who we trade for. These units have been the only groups consistently kept together by Peters anyways. You can see he’s tinkering to find the right groups for lines 2 and 3 specifically with Ryan and Hathaway seeming to be mainstays on the 4th line lately. The 2nd PP unit has also seen significant changes over the course of the season so adding a piece that can play there shouldn’t be a big deal.
    – If we add the right guy that can seamlessly fit in and mesh with the group I think it could be beneficial because Czarnik, Mangiapane et al. are better off as spare forwards instead of regulars at this point in time.
    – I think you can bump Frolik down without messing anything up. He has some chemistry with Ryan and I liked the 4th line the best when it was Frolik-Ryan-Hathaway. I think the complaints became public by Froliks agent after he had been a healthy scratch so I think Frolik has enough character to play a solid game from the 4th line. He is a bottom 6 forward at this point in his career anyways.
    – This is the best the team has ever been. Adding a piece that can push us over the top could be the difference between winning it all or blowing the best season we’ve seen in 30 years.

    If we could somehow snag a guy like Mark Stone we wouldn’t have any real holes in the lineup and his brother is here so maybe that fact would make it so he could easily fit in with the group without causing disruption.


    This is obviously a pipe dream and would cost our 1st, a top prospect, + but if he could be re-signed somehow along with Tkachuk, Bennett and Rittich we would be set up to win for years. A lot of other moves would be required to free up capspace but signing big name RFA’s to team friendly deals has allowed Treliving the opportunity to potentially do it if he can get out from under some other less team friendly deals and/or capitalize on our exceptional depth on defense.

    • MOlson

      Good points on adding one forward not being detrimental to the existing team chemistry. I’ll take it further and say adding a 2nd forward would work also (bumping Hathaway to 13th Fwd). Sounds like Tre will have b/w 5-6 million in cap space banked from rolling w/22 instead of 23 skaters. Add mike stones 3.5 and that’s 8.5 to 9.5 in cap to work with. (That would nullify your arguments for getting Mark Stone). But, both Kevin Hayes (5.175m) and Gustav Nyquist (4.75m) would blend right in to the current group.

      2nd line of Tkachuk Hayes Neal/Nyquist
      3rd line of Frolik Backlund Neal/Nyquist
      4th line of Bennett Jankowski Ryan

  • The Beej

    A forward would be my addition of choice. Would give us killer depth to acquire a Top 6 option.

    We are already pretty deep though and it would kind of be a downer for whoever gets slotted on the fourth line.

    Did I mention we are deep? If we did trade for a forward and even if we moved Czarnik in the deal it still means one of Neal Bennett Jankowski or Frolik on the 4th line when everyone is healthy. Thats pretty crazy when you think about it. I hope they can find a way to do it and not break the bank.

  • super6646

    Don’t like tkachuk on our third line, it’s been mostly useless since he’s been out on it. Would rather bump frolik down and hope Neal can finally find a fit on that second line. Eric staal would be a nice add, but he’s gonna cost a 1st+ if Minnesota is out of it at the deadline, and I don’t think that’s how it’ll play out. Kornwall from Detroit just makes too much sense as a bottom pairing guy and depth piece that can mentor our young guys, and he probably wouldn’t cost all that much. Otherwise, retreading mcbackup would be fine by me, because I think we are almost set.

  • Jourflamesfan

    Personally, I think James Neal brings chemistry to our lineup.
    Its weird how that works but it just does.
    I believe we are 0-2 when he is out of the lineup.
    Maybe it’s the bravado he exudes or maybe it is that he has been to the finals the past 2yrs but they like him.
    He WILL come around of that some of us agree (Hope).
    I think our biggest need is a backup who can take over if BSD goes down..long term.
    Because if Smith is in charge were gonna need alot of offense from Neal +

  • SouthernFlame

    No to moving Frolik, he has cup experience and is playing good. The only person I would trade is Neal but now I am questioning that with what looks to be some good game play, he is also experienced in the playoff game. A question I have is what moves are the Lightning, Jets, Sharks, Vegas and Preds taking to bolster their lineup for the playoffs? We are playing good and still have some depth down in the AHL. I honestly am not worried about the goalie situation unless one gets injured before the deadline. I hate to see anyone leave right now to be honest but thats just a fan running off of emotion, I have watched waaaay too many games and spent hours on this site and also the NHL site watching replays and interviews. I have all those commercials memorized. Lexus of Calgary is in my dreams now. I wonder if BT sleeps at night? Its all business for him, that $hiite would keep me up all night. I think we are good for now, but who knows what will happen between now and mid Feb

  • Pinberg Steinder

    Dream trade:

    Mangiapane (or 1 of Kyllington/Andersson/Valimaki if need be) + Neal + 2nd (1st if we win the Cup) to MIN for Greenway & Spurgeon.

    Add up to another 1st/retain a million on Neal if necessary.

    Lines (assuming Mangiapane isn’t enough to get it done and Kyllington is the piece):

    Purple Reign
    Greenway Janko Benny
    Hathaway Ryan Czarnivore
    *rotate the bottom 3 as needed

    Gio Brodie
    Hanifin Andersson
    Valimaki Spurgeon

    In a perfect world this would also include Smith for Dubnyk but they probably won’t hire Chia the Great by the deadline. A man can dream, though.

      • Pinberg Steinder

        He was shamefully overlooked. He should have been in with Valimaki as a rotating 7, relegating Stone to the press box for hopefully the whole run as a last ditch 8 (assuming he’s healthy). Stick tap on the catch.

    • cjc

      Surely you are being sarcastic. You are positing that a 6/7 D and a 3 LW are worth a promising young D, up to two firsts and a decent veteran winger? I get that Spurgeon plays top pairing in Minnesota and Greenway has recently been in their top 6. But that’s just the thing – don’t pay top prices for guys who are gonna play down the lineup.

  • FLT

    Some still seem to want Frolik moved. I see him as a solid 2-way forward who can be plugged into a line that can dominate almost any other in the league. Peters doesn’t seem to like him as much, but I hope he stays.

    • SeanCharles

      I want to keep him for the season but in the offseason when we need to re-sign more important pieces I think it makes sense to trade guys that are depth pieces with bigger contracts, like Frolik and Stone, to free up capspace.

  • BendingCorners

    3M is a good line. GML is a great line. Bennett-Jankowski-Neal would be a good line if Neal started scoring. Assuming Mark Stone for James Neal is a non-starter (I hate letting go of my pipe dream though), all the Flames are looking for is a 4LW who can hit and check and sometime score, and who is having a down year so he won’t cost much. Patrick Maroon anybody? Play him with Ryan and Hathaway and let him play higher when necessary.

    • freethe flames

      First James Neal has played better the last few games and the easy answer id he returns to form and pots 10 goals in the last 30 games and shoots near his career average in the playoffs and maybe that is what BT/BP believe will happen. I would love for that to happen as I become tired of raging on him. Maroon has struggled in St L; is he an upgrade on the guys we have? I’m not sure he is, can he still play up the line up? I have not watched enough of St L to know.

  • Rocket66

    A little off topic but I wonder what it would take to get Talbot out of Edmonton
    Looks like they have given up on the guy he was a very good goalie when he went there but like anyone else who plays there confidence is gone
    Remember dubnyk?
    Not saying he will turn things around like dubnyk. But he might in a new place. Better defence and a glimmer of hope
    If he could be had cheap enough to send to the farm to hopefully regain what he had and a fresh start. Then maybe just maybe next year the old talbot and rittich could be a good pair next year

    • everton fc

      The Oilers need prospects, cheap. That’s what it’ll take, to pry Talbot from the Oilers.

      Thing is… Oilers have no backup in Bakersfield, other than the much-travelled Al Montoya. They want to make the playoffs. But how awkward for Talbot, to know he’s not getting re-signed, and still for him to “just giver”, for the Oilers, when called upon.

      I do agree, Talbot and Rittich would be a good pair. But we can’t afford both. Hoping Parsons can solidify his game the remainder of the Heat’s season, to give him the chance at the backup role, but he’ll need at least one more full year, on the farm.

    • TKO

      I can really appreciate the idea of Vegas and San Jose facing each other in the first round…. while the flames play either phoenix, Vancouver, Colorado, or Dallas. if the Flames win 6 of 10 from here out, they should be able to keep their spot easy.

  • TKO

    why are so many people throwing Frolik out there as someone to get rid of? he is a critical piece of this team, even if heisn’t technically the core. while some say you could get a better player in return,the question is, better at what? Frolik is an exceptional defensive player that can still drive play north. He is quick, high hockey IQ, he is a player we need more of not less. so what if his agent is crying? when you have depth, somebody good has to play on the 3rd and fourth lines, that’s all there is too it. by trading frolik, even if the payer is a little better offensively, he better be as good defensively, or it is a lateral move

    • Flint

      Totally. Good contract too. The top three lines are basically set. There is no way we’re getting anything to fill those positions at the TDL without giving up a ton. The only real holes we’ve got are 4th line wingers, and sure, maybe they move through the lines if they have the ability or play up in case of injury (which is ideal for the playoffs), but beyond that…. I don’t see it.

      • SeanCharles

        I don’t understand how people are down voting the comments saying we need to offload Frolik in the offseason.

        We need to re-sign Tkachuk, Bennett and Rittich as well as sign a 2nd goalie and other depth pieces.

        Frolik at $4.3 mill is exactly the type of contract you need to offload to accommodate these other signings.

        In a cap world you need to prioritize and given the fact we signed Neal, and it’s unlikely we can offload him, we will need to get rid of somebody with a significant cap hit.

  • Jourflamesfan

    Brian Burke on the fam right now (paraphrasing):

    – we think Ferland checked out on us last year
    – no one could get through to him. We kept asking him what was wrong, but couldn’t get through
    – good kid, good player when he wants to be, but it made sense to deal him

      • Manginasal

        Love Ferly, but the one thing that I didn’t like was that he didn’t show up or wasn’t engaged against the big teams.

        He was invisible against the Oilers and was nowhere to be found when Kassian and Lucic were running around.

        Against the Ducks, he fought Bieksa (who is smaller) regularly but wasn’t there to stand up to Manson or Ritchie.

        I don’t question his toughness because i’ve seen his junior fights and I think he could take all of those bigger guys on, but he never did. Bieksa was the toughest guy he ever fought and he had a little bit of a size advantage on him.

        I think this is where the Flames brass’s issue with Ferly was. He simply wasn’t there when they needed him (ie., against the Oilers).

  • Iyangandy

    If Duchene is interested in a longer deal, go all in for. When a player of his quality is available, you need to take the chance. That’s where the Flames assets can make a difference, not any short term rentals that might be hit or miss. Flames lack a quality center to really be a contender for several years. Hockey-Duchene-Lindholm, Tkachuk-Monahan-Bennet, I believe that could be Flames 1st and 2nd for years.

  • Jetflame

    Let’s be honest here. We all know the playoffs are a completely different animal than the reg season. If I was to give any feedback on who to pick up before the deadline to make an honest run this year? It would have to be on a “rental only” basis, as there’s lots of players to sign and give raises to in the summer. Our boys need to bring in some more grit for the post season. A few players that would fit that bill would first be Jake Muzzin. an absolute BEAST and knows what it takes to win. Next would be Wayne Simmonds. Scoring touch, tough as nails. Would not let anyone take any liberties on Johnny or ANYONE for that matter. Of course, another obvious choice would be to bring back Ferly. I’m sure he knows the Flames never wanted to include him in the big trade….they insisted on it. I believe the Canes are going to sign him though. I’m sure Roddy B. is screaming to Don Waddel to do so ASAP, before losing him at the end of the season.