What should Calgary do at the trade deadline? That’s the most thought-provoking discussion surrounding the Flames right now, and it’s one we’re not really used to having. Barring a massive collapse down the stretch, Calgary will enter the 2019 postseason as contenders for the first time in years. While there are myriad opinions on how they should approach the Feb. 25 deadline, it’s my belief there are more benefits to an aggressive approach than not.
When I talk about being aggressive, I’m referring to Calgary using things like prospects and/or draft picks to acquire impact NHLers, rental or otherwise, for the stretch drive and playoffs.
Ari started fleshing this out on WWYDW and your responses were all over the place, which illustrates how varying the opinions are on this one. As much as I think making a significant addition (or additions) is the approach to take, I’m also not ready to say the Flames should do that at any cost. I’m also not going to dismiss the “stand pat” side of the discussion, because the reasoning is extremely sound.
THERE’S NO RUSH
One of the main arguments against making a big deadline push is the notion Calgary’s window is just opening, which is hard to argue. So much of the team’s success this year is based on solid structure, well-played hockey, and good personnel. As such, this doesn’t seem like an unsustainable flash in the pan, which leads many to suggest now isn’t the time to be aggressive.
On top of that, the Flames aren’t flush with attractive assets to move. Because so many recent draft picks are playing in the NHL, the team’s prospect depth is fairly thin. If they want to make a trade that doesn’t disrupt their current roster, we’re talking about a small group of players to choose from.
That list probably includes Dillon Dube, Andrew Mangiapane, Juuso Valimaki, and Oliver Kylington, and even then, all four players have spent significant time with the big team this season. I guess you could probably add Jon Gillies and Tyler Parsons to that mix, but knowing how both have struggled this season, I’m really not sure how attractive they’d be.
So then we move to picks, which is always a contentious topic. Over the last two drafts, the Flames have only made one selection in the first three three rounds (Valimaki, 2017 1st round); every other selection has been round four and beyond.
Calgary would like to start replenishing their prospect pool and that becomes hard to do without picks, especially first rounders. Now, knowing the Flames are extremely likely to be a top 10 team come the end of the season, their 2019 pick will end up landing between 21 and 31. Even still, trading a first round pick this year puts Calgary in a spot where they’re not making their first selection until late in the third round.
Finally, there’s always a conversation to be had about the immediate risk of bringing in an impact player. Will that mess up the chemistry and/or dynamic both in the room and on the ice? And will a new player be the right fit? After all, for every Paul Stastny there’s a Martin Hanzal, right?
GO FOR IT
The Flames are having an unprecedented season; in the salary cap era, they’ve never had better results this deep in a season. To expand that even further, the list is very small for better point totals through 51 games in franchise history, because there’s only one. The Stanley Cup team of 1988-89 had 73 points at this stage, which is only one win ahead of this year’s 71-point total.
To make a long story short, Calgary hasn’t been in a better position to make a deep playoff run in ages. There are no guarantees in this league, so to assume they’ll be in this spot again at any point over, say, the next five years is dangerous. I’m not saying they won’t be, but the Tampa Bay Lightning also missed the playoffs after going to two straight Eastern Conference Finals.
Let’s also not forget the Flames will be in a much different cap situation at this time next year. It’s a good bet Matthew Tkachuk will be counting at least $8 million against the cap, while the team also needs to re-sign Sam Bennett and figure out how they’re going to allocate dollars in net. I know they’ve been squeezed against the cap at times this season, but it’s going to get even tighter next year. Calgary may not be in a better spot to wade into the rental market than they are right now.
Finally, let me appeal to your heartstrings for a second. Mark Giordano is 35 years old and is a leading Norris Trophy candidate, which is incredible. I’m not saying Gio is showing ANY signs of slowing down, but one day he will… I think. Thinking critically, though, what are the odds Giordano has this good a season again? I think there’s something to be said about maximizing an incredible year from the captain.
I don’t believe the Flames should be making a big splash at any cost, nor do I think they should be hellbent in winning a bidding war for a big name. However, for the first time in years, I feel like actively exploring one of the bigger names available at the deadline makes a lot of sense for them. Yes, a big move in February comes with risk, especially in the case of a rental, but I believe that’s all mitigated by the potential benefits.