In weeks prior, we’ve discussed what the Flames are looking for and who they could be looking at. Now how do they approach it? And how does it impact the further off future?
With Valimaki being activated off the IR, who should the Flames go with, Valimaki or Kylington?
— Russo (@arusso_9) January 27, 2019
Well, the answer to “who?” is quite clear: Oliver Kylington. He’s been pretty solid so far, has begun to pick up some points, – he currently sits two back of fellow rookie Rasmus Andersson, albeit having played 22 fewer games – and is looking like he’s getting better with every game. As for Juuso Valimaki, he hasn’t played since November. Rushing a pro-rookie back from injury might not be a great idea, especially when your lineup isn’t really missing him (if you’re curious, the Flames are 17-5-4 with Kylington in the lineup and 13-8-1 with Valimaki, though to put responsibility for winning on any third pairing defenceman is wrong). You have flexibility with Valimaki, why not use it?
I think a better question might be: when does Valimaki return to the NHL? Kylington’s been great, but he’s still waiver exempt and you can’t keep a talent like Valimaki down for long. I personally think that Kylington sticks around for the stretch, but strong AHL appearances from Valimaki could unsettle that spot. He’s already picked up an assist in his two games there this weekend.
What about the SJS and the VGK, what’re they’re trade targets? If this becomes and arms race is it worth it stock up on rentals.
— Manitoba’s (@T0Y_L0VE) January 27, 2019
This is certainly worth considering heading into trade deadline. Given their cap space, low number of futures to give away, and comfortable position in the standings, the Flames may be very quiet on deadline day. But if one of their main Pacific competitors throws down the gauntlet, it’s going to get interesting.
Let’s start with the Sharks. Their obvious need is in net, as both of their goalies are somehow below 0.900 (before you ask, Mike Smith will not be not an upgrade). If the Flames are looking at the goalie market, Brad Treliving might need to be quicker on the draw than Doug Wilson. However, the Sharks have some similar trading problems as the Flames. San Jose’s 2019 and 2020 first round picks are gone due to the Erik Karlsson and Evander Kane trades, and their 2021 first rounder could also disappear on conditions. They’ll have about $6M in deadline cap space, which gives them some flexibility, but without intriguing futures, they’re going to have get to get very creative to get a good asset.
The Golden Knights could be the scary team to look out for. They need a high-powered forward, as none of their current forwards have over 40 points, and could also use another defenceman. They have 10 top-93 picks over the next two years, a shade under $17M in deadline space, the potential to LTIR David Clarkson and his $5.25M contract, and a few high-end prospects that they could part with for the right price. They can feasibly be the biggest spenders at deadline, and given how close they were to the Cup last year, they might be motivated to pull the trigger to get through a very tough Pacific Division.
So Vegas could certainly start an arms race if they really felt like it. The issue is that the Flames don’t really have the means to match them. The team only has half of what Vegas has in deadline space, and nowhere close to the number of future assets.
Did the Perry Berezan and Shane Churla for Brian McCllelan trade in 1988-89 push the Flames over the hill to win the Cup? Has a late season trade ever been a game changer for any team? Why would the Flames look to make any trades?
— David Coates (@AristotleJones) January 27, 2019
There’s a few good trades out there. In recent memory, the Kings made their push to their first Stanley Cup by acquiring Jeff Carter, and then did it again by acquiring Marian Gaborik two years later. Marian Hossa helped push the Penguins to game six of the Stanley Cup Final. If we go back, Ron Francis and Ulf Samuelsson were two huge adds for the Penguins’ back-to-back Stanley Cups in the ’90s. Deadline acquisition Butch Goring was considered the final piece for the four-peat Islanders.
So these trades do happen, but given that I found six undisputedly great trades with immediate payoff in nearly 39 years of history, they’re rare. One great player can’t launch the other 17 towards the Stanley Cup by themselves. What’s more important is having a great core of players which can be bolstered by one final piece to complement it, not carry it.
Thankfully, the Flames look like a team that matches that description. If the team feels they’re missing the one final piece, there’s a pretty good chance they go for it. Treliving is a risk taker who will do what he needs to put the team that much closer to sweet, sweet victory.
Does the impending expansion draft change what this team is willing to give up for a deep playoff run this season? If you’re going to lose a good player in the draft (which we probably will) for nothing, maybe making a big splash makes sense?
— Dustin (@dustin642) January 28, 2019
Probably not. Ideally, they want to keep whoever they trade for locked up, but their RFA situation next offseason is going to make that difficult. If they are going for a big name player, they would have to completely drop the pretense that this player is going to stick around with the rest of the core.
But let’s say that they do grab this mystery player (and that they’re a forward), lock them in until after the expansion draft, and have all intentions of protecting him. Based on who is signed through to 2021, they would have to protect Mystery Player, Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Sean Monahan, and Elias Lindholm. That leaves them space to protect two of Mikael Backlund, James Neal, Derek Ryan, Dillon Dube, or Matthew Phillips. Keep in mind that this isn’t including players like Sam Bennett, Mark Jankowski, Glenn Gawdin, or Andrew Mangiapane, whose contracts all expire before 2021 but would be eligible for exposure. There’s also the various FA signings that they might make between now and 2021, so maybe add one or two random names into the mix.
If you factor in defence, you have to pick three of Mark Giordano, Noah Hanifin, Kylington, Andersson, and Valimaki to protect and expose the other two. If they re-sign one of (or both, for some reason) Travis Hamonic and TJ Brodie, then the decision is a bit tougher.
Let’s assume they sign everyone. I’ll let people pick which two they want to protect, but regardless of who you pick, there’s going to be a quality NHL name (presuming that they have a good GM – let’s hope they don’t) that’s moving to Seattle. Unless Treliving manages to swing a deal, you have two and a half years to say your goodbyes.
And it won’t be the end of the world. If you’re an optimist, there’s a handful more that are going to be exposed and not selected. Good teams lose good players sometimes. That’s the reality of the salary cap NHL, and especially so with the expansion drafts. Even if they don’t go for Mystery Player at the trade deadline, they’re probably still going to lose a good player regardless. The key thing for the Flames is that they identify who their core players actually are, protect them, and have a backup plan just in case someone they really liked but couldn’t keep gets exposed.