There are two options for the Flames at the deadline: buy, or stand pat. Considering just how close the team could be to winning a Stanley Cup, though, it’s pretty difficult to see them doing something other than making an attempt to make their team better for a postseason run.
One avenue they could pursue would be to get a new forward to bolster their ranks – and someone they’re very familiar with just might be on the market. So, does it make sense for the Flames to trade for Micheal Ferland?
While the Flames have been linked to Ferland, they aren’t alone. It makes sense, though: Ferland exhibits a lot of desirable traits in a hockey player, especially for a playoff run. Not only is he pretty much the epitome of toughness, but he can score, as well – and we’ve already seen him so effective in one playoff series that he was a major factor in ensuring his team’s victory.
Assuming the Hurricanes – themselves a bubble team who may want to keep Ferland, even if they’re unable to re-sign him – do trade him, then they should have a lot of suitors.
That poses a couple of problems for the Flames:
- If multiple teams are interested in Ferland, then there will be a bidding war for his services. That’ll drive the price up. The Flames do not exactly have a lot of assets to spend at this stage.
- Ferland would, at absolute best, be a middle six player on the Flames. Is it worth it to get into a bidding war for someone who may very well just end up on the third line?
If the Flames have limited assets to spend, and are able to swing a deal for a higher calibre player (say, someone who isn’t as physical, but is a stronger scorer – someone Matthew Tkachuk would probably need on his line), then why not focus those assets on a player who can upgrade the top six in a meaningful way, rather than a tweener?
One of Ferland’s problems is that while he can score, he can’t drive play on his own. He scored 41 points in 77 games with the Flames in 2017-18, but that was when he was playing on a line with Johnny Gaudreau (84 points that year) and Sean Monahan (74 points). He would not be going back to that line – not with Elias Lindholm, a player capable of keeping up with Monahan offensively, present.
This season, with Carolina, Ferland has 25 points in 41 games, good for fourth in their team scoring. But he spends most of his time alongside Sebastian Aho (57 points) and Teuvo Teravainen (43 points). If the Flames got Ferland and had him playing on, say, the third line, he would not be that productive a player.
How would Ferland even shift the Flames’ lineup makeup? Assuming the top line is left alone, then here are a couple of possible variations for the middle six (assuming Sam Bennett is pushed to the fourth line alongside Derek Ryan and Garnet Hathaway or Austin Czarnik):
Basically, you’d have the AHL call-up spot eliminated, and you’d have a few more options for mixing players up, but is bumping Bennett down to the fourth line truly a meaningful upgrade when the incoming player can’t generate that much offence on his own – especially considering the possibly raised price to acquire him in the event of a bidding war?
On the other hand, the Flames are familiar with Ferland, and he with them, so it’s not as though anyone would have to worry too much about an adjustment period or any supposed disruption in chemistry. The Canucks back in 2015 were a weaker opponent, but Ferland was still able to create plenty of havoc for them from a line with David Jones and Matt Stajan. And he is a good complementary player – it’s just we haven’t seen him have to complement non-elite forwards for a few years now.
On the other other hand, if the Flames are going to be spending assets regardless, would they be better off aiming higher to improve their forward ranks – say, by getting an indisputable top six forward who can drive play? Keeping in mind they have a meagre amount of picks and prospects they actually can spend, would it be better to make a couple of small moves to improve the team, such as trading for Ferland, or go all in on one big acquisition?
I believe the assumption here would be that the Flames won’t be re-signing whoever they trade for – including Ferland – as their cap for the 2019-20 season likely won’t be able to accommodate any big additions long-term, not with Tkachuk’s upcoming extension. (And a hometown discount shouldn’t be an option for Ferland, either – he has a limited career window, especially considering the physical nature of his play, and he should be looking to maximize his paycheque, period. I’d imagine his agent would advise him of that.)
Or, considering the Flames’ lacking prospect cupboards and few high picks, would it make more sense to just not do anything at all?
What would you do?