WWYDW: Should the Flames trade one of their regulars?

The Flames? One of the top teams in the NHL as buyers at the trade deadline? It’s more likely than you think. But while that in and of itself is obvious, what’s less apparent is just how much the Flames should be willing to give up.

Could that include a roster player?

The Flames have 16 skaters who should be considered regulars in their lineup this season. This includes players like Michael Frolik (missed a month due to injury) and Rasmus Andersson (didn’t start the season in the NHL, but seems pretty established as a regular at this point), but excludes guys like Austin Czarnik (frequent healthy scratch), and Oliver Kylington and Juuso Valimaki (who’s to say how many NHL games either would have played were it not for injury?).

Many of those players – all of the 50-point scorers, for instance – are untouchable in a trade; their departures would unquestionably make the Flames worse. But moving current roster players could pay dividends – not just for this season, but down the line as well, as the team will have to work to ensure they stay under the cap for 2019-20 (and trading away a roster player now could allow them to re-sign a bigger get; say, if it was possible to trade for and then sign Mark Stone, that would certainly hold some appeal, wouldn’t it?).

Potential cap hazards include:

  • James Neal ($5.75 million hit for another four seasons after this one)
  • Michael Frolik ($4.3 million hit for one more season)
  • Derek Ryan ($3.125 million hit for another two seasons)
  • Sam Bennett (restricted free agent after this season; no telling how much his next deal will be)
  • TJ Brodie ($4.65 million hit for another season)

Ryan is only playing on the fourth line, but he does have 20 points in 55 games played (on pace for 29 total). He may be expensive for his role, but he’s performing well for what’s being asked of him; it’s difficult to see the Flames wanting to cut bait on him this early into his contract. Besides, he’s an undrafted fourth line centre – how much would he really be worth?

Neal is a unique situation. That expensive a contract for that long for a player already in his 30s was bound to look poor by its end, but Neal has severely underperformed so far this season. He has just 15 points in 54 games, and is unlikely to hit 20 goals for the first time in his career. Much as some of Neal’s struggles can be blamed on his 4.1 shooting percentage and just plain bad luck, the contract is already looking bad; it could maybe work as a sell if another team really needs to take back cap space and feels Neal could return to form with a change of scenery, but it’s not likely.

Frolik and Brodie are both established NHL veterans, but with somewhat hefty price tags (though each contract only lasts for one more season). They would likely both be assets to the Flames in the playoffs this season – Frolik plays on the second line, while Brodie is on the top defence pairing – but it’s also possible the Flames could upgrade on their roster positions. Frolik, for example, could be sent the other way in return for a true top six forward, while the Flames have plenty of in-house replacements on defence.

Bennett, meanwhile, hasn’t lived up to the potential that got him drafted fourth overall. He seems to have found a home on the Flames as a third liner, but could he do more for another team? Is a third liner going to be worth the eventual salary he’ll command – likely at least something over $2 million? Or could the Flames put that cap space to better use, perhaps while promoting one of their prospects on an entry-level deal to fill in his spot?

The Flames also have a couple of other regulars without much consequence to the cap who could possibly go the other way in a trade: Mark Jankowski and Garnet Hathaway.

They don’t have many other players of Hathaway’s ilk, but we’re also talking about a player averaging 9:50 a game with a mere nine points in 50 games to his name. One may like what Hathaway brings to the table, but compared to the rest of the Flames’ roster, he’s certainly expendable.

As for Jankowski, it could be a matter of selling high. He has 22 points in 53 games, seven of which – just over 30% – are shorthanded. Is that sustainable, is he still growing as a player, or has Jankowski already hit a high point?

Ultimately, though, it seems rather unlikely with the way their season has been going that the Flames will trade away one of their current regulars unless they absolutely need to send salary back. It falls under the “why mess with a good thing” umbrella, both in terms of maintaining locker room chemistry and  recognizing that their current roster has them as one of the top teams in the NHL. The goal is to improve the team, and there’s very little addition by subtraction that can be done with this group.

Still, though, is it worth exploring – not just for this season, but to potentially set up next year’s roster? What would you do?

  • everton fc

    Guys I’d like us to consider, at the trade deadline, (not including Stone and Duchene, as we can’t afford them), off the top of my head;

    Mats Zuccarello
    Connor Brown
    Nazim Kadri
    Ryan Dzingel
    Kasperi Kapanen
    Andreas Johnsson
    Miles Wood
    Brendan Leipsic
    Tyler Toffoli
    Kyle Clifford
    Adam McQuaid
    James Reimer
    Jimmy Vesey
    Pavel Buchnevich

  • L.Kolkind

    I get that Frolik isn’t amazing, but this season he has been our 6th best forward and isn’t getting paid too much as suggested. Frolik’s salary to me is perfect for what he provides. He provides some offence and some defence. He is better at both of those things than Neal or Bennett, and the rest of our forwards don’t really come close to Frolik’s skill level. If we trade to upgrade the team, I don’t know how big of an upgrade it’ll be if we are immediately subtracting our 6th best forward whose contract actually is providing decent value.

    If we trade for Stone yes that’s an upgrade, but the 3m line our best shutdown line and truly isn’t as effective without Frolik. I don’t think to put Stone there is quite the best use of his abilities so I think for the playoffs keeping Frolik as our own rental will provide the best value.

    I would think trading for a better backup should be priority number 1. Rittich has been looking quite human for a little bit, and I simply don’t trust Smith against any playoff team. Sure Smith is fine for when we play Arizona, Detroit, Ottawa etc…, but when playoffs come Smith just isn’t at the same level and getting Howard would be my target.

    (Sorry for the length, but way she goes sometimes

  • Eggy

    Please keep Bennett we aren’t getting anything crazy back for him and he is important to the team already and has a chance to channel his skill to some offence. Yes it might not happen but if he worked on not trying to force plays and his passing skills he could be that much better

  • Franko J

    I know last night loss to the Lightning wasn’t the Flames best effort of the season, however the reality is how close is this team to being a legitimate cup contender?

    I still think because of the unknown and somewhat shaky position between the pipes for the Flames, trading for “rental” players is risky at best. I think before the Flames make any big moves this team needs to go through a few playoff series to see where they are at or how they stack up against the competition. Especially from the standpoint of what they have in net.

    Besides I feel it would be in the best interest for BT to make a few minor tweaks to the lineup and save his assets for the draft where there is an abundantly more trade options available.

  • Flamethrower

    Kapanen is the guy I’d be happy and willing to look at. Scoring, speed, and you know if he plays for Babcock a 200 ft game.
    Also the systems Peters runs are similar or the same as Babcock.

    • R4anders

      Kapanen would be ideal, we have to think about the position T.O is in however. They’ve been looking for a top 4 D-man all year and probably aren’t going to give up offense for picks or prospects. I think we’d have to give up Brodie to get him.