FlamesNation mailbag: Rumour mill heating up

We’ve talked about a lot hypothetical trades in recent mailbags. I suspect it’s because we’re all bored.

But now there’s some smoke to the trade rumours. With the NHL season over in four to seven games, the offseason scheming is beginning to gain traction. A potential preview of Brad Treliving’s annual draft day blockbuster trade has been released. What else could come?

I think the best goalie you could get for TJ Brodie is a 1B type. I don’t foresee many teams trading their starters away, and I think it would be wise to aim higher than a backup, so let’s look for a 1B. Any trade partner is probably looking to balance the money, so we also need to stay in the neighbourhood of Brodie’s $4.65 M salary. Let’s also assume there’s other parts involved to balance salary and expand the scope a wee bit.

The list of goalies within Brodie’s salary range reveals that a trade is likely not going to happen. There’s 31 goalies, and most of them are starters, which rules them out immediately, unless the Flames are willing to pay up (don’t think they are). The remainder are overpaid goalies not worth trading for. The two most likely candidates from that list are Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer, two goalies who are still serviceable, but probably not what the Flames are looking for, and probably not who they should target with an asset like Brodie.

If the Flames want to dangle Brodie for a goaltender, they’re probably out of luck.

It sounds good, except that I don’t think the Panthers are trading Jonathan Huberdeau anytime soon. He’s on a very friendly deal for the club, and they don’t really need TJ Brodie. I think the Panthers have bigger problems than their second highest scorer, and I don’t think those problems can be solved by sacrificing him for Brodie and other spare parts from the Flames.

This is probably one of the most relevant questions for the Flames’ off-season. A Jason Zucker trade seems inevitable, as it’s been discussed endlessly since the failed attempt at the trade deadline. Why are the Flames so keyed in on this guy? Why are they prepared to offer both Michael Frolik and Sam Bennett for him?

Zucker is the regular 20 goal scorer that Frolik never was and that Bennett still hasn’t developed into. Zucker has hit 20 goals in four of his last five seasons, and even hit 30 goals the season before. Even this past season where his SH% dropped about three points below his career average, and five points from the season before, he still managed to score 20 goals. He shoots a lot (his 214 shots this season would be second on the Flames, and his 96 individual high danger chances would be fifth) and is lethal when he does.

What the Flames are betting is that he can add that goal-scoring element to the top six, putting a 20 goal scorer in each spot on the top two lines. They’re also betting that taking Zucker out of the offensive black hole that exists in Minnesota (bottom five in GF at both 5v5 and all situations) will reveal a whole new side to his game, a la Nino Niederrieter when he was traded to the Hurricanes.

So that’s what it boils down to: Zucker is a young, 20 goal scorer on a reasonable contract that the Flames want to boost their top six. You can debate whether or not that’s worth what the Flames are offering, but he is a very good player whose offensive potential has been smothered on a middling Minnesota team.

With the Flames’ cap constraints, there’s only two RWs worth pursuing: Brett Connolly and Joonas Donskoi.

I like those two because they can easily fit into Calgary’s cap structure. EvolvingWild’s contract projection tool predicts that Connolly will make $3.5M AAV over three years, and Donskoi $2.8M on the same term.

Connolly can offer some offensive upside. He’s a sharpshooter who has shot over 15% the past three seasons, and it’s almost exclusively at 5v5. He hasn’t even been benefiting from the presence of future HHOFer Alex Ovechkin, as he’s spent the majority of his time with Lars Eller and Andrei Burakovsky, who are not in the same category. The risk involved with Connolly is his bubble bursting, as he’s been riding a pretty high PDO the past three seasons. Regression to the mean is the difference between an effective bottom six option and a healthy scratch.

Donskoi is a bit less exciting, but a more solid two-way option. He’s honed his defensive skills in San Jose’s bottom six, and has recently been able to contribute a bit more offensively. Part of the risk involved with Donskoi is that he won’t have Tomas Hertl or Evander Kane with him in Calgary, which could damage his offensive numbers. His defensive game should remain stout, at the very least.

To answer the second question, I would absolutely try Andrew Mangiapane in the top six. As Pat pointed out a while back, Mangiapane turned it on during the final stretch of the season, arguably the best winger the club had in the final 20 games (as sad as that is). He shone during a time when no one else was and solidified his status as a Flames regular moving forward.

It’s far too early to tell whether late season Mangiapane is the real Mangiapane or a guy who just got hot at the right time. What isn’t up for question is how deserving he is. Of all the Flames bottom sixers, Mangiapane presented the best case to get top six time. His career history backs that up, as he’s been an offensive dynamo at every stop besides the NHL. If his development continues, he could be that at the NHL shortly.

No, it’s a rarely used tactic, so it’s barely worth thinking about. The last team to attempt one was the Calgary Flames, who tried to sign Ryan O’Reilly. Remember those fun times?

But if you like to get scared, let’s explore it.

Tkachuk is probably going to settle in the $7-8M range, which requires a first, second, and third round pick. But the Flames are going to match any team that attempts that contract, as that’s what they’re already expecting to pay him. The point of an offer sheet is to price out the team who owns the RFA’s rights, so any suitor would have to up the ante to the $8-10M range, which requires an additional first round pick. I don’t think that will happen either, as that’s paying way above market price for Tkachuk. The teams that can make that offer probably don’t want to fork over valuable draft picks for a player that they know they are overpaying for. Even if a team offers a lucrative contract, I think the Flames might match it anyways, regardless of how difficult it makes their cap situation.

If anyone gets offer sheeted this off-season, it’s one of Mitch Marner or Brayden Point, as their situations are what offer sheets are designed for. Teams can pay market value for those players, price out the current owners, and fork over draft picks that they would’ve anyways on the trade market. Given that Tkachuk isn’t on the same level as Marner or Point, I can’t see any team offering him something in the $8-10M range.

(Remember that Tkachuk also has to agree to an offer sheet, and I don’t really see that happening either. I think he likes it here.)

Jon Gillies is an instant no. I don’t think he’s as bad as his 2018-19 was, but I still wouldn’t trust him in the NHL net.

For the UFAs listed, I would only give Mrazek serious consideration. He’s had a good career history and is younger than the rest listed, so if anyone is a safe bet to remain steady next season, it is Mrazek. The only problem is that he’s likely one of the more attractive goalie UFAs behind Sergei Bobrovsky, so it’s going to be a hotly contested bidding war for his services. If the number sneaks past $4M, the Flames are probably out.

There’s one UFA overlooked here, and it’s Anders Nilsson. He’s probably not sticking around in Ottawa (why would anyone), and his career appeared to be on the upswing before landing in Vancouver. If the Flames are looking for a low cost goalie who could operate in tandem with Rittich, Nilsson is probably the most affordable option.

Obviously, pocket dawgs. It’s the one edge Calgary has over any other suitor.

If Phil is available in a trade, it might make sense to cut out the middlemen in Minnesota and Zucker and go straight to Pittsburgh with the Frolik and Bennett package. In Kessel, the Flames are adding a first line RW who could gel with either of the top two lines. He doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, and even if he does, he has three years remaining at $6.8M AAV.

I don’t think the Penguins will trade Kessel for that package (they’re also looking to offload Jack Johnson, who Calgary can’t take on) but I think it’s an idea worth considering.

  • everton fc

    Unless I missed something here (perhaps I did?) I haven’t read anywhere the package for Zucker was both Bennett and Frolik. As for Brodie, I’d be talking to the Leafs, and maybe the Sens, Devils and Rangers. (Brodie grew up a Wings fan. Just sayin’).

  • BendingCorners

    I’d take Kessel for Frolik and Bennett in a heartbeat. and trade Johnson for Neal with RS. The numbers balance, Penguins get some extra bodies up front, Flames get a top-six scorer and dump a failed UFA and have a shorter cheaper buyout. Or don’t buy him out, just waive him to Stockton and if we need a heavy body call him up.

  • BendingCorners

    Brodie to Montreal for their first and Columbus’ second. Fair value if they want him, which depends on Brodie’s issues in 2016-17-18 being his playing partner and not which side he played. He would be a good match with Weber I think, and the Flames could use the draft picks and the cap space. Risky though since it makes the right side shallower. One of the rookies would need to play his off-side.

  • buts

    None of the players mentioned offer the grit this team needs. Is anyone watching the playoffs? Our team isn’t physical enough to handle any of the 15 other teams that made the playoffs. Bennett is one of the only guys we have that can play playoff style hockey. We had the second most goals for this year. BT needs to add size and grit and Toronto and Montreal have players we could use, Shaw, Gallagher, Kadri, Kapanen. With our depth on D I’d start by shopping Brodie, Hanifin. BT got us into first in the conference with bold moves, with our core hitting its prime it’s time to be bold this summer and add some needed pieces.

      • deantheraven

        It would be great to see him here again but his injury history would suggest he may not be a full time player moving forward. But even if they were able to get him on a cheap deal, they’ll need to add another utility forward with size.

        • Luter 1

          Both of those teams would run us out of the rink worse than the Avs did, you need to watch the games and quit looking at stats. St. Louis has thrown more serious hits in these playoffs than the Flames through all year.

          • super6646

            “Serious hits”?

            Knew someone would use something extremelly arbitrary and subject to heavy bias to fit their narrative. Hits are hits, teams that hit never have possession of the puck and almost always lose. 6 of the top 8 hitting teams per game in the playoffs were first round exits, but I’m sure all the other teams had “better hits”…

        • Torchy

          You should probably be careful about making condescending comments about “arbitrary observations” and such when it’s clear that you haven’t put any thought into these playoff hitting statistics.

          I imagine that the Flames threw more hits per game because they had the puck far less than the teams who have had success. Makes sense right?

          If you watched the Flames series and do not think that the physical dominance of Zadorov, Cole, MacKinnon, Rantanen, etc made it very hard for Calgary to play, I don’t know what to tell you.

          All the other people are saying is that these other teams have the ability to physically separate their opponents from the puck under the toughest circumstances. Calgary couldn’t do it.

          This doesn’t mean that they have to sign Ogie Ogolthorpe, but it is an element of the game they will have to improve in somehow.

          • super6646

            No, I watched the games, and we decided to play it tough and failed miserably. We moved away from the speed game we played all year and it was a disaster. We absolutely don’t need to change our identity to win in the playoffs… we just need to stop getting caught up in making the other opponent pay, when all it did was tire our team out and give Colorado momentum.

        • Derzie

          In today’s NHL, hitting takes you out of the play. Game moves too fast. You have to be quick, tenacious and resilient. Want the puck more than your opponent and let the hacks, slashes and hits bounce off. Hitting has it’s place (ie. St Louis used it to weaken the Sharks skill) but skill always trumps hitting if players can deal with lesser players using rough stuff on the them.

    • withachance

      Shaw and Kadri are the only realistic fits. Kapanen is small and fast, the opposite of tough and gritty. I’d love to see Shaw or Kadri here. Tkachuk plus one of those guys would make this team so annoying for other teams

      • everton fc

        We won’t go for Kadri, out of respect for Gio.

        Here are the types of players we need – only a few like these, and they need to be able to play a regular shift – not a guy like Prout (some we can’t get):

        Antoine Roussel
        Brendan Lemieux
        Andrew Shaw
        Micheal Ferland
        Miles Wood
        Nick Ritchie
        Blake Coleman
        Radko Gudas

        A few guys like these… And we become more difficult to play.

          • everton fc

            And I didn’t even mention Mark Borowiecki this time! 😉 I used to get “Cheers” for mentioning Miles Wood here, last season. Alas… I stand by the list.

        • Derzie

          What we are missing are greaseballs (you list some here). If you despise them and they are under 30 and playing regularly, then we need them. We have enough ‘nice guys’. Just need to sprinkle in a bit more jack-as.

      • idbr

        Shaw: 5′ 11″/182 lbs/128 hits/71 PIM/27 years old/shoots right
        Kadri: 6′ 0″/190 lbs/85 hits/43 PIM/28 years old/shoots left
        Kapanen: 6’1″/185 lbs/92 hits/27 PIM/22 years old/shoots right

        Of these guys I would take Kapanen first without a second thought. Way more upside and as a bonus he is bigger and also not afraid to hit. The notion that he is tiny is wrong.

        • withachance

          Again, size does not matter. Did you see Krug absolutely crush Thomas last night who had 3 inches on him?

          Size does not matter, its how you play. Kapanen plays a speedy game, which is great, but Shaw’s game complements our skill player much better. He can create space down low and not afraid to rough it up.

          Dont get me wrong Kapanen is the better player, and would be amazing if Tre got him, but I can guarantee you there will be fans saying he plays too soft half season in next year.

          • idbr

            I don’t think size matters that much either. Although we need some big guys too for sure. My point is that I don’t think Kapanen is soft by any means. In the stats I quote above he had more hits last year than Kadri (fewer suspensions too). I watched a few games in the Boston/Toronto series and was quite impressed with his physical play. I think he is high compete and a fairly strong guy. Huge upside as he is fast.

  • SgtRoadBlock

    i see that Pathers being busy dropping players and attacking the UFA market ..could be something for us who knows it all click bait till draft day..


    • freethe flames

      Here a thought a round the Panthers; it is aid they will be hot after Bob. That measn they have to something with Riemer. Frolik for Riemer and a lte pick. Frolik has played for Q and would give them some stability.

  • Kzak

    I’m going to throw out something that’s going to lead to several thumbs down, people calling me stupid, and probably lead to people ignoring my post from now on, but I’m going to say it anyway.
    Watching Johnny Gaudreau in the playoffs and watching Johnny Gaudreau in the recently completed World Hockey Championships, it seems to me that he is neither a clutch player nor a big game player, and I’m really starting to question whether he can get us where we want to go.
    With that being said, I’d like to propose the following: The Flames should do whatever it takes to sign Artemi Panarin. If the NYRs offer ten million, we offer eleven, for seven years. Panarin has proven to be a top player and very good in the playoffs. He also seems gel easily with other star players.
    Since we’d be adding Panarin, we then put Johnny Gaudreau on the trade block and see if we can a couple of first and second picks out of a team like the Senators who have a handful of picks in the new few drafts, or, since it seems inevitable that the Flyers and/or the Devils will try poach him when he’s a free agent (and they may very well succeed), maybe one of them would step up (maybe NJ’s first overall??).
    I know this sounds drastic, but the fact of the matter is we are in Cup window, and I think if I had a choice of going forward with either Johnny, or Panarin (along with a bunch early round picks for restocking our prospects and for making deadline deals), I’d chose the latter option in a heartbeat.
    Let the trashing begin!!

    • withachance

      Not trashing, but Panarin only wants to go a flashy market (LA, Miami, NYC). Calgary isnt exactly the New York of Canada.

      I honestly thought Johnny was one of the forwards that looked like he was trying and frustrated with what was happening on the ice. Might just be me, but yeah.

        • Rockmorton65

          I agree. I wonder what would happen to Johnny’s game if he had a gritty power forward type center, rather than Monahan. Or at the very least, that type of player on his line. I think it would add another dimension to his game, especially in the playoffs.

          I don’t think Johnny was the problem in the playoffs. I think it was Monahan.

          • Luter 1

            Monahans Mom must have trashed you, Johnny is being somewhat wasted by not protecting him better and yes he was trying bigtime just wasn’t getting a whole bunch of support especially from his Center.

    • Jimmyhaggis

      I totally agree, Johnny will get you into the playoffs but that’s it, he just can’t handle the physical play, not a knock on his skill but that’s the fact. I would think we could get something substantial, plus after next season if he still can’t compete in the post season his value will plummet.
      He’s like the Sedins were in Vancouver.

    • UpTkachuk

      You are thinking outside the box on this one. Panarin does not want to be in a market like Calgary.
      Johnny is clutch and does show up more often than not. The biggest issue is that opponents know that the puck is going to Johnny and that his line mates are looking for him (shut down Gaudreau=shut down the Flames).
      If the Devils were a trade target, Taylor Hall would be the return. Draft picks for Johnny would extend our competitive window but might limit playoff success (or appearances) over the short term.
      I wouldn’t trash your post for exploring possibilities. Your ideas are worth thought. Ultimately, no one on this site has a say in the management of this organization. It’s just fun to watch everything unfold.

      • Puck Head

        If you put Johnny on a line with Hall, OV, McDavid, Eichel etc. can you imagine the damage they would inflict? It would be amazing to watch. I’m not saying that we will get any of these types of players but either commit and find players to flank him or move him and change course. This team needs to be built around its core guys.

    • Beer League Coach

      Flames were hot after Panarin when he came over from Russia. He didn’t want anything to do with Calgary and signed with Chicago instead. Why would he sign with Flames now? And he is not worth $11mm per season for 7 years. I would not be opposed to moving Johnny IF we get a huge return. The minimum return would have to be a roster player with skill AND truculence, a prospect, and a 1st round draft pick. The problem is what team would meet those trade demands? Probably not very many.

    • Budgie

      I would trade Johnny Hockey to Ottawa for Brady Tkachuk and a 1st, round pick-two Tkachuks, that would be interesting. Then try to sign Jeff Skinner. See if there are any bites on James Neal. someone might want to fit him in, sometimes it is all about chemistry, Neal could be dealt, maybe not, I’d try. Derek Ryan can take the third line center spot, I really liked his play and face-off power

  • freethe flames

    The question of Zucker; I understand the desire to add a goal scorer but is he really the right fit, at the right cap hit and the right cost to acquire. He is a smallish LH shooter who can play on the RHS who has shown that he can score but had a down year last year. His cap hit is north of $5m and I am not sure he is worth it. The cost being asked for is Frolik and Bennett(one of our few physical forwards) is too high. If it was Czarnik instead of Bennett I might be willing to do it as the cap ramifications of Frolik&Czarnik would equal that of Zucker. I don’t see Zucker as a fit on the first line but rather a fit with say Tkachuk/Lindy; that being said looking at his cap hit I would almost prefer to see Mangiapane or Dube be given that look or even Janko. Yes I know it is a stretch to move these up that far in line up but that is why you have developed them

  • freethe flames

    A rare thing has occurred today Christian and I agree on something. The top two RHS that are free agents are indeed Connolly and Donskoi. For the the Flames to be able to afford either of them they need to trade either TJ Brodie and or Frolik for draft picks. The idea perspective might be to trade both TJ and FRolik and save just about $9m in cap space ans sign both of them for between $6-$6.5 m by 3 years but I would be willing to up to 4 years(my internal rule of 32) This would allow the flames about $2.5m in additional cap space. What do I think we could get for TJ; my thoughts are a trade with the Habs for a 2nd this year and next years 1st and a prospect say Evans. Frolik likely gets us a 2nd and maybe a 4th or a D prospect to help the Heat; I have no idea of who would be an ideal trade partner for Frolik.

    • Beer League Coach

      Grreat idea. I would sign them both for a combined $6.5 mm per season * 3 years. Both would be an asset to Flames. Connolly especially would look good on RW with Johnny & Monny. With Johnny setting him up he might even regain the scoring touch he had as a junior. Donskoi would be just as good an addition on line 2 or 3.

  • freethe flames

    In regards to the back up goalie; Nilsson would be worth kicking tires on but I could also see the Panthers looking to move Reimer. Take a look at his save % for the better part of a decade and the number of games played; he could make the idea 1b with Rittich. His cap hit of $3.4 for 2 years could be doable. The rumour out there is that Florida is hot after Bob and will need to move him and I think he could be gotten relatively inexpensively and with some salary issues. Maybe Gilles and something minor for Reimer.

  • Sterls

    Here’s my question for those who what a big shooting RW for the top line. How does that kind of player help Johnny in the playoffs? Johnny’s problem is when he has the puck the opposing team can smother him/press him so he can’t make a play. A big RW doesn’t help there at all. What the top line needs is another dynamic player on that RW who can skate and carry the puck into the zone. This would force the opposing team to defend both players giving Johnny more space. Those players aren’t cheap, so, dangle Monahan and move Lindholm to 1C, he is a better fit as our 1C than Monahan is anyway. Kessel could work there, not that I think Pitts is looking to add Monahan’s salary, but if Kessel were to come trade Monahan for a slew of picks/prospects. Tarasenko might be possible if Monahan is going the other way.

  • Sterls

    Another idea that I can’t understand is how in the same statement others think Backlund can be both the shutdown guy and a 3rd liner. If he has the task of shutting down the other teams best line, the line that will play the most minutes, does he not by sheer necessity of his role have to be at least the 2c to get enough ice time to adequately fill that role? Additionally, what makes an elite shutdown line isn’t that they are the best defensive players, but that they also have enough offensive ability to be able to pin the other teams best line in their own end scrambling to defend against them. Put Backlund on the 3rd line with typical 3rd line caliber wingers and his effectiveness is diminished. I’d rather see a 3rd line made up of offensively minded players, as they will likely be playing against other teams 3rd and 4th lines, and may be able to expose them.

  • Sterls

    Not that I think the Flames would be able to afford him due to Neal’s contract, but if it were to miraculously vanish from our books, I would make a strong bid for Zuccarello as a UFA signing. Mangiapane-Ryan-Zuccarello would be a dangerous 3rd line. He could move up the line up with ease and play on any line if need be, unlike Neal who was top line or bust.

  • FlamesFanFromMI

    Just a thought, I agree Johnny get overwhelmed and had to dump the puck. What if we have physical center to make room for him? Not saying trade Moni at all just something that would make a difference. Put Mony/Backlund 2/3 as you wish but put a center that can make room for Johnny. Just a thought.

  • Toma41

    Johnny’s problem during the playoffs was Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm. Both disappeared completely since the allstar game and have yet to re-appear. Johnny would skate in the offensive zone and it would take Monahan and Lindholm way too long to catch up. This allowed the opposing team to go after Johnny, forcing him to try and do something on his own. Many times this turned into a turnover.

      • freethe flames

        Over the last few years BT has surprised us all by his trades around the draft? Did anyone expect getting Hamilton? Did anyone expect the trade with Carolina? I know I did not. Would it surprise me if he was working on a blockbuster as we speak, nope. What it could be I have no idea but could be in the works; maybe.

        Wild idea: Johnny/Monny for Krieder and Zibby?