Despite being under the cap to start the season, it’s fair to say Calgary management would feel more comfortable with a little more breathing room. Currently, the Flames are less than $200,000 under the $81.5 million ceiling, which translates to minimal projected space come the trade deadline. As such, Calgary is still in search of a financially-motivated trade, preferably in the near future.
Fortunately, the Flames have internal options ready to step in for a pair of forwards who could be considered likely trade chips.
After a difficult two games to start the season, Frolik’s name is front of mind once again when it comes to trade talk. In the final year of his contract, Frolik struggled in Calgary’s season-opening loss in Denver and was dropped to the fourth line in the team’s home opener two nights later.
While I still believe Frolik is a very useful player, I’m not blind to his struggles to start the year. I’m also well aware of how many people disagree with me on this topic. More than anything, though, I’m realistic, which means I can’t deny the high likelihood of a Frolik trade at some point this season.
Assuming a Frolik deal would be strictly salary driven (no money coming back the other way), the Flames seem to have a readymade understudy ready to step in on a line with with Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk. Andrew Mangiapane was the guy who swapped onto that line Saturday night and is the player that seems best suited long term. Comparing five-on-five metrics from last season shows a lot of similarities between the two players.
Of course, a heavy dose of context is needed. Frolik posted solid numbers across the board while routinely playing against the best players on the other side. Mangiapane, on the other hand, was playing mostly bottom six competition. It’s also important to point out Frolik has been a consistently strong possession player for the better part of a decade, whereas Mangiapane doesn’t even have a full NHL season under his belt.
Still, everything I’ve seen from Mangiapane suggests he’s capable of filling a top six spot, specifically in a role similar to Frolik’s. Mangiapane is an intelligent player with offensive upside, and playing with similarly smart linemates like Backlund and Tkachuk would suit him well.
Moving Frolik out and replacing him with Mangiapane would have a trickle down effect. With Calgary’s organizational depth, though, it wouldn’t be difficult to backfill. Tobias Rieder and Austin Czarnik could easily be everyday forwards, or the door could open for an AHL recall of Dillon Dube or Alan Quine.
Jankowski’s most likely replacement is the aforementioned Quine, who impressed in training camp. There’s very little separating the two in terms of skillset, and there are some in the organization who rate Quine higher. Understandably, Jankowski gets a little extra leash as a former first round pick, but over the course of their careers, the five-on-five outputs also favour Quine.
While Jankowski’s body of work is larger, Quine has been the more productive player when on the ice at even strength. As for possession, it’s a wash; Jankowski has spent more time on the attack than Quine, but the difference in career zone start ratio correlates almost straight across.
To be fair, Jankowski is younger than Quine, albeit by only 18 months; the latter turns 27 in February, while the former just turned 25 in September. It’s also important to underline Jankowski’s work on the penalty kill, as he really grew into that role last season. Quine may or may not be able to slot in on that role, but penalty killing proficiency is weighted less than five-on-five play, at least for me.
The biggest factor here is cash, though. On an expiring contract, Jankowski carries a cap hit of $1.675 million, which is significantly higher than Quine’s $735,000 number. If the Flames were to trade Jankowski for, say, a second or third round pick, they’d be saving $940,000 on a swap with Quine. A move like that would help with deadline cap space in a big way.
I know there are some who bristle at the notion of trading Jankowski, which I understand. He’s a big centre with skill and also happens to be a former high profile first rounder. For me, though, Jankowski is entering “is what he is” territory: a number three or four centre. With Quine in the same ballpark, you can understand why Calgary would make a decision like this. An extra million under the cap goes a long way come February.