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FlamesNation mailbag: various ways to make the team better

The Flames need to improve, now and in the future. How do they get it done? Plus, how to void Milan Lucic’s contract (tangentially related) and David Rittich’s chances of scoring a goal (not at all related).

Great question. The Flames have a tentative 2022 deadline for this current roster, as that’s when Mark Giordano, Johnny Gaudreau, and Matthew Tkachuk’s contracts expire (Tkachuk is RFA, however). With a decent amount of cap space coming off the books between now and then, and the aforementioned issue with the prospects not being great, the Flames are going to have a window to add a lot of expensive players.

The decision is: keep the picks and add expensive players via free agency, or mortgage your future and trade for players whose contracts fit within the window?

Let’s look at the first option. It’s right to be wary about the Flames’ prospect pool: they’ve traded away a few firsts, have drafted in the 16+ range, and will likely draft there in the immediate future. That’s absolutely going to put a dent in your high-end prospect pool, and despite finding some potential in later rounds, it’s not wise to constantly bet on long shots. The team does have a future after 2022, so you have to consider add a few high quality youngins to keep the team in good shape.

And it’s not as if free agency is a bad route to take. Next year’s class is pretty loaded, with names like Taylor Hall, Alex Galchenyuk, Tyler Toffoli, Chris Krieder, Vladimir Namestikov, and Mike Hoffman becoming available. However, these are all players past the age of 25 who are going to be looking for long term, big money contracts. They won’t neatly fit into the 2022 deadline, so you run the risk of carrying an expensive barnacle around in later years (though if they can push the team over the edge in the playoffs, does anyone really mind?). Brad Treliving also has a sketchy history of signing UFAs, which was rightly pointed out last time I floated this idea in a mailbag, but I feel that a class with this many high quality names makes it harder to miss.

If you don’t at all like the risk associated with free agency, trading for players is probably the way to go. There’s way more options available, and offers a higher reward than a mid to late first round pick could. Treliving has never shied away from the big trade, and has also never shied away from trading futures.

I feel the Flames go with trading picks to acquire players, partially because of their history, but also because it makes the most sense for the team. Free agents won’t fit neatly into the window, and neither do first round picks. They seem comfortable drafting in later rounds, and can definitely sacrifice some prospect quality for some NHL quality. Expect trades like that in the future.

I think most like the idea of breaking the forwards up into pairings rather than concrete lines. Splitting Lindholm from Gaudreau and Monahan and giving him Tkachuk makes two pretty deadly pairs without having to compromise one of those centers. The Micheal/Mikael pairing gets to stick around too, and will presumably do some of the heavy defensive lifting. The thing I would change is moving Andrew Mangiapane away from Derek Ryan. Not that they haven’t worked well in the past, but because Mangiapane has finally looked like he’s a bit above fourth line duty. With that, let’s fill in the blanks (we’ll come back to Ryan).

The major issue is that the Flames don’t have great winger depth. If we give Mangiapane to one of the top six lines, who’s the next best winger? Sam Bennett? He still hasn’t proven to be a top six winger, and I personally like the idea of putting him back with Backlund and Frolik, but after Bennett is… no one? Austin Czarnik? Maybe he’s workable. Certainly not Tobias Reider. Maybe you give Ryan a shot as a top six winger and let Mark Jankowski play the fourth line role? Maybe you let Jankowski get a top six winger shot? I’ll be honest and say none of these ideas sound particularly good.

If the Flames could find one more top six winger, this plan is magnificent. Until then, they’re going to either have a lesser player drag down a good unit or have top heavy lines. People generally like spitting out lines in the comments section, so have at ‘er.

If we’re going UFA route, I would look at Dylan DeMelo of the Senators. He was a pretty solid bottom pairing guy in San Jose, and has since taken an extra step (out of necessity) in Ottawa. He’s currently a +4.30 5v5 CFrel% with a staggering +9.30 xGFrel% despite starting less than 40% of his shifts in the offensive zone. If he’s a sane person, he probably doesn’t want to stick around Ottawa, and should be available come July. He’ll get a massive raise on his $900K salary, but nothing too crazy.

For trades, it’s hard to say right now given that who’s available usually doesn’t become well known until things are about to go down, but I would call and see what the price on Seth Jones could be. Columbus is hurting for prospects given that they traded a boatload of picks away last season, and Jones only makes $5.4M for the next two seasons so it’s not onerous for the Flames. Also fits nicely into their contender window. I think a deal could be made there.

I went to CBA expert Ryan Pike for the answer:

Pike 8:18 PM
…no?
it would depend, but probably not no

ctibs 8:19 PM
what would it depend on
is there a cba clause about this or no

Pike 8:20 PM
there’s nothing specific
there’s a general cause about conduct unbecoming an NHL player
but if he got kicked out, there would be a contract termination
and the cap implications would be up to the league, and it’s usually case by case

So the answer is “yes,” but I feel the implied question was “will that free them of their cap obligation?” to which the answer is “maybe, but probably not fully.”

I’ve done the research, and it turns out that only seven goalies have ever scored a goal by shooting the puck on the net, the last being Mike Smith in 2013-14. The curious thing is that they all seem to happen in pairs, with Ron Hextall first achieving the feat in 1987-88, and then doing it again in the 1989 playoffs. The next goalie to do it was Chris Osgood did it in 1995-96, followed by Martin Brodeur in the 1997 playoffs. The most recent pair was Jose Theodore in 2000-01 and Evgeni Nabakov in 2001-02.

So Mike Smith’s lonely empty netter stands unpaired, meaning we’re definitely overdue for another goalie empty netter. I can’t think of anyone better to do it than his successor. Have at it, Dave.

(also: look at the second paragraph in the “history” section of that article. I had a good laugh.)