The 2021 NHL trade deadline is almost upon us! The Calgary Flames are decidedly outside of the (Scotia NHL) North Division’s playoff picture! Should they sell? Should they buy? Should they hide under a pile of coats until this whole thing blows over?
We assembled the FlamesNation crew for a roundtable to get some answers.
What do you hope the Flames do at the trade deadline?
Craig: Auction off fringe players like pigs at a county fair. The names dominating trade bait boards (Rittich, Ryan, Bennett) are there for a reason; the Flames have bottom-six/backup-goalie talent that contending teams are sure to covet for their playoff runs. The Flames need to pounce on the opportunity, so I hope Treliving not only treats the above guys and every pending UFA in the infamous suit-up/scratch rotation as touchable, but advertises them.
Mike G: Sell, sell, sell. Sam Bennett would be the first player I look at moving, simply because his status as a pending RFA with a big qualifying offer means his value will likely be much lower in the off-season than it currently is. David Rittich, Josh Leivo, Joakim Nordstrom, Nikita Nesterov, and even Derek Ryan should all also be on the block, although Ryan might be a useful player to re-sign at a much cheaper rate.
I would also look at moving Sean Monahan with some retained salary. He has two years after this one on his $6.375 million contract and has the ability to veto a trade to 10 teams. There are playoff-bound clubs, like Florida and Minnesota, in need of a centre and who could probably do a lot with a player like Monahan for $3.5-4 million over the next couple of years. If those teams are on his no-trade list, he might be more willing to waive for them mid-season if he sees they’re in a playoff spot.
Mike W: I’ll refer to George Costanza: “I don’t want hope. Hope is killing me. My dream is to become hopeless.” Seriously though, I am not even sure what I am hoping for. It would be nice to see some expiring contracts moved out for assets. However, it would be even nicer if the Flames really committed making other moves for more sizeable returns and commit to a clear direction. My hope is that nothing is off the table.
Prajeya: Hopefully nothing too drastic. Most players on the Flames are having career worst seasons, resulting in their trade values being very low. I do think there’s some potential for some hockey deals, as there are some players on other teams that look like they want out (Christian Fischer comes to mind). With that being said, the looming expansion draft adds to the list of barriers that already exist. Thus, I don’t know how realistic a hockey deal would be either, unless it’s a major one which involves a player that we were going to protect. I do hope that they reward some of the Stockton players with a call up though. It would be quite neat to see a mixture of Adam Ruzicka, Luke Philip, Matthew Philips, Connor Mackey, and Glenn Gawdin up with the big club.
Ryan: It’d be wonderful if the Flames count move their pending UFAs for picks, which would both give their scouting team extra kicks at the can in July at the entry draft, but allow them to get NHL auditions for a bunch of their youngsters. It would be very beneficial to know how close those kids are before hitting the free agent market to fill roles in the off-season.
What do you expect the Flames to do at the trade deadline?
Craig: Though I could stomach a handful of deals myself, I expect to see two trades executed by the Flames at this deadline. Two is a solid number: two poles, two moons orbiting Mars, two Horrible Bosses movies. Flat caps and quarantines and raging variants are complicating moves this year, but two deals—one featuring David Rittich, is my wager—seems like a feasible bet.
Mike G: Very little. I can’t see them doing much, honestly. Maybe they sell Rittich?
Ideally, the Flames should be looking at adding as many draft picks as possible. Under Brad Treliving, the Flames very seldom trade for picks and they have shown very little willingness to make mid-season moves. After last season’s Michael Frolik trade, you have to go way back to when Jiri Hudler was dealt to Florida to find the last instance of Calgary moving a player solely for draft picks.
I doubt Bennett is moved. I don’t see there being much of a market for most of the depth pieces. The big stuff, like potential Giordano or Gaudreau trades, will likely have to wait until the Draft. At most, I think they move Rittich for a couple picks and call it a day.
Mike W: I fully expect a small sale in the rental market. Unless Brad Treliving and company pull a rabbit out of a hat and drop a blockbuster I assume the upper limit for big name personnel is Sam Bennett.
Prajeya: Brad Treliving generally tends to be pretty quiet near the trade deadline. With the Flames well out of a playoff spot this year, I don’t see why it would be any different. I could see them trade one or both of David Rittich and Derek Ryan, both being able to provide considerable depth for teams on cup runs. Going back to what I said earlier though, I do except (and hope) that some of the younger AHL guys get rewarded with a call-up.
Ryan: I figure they move Rittich and Ryan elsewhere for late round picks and that’s about it.
How can the Flames use this trade deadline to facilitate a franchise resurgence?
Craig: Pocket mid-level picks and prospects galore. Trading for established, expensive, ‘effective’ players to compete in the final quarter of a pretty-much-busted season makes no sense. The off-season will be a ripe time for reassessing core pieces, so the Flames should be conservative now and focus on collecting safe, unsexy possibilities for future development—and in the meantime, replacing the lost bodies in the lineup with younger guys from the pipeline will only help their development, too.
Mike G: They need to start making more picks. They’ve made the sixth-fewest selections since Treliving was hired (and one of the five teams below them is the brand-new Vegas Golden Knights). This year’s draft features some good players but, due to the weird year for scouting, it’s possible they’ll be more scattered throughout the seven rounds. This would be a good year to load up on lottery tickets and take a lot of swings.
If the Flames do it right, this deadline could be looked back on as a big turning point where they were able to start changing directions while adding some important pieces for their future.
Mike W: We are ever so close to a top pick this season. Sure, the draft is as murky as ever but rare is the occasion this club is actually in the discussion of the inverse standings. This seems an opportune time to ensure the future. Even if the organization is not going to commit to a full rebuild, through strategically attacking the current situation they could, at the very least, establish a stronger foundation of kids to (eventually, perhaps inevitably) rebuild upon. Trading high on a guy like Chris Tanev, who’s on ice value may never be higher at 31 and who’s absence would almost certainly get you closer to a top draft choice, is an exemplar of how this team can make the most of the deadline this year. They won’t bulldoze the whole thing down but they could at least start laying some bricks for the future.
Prajeya: I guess a resurgence would involve a big name trade, such as offloading Sean Monahan and/or Johnny Gaudreau. With that being said, both of their trades values are at a career low, with a flat cap making a potential trade all the more difficult. I don’t think this team is in the position to rebuild on the fly, which is why I believe that Brad Treliving will take a more long term approach by spending the summer to assess how they’ll be moving forward.
Ryan: I would imagine larger, “hockey” trades wait until the off-season, so I think the strategy has to be to get as many draft selections as they can and try to leverage them, much like they did in the early days of Treliving’s tenure. Having flexibility allows teams to get creative; as it stands, the Flames don’t have much and creating some would be very beneficial.
What do you think the Flames should do at the trade deadline? Sound off in the comments!