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FlamesNation Mailbag: Kicking off the All-Star break with your questions

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Photo credit:Mike Gould
Ryan Pike
28 days ago
Friends, we’ve made it to the end of January. Congratulations! We’re 49 games into the Calgary Flames season, with an eight day break in the schedule to prepare us for the march to the trade deadline. It’s gonna get intense.
Let’s celebrate this breather with a dive into the mailbag.
Before we get into the main cluster of questions, the announcement that Cole Schwindt, Matt Coronato and Adam Klapka were sent to the AHL on Saturday night led to a really interesting discussion that I was tagged in about why those three players specifically were sent to the AHL.
So the Flames are off for eight days, with their next practice day coming next Monday in Boston. The Flames are over the salary cap right now by virtue of their LTIR usage over the first 107 days of the season, before Oliver Kylington’s return. The Flames are allowed to do this, but finishing the season over the $83.5 million cap ceiling would mean that if Connor Zary earns performance bonuses – and the Flames sure hope he does – then they would eat into next season’s cap spending instead. So the Flames have an incentive to save a bit of dough over the remainder of the season to give themselves room for Zary’s bonuses. (They want to bet on their guy by leaving space to pay him his bonuses.)
So that’s the incentive. The means of doing so is sending guys down to the AHL to get games in during the All-Star break. As of Saturday night’s game, the Flames had five players who were able to be sent to the AHL: Zary, Walker Duehr, Schwindt, Klapka and Coronato. They could send three of them to the AHL and maintain the minimum roster size of 20 active players.
  • Zary is a bonafide NHL regular. He’s been up long enough that, according to the CBA, he’s an NHL regular entitled to a permanent residence. (He lives in the same place he did when he was with the Wranglers, as a nice little benefit of the Flames’ AHL set-up.)
  • Duehr is 26, signed to a one-way deal, and giving extra AHL games to the other three, younger players is arguably a better use of those games from a player development standpoint.
  • Schwindt, Klapka and Coronato are all on their entry level deals, and are in the first half of their 20s. They could use some game time to keep developing.
So that’s sort of the answer as to “Why did three guys go down to the AHL?” and “Why those three guys?”
Disclaimer: I don’t know if Chris Tanev would be willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to Ottawa. It’s nothing against Ottawa – I have relatives there and the city is super cool and pretty – but just a reflection that it’s a non-playoff team and Tanev may prefer to go to a post-season opportunity if he’s going to uproot his family for several months.
That being said, if I’m the Flames, I sure would like a second-round pick for Tanev and perhaps also a secondary prospect as a sweetener. (If you can get a second and third-round pick for Tanev, you’re feeling pretty good about the transaction.) Well, good news, they have a second-rounder this year. (And three fourth-rounders.)
In terms of prospects, I would target defencemen or centres. To throw out a few names: blueliners Jorian Donovan (Shean’s kid) or Tomas Hamara, or centre Zack Ostapchuk. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, just something to give an idea of what Ottawa has.
If the Flames draft really well, they’ll have players on entry-level deals contributing like Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk did on theirs. If you have players on ELCs contributing to the top half of your roster – and contributing value well above their rookie max contracts – then you can work around some players who are producing below their contract values. The salary cap is also expected to keep going up over the next few seasons, if not longer, and that too would give the Flames some cap breathing room.
Long story short: if the Flames can draft and develop effectively, and can get some players producing significantly on their ELCs, they can work around some “bad” contracts.
Based on recent returns for similar-ish players, here’s the approximate ballpark:
  • Elias Lindholm: first-rounder plus a prospect or roster player
  • Noah Hanifin: first-rounder plus a prospect and/or roster player
  • Chris Tanev: second-rounder plus perhaps a second, later pick or secondary prospect
Hanifin arguably has the most value because of his age and versatility. He’s young, can play a ton, and can be used in a lot of different situations. Lindholm is a stud as a second-line centre, but may be over his skis trying to carry his own top line. Tanev is a rock-solid shutdown guy, but his lack of offensive upside (he doesn’t play the power play) might diminish his value a little.
I highly recommend Robert Munnich’s dives into each player’s trade value (Tanev, Lindholm, Hanifin).
The beginning of March is probably when you see the Flames consider parking players to protect their trade values. And the reason why is simple: the Flames still need to field a team. NHL clubs can carry a maximum of 23 players on their active roster, and teams can’t just say “Oh, can this player not count against my roster limit? I want to trade them.” So because of roster limits alone, you might see teams protect their assets by sitting a player or two for a week or two, tops, but anything beyond that really hinders your team’s ability to operate. If you sit all three pending UFAs, you basically have no wiggle room to deal with last-minute injuries or illnesses within your playing roster.

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