Photo credit:Mike Gould
FlamesNation Mailbag: Looking at trades, call-ups, and defensive zone structure
By Ryan Pike1 month ago
Folks, we’re just shy of two months from the National Hockey League’s annual trade deadline – by our count, about 54 or 55 days away. The Calgary Flames could be a central figure in the festivities, between their placement in the Western Conference’s playoff race and their many prominent pending unrestricted free agents.
In short: a lot of different things could happen. As we wait for the trade deadline shenanigans to unfold, let’s dive into the mailbag!
Based on the chatter from our insider pals, and lack thereof, here’s my guess on how things potentially unfold between now and March 8:
1) The Flames re-sign Noah Hanifin to a contract extension. 2) The Flames trade both Elias Lindholm and Chris Tanev.
I could see the Flames looking at possible moves for the likes of Dillon Dube (to give him a Sam Bennett-esque fresh start elsewhere), Dan Vladar (to open a spot for Dustin Wolf) or A.J. Greer (to potentially recoup a draft pick from a really savvy waiver claim), but I wouldn’t expect the Flames just to make trades to make trades. Their hands are more or less tied when it comes to the “big three” of Hanifin, Lindholm and Tanev – they have to either lock them in or move them along. But they have a good deal of flexibility beyond those three.
Via our pals at Cap Friendly, here’s a snapshot of who’s under team control for 2024-25 – players on active contracts or pending restricted free agents that the Flames can choose to retain:
Goaltenders : Jacob Markstrom, Dan Vladar and Dustin Wolf (RFA)
Defencemen : MacKenzie Weegar, Rasmus Andersson, Jeremie Poirier, Yan Kuznetsov (RFA) and Ilya Solovyov (RFA)
Forwards : Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri, Andrew Mangiapane, Mikael Backlund, Blake Coleman, Yegor Sharangovich, Walker Duehr, Connor Zary, Samuel Honzek, Matt Coronato, William Strömgren, Parker Bell, Rory Kerins, Ilya Nikolaev, Lucas Ciona, Clark Bishop, Dryden Hunt, Dillon Dube (RFA), Adam Ruzicka (RFA), Martin Pospisil (RFA), Jakob Pelletier (RFA), Cole Schwindt (RFA), Adam Klapka (RFA) and Emilio Pettersen (RFA)
Goaltending seems quite solid. The forward group, even with the potential departure of Lindholm, seems solid – and there seem to be openings for youngsters to battle over. The defensive group will need some work.
Here’s the nice thing for the Flames: aside from potentially moves with their pending UFAs, they don’t need to do anything.
Coronato and Pelletier are both waiver exempt, as are most of the young players they may want to get a look at from the Wranglers. I don’t think the Flames necessarily want to force Coronato into a fourth-line role, but Pelletier could work in that role given how dang good he is at skating and checking.
The fourth line is the likely opportunity for improvement within the Flames’ lineup right now, but they’d need to get Pelletier fully up to speed and then potentially move somebody to open a spot. Coronato probably doesn’t return to the NHL until a top nine winger spot opens up, though.
The Wranglers are a really good hockey team. There doesn’t seem to be much of a downside to letting the team’s top prospects cook in the AHL until a good opportunity opens up for them on the NHL roster. As it stands, I don’t think very much happens with movement from the Wranglers until after the trade deadline – and the level of movement probably depends on whether the Flames get any NHL bodies back in any trades involving their pending UFAs.
I have to spend a bit more time looking at video to have a more detailed answer, but it does seem like the Flames have done a good job at generally keeping the opponents to the outside of their zone with their zone scheme and using pressure along the walls or at the blueline to create turnovers. Blake Coleman’s pursuit play against Vegas, which led to him forcing Paul Cotter off the puck and eventually a Mikael Backlund goal, is a good example of how it looks when it works well.
In terms of their breakouts: short, fast passes to build speed through the neutral zone. The challenge for the forwards is remaining connected and not rushing out of the defensive zone too quickly. Once a short pass becomes a stretch pass, it’s easier for the opposition to intercept and turn into an odd-man rush the other way.
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