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FlamesNation Mailbag: The captaincy, Andrew Mangiapane’s future, and the trade deadline

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Photo credit:Mike Gould
Ryan Pike
1 month ago
Friends, there are two months remaining until the 2024 trade deadline, and the Calgary Flames aren’t out of the playoff mix. They’re not firmly in the mix, either. They’re wobbling around the .500 mark, something encapsulated by a .500 road trip to begin 2024.
As we ponder what it all means and where the Flames go from here – they host the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday – let’s dive into the mailbag.
So, Flames management really likes Mikael Backlund. And a lot of the feedback from exit meetings with players at the end of last season amounted to variations of “Hey, Backlund’s great and should’ve been captain years ago!” To nobody’s great surprise, all of this feedback really convinced the Flames to prioritize locking in Backlund to an extension and naming him captain. And I don’t know what could happen to change their minds at this point because he’s been exactly what most likely anticipated he’d be in the role: the same ol’ reliable, consistent Backlund, except with a second C stitched onto his jersey.
When the Flames went into a rebuild in 2013, following the departure of Jarome Iginla, Mark Giordano was the right guy to lead the team because the club’s young players could mimic his work ethic and professionalism. If you’re anticipating the Flames doing something similar in the near future, having a veteran like Backlund in a Giordano-esque leadership role makes a lot of sense.
Andrew Mangiapane is under contract through the 2024-25 season – next season – at a cap hit of $5.8 million. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent upon his contract’s expiry.
Offensively, Mangiapane has wobbled between 0.5 and 0.65 points-per-game – around 40-55 points per season. He’s a pretty effective player, but he seems to be establishing himself as a strong secondary player rather than as a play-driver. He’s not the guy you build a line around, but he’s a really good winger who plays with pace and can generate offence.
When comes to keeping Mangiapane or moving him elsewhere, I would argue it’s a question of where the Flames feel he fits in and how long a contract he’s looking for. A lot of the Flames’ most promising young players are wingers, and eventually they’ll need prominent roles for them to progress into. Having a Mangiapane for a couple seasons could help bring them along. But if Mangiapane wants big money and big term, it might be challenging to keep him and have roles for their young wingers to grow into.
As the Flames plan for the future, getting a sense of where Mangiapane fits into the puzzle would be beneficial for player and team alike.
The ECHL tends to be a weird hodgepodge of youngsters who don’t have a clear place in the American Hockey League and older players that haven’t found a reliable home as depth guys. The Wranglers have tended to bring in veterans on AHL contracts that can fill in specific roles: Brett Sutter is their captain and leader, Mitch McLain provides physicality and a bit of offence, and Alex Gallant is there for physicality and truculence. Again: they seemed to have targeted players to fill specific roles and that could help their young players progress.
From Rapid City, it might be worth taking a look at 31-year-old forward Alex Aleardi or 30-year-old Logan Nelson. They’ve both consistently generated offensively in the ECHL and could be useful bottom-six bodies for the Wranglers in the future. But it depends on what happens with their existing AHL signees; you likely don’t want to crowd the system with too many guys with limited future upside.
As of this writing, the Flames have 39 points through 40 games and by points percentage, they would need to climb over five teams to reach a wildcard berth. The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn has the Western Conference’s playoff cutline at around 93 points. The Flames, who have captured points at a .488 clip through half of the season, would need to play at a .643 clip until the end of the season to reach 93 points.
It’s not impossible, but the Flames’ body of work to this point in the season suggests it’s highly improbable. My current mindset is I think the Flames will sell off a few key pieces prior to the March 8 trade deadline. I don’t think they sell off everything (and the kitchen sink), but I think they try to maximize the value of their pending UFAs where they can.
If the Flames sell off some of their pending UFAs, I think they would target a mixture of picks and prospects. I don’t think they would necessarily prioritize picks over prospects, depending on which prospect and where they would fit into their reserve list and organizational needs. When you’re drafting, it’s a roll of the dice. Depending on the circumstance, they might prefer more of a known quantity like a specific prospect.

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