FlamesNation Mailbag: There’s less than a fortnight to the 2024 NHL Draft!

Photo credit:Mike Gould
Ryan Pike
1 month ago
The 2024 NHL Draft kicks off next Friday in scenic Las Vegas, Nevada. Between potential trades and the inevitability of making many, many draft picks, the Calgary Flames are poised to potentially be the main character of the weekend.
As we wait for the big event, let’s check in with the mailbag!
I’ll pull back the curtain a bit on my process when it comes to the draft, gang.
I compile my own rankings, based on my own observations and notes. But I also track what I would call “the scouting consensus,” where I aggregate the scouting community’s various public rankings and average them out – that way the “noise” of one or two scouts loving a player more than others is accounted for – and when I go to the draft, that’s how I keep track of who’s sliding and who’s still available. (I’ll publish a full list before the draft, as I usually do.)
On the current version of my consensus rankings, Tij Iginla is the ninth-best player available in the 2024 NHL Draft.
Eight teams draft before the Flames do, and each team – including the Flames – have their own internal lists and metrics, and so the top 10 players on the drafting teams lists could be different. (Heck, we’d be willing to bet there there’s a few big differences.) But based on the information we have, assuming the draft follows the consensus rankings (and it probably won’t exactly follow it), Iginla would be the guy the Flames draft at ninth overall.
If Iginla is taken before the Flames draft – and depending on the lists of the teams ahead of them in the draft order, we can’t rule it out – that would mean, by definition, that a player ahead of Iginla on the consensus rankings would fall to the Flames. For the curious, right now, the fourth-through-eighth players on the consensus list – the five players slotted ahead of Iginla – are Zeev Buium, Zayne Parekh, Cayden Lindstrom, Sam Dickinson, and Berkly Catton. Anton Silayev is just after Iginla in 10th.
Suffice it to say, the Flames will be getting somebody really good at ninth overall, whether it’s Iginla or not.
According to the folks at PuckPedia, six teams have already committed more than $80 million of their 2024-25 cap space: Philadelphia, Vegas, Washington, Tampa Bay, Minnesota and the NY Islanders. Granted, those figures will probably change after the buyout period opens next week, but those six teams are probably the ones worth targeting.
The Flames have $20.9 million in cap space for next season, so they would have the ability to “eat” a bad contract or two. They would probably want to be strategic about how they do that – you don’t want to take on a complete anchor of a contract that could possibly derail your progress – but adding some players that would be considered be a bit overpaid relative to their offensive production could allow the Flames to weaponize that cap space (and possibly add some extra picks or prospects in the wash).
Let’s do cost first. Using Evolving Hockey’s contract projections, the unrestricted free agent winger would cost somewhere between $5.1 and $5.8 million on a multi-year deal. (Their general projection is five years at $5.85 million.) He’s 27 years old, turning 28 in October, and he had 40 points in 80 games last season. For his career, he has 266 points over 465 games – both last season and generally he’s about a 0.5 points-per-game player.
In terms of interest, I can both see it and not. He’s an Alberta kid, and so playing a bit closer to home might make sense – and a desire to do so might keep the cap number down a bit. He’s a pretty effective two-way winger, and you don’t have to squint too hard to imagine him becoming a fit on the left side of Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman. If you’re thinking that (a) Andrew Mangiapane might not be in Calgary long-term and (b) you can use Backlund’s line to make life easier for the Flames’ up-and-coming kids, adding DeBrusk could help beef up the “tough minutes” line and give the Flames flexibility in how they use the kids.
However, barring some off-season exits, I’m not sold on adding more wingers. In my mind, the 2024-25 season is a good time to keep integrating kids into the line up, following the process that began last season with Connor Zary and Martin Pospisil becoming NHL regulars. Adding DeBrusk could take away a potential spot from players like Adam Klapka, Matt Coronato, Jakob Pelletier or William Strömgren. And long-term, is it better for the hockey club to plug DeBrusk onto the left side of Backlund’s line, or to grow somebody like Pelletier or Strömgren into that role?
Here’s why I like Cail MacLean in the power play role: he knows the organization’s players inside and out. MacLean has a reputation, dating back to his time as an assistant under Ryan Huska in 2017, of being really prepared.
If one of your criticisms of the power plays under Kirk Muller and Marc Savard the past couple seasons was that the system’s tactics weren’t well-suited to the personnel they had available, well, MacLean is incredibly familiar with the team’s players and seems pretty well-suited to crafting a power play scheme that fits.
I know this was sort of a sarcastic question, but I kind of like it because it helps highlight something I think we lose sight of sometimes: winning in the NHL is really hard to do.
In the Salary Cap Era (2005-06 to present), there have been 19 Stanley Cup Finals. 23 of the league’s 32 teams have made at least one Final appearance, but just nine have made more than one trip to the big dance. Heck, just four have made more than two appearances. It’s really tough to make the playoffs to begin with, and it’s even tougher to get to the Final over a two-month playoff grind.
So whenever a club manages to get some momentum and make playoff appearances, or even go on a bit of a run, it’s something worth appreciating and celebrating because you never know how long it might take to get back there.
Got a question for a future mailbag? Contact Ryan on Twitter/X at @RyanNPike or e-mail him at Ryan [at] TheNationNetwork.com! (Make sure you put Mailbag in the subject line!)

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