FlamesNation Mailbag: Trade requests, the trade market and future directions

Photo credit:Mike Gould
Ryan Pike
7 months ago
It’s been an interesting week for the Calgary Flames. The hockey club went into the centre of the hockey universe and played a highly entertaining game with the Maple Leafs. Then Nikita Zadorov’s reported trade request became public knowledge and the tone changed a bit. (A fairly “meh” road game in Ottawa probably didn’t help.)
As we await the end of the Flames’ eastern road swing, let’s dive into the mailbag!
So here’s the reality of the situation: the Flames have four major pending unrestricted free agents – Elias Lindholm, Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov and Noah Hanifin – and their ability to move them and cash out on them as assets is constrained by most of the NHL being up against the cap. But the way the cap works is the longer you wait to move a player, the easier it is to cram them under the cap because for teams not in LTIR, their accumulated cap space is pro-rated over the remainder of the season, and teams can retain salary on up to three contracts at a time to help move players.
Long story short, the Flames can wait until the Mar. 8, 2024 trade deadline in an effort to maximize their potential trade partners’ cap space and figure out the best way to use their three retained salary slots.
Around last year’s trade deadline, Anaheim got Brock McGinn and a third-round pick from Pittsburgh for Dmitry Kulikov (at 50% salary retained). Chicago got Anton Khudobin and a second-round pick from Dallas for Max Domi and Dylan Wells – Chicago took back Khudobin rather than retaining any salary. Washington got a second-round pick from Colorado for Lar Eller (at 50% salary retained).
Long story short, based on recent trade market activity, a second-round pick for the likes of Zadorov or Tanev around deadline time seems like where the conversation would get interesting. And in terms of the more prominent assets like Lindholm or Hanifin, you’re probably thinking about a higher draft selection along with some prospect or young roster player sweeteners. (But, of course, it all depends on how the trade market shapes up.)
I would say keep an eye on blueline groups. If you’re the Flames and you move out some existing forwards, you have players like Jakob Pelletier, Connor Zary, Matt Coronato, Ben Jones, Martin Pospisil and others that could step in. (Samuel Honzek could probably be placed in this category, too.) But aside from Jeremie Poirier and Ilya Solovyov, the defensive ranks are lean – and would get a lot leaner if they had to fill in NHL gaps. So adding in some blueliners below the age of 25 would give the Flames some much-needed depth.
So here’s the thing: players make trade demands all the time, on teams across the league, for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it’s that they want a different role, or more playing time, or they hate the amount of travel, or any number of reasons. They’re well within their rights to do so, and often general managers do what they can do accommodate requests within the bounds of keeping their team competitive. They usually don’t become public because agents and GMs often need to work together to achieve their individual goals, but agents often feel they need to do certain things to help their clients.
The Flames are arguably a bit jammed up right now because they spent a lot of the off-season trying to get some clarity from their “big three”: Mikael Backlund, Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm. Backlund arrived in town for camp and seemed to have figured out what he wanted to do, and so that situation was resolved. The other two didn’t, and the Flames can’t really commit to deals for anybody else until they know what their big fish are doing (and how much cap space they have left for everybody else).
Everybody’s different. Some folks can deal with uncertainty, some want a bit more clarity on where they stand. I would characterize it more as “juggling a bunch of unique and inter-related contractual challenges” than “the inmates running the asylum.”
On After Burner a couple weeks ago, Boomer mentioned he had heard it was a four-to-six month situation, which would put a Jakob Pelletier return probably in the January or February realm of possibility. But he probably starts off in the AHL – he doesn’t require waivers, so sending him down to the Wranglers to knock the rust off is easy – and so where he lands in the Flames lineup probably depends on which players are still around at that point.
This season was always destined to be a weird one, because the Flames needed to figure out what they had in the players on the team. In short, the question they were probably asking themselves was “is this the core group that can get us where we want to go?” Based on the start they’ve had so far, and the reported pause in contract negotiations with their pending free agents, we might have our answer.
But that answer may have decided on a direction for the Flames for the next little while, and that level of clarity will hopefully provide a bit of respite – and dare we say it: hope – for the fanbase. But we’ll have to see how the next few weeks and months unfold before we make any blanket declarations one way or another.

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