FlamesNation Mailbag: Two and a half weeks until the trade deadline

Photo credit:Mike Gould
Ryan Pike
4 months ago
Folks, the NHL’s annual trade deadline is on March 8. That’s just two and a half weeks away and, as of this writing, the Calgary Flames remain centred in the swirl of trade rumours. They have pending free agents. They have some interesting veterans. Suffice it to say, we’re going to hear a lot of chatter between now and the deadline.
Let’s dive into the mailbag!
A two-part answer:
First, there are good players in every draft, even in the later rounds. And it’s important to make a decent amount of picks even just in order to back-fill the farm system. If a team thinks they have good scouts – and the Flames’ recent track record at the draft suggest that they have confidence in their scouting team – they want to give their scouts a good amount of picks, even in a “weaker” draft crop.
Second, similarly, teams often target what scouts call “age group assets.” You don’t want a team filled with 30-year-olds. But you also don’t want a team entirely filled out with 20-year-olds. You want to stagger the ages within your team’s system, ideally, so that you have a mixture of players working through different stages of their careers at different points. Sure, if the idea is that the Flames are entering a retool they’ll skew a bit younger, but they’ll still probably look for a mixture.
If you want a glance at their possible philosophy, take a look at how they handled the futures in the Elias Lindholm trade: two 2024 picks (likely born in 2005 or 2006), Hunter Brzustewicz (born in in 2004) and Joni Jurmo (born in 2002). When you go for existing players, even prospects, you have a better sense of their strengths and weaknesses. With prospects, there are more unknowns – for better and worse. You can balance out risks a bit mixing things up between prospects and picks.
The expectation is that the salary cap ceiling for 2024-25 will be $87.5 million. If you tally up the players on one-way NHL deals (and Connor Zary, who’s a lock for an NHL gig next season), the Flames have 15 players on the books – two goalies, three defencemen and 10 forwards – carrying combined cap commitments of $63.75 million. (Jakob Pelletier, a pending restricted free agent, is also likely to get a spot.)
So that leaves the Flames about $23.75 million to fill seven or eight roster spots. That means they have around $3 million to allocate to each roster spot. That’s not bad! And it gives them the ability to spend a bit of money to fill some gaps. The obvious gaps are on the blueline, so expect the Flames to prioritize finding players to fill out that group.
Honestly, I get it. Put yourself in the shoes of any NHL general manager: if you heard that the Flames were going into a retooling period and they had a player like Rasmus Andersson on their roster – 27 years old, a right shot, consistent, reliable, can play any game situation and can play a ton while having a really manageable $4.55 million cap hit for two more seasons – you’d probably call the Flames to ask about him.
If I’m the Flames, I hold onto Andersson unless somebody offers me a crazy-good deal. The question I have for his future is this: if Andersson’s sticking around past the end of his current contract, it’s probably with an extension that’s somewhat similar to MacKenzie Weegar’s. When the Flames intend to emerge from their retooling period in 2027, can Andersson provide value to the club at the cap hit it’ll take to keep him around?
(I don’t have the answer to that question, but the Flames don’t really need one either for another year or two.)
Aw man, I think Chris Tanev is a fantastic role player. He’s not an offensive-difference maker, but he’s as important to the Flames’ two-way game as Mikael Backlund is because of how dang good he is defensively. For what he’s asked to do, Tanev is great. The problem is this: for a team that likely won’t be a playoff threat – as in, a threat to do much in the playoffs – Tanev is a luxury that the Flames probably cannot afford.
I will freely admit that I was wrong about my initial assessment of Tanev’s signing in 2020. I wasn’t sure if he would be able to stay healthy long enough to provide value. He has. And has to the point where the Flames can get some future assets for a 34-year-old defenceman on an expiring contract. Giving Tanev the opportunity to win a championship or get one more big contract – or both – is the best move for player and team.
Another two-part answer!
First, I think the distinction between retool and rebuild is largely window-dressing. Brad Treliving used the term “asset accumulation phase” early in his tenure to describe what he was trying to do. It wasn’t so much that the Flames were trying to be bad or to not win, but rather that their focus was to obtain assets that would mature over time and allow them to be more competitive in the future. If you say the Flames should do whatever they can to tear the roster down to the studs, it’s no guarantee of success – we’re looking at you, Arizona, Buffalo, Detroit and Ottawa – and so the prospect of a 2-3 year retool could be more appealing than, say a “decade of darkness.” (And hockey people are always nervous about creating an environment where losing is tolerated, even if it’s short-term and even if it’s for a specific, logical purpose. It’s hard to flip the switch to “okay it’s time to be competitive now!” Think about how flat some teams look early in the regular season after going through the motions during the pre-season.)
Second, in a salary cap environment there’s only so much money and ice-time to go around. The Flames are likely to have a decent amount of both to offer prospective free agents over the next few seasons. Some may be interested to sign a short-term deal with the Flames to build themselves up for a bigger future payday elsewhere. Some may stick around. We’ll see how things unfold. But in a league with a finite amount of opportunities for players, having the ability to offer money and ice time will always be something that players pay attention to.

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