Jakob Pelletier is the key to the Calgary Flames’ trade deadline strategy

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
1 year ago
There are just 22 days remaining until the 2023 National Hockey League trade deadline. The Calgary Flames are just slightly on the outside of the Western Conference playoff spots. And their entire trade deadline strategy may hinge on 21-year-old rookie forward Jakob Pelletier.
Let us explain…
If you haven’t watched a lot of the Flames this season, welcome!
The Flames are a team that’s felt two bodies short this season. One of the reasons is that they’ve been without defenceman Oliver Kylington – arguably their most dynamic skater in terms of mobility and ability to create chaos – due to private personal reasons.
The other reason is, well, their top nine forward group has had eight rock-solid fits in it – Jonathan Huberdeau, Mikael Backlund, Blake Coleman, Elias Lindholm, Dillon Dube, Tyler Toffoli, Andrew Mangiapane and Nazem Kadri – and then they’ve tried shoe-horning somebody else into the open forward spot. We’ve seen Adam Ruzicka, Milan Lucic and Trevor Lewis in the top nine mix throughout the season, but none have really worked out as hoped.
The Flames called up Pelletier, their 2019 first-round pick, back on Jan. 7. In his second year in pro hockey, Pelletier had emerged as one of the best players on the Calgary Wranglers (and one of the better 200-foot players in the American Hockey League).
To date, Pelletier has played five NHL games. He played two games on the fourth line (with Lewis and Walker Duehr), a period on the third line (with Backlund and Mangiapane), and seven periods on the second line (with Kadri and Huberdeau).
In five games, Pelletier has been quite good. At worst, he hasn’t looked out of place. At best, he’s been constantly noticeable for positive reasons. While he has yet to score or register a point, he boasts the highest Expected Goals (per 60) rate on the team and among the lowest Expected Goals (per 60) against on the team. He’s essentially doing everything but score, which is a great sign.
Kylington’s status is a massive question mark for the Flames. And Chris Tanev has been in and out of the lineup for chunks of the season with various injuries. He’s a heart-and-soul guy, but you probably want some insurance in case he goes down again. We saw how the Flames looked with him absent and/or not at 100% in last year’s post-season.
If you think you need to grab a forward, you probably go for a low acquisition cost, low cap hit defensive option like Luke Schenn, and use most of your remaining cap space on adding a forward. (And adding forwards at the deadline ain’t cheap.)
But if the Flames can be convinced that Pelletier is the missing piece of the puzzle for their top nine, suddenly, they have more wiggle room to address their blueline group, and possibly they take a bigger swing at upgrading that area of their team rather than simply trying to plug a hole.
The next week or two will be very important for the Flames as they solidify their deadline plans – and perhaps their spot in the playoff picture – and Pelletier tries to solidify his place in the top nine mix.

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