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Should the Calgary Flames sell, buy, or stand pat at the 2024 trade deadline?

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Brennan Delaney
1 month ago
No matter if your team is good, bad, or somewhere in the middle, the National Hockey League’s trade deadline is a fun time for everyone.
The fate of the Calgary Flames is unknown as of the middle of January. As it stands, the Flames sit on 43 points with an 19-18-5 record, just two points out of a playoff spot. However, each of the four teams ahead of them has at least a game in hand, with the final wild card spot holders, the Edmonton Oilers, having four games in hand on the Flames.
Still, things have been going good in Calgary, and a playoff position isn’t out of the realm of possibility. But when you take a quick glance at their roster situation, selling may be a more desirable option.
In this article, we’ll look at whether the Flames should buy at the trade deadline, sell at the trade deadline, or just stand pat and let it play out.

The case to stand pat

This is the option the Flames should take for the time being. However, this would be the worst option for them to take long-term, as the team is stuck in the middle between pushing for a playoff spot and selling.
While Calgary is only a few points shy of a playoff position, teams ahead of them have one or more games in hand. Along with that, you have to picture the long-term team success. If they’re unable to re-sign Elias Lindholm, Chris Tanev, or Noah Hanifin, they risk letting them walk for nothing with no assets coming back.
If that were the case, the Flames would have to replace three key players without the draft picks they would be receiving for those three players. That means they’d either have to sign replacements through free agency or trade replacements, giving up even more assets.
Standing pat for now to see whether or not they’ll be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline is smart, but by the time the March 8 deadline rolls around, the Flames will have a tough decision to make.

The case to buy

Even though the Oilers have four games in hand on the Flames, even though the Flames would have to overlap four teams, there’s still half a season left. Moreover, the Flames have been a much better team over the past 10 games, winning six and losing four games. It’s a far cry from just two seasons ago, when the Flames finished first in the Pacific Division and fifth in the entire league.
Still, the Flames use some help, especially in the forward core. While the Flames have 11 players with 20 or more points, they lack that true point-getter that many teams in the league now have. As of now, Blake Coleman leads the team in goals with 17, and is tied with Nazem Kadri in points with 32.
If the Flames think they can make the playoffs, adding a true scorer such as Trevor Zegras, who could use a change in scenery, could help them make a push. Of course, this would ignore the fact that their top centre, shutdown defenceman, and a top four defenceman don’t have deals for the 2024-25 season and beyond, but more on that later.
Their already great defence will also get a boost, as Olivier Kylington will appear in his first game since May 2022, as he’s on a conditioning stint with the American Hockey League Calgary Wranglers.
Realistically, they could afford to move a defenceman who’ll be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end for a forward with a few seasons remaining on his contract.

The case to sell

Realistically, this is the best option for the Flames. The thing is, there are different variations on how this could go down. Calgary could do a full sale for draft picks, moving all three high-valued soon-to-be unrestricted free agents. If they’re still close to a playoff spot or wish to compete for a playoff spot next season, the Flames could also trade one or two of those players for a scoring forward.
Even if they were to trade all three of Lindholm, Tanev, and Hanifin, their defence core would still remain one of the best in the league, especially with Oliver Kylington potentially returning in the near future. Still, losing Lindholm who has two 60-point + seasons the past two years would be a hard loss to an offensive core that lacks a superstar scorer.
Another variation of selling is if the Flames re-sign a guy like Noah Hanifin, and then trade Tanev for a forward and attempt to re-sign Lindholm before he hits free agency and still push for a playoff spot. There’s still risk in that, as losing a top six defensively responsible centre for nothing is a hard pill to swallow, but it is the best of both worlds. We saw with Florida last season that if you can get in, you have a chance to win it all.
If Calgary plays their cards right at this season’s deadline, they could set up their future nicely, even if they miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season. Four first-round selections in the 2024 draft would be very nice, though.
Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D.

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