The case for (and against) flipping Andrei Kuzmenko at the 2024 trade deadline

Photo credit:© Bob Frid - USA Today
Ryley Delaney
5 months ago
The National Hockey League trade deadline is a little over a month away.
Yet, the Calgary Flames were proactive in trading one of their pending unrestricted free agents, as they moved Elias Lindholm to the Vancouver Canucks. In the return package, the Flames received two picks, two prospects, and Andrei Kuzmenko, who is the feature of this article today.
The big question is, should the Flames look to flip him at this season’s deadline?

Andrei Kuzmenko at a glance

The 27-year-old played eight seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia before signing with the Canucks ahead of the 2022-23 season. In his first season in North America, Kuzmenko scored 39 goals and 74 points in 81 games, finishing tied for first on the team in points and fourth in points. It is worth mentioning, however, that Kuzmenko had an unsustainable 27.3% shooting percentage.
Despite the Canucks’ great success in 2023-24, Kuzmenko hasn’t been the reason for it. The 27-year-old has just eight goals and 21 points in 43 games. On a rate basis, he’s on pace for 14 goals and 37 points, far below what you’d expect from a player with a cap hit of $5.5 million until the end of the 2024-25 season.
As expected, his shooting percentage has become a much more normal 12.7% on 63 shots, but he’s also on pace for fewer shots, about 111 of them.
Kuzmenko is a good candidate for the “Yegor Sharangovich” special, in which the Flames trade for a player down on his luck and get him to bounce back. However, there is an argument that the Flames, who very likely will not make the playoffs this season, trade Kuzmenko before the Mar. 8 deadline.

The case for flipping Andrei Kuzmenko

For the next season and a half, Kuzmenko has a cap hit of $5.5 million. It’s also worth noting that the Flames have all three of their remaining retention spots, meaning that with the right package, Kuzmenko could have a cap hit of as little as $2.75 million. 
Obviously, this would be an excellent price for a former 39-goal scorer, even if he hasn’t had that same success in 2023-24. It is worth mentioning that Kuzmenko also has a 12-team no-trade list, with the Flames actually being on it before he allowed the deal to go through.
With an extra season of team control and a solid cap hit, the Flames could maximize Kuzmenko’s value, potentially picking up NHL-ready prospects and those sweet, sweet draft picks.
Realistically, it comes down to whether the Flames believe they can be competitive in 2024-25 (or even be contenders). It’s entirely possible that the Flames have a major shakeup with their defence core next season, as MacKenzie Weegar and Rasmus Andersson are the only two active roster defencemen under contract.
If they don’t think they’re good enough, moving Kuzmenko and perhaps even Sharangovich, at this season’s deadline would arguably net them the best return, as teams will have an extra season of those two being under contract.

The case against flipping Andrei Kuzmenko

It may be the case this season that the Flames will sell at the deadline, with it looking like they’ll trade Chris Tanev before the Mar. 8 deadline as well. However, being competitive in the 2024-25 season isn’t out of the realm of possibilities, as the Flames are only five points out of a playoff spot at the All-Star break.
If they were to re-sign Noah Hanifin, they’d only need a handful of moves to remain competitive in the Pacific Division, mainly on their back-end. Depending on the hypothetical Hanifin extension, the Flames could have upwards of $15 million to improve their roster heading into 2024-25, along with a solid prospect pool.
Of course, intentionally losing is never a great idea and at the end of the day, winning puts fans’ in the stands. On top of that, it sets a bad precedent for team culture, as you can look no further than the Edmonton Oilers’ decade of darkness or the Buffalo Sabres’ prolonged struggles.
It’s also arguable that Kuzmenko’s value at the moment is the lowest it has ever been. Moving him now may be for a lesser return than they’ll get at the 2025 trade deadline if he finds his form that he had in his rookie season. Of course, that’s a whole year away, and who knows where the Flames will be.

In conclusion

At the end of the day, Kuzmenko, even with his struggles in 2023-24, is still a good low-risk, high-reward type of player. If the Flames think they can push for a playoff spot in 2024-25, it’ll be worthwhile keeping him until at least until next season’s trade deadline.
However, if the Flames know for a fact that they’re going to go on a re-tool that’ll last a year and a bit, this year’s trade deadline may be the best time to capitalize on Kuzmenko’s trade value.
Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D.

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