What could it look like if the Calgary Flames sell at the trade deadline?

Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Munnich
1 year ago
The Calgary Flames are most likely going to be buyers at or before the March 3 trade deadline. And for good reason. They have essentially pushed all their chips into the middle of the table with this core group of players. They are just barely out of a playoff spot in a weak Western Conference with 30 games to go. And they have one of the easiest schedules in the NHL to finish off the year.
It makes sense for them to be buyers. But what could it potentially look like if they decided to sell pieces at the deadline? I thought it would be an interesting exercise to see what that possibility could look like.
Let’s dive in.

Why would they sell?

The Calgary Flames have not proved that they are a team that could do damage in the playoffs through 52 games this season.
They lack the speed, high end skill, and creativity on the offensive side of the puck to generate high danger opportunities and score goals. As of right now, they don’t have the fire power you need to go on a deep playoff run.
They’ve also received below-average goaltending as they rank 25th save percentage in the NHL. Jacob Markstrom has not been himself this season. And Dan Vladar has also put up average, to below-average numbers among his peers.
With those two key pieces of information in mind, is it realistic to think that this Flames team can legitimately go on a deep playoff run this season? That remains to be seen.

Who could they sell?

You could potentially look to sell some older players who have contracts expiring within the next two seasons. Those players would be Mikael Backlund, Tyler Toffoli, Nikita Zadorov and Chris Tanev. I’m not saying they should trade all four. I’m saying that if they were to sell one or two pieces, it would likely be out of this group of four players.
Backlund will turn 34 years old on Mar. 17. He is a UFA in 2024 and has a cap hit of $5.350 million. He has a 10-team trade list meaning he would submit a list of 10 teams he would be willing to be traded to. His value will never be higher than it is right now as he is having one of the best seasons of his career and will likely get Selke votes. Contending teams would love to add Backlund.
Toffoli will turn 31 on Apr. 24. He is a UFA in 2024 and does not have any trade protection in his contract. His cap hit is $4.25 million. Toffoli is playing great hockey and is on pace to have the best statistical season of his career. Like Backlund, Toffoli’s trade value will never be higher than it is right now.
Tanev is 33 years old. He will be a UFA in 2024 and has a 10-team no trade list. His cap hit is $4.5 million. Tanev is a warrior and the type of player any contender would love to have on their team for the playoffs. He is playing through injuries, but even with that in mind his trade value would be very high.
Zadorov will turn 28 on Apr. 16. He will be a UFA in 2024 and does not have any trade protection. His cap his is $3.75 million. Zadorov is a huge, physical force who could play a key role on a team looking to go deep in the playoffs. He is having one of the best seasons of his career. His value will likely never be higher than it is right now.
Will the Flames realistically want to re-sign all four of these older potential UFAs in two years when their contracts expire? The answer is likely no. So why not potentially look to sell high on a couple of these assets?

Why would they do this?

1. Open up cap space
The four players listed above take up a total of $17.85 million of cap space. That’s 22% of the Flames total salary cap. By unloading a couple of those cap hits, it would open up the possibility of the Flames making a trade in the off-season to bring in younger, cost controlled, core players.
2. Acquire valuable draft capital
All four players listed above could fetch the Flames some serious draft picks and prospects, especially If they were able to retain some salary.
The Flames could use those assets and cap space acquired from selling at the deadline in off-season trade packages for younger, skill players who are on capped out or rebuilding teams.
Some past examples of trades I am talking about are:
  • Kevin Fiala for a first round pick and Brock Faber
  • Oliver Bjorkstrand for third and fourth-round picks
  • Pavel Buchnevich for a second-round pick and Sammy Blais
  • Sam Reinhart for a first-round pick and Devon Levi
  • Kirby Dach for a first-round pick
  • Alex DeBrincat for first, second, and third-round picks
  • Artturi Lehkonen for a second-round pick and Justin Barron
  • Jack Eichel for first and second-round picks, Alex Tuch, and Peyton Krebs
Calgary would be in a unique opportunity to take advantage of teams who decide to make young, skilled players available for trade and teams who are in salary cap hell. As of today, there are only eight teams that have more than $2 million of cap space to work with. 75% of the league is capped out. And because of that there are going to be some very good players available on the trade market as cap casualties.
Brad Treliving could essentially do a quick re-tool on the fly and extend Calgary’s competitive window by another 3-4 seasons.
With the current roster they have they likely only have 1-2 seasons to truly compete for a cup. 
The Flames could add a couple young players to their current core group of players that features Elias Lindholm, Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri, Andrew Mangiapane, Dillon Dube, Blake Coleman, Matthew Coronato, Jakob Pelletier, Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin, Oliver Kylington, Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar.
An interesting wrinkle to all this is that they could still make a run at the playoffs with this roster even if they subtract from it. Look at the 2014-15 Flames. They lost Mark Giordano for the final 21 games due to injury and traded Curtis Glencross for two draft picks. They still managed to make the playoffs and win a round.
The idea of selling at the trade deadline may sound crazy to some fans. But there are a lot of interesting possibilities that could come from trading some veteran players. Who knows, it could even extend their window to contend for a playoff spot for an extra 3-5 seasons.
I am not saying I think this should happen. I just thought it would be interesting to provide a different perspective and create some interesting discussions for Flames fans to have over the next few weeks.
What do you think about the idea of selling assets at the trade deadline? Let us know in the comments section!  

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