Pals, it’s almost the end of November and the Calgary Flames are among the top clubs in the National Hockey League in terms of both points and underlying metrics. We’ll see if they’re looking this strong all-around when Christmas arrives in about a month.
In the interim: let’s dive into ye olde mailbag, shall we?
We’ll get into this later on in this column, but the Flames don’t have a ton of cap space and it would be extremely challenging to fit John Klingberg’s $4.25 million cap hit in.
The good news is: they don’t really seem to need a Klingberg right now. Their power play is puttering along nicely with Rasmus Andersson on the first unit and Noah Hanifin (and occasionally Oliver Kylington) on the second unit.
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At five-on-five, the Andersson/Hanifin pairing and the Chris Tanev/Kylington pairing are among the NHL’s best. Per Natural Stat Trick, there are 90 pairings that have been used for 100+ minutes at five-on-five: Andersson/Hanifin rank fifth in expected goals percentage and Kylington/Tanev rank ninth. They’re both performing extremely well.
Our pal Pat covered this earlier this week. But in short form: of the 23 players on the Flames roster right now, it is reasonable to assume about half of their players will be at the Olympics. Part of that is a long history for many of the players in big international tournaments – Mikael Backlund led Sweden to a World Championship and met the Swedish royal family, for example – and the other part is that the Flames are doing well and everybody’s stock is likely higher for their national teams than it was before.
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For the curious:
  • A Milan Lucic buyout would buy out his $1 million 2022-23 salary (because his $2.5 million signing bonus cannot be bought out). So the buyout would give the Flames a $4.667 million cap hit in 2022-23 (a $583,333 savings) and a $291,667 cap hit in 2023-24. (Edmonton would have cap hits from the buyout, too, but we don’t care about them.)
  • A Sean Monahan buyout would buy out his $6 million 2022-23 salary (he has no signing bonus). So the buyout would give the Flames a $2 million cap hit in 2023-23 (a $4 million savings) and a $2 million cap hit in 2023-24. No signing bonuses makes the math really simple, and makes the savings for the buyout much larger.
I would term them “strategic buyers.” They don’t have the cap space or high-end assets – draft picks or prospects – to really be renters. But they’re a good team would probably sees this as an opportunity to, I don’t know, try to win some playoff rounds and maybe become contenders for some type of championship.
So look for them to attempt some pure “hockey trades,” in that they try to upgrade key parts of their roster.
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Their special teams are quite good – their penalty kill is second in the NHL right now – but they’re taking too many penalties lately. They’re also very hot and cold in terms of their transition game and zone exits: sometimes their forwards don’t come down deep enough in the neutral or defensive zone for the defenders to make clean passes, which causes trouble. Attention to detail in that part of their game needs to be more consistent.
Man, if the Flames could add another centre, it’d be great. I like the depth wingers in the organization – if you have to throw Matthew Phillips or Jakob Pelletier or Walker Duehr into the NHL (or use Glenn Gawdin or Adam Ruzicka on the wings), I think you’re just fine there. But their centre depth is a bit iffy, and finding some relief (or a replacement) for Sean Monahan in a cost-effective manner could be very helpful in a long playoff march.
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