Friends, the first half of the Calgary Flames season is almost complete (and it only took an extra fortnight to get here)! The All-Star Break begins on Thursday and the Flames will get a four day breather before returning to practice.
As we barrel towards the midway point of the hockey calendar, let’s check in with our mailbag!
Well, the Flames simply just need to qualify Matthew Tkachuk (#19) and Andrew Mangiapane (#88) to retain their services for another year. But if they want to cajole those two gentlemen, and pending unrestricted free agent Johnny Gaudreau (#13) to make Calgary their permanent address for the coming years, it would be really helpful if those three players felt that the Flames either are a playoff contender or are on the verge of becoming one. So making playoff noise would be really beneficial to that cause.
I spoke about this topic with Ryan Pinder on Friday on Sportsnet 960 The Fan: this may be the Flames’ clearest path to a Conference Final spot in decades. Vegas is a general powerhouse, but they’ve sorta hung around the .600 mark this season due to injuries and illnesses, and their cap situation means they need to move a big piece before they activate Jack Eichel – and who knows how Eichel will jell with their group? Edmonton is all over the place, and their goaltending is terrifying. Given the relative weakness of those two traditional powers, why not shoot your shot this season?
If not now, when?
Johnny Gaudreau alluded to this last week when chatting with the media, and it roughly matches the eye test from watching a lot of Flames games over the past decade.
When the Flames are on the road, they play a simple, direct, urgent game because they don’t control match-ups and so they can’t really afford to get too fancy. (In much the same way that a starving person doesn’t tend to play with their food.) At home, the Flames feel more secure and more confident, so they sometimes get too fancy and pay the price for it.
Nikita Zadorov will probably be hoping for a contract in the vicinity of his current $3.75 million deal. Based on the Flames cap situation for 2022-23 and beyond, I strongly doubt he would be able to find that in Calgary.
I’m a big booster of names like Brett Kulak and Chris Wideman, both of the Montreal Canadiens. But other value names that could provide depth and value on the third pairing include Mark Pysyk (Buffalo) and Justin Braun (Philadelphia).
We’ll be digging more in-depth to some of these depth targets later in February on the site.
For those unfamiliar or forgetful, Tyler Toffoli is a 29-year-old right shot winger who plays for Montreal. He broke into the NHL with the Darryl Sutter-led Los Angeles Kings, and so in theory he knows the coach, knows his systems, and would fit a need that the Flames have in terms of being a middle-six scoring forward who can play a heavy playoff style if needed.
The challenge is two-fold, though:
- He’s got two more years left on a contract that pays him $4.25 million, so the Flames would need to send something the other way with a significant cap hit to make the cap math work.
- He’s good and cost-controlled, so in theory you’d be looking at a price tag that begins with a first round pick and probably also involves a roster player (see Point 1) and a good prospect.
It’s a lot to pay and he’s a good player, but you’d be moving out significant pieces to add somebody with a Mikael Backlund/Blake Coleman level of impact in your lineup. Would that be worth it?
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