Welcome to draft week! I’m thrilled to be representing FlamesNation and Sportsnet 960 at the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal. With just three picks, it looks like Calgary is in store for a rather quiet event… but that’s on the surface. I actually think there’s a chance the Flames could be much busier than at first blush.
Here are four stories to watch for Calgary this week.
1. Trading for more picks
General manager Brad Treliving has gone down this road before. Due to trades made over the last 12 months or so, the Flames don’t have a lot of 2022 draft capital. Calgary picks just once inside the top 60 and only three times overall, at least as it stands right now.
Traded to MTL (Tyler Toffoli deal)
Traded to BOS (Dan Vladar deal)
Traded to SEA (Tyler Pitlick deal)
Traded to FLA (Sam Bennett deal, now BUF pick)
In drafts past we’ve seen Treliving make moves to acquire additional picks by trading down, whether in the first round or later on. Could the Flames turn their second round pick into, say, a third and a fourth? A move like that is very much part of Treliving’s MO and I’d honestly be a little surprised if he didn’t do something similar in Montreal.
2. Trading Johnny Gaudreau’s rights
I guess Calgary could do something like this if they were convinced Johnny was walking in free agency. By trading Gaudreau’s rights, the Flames could acquire an asset (likely a mid-round pick) from a team looking to use an exclusive negotiating window before free agency begins. It’s not out of the question, but it also doesn’t make a ton of sense, at least for me.
From my understanding, Gaudreau isn’t going to rule out a return to Calgary until he makes his final decision. That’s why I think it makes more sense for the Flames to stay in the fight until the bitter end. If Gaudreau decides to go anyway that’s fine, but a middle of the road pick isn’t enough incentive to effectively close the door on any chance of him returning.
3. Moving Matthew Tkachuk
I preface by saying this would only happen under one specific circumstance: if it has become abundantly clear Tkachuk isn’t interested in signing long-term. In that case, I think Calgary would have to at least start having conversations about other destinations. And Treliving could start planting those seeds on the draft floor in the first in-person event since 2019.
In this scenario, however unlikely, there would be slight incentive to make a Tkachuk deal at the draft. Doing so would allow the Flames to get an additional pick (or picks) in 2022, and likely a high one. For instance, New Jersey has cap space and the second overall pick. Or Ottawa holds number seven overall and, well, you know the obvious connection. Just a little food for thought.
4. Deals to create cap space
We believe Calgary is adamant about creating additional flexibility under the salary cap as free agency approaches. As such, they’d have the option of making a financially driven deal in Montreal to clear space. The byproduct could be the acquisition of additional picks in this year’s draft.
The two names that come to mind are Milan Lucic and Mikael Backlund. With only one year left and a low actual dollar figure owed to him, I believe Lucic could net the Flames a pick from a team looking to add leadership, experience, and/or toughness.
As for Backlund, well, you know this pains me to say. If Calgary is looking to go in a different direction and/or clear space, I think they’d get a really nice return for their longest tenured player. Backlund is still one of the NHL’s best shutdown centres and his two-way game can be dominant. It’s a realistic option, either at the draft or later this summer, depending on how other off-season items end up going for the Flames.
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