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NHL trade deadline

Flames Options At The NHL Trade Deadline

The Calgary Flames could be buyers or sellers at the NHL trade deadline and no one is quite sure which way they’ll go. Here are some trade options for every scenario.

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It’s hard to imagine one game determining the NHL trade deadline strategy for the Calgary Flames.

Yet here we are about 24 hours before the end of the trading window, and Flames GM Brad Treliving is the only one left to make a move since the puck dropped on the 2022-23 NHL season. 

To be fair, the way the Calgary Flames have performed this year, it’s been hard to determine what they’re capable of. As defenceman Chris Tanev lamented recently, it’s been a rollercoaster. 

When they’ve been at their best this season, they look like they have a chance against any other team in a seven-game series. At their worst, they’ve been unwatchable, emotionless drones. 

So where does Treliving go from here? Does adding to the team give it a better shot at making the playoffs? Is a run beyond the first round possible? 

Is there enough value in impending UFAs to sell? Should Treliving — who currently doesn’t have a contract for next season — look deeper and add assets for players who expire after the following year?

Does he have permission from ownership to one and not the other? Are his hands tied as the team defines itself down the stretch for a reassessment in the offseason?

Some players have said they want additions, and that vote of confidence. 

The head coach suggested on Wednesday that only long-term looks make sense . 

“I look at the big-picture part of it,” Calgary Flames bench boss Darryl Sutter said when asked if he’d be looking to add to the team at the cost of futures. 

“Absolutely not. Only way I’d look at any of that is if it’s something that helps your team in the long run. That’s the only way. You have to get there — it’s not like you’re there.”

There, meaning Cup contention. 

It’s clear the coach thinks there is a distance to cover to get there. But he also say he believes in the group. 

“I might be serious,” he said with a grin.” I still believe we win 21 in a row.

“We’ve just got to keep ploughing.”

Here are a few options for the Calgary Flames, if they don’t stick with what they’ve got.

Buyers

Short-term moves

If, for some reason, the appetite from ownership is to go for it this year, there are some names out there that fit the bill and haven’t yet been scooped up by all the other NHL trade deadline action. At least not at the time of this writing. 

Max Domi, James van Riemsdyk and Alex Kerfoot are all impending unrestricted free agents. The Toronto Maple Leafs may not be parting with their versatile forward given all they’ve done to make a run at the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins in their playoff path, but those are the kind of players the Calgary Flames could add up front. 

Would defenceman John Klingberg be an addition they would consider on the back end? They had a good look at him in the first round of last year’s playoffs while he was with the stingy Dallas Stars. 

In many cases, some salary would need to be retained for any of these to make sense barring a roster player going to other way. 

Long-term look

Interesting names with at least one more year of term remaining and have been discussed in NHL trade rumours ahead of the deadline include Jakob Vrana, Nick Schmaltz, Conor Garland and Brock Boeser. 

The cost of some are clearly more than others. Vrana might be a bargain given how little he’s played this year, with some challenges being addressed through the NHLPA players assistance program. Perhaps a swap including the Calgary Flames’ own question mark in the NHLPA program — Oliver Kylington — gets teams out of the running this year interested. 

Sellers

Short-term view

On the other side of the coin, the Calgary Flames could sell off some assets and re-tool in the offseason. Their entire fourth line rotation is either UFA or RFA at the end of the season. 

There had been some Boston Bruins talk that seems to have been squashed by the Bruins GM on Thursday, but Milan Lucic may have appeal elsewhere as well for a team looking for some toughness and experience. 

Trevor Lewis is another former Stanley Cup winner who might garner interest. The Flames may be the only team that would have signed Ritchie, but surely he can be had for a late-rounder at this point. 

Long-term look

Here’s where things get really interesting. It would be a massive change in outlook for an ownership group that wants to get to the playoffs every year and avoid selling top assets off if there is even a remote chance of extra games in the spring. But if they give Treliving permission to explore selling any of next year’s UFAs who may not fit into the Flames’ future blueprint, there is a long list. 

We already mentioned Kylington. But Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund and Noah Hanifin are all big names who would draw a lot of interest on the NHL trade market. Tyler Toffoli is having a career season, Nikita Zadorov has the size some covet at this time of year, and Chris Tanev is an instant blueline stabilizer on any NHL squad. 

Parting with one or two of the names on this list could provide some promising future assets as well as freeing up salary cap space for next season. 

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