The Calgary Flames reached the halfway point of their six-game home stand at the thrilling, yet ultimately disappointing conclusion of Saturday’s 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
Tomorrow the Minnesota Wild roll into town to take on Ryan Huska’s new-look Flames.
Speaking of new looks, Minnesota has a 3-0 record since making a coaching change from Dean Evason to John Hynes.
This era of the Wild is no stranger to early-mid season turnarounds. After floundering to a 9-9-2 record and a .500 points percentage last season, Minnesota General Manager Bill Guerin swung a trade sending a 2025 fifth-round pick for Ryan Reaves, who had fallen out of favour with the New York Rangers.
The Wild after acquiring the heavyweight pugilist/locker room hype-man? 37-16-9, a .669 winning percentage, and a 103-point finish.
It’s fun to think about whether correlation equals causation in that instance. Did Reaves’ presence really help that much or were the Wild ready to turn a corner on their own? Could the Flames use a dominant personality injection into the room that also sticks up for teammates when the need arises? 9-9-2 isn’t far off from 10-11-3.
Another question is: How many players like that are available out there? Conroy has $4,283,334 in cap space to play with after trading Nikita Zadorov to the Canucks and then subsequently signing Mark Pysyk to a one year deal.
Answer number one is an easy one. Brad Treliving may want out of the three-year, $1,350,000 annual average value contract that he signed Ryan Reaves to over the summer. The 6-foot-2, 226-pound forward has one goal, zero assists and a -10 even-strength goal differential in 17 games this season. Toronto pressure cooker media jumps to his name at the slightest mention of the salary cap and the majority of fans follow suit. No one is particularly happy about the situation in Toronto and the 36-year-old would likely love to turn the page already.
Is the Winnipeg native’s career a wash already though? Would he bring the same attitude and presence he did to the Wild last season?
We don’t have a definitive answer to those two questions, but consider that Reaves had a very similar start to last season as he did to this season. 12 games played with the Rangers. Zero points. Minus five at 5v5.
After joining the Wild? Five goals, ten assists and his team rocketed into the playoff picture.
Could Brad Treliving and Flames General Manager Craig Conroy find an agreement that works for both teams? Is the market already set by last season’s return for Reaves at fifth-round pick? Calgary just acquired one of those for Nikita Zadorov. Or would his longer-term necessitate Treliving adding some sweetener to the deal? Would retaining $200,000 a season make the deal more attractive given its three-year term?
The question of whether Ryan Reaves would be a fit is also important to ask. To some, he may be a perfect fit for a team like the Calgary Flames. A group of players on a quest to prove that they are much better than they have shown. A core of forwards with confidence issues stemming from a brutal 2022-2022 campaign. Would a player with a reputation for building up those around him help the team move forward?
Not to forget that Huska’s Flames had a bit of a team-toughness crisis only 36 days ago at the Heritage Classic in Edmonton on Oct. 29. Oilers power forward Evander Kane issued this challenge to a group of Calgary players on the ice during a scrum:
“What are you gonna do? What is anybody here going to do?”
The response was tepid at best. No one was stepping up during a nationally televised game. Evander Kane went on to set up Edmonton’s fourth goal and pot an empty netter to cap off a 5-2 Oilers victory. It’s unlikely that ownership or management has forgotten that interaction.
Since being hired on as a rookie GM, Craig Conroy has pushed the idea of making trades to help both teams. It’s difficult to contest that Reaves and the Leafs could use a fresh start from one another, but is it worth the risk for Conroy to take on that contract? Only time would answer that question. As a general manager, Craig has to take a few risks on trades at some point. Whether it’s acquiring Reaves or some other imposing forward, the problem of toughness won’t be going away on its own.