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NHL Trade Talk

Top NHL trade bait players Flames might consider

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Should the Calgary Flames be looking at Phil Kessel on the NHL Trade market

You don’t like Evander Kane? That’s OK. He’s not the only name on the NHL trade market at the moment. The Calgary Flames have plenty of options to consider.

Kane is a power forward with a proven scoring ability. He’s also had sandbox issues, and now a problematic pandemic protocol history. The 30-year-old cleared waivers and the NHLPA has filed a grievance on his behalf to prevent them from terminating his fat free agent contract.

So let’s pause on the idea of the Calgary Flames adding Kane to the mix for now.

Instead, let’s take a look at the top names believed to be on the NHL trade market right now and identify whether or not they might be a good fit with the Flames.

There are a lot of pretty decent names out there, and the Calgary Flames have made it clear over the past year they’re not afraid to get out there to work on making deals for top players like Jack Eichel. Using references like the TSN NHL trade bait list and other speculative sources, the following names could find themselves with new hockey homes after the NHL trade deadline.

8. Kevin Fiala

Fiala is one of the league’s most talented players, who may also be one of its most frustrating. Just ask Minnesota Wild head coach Dean Evason, who recently benched the left-shooting right-winger because of a lack of on-ice discipline. Evason has spent a lot of time with Fiala, who played under Evason in Milwaukee as the 11th overall pick by the Nashville Predators when he thought he’d be gifted a shot in the NHL.

The 25-year-old’s name popped up in an Elliotte Friedman 32-Thoughts podcast in the fall after he started with three goals in 18 games and the fact he is once again going to be a restricted free agent at the end of the season seeking 20-goal money at a lesser pace. The return the Wild get in a trade now could give them both a fresh start.

Why the Calgary Flames should engage: Fiala has scored 20 goals in back-to-back shortened seasons and the Flames need a lot more of that in their lineup. He’s young and is an RFA who will still be in his team’s control this summer. He’s worth a gamble.

Why the Flames should stay away: Consistency seems to be the biggest struggle for the Swiss sniper, along with discipline and accountability. Do the Flames want to land something more simple or swing for upside?

7. Ben Chiarot

A 6-foot-3, 234-lb defenceman, Chiarot has been one of the lone bright spots on a sad Montreal Canadiens roster this season. He’s a big-minute defender and arguably GM Jeff Gorton’s best trade chip.

The 30-year-old impending unrestricted free agent will be a hot trade deadline commodity with every playoff hopeful taking a hard look. Chiarot has averaged more than 20 minutes per game, since arriving in Montreal in 2019. He’s known for his physical play and shot blocking but has proven to be a decent point producer as well, scoring 15 goals and 34 points with the Habs.

Why the Calgary Flames should engage: Defensive depth is critical to a long playoff push and you could do a lot worse than a guy who went to the Stanley Cup final last season.

Why the Flames should stay away: Cost is the most prohibitive and if they can only make one big splash on the NHL trade market, the focus should be scoring depth.

6. Phil Kessel

Kessel is on the last year of his eight-year, $8-million AAV contract and the Arizona Coyotes will almost surely move him to get more assets for their seemingly never-ending rebuild. His offensive numbers are still pretty decent considering the level of talent surrounding him.

Boston Hockey Now’s Jimmy Murphy included Kessel among his list of trade options for the Bruins. He thinks bringing the 34-year-old winger back to Boston could provide them with the middle-six scorer they desperately need once they can find a taker for Jake DeBrusk.

He may be past his prime but teams only need him for a few months and he could make a difference in the playoffs.

Why the Calgary Flames should engage: Right-handed right winger with a history of goal scoring. He checks every box for the Flames biggest need.

Why the Flames should stay away: Kessel is no longer in his prime. And if teams get into a bidding war for his services, the cost might scare the Flames away.

5. Jake DeBrusk

The potential power forward has vanished from the Boston Bruins’ future portrait. After a breakout in the 2019 Stanley Cup run, he’s regressed to a perimeter player. Injuries and illness have created opportunities for DeBrusk to remain in the lineup despite occupying space in head coach Bruce Cassidy’s doghouse.

DeBrusk asked out of Boston, but according to our colleagues at Boston Hockey Now, the Bruins trade ask is “equal value” in return. In 25 games, DeBrusk only has eight points (5-3-8), but his potential to return to an impact player in a different situation is compelling.

Why the Calgary Flames should engage: A young player who scored 27 goals in 68 games as a sophomore prior to a pandemic slump could break out in a big way. And he’s an RFA end of year.

Why the Flames should stay away: Is he going to be the next Calgary Flames version of Sam Bennett, or the version the Florida Panthers got? Is it worth the risk to find out?

4. Bryan Rust, Pittsburgh Penguins

The former 27-goal scorer popped over 20 for a second consecutive season last year. This year has been a nightmare with a pair of lower-body injuries limiting him to just 12 games. The gritty top-line winger has essentially worked his way up from the mailroom to the top floor corner office. He was a light scoring fourth liner during the Penguins Stanley Cup runs (but had a statistical anomaly of scoring series-clinching goals).

However, Rust’s four-year, $14 million contract expires in July, and the two sides have not found common ground. A 20-goal player with Rust’s all-around game and speed can ask for six years and $36 million, though the team doesn’t have to give it.

The Penguins need to clear cap space to have a full 23-player roster when Evgeni Malkin returns.

A rental of Rust’s quality can easily fetch a second-round pick, most likely multiple picks, or a first-rounder.

Why the Calgary Flames should engage: Rust is sneaky good. He’s got speed and hockey sense and all the qualities the Flames need to help boost their scoring prowess. Oh, and he’s a right-shot right-winger, too.

Why the Flames should stay away: The Flames don’t have the centre depth the Penguins have had that helped Rust make an impact. And the 29-year-old can walk as a UFA this summer. Is he the best value as a rental?

3. Mark Giordano, Seattle Kraken

A leader, a top-pairing defenseman, and an expiring contract on a non-playoff team. Giordano was the rare established NHL player on the Seattle roster. He’ll play his 1000th game later this season and adds a pinch of offense to go with top-flight defense.

Defensemen usually command a couple of picks, perhaps a second, third, or fourth. A Norris winner like Giordano may also require a prospect in the package with a high pick. Seattle GM Ron Francis has not yet made a splash on the NHL trade market, but Giordano could be the first.

Why the Calgary Flames should engage: Maybe it’s just sentimentality, but getting their captain back would sure upgrade that top six. One of the team’s biggest struggles so far this season has been on the back end.

Why the Flames should stay away: Not sure Flames fans can take the heartbreak of seeing him come back as a rental and then not be here next year.

2. Claude Giroux

The Philadelphia Flyers suddenly, and again, more sideways than Tomas Haden Church and Paul Giamatti. Giroux is now in his mid-30s and Philadelphia doesn’t have the past success and history pushing them to keep Giroux. Before joining Hockey Now, Sam Carchidi, opined in the Philadelphia Inquirer that it’s time to part ways. 

Giroux could be the big get on the rental market. His $8.275 million cap hit will require the Flyers to be creative, but Giroux has 25 points (11-14-25) in 29 games. His eight-year contract expires in the summer.

The Flyers are 10 points back of the Penguins for the top wild-card spot and four points behind Detroit for the second. Giroux could be prime rib on the NHL trade buffet if Philadelphia fell further back.

Why the Calgary Flames should engage: Giroux is a game changer who can play the wing or centre. He’s been around a long time and knows what it takes to win.

Why the Flames should stay away: Price point will be high. But, honestly, this is one player you shouldn’t worry about if you think you can go deep.

1. Tomas Hertl

The San Jose Sharks are falling out of the playoff picture. Tomas Hertl is in the prime of his career but is unsigned for next season. Hello, king’s ransom. San Jose would undoubtedly like to keep Hertl, but things have gone sour in San Jose since they tried the two-headed monster blue line with Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson. The Evander Kane situation also hangs over the franchise.

Hertl could easily fetch a top prospect and a top pick. That’s a lot to decline for a non-playoff team. In the wild card race, the Sharks are five points back of Edmonton and Colorado–two good teams. The playoffs don’t appear to be on the table, so what does San Jose do now? They can’t afford to lose a top center like Hertl for nothing, and they don’t need a rental.

Why the Calgary Flames should engage: Hertl is versatile and the Flames have a number of players who can play centre or the wing, making the Czech forward a nice addition for their top end depth. He could play anywhere in the top six and instantly offer an upgrade.

Why the Flames should stay away: Hertl will cost a lot as a rental and there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to lock him into a new contract before he hits the free agent market so that’s the catch for the player who might be the biggest catch for the Calgary Flames.

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