As the calendar turns to March, the trade deadline is inching closer. Where does each team stand and what moves should they be looking to make? We continue our look around the league with the Calgary Flames.
With the NHL’s trade deadline a little over two weeks away, many teams are still assessing their teams, deciding if they want to buy, sell, or stay put. The Calgary Flames do not appear to have such an issue. While it comes as little surprise that the Flames are a good team pushing for a playoff spot, just how good the Flames are has raised some eyebrows. Calgary has been, for the most part, a consistently great team this season, and currently sits atop the Pacific division with 75 points, good for second in the entire Western Conference, behind only the Colorado Avalanche.
What Calgary has also done that most teams have not, is make a big splash. That splash came in the form of a February 14th trade for forward Tyler Toffoli. The Flames traded a 2022 first-round pick, a 2023 fifth-round pick, prospect Emil Heinemann, and forward Tyler Pitlick to Montreal to acquire Toffoli, who had been touted as one of the most sought-after players at this year’s trade deadline. Toffoli has surely not disappointed since the trade, putting up seven goals and three assists in 10 games for the Flames so far. Even though Calgary made their big acquisition already, that certainly does not mean they are done, and could still be active players at this year’s trade deadline. However, Calgary will need to work around a very tight cap situation to get anything else done.
Deadline Cap Space:
$657,170 today, $870,750 at the deadline, 47/50 contracts used, 0/3 retention slots used
Upcoming Draft Picks:
2022: CGY 2nd, FLA 2nd, CGY 5th, CGY 7th
2023: CGY 1st, CGY 2nd, CGY 3rd, CGY 4th, CGY 6th, CGY 7th
After trading two of their bigger trade chips in order to acquire Toffoli, the Flames do leave themselves some pieces to make an additional move or two. The most logical of these assets would be either their or Florida’s 2022 second-round pick. Calgary can afford to part with one of their 2022 seconds in a deal, but would be unlikely to deal both, leaving them without a draft pick until the fifth-round. If Calgary prefers to make another big splash, they could utilize their 2023 first-round pick, however Calgary would risk not having first-round picks in two consecutive years.
Calgary does have the benefit of a fairly talented prospect pool that they could deal from, and is the likely reason they have been comfortable dealing from their draft pick stock. Perhaps the most intriguing of these prospects is forward Matthew Coronato, who the Flames selected 13th overall out of the United States National Team Development Program in 2021. While most teams dealing with Calgary would love to acquire Coronato, he would presumably be a non-starter for Calgary. If the Flames were to deal from their prospect pool, they may be more comfortable discussing the likes of Ilya Nikolayev or Cole Huckins.
If the Flames were to make another move, they likely have to use an asset just to clear some cap space to add another player, which brings another interesting asset into the conversation: Juuso Valimaki. The 23-year-old defenseman has shown promise in limited time in the NHL, playing 81 games since the start of the 2018-19 season, and just eight this season. What is intriguing about Valimaki is that he can be used both to clear additional cap space and as an asset in a trade. Currently, Valimaki carries a $1.5MM cap hit, but only $425k currently counts against Calgary’s cap, as he is currently in the AHL with the Stockton Heat. Freeing this $425k may not be much, but it could be a starter for the Flames, who could acquire an asset for the still-young defenseman who has shown an ability to play in the NHL.
1) Forward Depth: To put it plainly, the Flames, as they line-up now, are terrific, and don’t leave much to be desired. One concern, however, is if there is an injury or a tough cold streak, the team doesn’t have too much to look for as far as reinforcements go. The organization does have young talent playing in Stockton at the moment, however for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations, players more poised for playoff games would be preferable.
2) Stanley Cup Experience: Building on the first point, the Flames are well-positioned to make a deep run in these playoffs. While many of their players have been to the playoffs before, in an ideal world, adding a player or two who has gone all the way is always useful, even if it is just their presence in the locker room. One player who could satisfy both needs while working within Calgary’s cap constraints is New York Islanders’ forward Zach Parise. The 37-year-old currently carries just a $750K cap hit, but is having a solid season with seven goals and 16 assists in 53 games on Long Island, and has played in 105 career playoff games, including a run to the Stanley Cup Final with the New Jersey Devils in 2012.