So the season hasn't gone as planned, as you may already know. There's plenty of advice covering many areas being offered from both armchair executives and mainstream media folks. Change the lines, change the system, use this goalie, play this player more, fire the coach, wear different jerseys, consult a wizard, etc etc. The most common piece of advice, and the one generating the most discussion is the trade.
Why make a trade? Well, why not? The Flames clearly have weaknesses on the ice regardless of coaching and any internal remedy won't put the team in a better position in the long run (it might, but I have little faith it will). There are plenty of rumours flying around about deals in the making. The real question though is does this make sense for the Flames?
There's certainly a lot of issues that must be considered before we go
How should the team approach trading?
With the offseason acquisitions of Michael Frolik and Dougie Hamilton, you'd figure that the team is in "win now" mode, but the future option is probably better. If we're being honest, the Flames are not going to make the playoffs as it currently stands. Remember all those years Darryl Sutter sent away prospects and picks for players to move us just a few spots closer to eighth place? That's why the team is still rebuilding, and it's important to avoid that.
The Flames should try and target younger players who can make the team effective in the future. There's no pressure to win now with such a young roster, so it's better to keep adding young players while removing dead weight.
Who could the Flames be looking for?
Well, it depends. The Flames' biggest issue right now is consistent goaltending. After that, defending. Then bottom six scoring. This team might have a few problems.
Who's on the market?
Trade rumours are kind of murky right now, but we do have two big names being thrown around by legitimate sources. Matt Duchene and Patrick Marleau are apparently being discussed in phone conversations, and either of those players could intrigue the Flames.
I'm not sure why Duchene is being talked about as trade bait. He's 23 and one of the better young centres playing today. It would be folly of the Avalanche to let him go, but apparently that's something they're willing to do even after letting Paul Stastny and Ryan O'Reilly go. If he leaves, it's going to be at a high price, but rightfully so. His best years are still ahead of him, and he could be a key piece for a team looking long term.
Marleau is kind of the opposite of Duchene. Clearly, he's not going to be hanging around for a long time, but he's still an effective player that can provide offence. The only caveat to his departure is that he likely wants to go to a serious Stanley Cup contender, which the Flames clearly aren't at this point in the season.
To deviate from NHL-wide rumours, there also have been suggestions specifically regarding the Flames. There have been links to Brayden Schenn, Brandon Dubinsky, and Kerby Rychel. Schenn is similar to Duchene, being a young centre that has years ahead of him, and has apparently grown stale for his current team. He will also come at a high price, but certainly worth the investment.
Of the Columbus players, the one the Flames should be paying more attention to is Rychel. Dubinsky is good in his own regard, but he's approaching 30. He could be a nice replacement for Stajan down the line, but he'd be a bit player on a congested roster right now. Rychel is still young, and it appears the Blue Jackets may be fed up with him. He's putting up points in the AHL, and if the Blue Jackets really don't want him, the Flames should leap at that opportunity.
My preferred trade target is Ryan Strome, another young player who has apparently fallen out of favour with his team. Strome is currently on loan with the Islanders' AHL affiliate, having been a healthy scratch a few times in the big leagues. This opportunity to acquire a youngster like this should have teams chomping at the bit. Like Rychel, if teams are willing to part with young superstars for some perceived flaw, the Flames should go for it.
What can the Flames offer?
This puts us in a conundrum. Who to trade? The Flames do have a lot of untoucheable players that won't be considered in the discussion, but also a lot of less desirable players that they should move. This is how I broke it down:
|Don't move||Should move||
|Sean Monahan||Brandon Bollig||Lance Bouma|
|Sam Bennett||Joe Colborne||Jiri Hudler|
|Johnny Gaudreau||Derek Grant||Dennis Wideman|
|Michael Frolik||David Jones||Matt Stajan|
|Mikael Backlund||Mason Raymond||Joni Ortio|
|TJ Brodie||Kris Russell||Jonas Hiller|
|Mark Giordano||Deryk Engelland|
|Dougie Hamilton||Ladislav Smid|
|Michael Ferland||Karri Ramo|
The first column is what I feel is a solid list of players that are going to require a lot to pry from the Flames. Obviously, the young three at the top aren't going anywhere, neither are Gio or Brodie. The Flames aren't going to give up on Hamilton or Frolik this early, so they're around for at least this year (but hopefully to the end of their contracts). Backlund's name has been floated around as a potential trade piece, but I feel that Brad Treliving knows what he has in the Swedish pivot, and won't be moving him. Ferland and Jooris are my wildcards, though I feel they won't move because of their youth and skill set.
The second column is where the problem lies. Of what the Flames are willing to offer, the most attractive piece is David Jones. I would usually say Kris Russell, but his performance thus far is going to make every GM wary. The rest of the players are of varying ages, most above the halfway point of their career, and all with limited amount of skill. Not to say that they are bad players, but they don't offer much more than what you can find in the FA pool or on the waiver wire.
The players in that third column are players that are attractive to other teams, but are certainly the more difficult candidates to move for various reasons. I debated putting Bouma in the "won't move" category, but I certainly do feel he is an expendable asset when this team is fully healthy. Hudler has been a key piece in the offence, but he's 31 and on the final year of his contract. This may be the last time the Flames can get value for him, and they might decide to capitalize on that. The answer to the Hudler problem will become more clear if the Flames fall further out of contention.
Wideman is probably the most popular candidate to be moved, but his contract makes that nearly impossible. He's still on board for one more year at $5.25M, a steep price to play for a defender who doesn't really defend. Sure, the Flames could eat some of that salary to get him off the team, but he also has a no-movement clause, allowing Wideman to veto any potential move. While he might bow down to team pressure and waive that clause, there's no signs of interest from other teams.
Ortio and Hiller are curious cases. Ortio was pegged as the goaltender of the future, but his performance thus far doesn't inspire confidence. He is still young, but the Flames could feel as if it's time to move on, and use him as a sweetener in any trade deal. Regardless if he gets traded, keeping one of Hiller/Ramo could make sense depending on where Jon Gillies is by next offseason. This is looking way down the line, but the Flames might have to keep one of them, and Hiller is the better candidate than Ramo. He is still a valid trade piece, but management may feel regret if they send him away too early.
I didn't touch on prospects, because almost all of them are fair game save for the past year's draft class. If someone were to get moved from the lower rungs of the Flames organization, I would bet on Tyler Wotherspoon or Markus Granlund. T-Spoon has struggled to crack the Flames roster, but his potential is up there. Granlund is a better NHL player right now, but can't crack the roster due to Calgary's depth. He's expendable, and could fetch a nice return.
Adding it all up:
None of this favours the Flames. They're dealing from a losing position, and other teams know it. The desperation to upgrade will drive prices higher, but that doesn't matter when the pieces the Flames likely want to move aren't all that attractive anyways.
Speaking honestly, a trade will do little to improve the fortune of the Flames for this season. They've dug themselves a massive hole, and it may be time to start looking long term rather than short. They're going to have to jettison some players if they want to get better for next year, but it may not be enough to acquire the players listed in this article.
If I had to make final recommendations, I would suggest the team try and get what picks and prospects they can. There's a lot of players who aren't going to be here next year, and it's important to maximize return on those assets. If this team isn't good now, it's on them to become better.