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M&G Roundtable: Is it time the Flames make a trade?

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Talking through some thoughts and feelings here.

NHL: Calgary Flames at Chicago Blackhawks Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Well, folks, the Flames lost their fourth game in a row on Sunday against Vegas, and it looks like sports really are bad again. The Flames, while it’s still only been 23 games, have fallen into a bit of a slump and out of a playoff spot. and it’s not really clear when they’ll be able to get themselves back on track.

Which means we’re doing what we always seem to do when this happens—talking about trading someone. Our staff discusses some possible options and outcomes.

First of all, do you think that a trade is what this team needs to get itself back on track?

Madeline Campbell: Honestly, I don’t really know. I’ll fully recognize that my own predisposition as an airmchair GM is a more patient approach, I want to see if the team can just play out of a funk, rather than just blowing it up. But with that said, if they hit the 30-35 game mark and just look like absolute trash out there, something’s got to give.

MGMacGillivray: The answer seems to be yes, but the issue with that is that every other GM in the league is probably aware that Calgary is getting desperate. With that in mind, the Flames are going to get nowhere near full value for their players as other GM’s will be tossing anchors not lifelines to the Flames.

MarkParkinson14: With caveat that we’re all TERRIBLE arm chair GM’s and ultimately will be wrong: maybe? This team, as currently constituted, appears to have peaked last season and we all know how that worked out. There are few players on this roster that appear to actually give a damn and it shows on and off the ice. Calgary fixed their goaltending for 2019-20 and are wasting great efforts every night by David Rittich and Cam Talbot with absolute trash play in front of them. You hate to make a move for the sake of making a move, but it could be time.

But for the sake of this piece, let’s say there is a trade coming. Who would you say, full stop, is untouchable on this roster?

Madeline Campbell: I’ve sort of talked myself into the idea that if there’s a trade coming, it would be a forward who goes. Because the goalies aren’t the issue, and to move a defenseman like Mark Giordano or even Rasmus Andersson would be too big of a move, and just about anyone else would be too small of a move for a shake up trade, if you will.

With that said, I think the only true untouchable is Matthew Tkachuk, because of his age and what he is and what he projects to become. I’d like to think that Elias Lindholm, with his performance last season and into this season, has played himself into an untouchable status for now, but who knows. I don’t know if I’ll ever be on board with trading Johnny Gaudreau, but I’m also not one hundred percent convinced that the organization feels the same way. So that’s where I’m at.

MGMacGillivray: Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm, Rasmus Andersson, and David Rittich. They’re the only players who have really brought it every single night for the Flames, and have provided most of the pushback this year.

MarkParkinson14: Elias Lindholm. Matthew Tkachuk. Rasmus Andersson. Juuso Valimaki. David Rittich. That’s it in my opinion. Everyone else should be made to feel like they could be dealt. The issue outside of those players is, who wants what else the Flames have? Twitter GM’s love throwing around the “Trade Frolik, Jankowski, Bennett and a 5th to TEAM X for their top three forward or #1 centre.” STOP. NO ONE WANTS JANKOWSKI, BENNETT OR FROLIK. You’ll get another Bennett, Jankowski or Frolik if you trade those guys. Never in the history of sport has a team agreed to take your trash and give you their treasure. So that leads to the next question: who gets traded in this scenario.

Who do you think is most likely to be moved?

Madeline Campbell: I know this is the name that we’re hearing thrown around the most, but I just don’t know that I see them trading Gaudreau. If they decide he’s absolutely not going to be rebounding anytime soon, and they already have a good feeling that he’s going to be signing elsewhere once his contract’s up, now might be the time that they feel they can get maximum value for him, but that’s a lot of ifs. The more I think about this, the more I’m not convinced there is a trade made (but more on that later!), but if it’s absolutely going to be someone, Michael mentioned him in our group chat, but I think Mikael Backlund could be a possibility. He’s a key piece to the team and seems to be a veteran presence in the locker room, so it would certainly be jarring to see him moved.

MarkParkinson14: The only piece that I see the Flames being able to deal and getting any kind of positive return/close to even is Johnny Gaudreau. I’ve never typed those words. I still don’t necessarily believe it and I don’t want it to happen, sort of, but I feel like he’s going to get dealt at some point. I have ZERO inside info, but if you read enough and use your brain a little, you can’t see him finishing his contract in Calgary and maybe now is the time to send him somewhere and get a fresh start for each side. He doesn’t look as engaged, he’s struggling and that fire from last year appears to be a thing of the past. So if you’re going to shake things up, Gaudreau, like it or not, would be the player that would most likely garner the most interest and get you a solid return. But before you make that kind of move, maybe you drop him down a line or give him a night in the press box. I don't feel like there's a good answer here.

MGMacGillivray: I really don’t see the Flames being ready to shake up their core so promptly as Brad Treliving has historically been a fairly patient general manager. In terms of players who are a part of this core, but may not be super long term pieces, I keep coming back to Mikael Backlund as a guy who has struggled this season, but would have a lot of value to other teams in the league. He’s an assistant captain with the team, and moving him would cause shockwaves for sure. With that being said, it would open a gaping hole on the Flames centre core and break up a good duo with him and Tkachuk. I love Backlund, don’t do it Brad.

The tough part about making shake up trades is that often you’re moving a player who’s having a down start to the season, and that may impact his value—how worried are you that the Flames won’t get back at least close to fair value and it will be just a move for the sake of making a move? Or will the shake up in the locker room be enough?

Madeline Campbell: I think it’s a slippery slope with this one. Because as much as the Flames would surely try to get back fair value for whoever they’re trying to move, if it’s evident that they need this move to happen, they lose some leverage and are more at the mercy of what their potential trade partner is willing to part with. And the other piece is that, if the players feel like fair value hasn’t been received, they may not respond positively. I’m thinking back to a couple of seasons ago when the Blues traded away Paul Stastny away and it sent the locker room reeling for a bit—the feeling was something akin to “we thought we were trying to make a run here. what are you doing trading away one of our key players?”

In short, a trade might be enough to shake things up, but a lot of things would have to go right for them to both get fair value and get the remaining players to be accepting on the move. It’s a little risky.

MarkParkinson14: And herein lies the main issue with trading an elite player like Gaudreau. The Flames won’t get pennies on the dollar, but they probably won’t get a dollar for a dollar. Teams know the Flames are reeling right now and outside of Tkachuk, Lindholm and Rittich, Calgary is a hot mess. I think trading a player like Tkachuk (I would revolt, he HAS to be untouchable) or even Mark Giordano would cause some discourse within the Flames locker room. They are leaders, potentially even the same type scenario with a player like MIkael Backlund. Anyone else? Eh. I think the fan base would be upset and I’d surely be disappointed, but if it fixed the Flames they’d get over it.

Closing thoughts: are you, in the end, pro or anti trade, and will this be enough to salvage the season? Can the Flames right the ship and get back into the playoff race?

Madeline Campbell: Honestly, from talking through most of my thoughts, I think I’ve decided that a trade may not be necessary. Per Natural Stat Trick, the Flames are still ninth in the league in score and venue adjusted Corsi-For percentage (51.24%), and 15th in Expected Goals-For percentage (50.24%) at 5-on-5, which is just to say that they’re getting the better of the share of shot attempts and high danger chances, on average. Their process is sound, it’s just that they’re not getting the goal-based results right now. PDO can be a bit of a noisy stat, but they’re also hanging out at a .974 on-ice save percentage which, since we expect that over a full season, that should regress upward closer to the mean of 1, suggests that they’re also getting a little unlucky right now. To say to trust the process has become a bit trite at this point, but I think the Flames might be better served doing just that to get themselves back on track.

MarkParkinson14: Calgary’s best players aren’t their best and sadly, there’s only one player that could really shake things up on this team and that’s #13. I don’t see a huge market for Sean Monahan or Mikael Backlund. Mark Giordano could be an option that would get a decent return and really shake things up as well. IF the Flames are going to make a move it has to be major because rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic isn’t going to do anything. As I mentioned above I think this team has peaked. They’re actually getting worse as a unit and they look flat and like they have zero drive. Forget throwing sticks. Forget firing coaches. Forget getting killed by the Penguins as motivation. You want to light a fire under this team? Set a fire. The move has to be big, not Jankowski for a bag of pucks and as crazy as it seems, Gaudreau getting traded would certainly shake things up and show everyone on that team that no one is safe. A better option? Don’t trade anyone, especially Gaudreau and start winning. Problem solved.