Mark Stone or bust! With half of the C of Red clamouring for the Flames to make a big splash and land Stone, I decided to take a look at a trade chip from another team. Another player that has been somewhat under the radar when it comes to being a fit in Calgary is Kevin Hayes. Hayes has quietly put together a solid season on a subpar Rangers squad, and is a pending UFA. Hayes has performed well on a team that is currently rebuilding; the Rangers are often found in the bottom five of the league in most fancy stats.

In terms of counting stats, Mark Stone and Kevin Hayes are not really on the same level in what matters most: points. In 59 games this season, Stone has put up 62 points. As for Hayes, he has posted significantly fewer with 42 points in 51 contests, but still, an admirable season that paces for 67 points in 82 games.

Comparing their possession metrics, both players drive the play for their respective teams. Things might be getting a little murkier as to who is more valuable. For brevity, let’s focus on a few key stats in CF%, SCF%, and HDCF%.

PlayerCF%SCF%HDCF%
Kevin Hayes51.152.058.3
Mark Stone52.256.357.7

Comparing these statistics further confirms what the point totals tell us in that Stone tends to get more scoring chances, and he either converts on his chances or earns assists, both of which result in a better point total than Hayes. However, the other two metrics show a similarity when it comes to high danger chances and shot numbers. This would suggest that despite Stone being a better possession player, Hayes is not too as far off as some might think. Both are capable of being the drivers on their line.

What is clear when you take a closer look is that Hayes and Stone both pass the traditional eye test and the analytics test with flying colours. The addition of either player would greatly bolster an already deep Flames lineup. However, the cost to acquire Stone looks to be considerably higher than that for Hayes. Perhaps it’s a better idea to target Hayes instead. Either of the two would serve to push current players down the lineup, shifting their offensive depth to that of a very deep team. This in turn would allow Bill Peters to more effectively roll four lines.

The lineup possibilities are endless, but considering the Gaudreau – Hayes connection from college, it might make sense to start Hayes on the top line:

Gaudreau – Hayes – Lindholm
Tkachuk – Monahan – Neal
Frolik – Backlund – Czarnik
Bennett – Ryan/Jankowski – Mangiapane/Hathaway

Alternatively, if Peters doesn’t think splitting Monahan and Gaudreau is a good idea, the lines could look something like this:

Gaudreau – Monahan – Lindholm
Tkachuk – Hayes – Neal
Frolik – Backlund – Czarnik
Bennett – Ryan/Jankowski – Mangiapane/Hathaway

Still, the big question with any deadline deal is the cost. It has been reported that the Rangers likely won’t be getting top prospects for any of their trade chips, Hayes included.

This is music to the Flames’ ears, as their prospect pool is already shallow, and parting with Dillon Dube, Andrew Mangiapane, or any of their three prized defensemen would probably not site well with the fanbase. However, if sending players like Spencer Foo, Jon Gillies, Glenn Gawdin, or Matthew Phillips can land the Flames a player like Hayes, it’s a deal that should be made.

As well, the Flames are probably content with sending any draft pick to the Rangers, including their 2019 first rounder, or their second rounder in 2020. From the conditions placed on traded draft picks the past few years, it wouldn’t be crazy to assume there could be a condition to upgrade a pick based on whether Hayes re-signs in Calgary.

There’s no question that Stone would be the biggest difference maker among the current trade targets for the Flames. He is a top talent and will bring a level of play that immediately elevates the Flames to be high favourites in the Western Conference. What changes the conversation quickly though, is the price that Stone will cost to acquire. With the rumoured ask of two high level prospects and two first round picks, can a team like Calgary justify paying such a high cost? Or, do they save some assets and bring in a player like Hayes, who, while not the same calibre a player as Stone, still has the potential to take the Flames to the next level. Either player would greatly add to the Flames’ scoring depth and deepen an already solid forward corps.

Brad Treliving has some very big decisions to make in the coming days. This historic Flames season might be the franchise’s best shot at a Cup since the 80s, and it might be the year to go all-in. Many believe that means getting Stone, but there are other options, cheaper options, out there. It’s a balancing act, and there are few GMs in the league that manage it better than Treliving.

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