The trade deadline has come and gone, and the Calgary Flames are a different team than they were just a day ago.
Heading into the deadline, there was contention on which route the Flames should take. Should they be sellers and try to recoup assets for their expiring contracts? Should they be buyers and fill holes on the right wing and on defense? Or should they stand pat with the roster they had and trust the construction of the team up to this point?
There were good reasons for all three routes, but ultimately Brad Treliving and the Flames fell somewhere in the middle of buying and standing pat.
The Flames did not trade away any of their expiring contracts for other assets. Pending UFAs of note T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic, and Austin Czarnik were not traded. Instead, the Flames added two more pending UFA defenders to fill the holes left by injured captain Mark Giordano, and the aforementioned Hamonic.
In a deal with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Flames added defenseman Erik Gustafsson in exchange for a conditional third round pick in 2020. The conditions on the pick are that the Blackhawks will receive the higher of the Flames’ third rounders in this June’s draft, between the Flames’ own pick and the pick they would receive from the Edmonton Oilers in the James Neal trade should all conditions of that trade be met.
Gustafsson is a pure offensive defenseman. He broke out last season with the Blackhawks scoring 17 goals and 60 points in 79 games. Four of his goals and 18 of his points were scored on the powerplay. His underlyings weren’t great as he was below the 50% mark in xG%, SCF%, and HDCF%, which indicates that Gustafsson is not great in his own zone.
This season with the Blackhawks, his underlyings are similar, but his counting stats have not been as good. Through 59 games, Gustafsson has six goals and 26 points, and only two goals and six points on the powerplay.
To be effective, he’ll need to be paired with a reliable defensive defenseman who can cover his back. Gustafsson looks like a solid powerplay quarterback, and could help a Flames powerplay that has struggled with consistency all season long.
A completely different player than Gustafsson, the Flames also added defenseman Derek Forbort from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a conditional fourth round pick. The pick upgrades to a third in 2022 if the Flames advance to the conference finals this season and Forbort plays in half the team’s games, or if the Flames re-sign Forbort to a contract in the coming summer. The Kings are retaining 25% of Forbort’s cap hit.
Forbort is a shutdown defender, most notably playing alongside Drew Doughty last season with the Kings. He has just two goals and 15 points combined over the past two seasons, so he won’t be relied upon to provide offense. Last season, his underlying numbers were not good. He was under the 50% mark in all major metrics including CF%, SCF%, HDCF%, and xG%.
This season, he has been limited to just 13 games with the Kings due to an injury that kept him out of the lineup earlier on, but in a small sample size he has excellent possession numbers.
Forbort looks like he fits best with an offensive defenseman. He could feature alongside fellow trade deadline acquisition Gustafsson, at least until Giordano returns to the lineup. Forbort is also a lock to play on the penalty kill, and will likely serve on the third pairing at even strength.
In a deal that trickled in long after the official trade deadline had passed, the Flames sent depth defender Brandon Davidson to the San Jose Sharks for future considerations. This was to allow Davidson the opportunity to play, as he was not placed on waivers on Saturday and as a result could not be sent back to Stockton.
Overall, the Flames added two options to bolster their defensive depth, did not add unnecessary salary to years after this one, and did one of their players a solid by allowing him the chance to play somewhat meaningful games this season. They didn’t manage to sell any pending UFAs for assets, but with how close the race is in the Pacific, and how close the Flames are to being out of that race, it likely made more sense to hold onto their cards and make a push to the playoffs with that hand.
Though they didn’t add a top-six right winger, something that was most definitely on their shopping list, the recent incredible play from Andrew Mangiapane is probably exactly the type of statement the team needed to justify not overpaying for a rental winger.
Now, it’s all about seeing where everyone will play, and if the Flames can hold down a playoff position over the remaining ~20 games.