In case you have been living under a rock, the Flames have been busy at the start of the offseason. A very successful entry draft was immediately followed by the signings and departures of various unrestricted free agents. As the team sits right now, the team’s salary cap is near full but the roster needs some filling out (updated 2020-10-24):
With just over $1.8M in cap space, the team has some work left to do. Unfortunately upon further inspection, the team really doesn’t have much wiggle room. Restricted free agent Andrew Mangiapane re-signed, leaving Oliver Kylington in need of a new deal. As it stands, the Flames have very limited space to add anyone. There are a handful of bargain contracts the team could look at, but the team is going to need to move some cap space in order to facilitate any additions.
It’s reasonable to expect a trade, mostly because the team has not changed its core composition all that much. Below are the players that have joined or left the team since the end of the season (updated 2020-10-24):
Travis Hamonic (likely)
The team has lost eight players from its regular rotation, and only replaced three due to Domingue being more organizational depth at the goaltending position. It is unlikely the the front office looks at this team today and says that they are better off than they were at the end of the 2019-20 season. The top nine group of forwards is identical, and the fourth line has yet to really be identified.
Flames Trade options
Someone has got to be on the way out in terms of salary cap flexibility, in addition to a different look. There are a number of current players the Flames might look to ship out to aid their quest in being cap compliant come the 2020-21 season. Here are the most likely candidates the team could be looking at:
Although he is still only 23 years old, Noah Hanifin is nowhere near the level of a player that the organization assumed they would be acquiring back in 2018. Selected fifth overall in 2015, Hanifin has become a steady second pairing defensemen, but it’s tough to see him projecting to much more after his two year stint in Calgary.
There are two ways to look at Hanifin as a Flame. Either you cut him loose now and get what you can in return for a young defenseman, or you retain in him hopes that he can further develop into the projected #1 d-man that you originally wanted.
The only issue is trade value. If he continues to be mediocre then the Flames won’t be able to get as much as they would now. He’s signed for the next four seasons at $4.95M per season, and there would be a list of teams that may want him on their roster right now. Moving him for a young forward with a difference in salary might work best for the team.
Calgary would have to be completely comfortable saying that Juuso Valimaki can slot in to the second pairing immediately, and that Kylington can play consistent third pairing minutes. The team clearly has already considered that, as Hanifin was rumoured to be in the proposed Taylor Hall deal earlier this summer. It would take a serious return to truly consider, but the Flames may already be working the phone on this.
Dealing Derek Ryan may prove to be a much more difficult decision for the Flames. On one hand, he has a single year left on a deal that’s paying him $3.15M. With Jankowski moving on to Pittsburgh, Ryan slots in to be the full-time fourth line center—which is one hefty price tag for that position. Sam Bennett has proved himself capable of playing the third line center role, which means that Ryan doesn’t have a consistent role in the top nine.
On the other hand, with the departures of Jankowski and Rieder, the Flames forward penalty kill deployments are now anemic. Behind Mikael Backlund and Elias Lindholm, there is just Ryan now to fill out the second unit. Trading him would result in an entirely different second unit which may not be as effective as it was last season.
The appetite for some teams to take on his full $3.15M salary would be limited, but if some money was retained then the team could get some flexibility on their cap. If the Flames wants to give Glenn Gawdin the full time fourth line center role, then this makes a lot of sense. Ryan has been highly underrated for the Flames, but it may be the end of the road for him with the Flames.
The only reason that this trade makes sense for the Flames is simply the counter argument for trading Ryan. If the Flames wasn’t Ryan as the third line center, and to retain him as a penalty killer, then Bennett may be dispensable.
The one thing going for Bennett is that his value has never been higher due to his playoff performance. He was easily the Flames best skater the entire time during the bubble, willing his team to their victories and still shining during their losses.
That being said, I think the team now views Bennett as someone they don’t want to part with. Whether that means they can get even more value out of him in a trade, or they genuinely think he has turned a corner, remains to be seen. The team could try him on the penalty kill and give him more situations to play in, which is the scenario that Bennett has at least earned.
He’s entering the final year of his deal that pays him $2.55M a season, so if the team thinks the raise is not going to be affordable then this may be their best shot.
Sean Monahan, maybe
Although it would make more sense to put Milan Lucic on this list, there is no way the team could find a trade partner. Even though he had a productive second half and even did quite well in the playoffs, the Flames aren’t going to find a taker.
Circling back to rumours and public sentiment from earlier in the offseason, there is a slim possibility that Sean Monahan could be an option. This is strictly from a salary perspective, as he has three more years at $6.375M. As a first/second line center, this makes him extremely valuable to a number of contending teams. The return could be significant, but it’s uncertain in this current market.
Moving Monahan, depending on the return, would allow for some flexibility on the salary cap and the ability to move Lindholm to the middle of the ice. This creates an equal gap on the right side, but may be the teams desired route to take.
It doesn’t make a lot of sense to move your number one center if you are still trying to contend, but the team has done crazier things. If the return is right, then the team should explore every option they have. That being said, it’s unlikely that the Flames would do something this brazen, and other teams probably aren’t planning for Monahan to be available at all.
Pick up the phones
As we said, there needs to be some sort of move coming for the Flames to continue to tinker with their lineup. It may even be someone not noted here, but be prepared for someone to be heading out of town.
It’s highly unlikely that Johnny Gaudreau is traded, unless the team was acquiring someone in the same realm as the newest member of the Buffalo Sabres, Taylor Hall. In such a poor economic environment, the Flames certainly value Monahan’s $6.75M contract more than anything.
The Flames could just use some Stockton players to fill our their bottom line and pairing, but thrusting a number of rookies into major roles too soon may not be the best organizational decision.
The offseason of change continues, and the Flames might need to start looking at trades to make the salary cap work out.
What move do you think the Flames will make? Let us know in the comments below!
Photo by: Ross D. Franklin/AP