For years, the Calgary Flames have had a hole on the right side of their forward group. The acquisition of Elias Lindholm tempered that gap for a few seasons, putting up a career high in production his first year in Calgary. The trio of him with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan was unstoppable in 2018-19, forming one of the most productive top lines that season. Unfortunately, last season they took a significant step back.
Under both Bill Peters and Geoff Ward, the top line did not look like their former selves. In addition to this, there has been a desire to move Lindholm back to center. If the team wanted to do that, then there would be an even bigger hole on the right side. In terms of the 2020-21 roster, here is the current lineup of right handed shots:
- Elias Lindholm
- Derek Ryan
- Buddy Robinson
- Byron Froese
That’s it. Although Andrew Mangiapane and Dillon Dube play on the “right” side of their respective lines, they are both left handed shots. The team cannot be pleased with that current lineup.
Enter Kyle Palmieri .
There has long been rumors that the Flames have been interested in acquiring the services of Palmieri from the New Jersey Devils. He is a veteran right shot winger, who can also consistently put up solid offensive production. He is almost exactly what this team needs, but acquiring him could be challenging. We have already covered the fact that the Flames have limited cap space to sign remaining UFAs and there is likely a trade to come, but if the Flames are to put their eggs into a basket, it should be for Palmieri. Here’s why:
Over the last five seasons, Palmieri has been one of the most consistently productive forwards for the Devils:
Palmieri has put up five straight 20 goal seasons, with his first season in New Jersey being a 30 goal season. During that time he has never scored less than 40 points, but also has never jumped too far from a 0.70 PPG production. His 0.69 PPG pace last season would have put him in a tie for fourth on the team behind only Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, and Lindholm.
Palmieri has also generated a consistent shooting percentage across his time in Jersey, which goes to show that he’s never benefited from a crazy high shooting percentage season to boost his stats. Rather, he’s used a similar level of shot generation over his career to generate offense. Consistency is key in Palmieri’s game, and it’s something the Flames have never truly had.
When looking at Palmieri’s last three seasons, here are what his underlying statistics say.
|Per Natural Stat Trick||CF%||SCF%||HDCF%||xGF%||OZS%||PDO|
|2017-2020 Compiled Stats||48.0%||49.0%||54.1%||51.6%||57.7%||1.013|
Take these with a grain of salt, as Palmieri was playing on a consistently terrible New Jersey team, but he often placed in the top 10 across skaters with 600+ minutes. In most cases, Palmieri was only trailing either defensemen or frequent linemates Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier. Showing that he was truly the team’s top line RW.
His numbers show a player who has been given a more positive amount of zone starts, and has been able to capitalize on generating scoring chances. Although his CF% isn’t as flashy, it could be much worse when comparing to the rest of his team. He’s not treading water by any means, and with the Flames normally being a very high possession team – this could work in both the team and player’s favour.
New Jersey currently is sitting at just over $63M in cap space, so they are by no means a team that is trying to get out of bad contracts. If they were to trade the final year of Palmieri’s $4.65M contract, they would need to get back above the cap floor. With tons of time remaining in Free Agency, and some players left on the board, they could easily remedy this. With Palmieri heading to market next season at this point in time, it may be worthwhile for the team to recoup some sort of asset to continue their rebuild.
The Flames would need to move out equal amounts of cash to make this deal happen, and it’s possible that Noah Hanifin $4.95 million dollar a year salary fits the mold. We aren’t going to speculate the return or trade combination, but the Flames could get Palmieri and another piece from the Devils and save a bit on the cap this season due to the $300 thousand dollar difference in cap hit between the two players.
There are many other Flames that could be involved, but due to Palmieri’s importance to the lineup – they likely wouldn’t be interested in giving him up for just picks and prospects. Hanifin has already been involved with rumors to the Devils in the past, which makes this the most likely scenario.
In such a strange year, it’s possible that New Jersey would be looking to reduce their internal cap situation, making this deal even more plausible.
Pending any more changes, the Flames forward group could look like this with Palmieri added to the lineup:
Gaudreau – Monahan – Palmieri
Tkachuk – Lindholm- Mangiapane
Ryan – Backlund- Dube
Lucic – Bennett – Philips/Robinson
Adding Palmieri to the top line, creates the ability to roll our four really intruiging and potentially dangerous lines. The top six now looks extremely threatening, and giving Lindholm his own line to center opens up a wide range of possibilities. Then you add in Mikael Backlund to add defensive stability to your third line, and have the flexibility to keep Bennett at centre or move him back to the wing.
This looks much better than the team was structured last season, with there not really being an established criteria for first, second, third, and fourth lines. Each line could carry the load during a game.
Make it happen Brad
There is no need to say that this trade is undoubtedly going to happen, but it sure makes a ton of sense for the Flames. Whether the Devils want to make it or not is the real question. From their side, only Palmieri’s pending UFA status is the time sensitive item they need to consider. If there is a deal that works for them, it wouldn’t be shocking to see it happen.
Palmieri would add a solid RW presence to the team, while also giving Geoff Ward and Brad Treliving the option to move their lineup around. This could be the piece the team is looking for right now.
Do you think the Flames should trade for Kyle Palmieri? Let us know in the comments!
Photo by: Getty Images