Calgary Flames

Flames Sunday Census: Calgary’s NHL trade deadline approach

With the 2021 NHL trade deadline just one day away, the Calgary Flames are looking at a window of just under 30 hours to see if any team in the league will seek the services of current Flames’ as a part of their postseason. It’s not a lot of time to work with and it’s unclear if Calgary can unload any of their expiring unrestricted free agents as potential rentals. What might be expected from Brad Treliving as the deadline comes and goes?

Making trades for Calgary’s future

It’s a fairly important deadline for Brad Treliving as the opportunity to get back some draft picks is highly valuable right now for the team as they retool. They have a couple of expiring UFA contracts in Derek Ryan and David Rittich that they absolutely need to explore on the trade market. There are other UFAs available to trade, but these players come with big bolded letters that indicate their trades would certainly help the Flames more significantly. What kind of changes might the fans expect from Calgary?

If the Flames sit idle through the deadline, it’d be a major disappointment as they do nothing to help themselves out for the future. The NHL trade market is a tough one to navigate right now, but this is where being a bit more tenacious on the phone or even being willing to take a lesser trade will still benefit Calgary.

Getting picks back for Ryan

Ryan has shown that he’s a solid depth option despite not having high point totals this season, he’s still a net positive player who can round out any team’s bottom six. For Rittich, he would be a bit of a risky option for teams looking to bolster their goaltending, but is well worth exploring for teams who are trying to bring some stability to their backend.

If the Flames are able to recoup any returns on these two, it’d be their best option to get back the highest returns possible. That said, it’s not exactly a good trade market right now. Looking at a few player-for-picks trades that have happened so far, Eric Staal was traded from the Buffalo Sabres to the Montreal Canadiens for a third and a fifth round pick in the 2021 NHL draft. That might have set the top bar for the potential returns for Ryan.

Riley Nash cost the Toronto Maple Leafs a conditional seventh round pick, who was recently placed on the injured reserve by the Columbus Blue Jackets due to a knee injury. Another player-for-picks trade saw Brendan Lemieux fetching the New York Rangers a fourth round pick from the Los Angeles Kings.

The Flames should be exploring similar trade routes for Ryan, and can retain some of his salary to make his acquisition more appealing for potential suitors. They could also look at trades that involve other players moving, but those might be harder to come by right now.

Returns for Rittich

On the goaltending front, the Colorado Avalanche were the latest to fortify their backend depth, trading with the San Jose Sharks for Devan Dubnyk in exchange for Greg Pateryn and a fifth round pick. This is the only real comparable goalie deadline trade that the Flames have to work with, and it comes down to how other teams view Rittich. Do they see his numbers as an attribute of strength, or are they wary of his shakiness that’s appeared a few times in the past?

The Flames have to be trying to get back something, otherwise they risk losing him for nothing come the offseason. There are definitely teams that stand to benefit with Rittich on their roster, but it’ll be up to the Flames to do the selling and seeing what might ensue.

Update: The Flames have traded Rittich to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a third round 2022 draft pick.

Other options

The Flames also have Josh Leivo, Brett Ritchie, Joakim Nordstrom, Michael Stone, Nikita Nesterov as UFAs on the main roster, and Buddy Robinson, Alex Petrovic, Zac Rinaldo, and Louis Domingue as UFAs on their taxi squad (player statuses as per None of these names are alluring. If any of these players are moved by the deadline, they’ll likely be a part of a bigger package, but it just doesn’t make sense for other GMs to be targeting these players at all.

Leivo and Ritchie probably provide the highest potential returns, but they aren’t going to be popping up in any of the Flames’ bigger trade talks.

And of course, the elephant in the room, the Flames can still try to shop Sam Bennett, though it’s not clear what types of returns he’d be getting as many teams are likely trying to stay clear of him or getting him for a lower acquisition cost.

Update: The Flames have traded Bennett and a 2022 sixth round pick to the Florida Panthers for left winger Emil Heineman and a 2022 second round pick.

Counting out the trades

The outlook on the trade deadline for the Flames is simple. If they are able to make over three trades to make the team better in the future, that’d be a big win. Only 20.6% of voters expect such an outcome, and it does seem unlikely. Everything would have to go right for the Flames on the market, but no one is holding their breath for this.

Getting two trades would be a more realistic threshold for making the deadline a success, especially if those two trades include Ryan and Rittich. This was the top vote getter with 44% of the votes. However, there’s no guarantee that these trades could happen. The Flames should be on the phone with all other playoff-bound GMs right now just to see what they can do. Knowing Treliving, he might be calling other GMs who are also looking to sell anyway, just to see if any magic can happen.

If the Flame are only able to make one trade, it’d be a tad bit disappointing, and the blame can be somewhat put on the trade market. Among all voters, 21.1% expect this outcome, and depending on the trade itself, this can change the sentiment on the Flames’ trade deadline performance.

And lastly, if the Flames make zero trades, that’d be a big failure on their end to let the deadline pass without acquiring any tangible benefits for the team. A total of 14.4% of the voters expected this outcome. While pessimistic, it wouldn’t be surprising either.

Calling the trades

Ideally, the Flames will be submitting at least a couple of trade calls tomorrow. If they make bigger splashes on the trade market, it’d likely be in the offseason. Their main priority right now is to increase their chances of future success beyond 2021, and that simply comes with building out their prospect pool.

Calgary hasn’t had a great season, but they have serviceable players that other teams should see value in. It’s up the Treliving to know how to sell these players as well as being able to make a deal. The team desperately needs to see some positive returns as soon as possible and that requires a successful trade deadline.

Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

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