The 2021 NHL trade deadline has come and gone. The Calgary Flames didn’t make any huge deals, but were involved in two trades, with players being dealt outside the organization to help other teams in their playoff pursuits.
Let’s break down the two deals Brad Treliving made, see how the Flames’ are changed due to those moves, and what lies ahead for the club.
David Rittich to the Toronto Maple Leafs
The first deal of the deadline period saw David Rittich get sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for the Leafs’ third round draft pick in 2022. Calgary retained 50% of Rittich’s salary in the deal—the first time Calgary’s opted to retain salary on a trade.
This first deal was completed on Sunday night. It wasn’t completely unexpected as we identified Toronto as a potential destination for Rittich, but it was still a somewhat shocking move. With the Flames sending the former all-star goalie to the division leading Leafs, this clearly signaled that the Flames would be sellers at this year’s deadline, and there would likely be more than just this move coming from Brad Treliving.
Rittich was brought into the organization from the Czech league as a European free agent back in 2016. He left the organization tied for seventh in franchise wins, ninth in minutes played, and 12th in save percentage. Rittich was found money for the Flames who relied on his as their starting goaltender for parts of three seasons. His fiery personality ignited crowds and brought opponent’s to the brink of tears, and Big Save Dave will be sorely missed in this city.
Based on a few factors, this was the right move for the Flames. To say their chances of making the playoffs are slim would be an overstatement, and with the team they’re trying to catch coming off a big win against Toronto last night, things don’t look great. At this point, the prudent move was to trade Rittich to one of the several teams who needed a goaltending boost. As well, Rittich was a pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) and would likely not have come back to Calgary to back-up Jacob Markstrom after being an almost-starter the past couple years.
The return of a third round pick has fans conflicted, but a draft choice in the top 100 for a backup goaltender is a solid return. The 2022 draft is supposed to be one of the deepest in recent memory so adding picks in that draft is a great move for the Flames. Retaining salary was a smart move as well. In the past, owners were probably hesitant to pay players who weren’t on their team, whether that be through buyouts or retaining salary, but as the market and economy has shifted these types of moves have become necessary.
All the best to Rittich in Toronto. Hopefully we’ll see him in the crease tonight when the Leafs host the Flames.
Sam Bennett to the Florida Panthers
Just minutes before the deadline, the Flames made their second trade which sent Sam Bennett and a sixth round draft pick to the Florida Panthers for a 2022 second round draft pick and prospect Emil Heineman.
Emil Heineman likely becomes a top-10 Flames prospect after this trade. We broke down everything you need to know about the newest Flames here, and he’s a very interesting prospect with significant upside. He’s a big, Swedish winger and could make the jump to the NHL In just a couple years.
It is rumoured that the Flames have tried to move Bennett for some time, but the return was never good enough for Treliving to pull the trigger. If that was the case, it’s a good thing Treliving waited, because he got a haul for Bennett yesterday afternoon.
Many did not expect Bennett to return a pick as high as the second round on his own, so to add in a prospect that was taken by the Panthers 43rd overall in the second round of the 2020 draft is some tidy work by Treliving.
It is well known that 18-year-old Bennett was the highest draft pick every made by the Flames franchise fourth overall in the 2014 draft. He joined the team with a high pedigree, a great junior career, and a very strong playoff performance in 2015. He projected as the Flames’ top-line centre and looked to be a power forward with a nose for the net.
None of that panned out. Bennett struggled to earn the trust of his coaches, didn’t see any real development from his rookie and sophomore seasons in the NHL, and ended up a healthy scratch on multiple occasions this season. As of right now, Bennett is a fourth line winger with some special teams value but a penchant for taking bad penalties in all three zones.
What drove fans crazy was how electrifying Bennett was in the playoffs. He dialed up his game in the postseason, scoring goals and laying big hits to jumpstart his team, but that version of Bennett never seemed to show up in the regular season. Clearly the Panthers, who are playoff bound, are hoping they can unlock Playoff Sam Bennett to help them in their pursuit of a Stanley Cup.
Essentially, the Flames added a sixth rounder to return two second rounders in the Bennett deal. Especially considering how Bennett’s career went in Calgary, it was time to move on, and for a return like this it was a great time to make the move. Hopefully Bennett can provide value to the Panthers in their playoff run.
The trades that didn’t happen
Rittich and Bennett were two players who were rumoured to be on the block this year. However, there were several other players who were not moved, Derek Ryan being at the top of the list.
The Flames were apparently in talks to trade Ryan, but the deal never materialized. He’ll become a UFA at the end of this season, free to sign with whatever team he likes.
Also on that list were pending UFAs Nikita Nesterov, Michael Stone, Brett Ritchie, Josh Leivo, and Joakim Nordstrom. All will remain with the Flames through the end of the season and will then become UFAs.
With the moves made prior to this year’s trade deadline, it seems like Flames management doesn’t feel this team will qualify for the postseason. None of the core members of this team were shipped out yesterday, but the two moves could just be the start of big changes for the Flames. The offseason will be interesting, and we could be watching a very different team on the ice come October.