The 2021 NHL trade deadline came and went, and in the lead up to it, the Calgary Flames were expected to be sellers. Ultimately, the Flames were able to trade David Rittich and Sam Bennett for future picks and Florida’s 2020 second round pick Emil Heineman. So Calgary traded who they could and got back some returns along the way. How does Calgary’s performance at the trade deadline stack up in the eyes of fans? We asked, you answered.
Recapping the returns
Prior to the deadline, a question was posed about how many trades the Flames would be able to make, and it was tricky to answer given the trade market, quarantine restrictions, and so forth. However, most people voted for two Flames being traded and that’s exactly where the Flames ended up. Read the full recap of the Flames’ deadline moves here.
The first trade sent Rittich to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the 2022 third round pick. While Flames no longer have a historic goaltending tandem rostered, they were comfortable ending the season with Jacob Markstrom and Louis Domingue as their starter and backup. Whether the Flames are able to keep pushing for an unlikely playoff berth will determine how much of Domingue we will or won’t see.
The second trade had the Flames bidding adieu to their highest draft pick in franchise history, as Bennett found a new home with the Florida Panthers and landed the Flames a 2022 second round pick, as well the aforementioned Heineman. The Flames also sent a 2022 sixth round pick to Florida to complete the trade.
The Flames also rightfully shopped Derek Ryan, but were unable to find trade partners for the third trade.
So what did people think about the trades that Calgary made? We posed the question on Twitter and Facebook. Note that Twitter experienced some technical issues that did not play with will asking polls. So instead everything discussed comes solely from replies to the posts.
The replies and opinions similarly revolved around the three key points: the Rittich trade, the Bennett trade, and the trades that did not happen.
The David Rittich Trade
For Rittich, the sentiment was simple: the return was better than expected, and we’re sad to see him go. He deserved the fresh start as it was clear what his role on the Flames would be ever since Markstrom signed on.
Rittich now has a legitimate shot at being a part of a deep playoff run as a member of the Maple Leafs. He was one of many trades the Leafs made as they went all in, as Toronto now only holds six picks over the next two drafts combined.
For the Flames to get back a third round pick in a deep 2022 draft, it’s a big win for Calgary as Rittich would have been an unrestricted free agent at seasons’ end anyway. Whether Rittich wants to continue in his backup role and sign back with Calgary or move forward with a team where he’d get more starts, the Flames secured their future by not letting a contract expire for nothing.
Overall, this trade falls under the better than expected category.
The Sam Bennett Trade
Bennett’s career in Calgary has been a rollercoaster with far more lows than highs. For Bennett, every elevated playoff performance was sandwiched by disappointing regular seasons. For whatever reason, he was just never quite able to live up to expectations. When drafted back in 2014, pretty much everyone thought the Flames had a solid prospect that would quickly turn to superstar. That wasn’t the case, and Bennett instead caps off the astounding disappointment of a draft year.
This season was no different either, from Bennett’s earlier trade request to him finding his spot under Darryl Sutter, right back to trading him at the deadline. But for Calgary, Bennett’s rollercoaster ends on a high. The return that Bennett netted was unexpected. Clearly the public sentiment on him from the fanbase falls even lower than NHL offices, as getting the Flames essentially got back two second rounders, one of the biggest returns on a player at the entire deadline.
Now that Bennett is off with a new team in one of the furthest NHL destinations from Calgary, he is no longer the Flames’ problem. Even if he finds success with the Panthers, that’s all the better for the forward that simply could not get it done with the Flames. Come future seasons when things are back to normal, the Flames would only encounter him twice a year (barring the alignment of the stars with the Flames and Panthers meeting in a Cup Final).
To put it succinctly, the Sam Bennett era in Calgary is officially over, and closing the book at the 2021 trade deadline actually worked out great for the Flames. Another trade that’s marked as better than expected.
The trades that did not happen
The biggest name that the Flames couldn’t shop was Ryan’s, as he’s also a pending unrestricted free agent, and has been rather serviceable in his role. He could have gone to a contender with some retained salary on Calgary’s end, but the market just didn’t have a spot for one more trade. There are a few other free agents that could have been valuable depth adds for contenders, but trading for depth from Calgary doesn’t bode well for expectations given how Calgary’s offence has completely cratered this year.
Beating the deadline horse
The Flames could have walked out of the trade deadline handcuffed with no trades made, but the reality of it was that Brad Treliving did exactly what he needed to do. Any general manager in the league in his position would have been tasked with doing the same thing. What was surprising across the board were the returns that he was able to secure.
In both the Rittich and Bennett trades, the returns were higher that expected, and they were all highly valuable draft picks for the 2022 draft, not 2021. Getting picks for 2021 might have actually soured the sentiment on how the Flames did, but with the 2022 draft being one of the deeper ones in recent memory, getting two extra picks there is a huge win.
The Flames went into the deadline knowing they needed to sell, plain and simple. They did what they needed to do in unloading free agents, but the handy work of thinking for the future and targeting 2022 picks as returns was smart and commendable. The highly disappointing performance of 2021 ultimately led to them having real shots of turning into a better team in the future.
In the upcoming offseason, the Flames will be a team to watch as they retool. The moves they make will definitely impact the team’s course, but one thing is certain: expectations of the team will still be sky high.
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