Calgary Flames

Should the Calgary Flames make a move for Vitali Kravtsov?

Stop if you’ve heard this before: the Calgary Flames and General Manager Brad Treliving are linked to yet another available trade target. Early last week, Elliotte Friedman broke the news that 21-year-old right winger Vitali Kravtsov was unhappy with his situation with the New York Rangers. After failing to report to the team’s AHL affiliate, Kravtsov and his agent were granted permission to speak to other teams to see if there was a potential fit for the 2018 ninth overall pick.

As many as 15 teams appeared to show interest in Kravtsov after the news broke, and Nick Kypreos broke the news that one of the teams interested were the Flames:

Never one to shy away from available players, Treliving looks to be back to his old tricks in looking into a potential deal just two games into the season. That being said, this one feels a bit different due to the player’s age and NHL experience. So does it make sense for the Flames to pull off a deal? Let’s take a look.

What Vitali Kravtsov brings to the table

Kravtsov was taken early in the 2018 NHL Draft above fellow forwards like Oliver Wahlstrom, Ty Dellandra, and most notably Joel Farabee. He was the third highest right wing drafted, behind only Andrei Svechnikov and Filip Zadina, which is quite the company. Elite Prospects had the following to say about him:

A big, skilled winger that can play up and down the lineup and provide scoring in a number of roles. He brings grit and physical size, but could be more assertive in throwing his weight around more. Displays excellent speed on the rush and in zone entry, but could backcheck quicker. Plays well in his own end and takes away lanes. Very good hands and awareness. Kravtsov has the potential to develop into a staple top six forward that can produce at the next level.

Elite Prospects

Surely a team would love to have that skill in their lineup, right? Well the main issue for the Rangers is the wealth of riches that they have at forward in their top-six group. After drafting Kravtsov, who was easily projected to fill one of the top-six right wing positions long-term, the Rangers went out and drafted Kaapo Kakko second overall and then followed that up by landing Alexis Lafreniere the following season. Add in veteran Chris Krieder, the massive contract to Artemi Panarin, the trade for Sammy Blais, and the signing of Barclay Goodrow and suddenly both the top-six and RW depth is completely full.

No surprise the 21-year-old isn’t too happy with his place in the organization. It would be near impossible for him to not only fit into the top-six, but even cracking their lineup moving forward is a tougher task.

With just 20 games of NHL experience under his belt (and two goals and four points to show for it), there is also no wonder why Chris Drury and the front office aren’t trying to move hell and high water to get him into their top-six in the short-term. There is just a clear impasse.

What kind of player has he shown to be at the NHL level? Using Micah Blake McCurdy’s impact charts, the results are less than spectacular.

In such a limited sample size it’s hard to really jump to any sort of conclusions, but it’s safe to say he didn’t blow anyone’s expectations out of the water in his 20 games last season. A bigger role and better opportunity may be what he needs to prove himself, but where exactly would be a key factor.

Enter the Calgary Flames.

The fit between the Flames and Kravtsov

Of course if there is a 21-year-old right winger available on the trade market, the Calgary Flames should be interested in acquiring him. That being said, there are two key factors that may complicate a deal: his spot in the lineup and the acquisition cost.

Starting with the lineup, if Kravtsov and his agent are looking for a top-six role, it would be interesting to see where he slots. It would be safe to assume that he wouldn’t knock Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane, or Blake Coleman out of that spot immediately. He may have more upside compared to Milan Lucis, Tyler Pitlick, Brad Richardson, or Trevor Lewis, but would Darryl Sutter give him the opportunity to prove that? It’s a hard question to ask.

Of course in the Flames organization, the RW depth is severely lacking and therefore logic would assume he could get a chance somewhere in the top-nine at least to spread the forward group out a bit more. It’s still a big question mark.

Secondly, and more importantly, the cost to acquire Kravtsov is hard to pinpoint. This isn’t a former first-round pick that has been driven off the lot and depreciated in value, Kravtsov still has the potential to be a key player in this league. It’s just a high stakes game of poker at this point.

Olli Juolevi comes to mind when looking at a former top-ten pick that was traded. Taken fifth overall in 2016, Juolevi never was able to impress or make an impact in Vancouver and was just traded for Noal Juulsen and Juho Lammikko. Now nothing against those two players, but due to Juolevi’s lack of impact the Canucks were able to get two depth players who could play immediately. It doesn’t sound like New York is interested in that type of transaction.

Let’s look at a deal the Flames recently made. Sam Bennett was traded last season for a future second-round pick and Emil Heineman. With far more NHL experience under his belt—albeit with mixed results—Bennett was able to snag the Flames two future assets. This would be a deal the Flames could execute, and in fact if Bennett was still on the team he most likely would have been the prime candidate to be moved.

So how does this type of deal work out between the Flames and Rangers if Kravtsov is the target? The issue comes when looking at the Flames prospect depth. They have their top tier group of Connor Zary, Jacob Pelletier, Matthew Coronato, and Dustin Wolf that would most likely be non-starters, and then they have a bit of a drop off in terms of attractive assets that a team may be willing to look at in a trade.

Knowing the Rangers, they most likely would be looking for either a first-round pick or a former first-round selection as a return, which the Flames just simply should not do at this point in the season. The risk would just be too large.

Now if the Flames could use their additional second-round pick, plus a mid-level prospect, that would be more appetizing for Calgary. Whether the Rangers would entertain that or not remains to be seen.

Let’s make a deal

With some rumours pointing Dylan Strome to the Rangers as part of a Kravtsov package, the Flames’ interest in Kravtsov is hard to determine. It would be tough to see the Flames part with a young established roster player in a deal for him, but the same can be said for a top-level prospect. Kravtsov may project to be a top-six right winger down the road, but the Flames may just not want to commit to that.

Treliving and the Flames have a bad history of trading for former first-round picks—such as the Curtis Lazar deal—and you would hate for history to repeat itself.

At this point in time, if the Flames cannot get the acquisition cost down then it would be best to stay away. Of course, crazier things have happened.

Photo by Michael Ainsworth/AP

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