Calgary Flames

Evaluating the Calgary Flames’ trade chips heading into the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline

Historically, Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving has been comfortable playing with his draft capital, trading away two first-round picks (for Dougie Hamilton and Travis Hamonic), as well as numerous second-, third-, and later-round picks in his tenure. He has been far less comfortable trading away the draft picks that he made, moving just two since 2014. Those two, Sam Bennett and Adam Fox, were both out of necessity, as one asked for a trade and the other refused to sign with the Flames.

Over the last two seasons, the Flames have shored up their weaknesses, acquiring a bona-fide starting netminder in Jacob Markstrom, adding Chris Tanev to the blueline, as well as putting together what is arguably the best top line in the league in Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, and Matthew Tkachuk. With the way the team is playing, this is a great season for the Flames to go all-in.

Of course, the cost to push the chips into the middle is not cheap, and while the Flames do have some great pieces, they are one or two moves short of being real contenders. It is unlikely that the team will want to part with roster players if they can help it, so they will need to use either their draft capital or prospect pool to make themselves better in the short term.

Flames prospects as trade chips

As we do with TWC’s weekly Prospect Roundups, a prospect must be 25 years or younger and have played in less than 65 NHL games. This discounts Juuso Valimaki and Kylington but includes Adam Ruzicka, Glenn Gawdin, and so many more. Here’s who they have available and how likely it would be they moved them.

The untouchables

Dustin Wolf

The player that is the most untouchable is goaltending prospect extraordinaire Dustin Wolf. The AHL rookie has been among the best netminders in the league, and easily the Heat’s best player this season. The Flames struggled in net until they acquired Jacob Markstrom in 2020, but will be hoping to graduate their first above-average goalie from their prospect pool in years. As a result, there is little to no chance the Flames move Wolf.

Jakob Pelletier

Prior to this season, there were many who discounted Pelletier as a sub-replacement level NHLer, if one at all. This season, he has been arguably the best rookie in the AHL, and has taken a huge step forward in his development. He has the most value of all the forward prospects in the Flames’ pool, so he is the least likely of the group to be moved. Given this is his rookie year, he almost certainly has more to give, and the Flames will want to see that through before moving him at this point.

Blockbuster trades required

Adam Ruzicka

The 2017 fourth-round pick has gone from being an AHLer to earning what appears to be a regular role in the Flames’ lineup this season, having put up four points in 11 games so far this season. Barring an unmitigated collapse, Adam Ruzicka is almost certainly going to stay in the Flames’ lineup, having clearly lapped Brad Richardson for that role.

With the team hoping to contend for the Cup this season, removing a roster player from your lineup seems like an unwise decision unless you are getting the same number of better roster players back. The Flames are still evaluating what Ruzicka brings at this point, but they clearly like what they see. If they end up acquiring a top-six winger and a depth player, Ruzicka may be a piece to part with. It would have to be a substantial increase in both categories to consider it however.

Connor Zary

Connor Zary has not had the season anyone expected. He started the year with a lower body injury that kept him out of the lineup for nearly three months, then returned to play at centre at the pro level, something that he did not do in his first stint with the Heat last year. Not an easy ask.

However, it is not worth giving up on the first-round selection from two years ago. If Zary develops into an excellent centreman at this level, the sky’s the limit for him. Even if he doesn’t, he has shown he can play wing exceptionally well, and moving him back there is very easy to do. Parting with him is unwise at this point as his potential is enormous, but if the return is reliable help up front, he may be sacrificed.

Rory Kerins

Kerins has been far and away the Flames’ best prospect outside of the AHL. He has contended for the OHL’s scoring lead all season long as a 19-year-old, and has been a huge surprise for the Flames after spending most of the year on the Heat’s scratch list.

Given he is a multifaceted player with so many exceptional qualities, the Flames will not want to move him unless a huge offer comes through the door. He clearly has a lot more to give, and his production to now points to him being an impact NHLer in a few years. Unless the Flames really want to sell high on the prospect and give up on that potential, expect him to stay in the prospect pool for a few more years.

Matthew Coronato

While his numbers have not jumped off the charts, Matthew Coronato is the highest pick in the organization’s prospect pool and is highly regarded. While the wound may never heal on Fox taking his talents elsewhere, the Flames do not need to exercise caution towards Coronato doing the same. That’s an awful approach to asset management and for all intents and purposes, Coronato is on track to be a Calgary Flame at the NHL level.

The Flames are far better off keeping him as they lack the elite scoring ability that he brings. Developing him is exactly their plan, but they must be cognizant that he may be the price they have to pay for the player they want.

Jeremie Poirier

Expected to be a late first-round pick, Jeremie Poirier was taken by the Flames in the third round, and immediately became one of the biggest steals of the 2020 NHL Draft. He sits inside the top five in scoring by a defenceman in the QMJHL, and is easily the Flames’ best defenceman outside of their pro ranks currently.

Having just signed his entry-level contract this season, Poirier is a player the Flames want to hang onto. He is on track to break the Saint John Sea Dog’s all-time points record (which is currently held by Thomas Chabot). If he develops into even 75% of the defenceman that Chabot is, he is well worth keeping in Calgary. Barring a game-changing piece coming back to the Flames, Poirier should be considered nearly unmoveable.

Johannes Kinnvall

This may seem like an odd one, but it seems incredibly unlikely that the Flames will move Johannes Kinnvall at this point. After spending the first half of the season on the IR, Kinnvall has started the second part of the season just shy of a point-per-game, has quarterbacked the Heat’s top power play, and has been one of their best play-driving defencemen this season. Prior to joining the Flames, he was one of the top offensive defencemen in the SHL last season.

The Flames have two right handed defencemen in the prospect pool outside the NHL: him and Jake Boltmann. Based on his trajectory, Kinnvall would be on track to earning an NHL call-up sooner than he gets traded. However if the right offer comes along and the Flames just cannot say no then he would be another “worth the cost” type trade chip. However, with the Flames’ love of Swedish blueliners, expect Kinnvall to stay.

2022 first-round pick

Treliving was willing to move his first-round pick over his first few seasons in charge, but has opted to keep them for a selection in four of the last five seasons. With the hopes of a deep playoff run, the odds of that being a very late first-round pick grow, and the likelihood of selecting a generational talent diminishes. As a result, if the Flames are looking to add one of the top names rumored to be available this year, this may be the piece they part with.

Draft picks are less emotional to part with than players. The organization does not yet have a face or name associated with it at this point. They don’t know anything about the player that could be selected at this point.

That said, the Flames won’t want to move a draft pick this season unless they are doing so for a player with term. This is projected to be a very deep draft with great players to be had throughout the first round. While they are out of the running for potential first overall pick Shane Wright, there are elite talents to be had even into the mid-teens or early 20s.

It’d be a rare strategy if a first-rounder is included in a deadline trade. The Flames have parted with first-round draft picks over the last few years at the draft and free agency; however, they have not moved a first-round pick at the deadline since they acquired Olli Jokinen in 2009 from the Arizona Coyotes.

Listening on offers

Matthew Phillips

This one hurts. The all-time Heat leader in points cannot buy a call-up to Calgary. It seems unconscionable that the 2016 sixth-round pick has still only appeared in just one NHL game (late last season) despite being among the top point producers in the AHL this year. There is something lacking in Matthew Phillips‘ game for the Flames and given their unwillingness to call him up, he may be a piece on the way out. Recall that he was exposed for the 2021 expansion draft as well.

The trouble is that if the Flames don’t trust him in the NHL, why would any team value him either? He cannot bump out Brett Ritchie who has not even put a single point on the board! This limits his value in a trade substantially unless a team looks at Phillips as a piece being wasted by the Flames. Unfortunately, his height will likely be a discounting vote against him for many NHL GMs.

Glenn Gawdin

A stout responsible centre, Glenn Gawdin is unlikely to see much time with the Flames barring a couple of injuries. However, he clearly has the chops to be a replacement-level centreman at the NHL level on a very cheap contract. For a team looking to shed cap space and still ice a decent lineup, they could do worse than Gawdin.

His NHL looks have been average thus far this season, and his inability to really earn a role this season is going to discount his trade value. However, with some more time in the big league, he can probably grow into that role. Centres always have value in this league, and Gawdin has shown he is too good for the AHL. Given the Flames signed him as an over-ager and did not spend a draft pick on him, Gawdin could be a player the Flames offer up as part of their deadline moves.

Connor Mackey

Like Gawdin, Connor Mackey is found money for the organization. Signed as a college free agent, he was expected to be a mainstay on the Flames blueline as early as the beginning of last season. However in his few appearances, he has fallen far short of expectations, looking fine at best and mediocre at worst. While he did take strides over his time in the AHL last season and into this one, be he has struggled to earn a real call-up to the Flames this season.

While he may be handy depth to have in case of an injury, the Flames have a number of options for left handed defencemen already in the organization. On top of that, given his progression at the AHL level, the Flames may need to trade in on his current value to maximize their chances in the playoffs this season. Mackey likely tops out as a bottom pairing defenceman in the organization’s mind, but if another team sees more in him, it may be worth letting him go now than waiting and seeing what he could become.

The Flames or Florida Panthers’ 2022 second-round pick

The Flames have two second-round selections in this year’s draft, and one could be on the move at the deadline. Just as mentioned on first-round picks, they have less value to teams as there is no attachment to them like they have with players, and the Flames have never been afraid to play with their picks.

There have been a number of players acquired for second-round picks at the deadline including Marcus Johansson in 2019 for one plus a fourth-round pick, Chris Stewart to Minnesota in 2015, and Sven Baertschi to Vancouver for the second-round pick to the Flames that became Rasmus Andersson.

While they do not have a third-round pick, the Flames may be more inclined to move one of these two picks for some immediate help. It’d be more ideal for them to part with a second-round pick for a rental player than a first. It could be done if they acquire someone with term for a second-round pick plus a later-round selection—that would be very smart business from Treliving.

Sweeteners in trade packages

The Flames have a few prospects who may be thrown in to help close a deal if needed. This group includes some of the more established AHLers particularly Martin Pospisil or Walker Duehr, who may be just a step or two away from an NHL look. The Flames have a lot of depth players in their lineup already that the odds of either making and cementing a role in the organization feels limited. Duehr was also a college signee, which may make him more expendable by the organization than a draft pick.

The Flames also have a few younger prospects that could be thrown into a trade. Players like Ryan Francis or William Stromgren have a ways to go before they are ready for a look at the NHL level. Francis has made a name for himself in the QMJHL over the last few years while Stromgren is a high pedigree player in Sweden. If the Flames do not think either will be ready for an NHL look in their window, it may be worth using them to help close a deal without having to give up much more of value.

The more likely option here is a later-round pick in this year or next year’s draft. The Flames have done some fine business with these assets at the deadline, acquiring Erik Gustafsson for a third-round pick, Derek Forbort for a fourth-round pick, and Oscar Fantenberg for a fourth-round pick as well. They also moved Sam Bennett and a sixth-round selection for Emil Heineman and a second-round pick last season.

The team is unafraid to move their mid-round picks for help at the bottom end of their roster, but if they have ambitions of going after a big name player, sweetening the deal with a mid to late-round pick may be the final piece they need to finally land one.

Don’t hold enough value to move the needle

The tough thing about prospects is that outside of the organization, teams do not value prospects as highly as their own. With exceptions being high draft picks that were likely explored by most teams at the draft or players who have had their stocks rise at international tournaments, many just do not have the name recognition or value in the eyes of selling teams.

This discounts most prospects on the Flames, but the the converse is that only the Flames see the potential value of many of their prospects, especially lesser-known names like Jack Beck, Ilya Nikolayev, Mathias Emilio Pettersen, and more. These players likely would not move the needle in a trade, but could develop into serviceable NHLers down the road if all things break the right way.

For the Flames this season, if moving their chips into the middle for a playoff run is the plan this season, and with the state of the organization, this may be a good decision, these are the picks that the Flames have to play with this year. The near-NHL ready players and picks may be the ones the Flames look to move this season.

Taking stock for the trade deadline

The Flames are expected to be highly active heading into this year’s trade deadline. At this point they have to evaluate all of their trade chips and be willing to spend. It’s a necessity for this team at this point and there’s no telling what moves will end up happening for the Flames by the deadline’s end.

We’ll soon learn if the current stocks in their trade chips end up being true. Let’s see what they end up doing.

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