It is no secret that the Calgary Flames will be adding to their forward group before the puck drops for the 2022–23 season. The Flames currently have 11 players projected to be on the NHL roster at the moment, including rookie Jakob Pelletier. It is absolutely no guarantee that Pelletier will make the NHL and Flames head coach Darryl Sutter may prefer he spends another year in the AHL, so the Flames will have at least one or two forward positions to fill.
The free agent market still has a few players available, such as Evan Rodrigues or Paul Stastny, both of whom I believe the Flames are interested in. But if the asking prices are too high, or those players choose to sign elsewhere, the Flames might have to look to the trade market to add to their forward group.
Teams the Flames can target
Looking at the cap situation around the league, there are several teams who are already above the cap or close to it, and will have to complete some business before next season starts. With teams needing cap space and the lack of options available for them, Calgary is in a good position to acquire a forward for cheaper than market value. After all, Carolina just acquired Max Pacioretty’s $7M dollar cap hit this year along with Dylan Coghlan in exchange for absolutely nothing, as Vegas needed to make room. Let’s jump into some of these teams and the potential forwards on the trade block for cap purposes.
The Canucks find themselves in an extremely unique situation, as they have an extreme amount of top-nine wingers on their roster. This offseason, they added Russian free agent Andrei Kuzmenko and Ilya Mikeyhev, and haven’t subtracted a single piece. Then you glance over at the defensive group, and it isn’t great. Could the Canucks look to move one or two of the immense amount of wingers on their roster to free up space and look for a defensive addition? It would certainly make sense. Looking at the projected forward group right now, we can see the depth of wingers the Canucks have:
Kuzmenko – Miller – Boeser
Podkolzin – Pettersson – Garland
Mikheyev – Horvat – Hoglander
Pearson – Dickinson/Dowling – Lazar
With Tanner Pearson currently projected to play on the fourth line, you have to think a move is coming here. Some of the Canucks forwards that may be a target for the Flames include Conor Garland, Nils Hoglander, Tanner Pearson, or J.T. Miller.
Conor Garland should be the Flames’ number one target, as he contributes positively in both the offensive and defensive ends of the ice and adds a feistiness factor that the Flames lost when Tkachuk departed. Couple Garland’s skillset with his $4.95M average annual value (AAV) cap hit over the next four seasons, and his 52 points in 77 games (0.675 P/GP) in 2021–22, he becomes a very interesting target. Garland’s isolated impact below, courtesy of HockeyViz.com, shows his positive contributions at all ends of the ice:
Nils Hoglander generated plenty of buzz after a solid 27 points in 56 games (0.482 P/GP) campaign in his rookie 2020–21 season. However, he had a sophomore slump in 2021–22, where he only managed 18 points in 60 games (0.3 P/GP). Hoglander serves as a bounce-back candidate this coming year, as his metrics show significant offensive contribution, particularly at the net-front, and above-average defensive play. Could a deal surrounding one of Calgary’s young defencemen and another asset for Hoglander make some sense? I would certainly take a flyer on Hoglander bouncing back and contributing positively to Calgary’s top-nine.
Tanner Pearson is also an interesting name to consider for the Flames, as he already has connections with Darryl Sutter, Tyler Toffoli, Trevor Lewis, and Milan Lucic, all from his time as a Los Angeles King. Pearson has been a solid 35–45 point guy throughout his career, and has two seasons remaining on his $3.25M AAV contract.
If the Flames want to re-unite Pearson with his former teammates and coach, they could certainly take him off of Vancouver’s hands and potentially reunite him with his “70’s line” mate Tyler Toffoli. Pearson certainly isn’t the most flashy and there are better options on the Canucks or other teams, but you can’t argue with the connections he has on the Flames roster already, who may vouch for him.
J.T. Miller will no doubt draw some interest from the Flames this offseason, as they were rumoured to be looking into him during last season. While I can understand the want for a guy who just posted 99 points in 80 games (1.24 P/GP) in 2021–22, I would stay away. There is no doubt the asking price for Miller will be huge after his career season, and he has expressed his interest in going back to the US when he becomes a free agent next summer.
Trading prime assets for a player due to regress this season and leaving in the summer would be bad asset management from GM Brad Treliving. However, from a win-now in 2022–23 perspective, Miller does seem like the best bet.
The Canadiens are in the same boat as the Canucks, with an overabundance of forwards on their roster, especially wingers. As we sit here today, the Canadiens have $250K in cap space and still need to re-sign restricted free agents (RFAs) Kirby Dach and Cayden Primeau. The unknowns of Carey Price’s status complicate things on the cap front, but right now, the Canadiens forward group projects to be:
Caufield – Suzuki – Gallagher
Slafkovsky – Dach – Anderson
Hoffman – Dvorak – Dadonov
Drouin – Evans – Armia
Pezzetta – Pitlick
That is a lot of forwards and cap space spent, even if Slafkosvky doesn’t make the Habs this year.
Christian Dvorak is a player who the Flames were interested in last offseason before he was dealt to the Habs and his versatile skillset should get a look again. The 26-year-old Dvorak has the ability to play both left wing and centre, and has three years remaining with an AAV of $4.45M.
Underlying metrics show Dvorak has a history of being an above average net-front and defensive player, but had a huge down year in 2021–22. Dvorak would be a gamble acquisition as he seems to be a tad overrated, but his versatility and age range certainly fit what Brad Treliving and co. have looked for in the past.
I talked about Joel Armia and how he could be a fit on the Flames in my article reviewing trade proposals on CapFriendly.
Evgeni Dadonov is another player that interests me, but I think he would be more of a deadline acquisition as Montreal just acquired him from Vegas. Dadonov is now on his fourth team in four years, so he may just what to stay settled for a bit, and has a 10-team no trade list, which Calgary could be on.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs are currently above the cap and have yet to re-sign RFA Rasmus Sandin. Alex Kerfoot and his $3.5M cap hit for another season seems like a strong possibility to move, along with defenceman Justin Holl. Kerfoot could intrigue the Flames with his versatility to play left wing or centre, plus he just finished a season where he had a career-high 51 points in 82 games.
Underlying metrics aren’t particularly high on Kerfoot, but Calgary could likely see him as a fit for the middle-six, especially if they can get him for cheap as the Leafs desperately need to get cap space.
New York Islanders
The Islanders currently find themselves with 11.2 million in space left, while still needing to re-sign RFA’s Kieffer Bellows, Alexander Romanov and Noah Dobson. The Islanders are also rumoured to be in on Nazem Kadri, and forwards Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier are potentials to be moved to create cap space.
No one really knows what the Islanders are up to, as GM Lou Lamoriello loves to keep things under wraps and up his sleeves, but we can just assume the Islanders will need to move one of Bailey or Beauvillier.
Josh Bailey has two years left at $5M AAV, while Anthony Beauvillier has 2 years left at $4.15M AAV. Bailey doesn’t intrigue me much, as he is already 32 years of age and showing signs of regression. Beauvillier does intrigue me however, as he is still 25 years of age and had two really strong seasons in 2019–20 and 2020–21. Beauvillier did take a step back in 2021–22, but I would take a shot on him rebounding with his strong net-front and defensive play in a Darryl Sutter system. Because of his down year this past season and the Islanders needing to dump cap if they make significant moves, the Flames have an opportunity to get Beauvillier for very cheap.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings currently find themselves with minimal cap space while still needing to re-sign defensive mainstay RFAs Sean Durzi and Mikey Anderson. With the extensive defensive depth, someone like Sean Walker is likely on the way out, but if they choose to move someone with a bigger cap hit, Viktor Arvidsson could be moved.
With young players like Quinton Byfield, Rasmus Kupari, Arthur Kaliyev, Gabe Vilardi, and Alex Turcotte looking for increased roles on the Kings, Arvidsson could be moved to free up a roster spot in the top-six. Arvidsson has two years left on a cap hit of $4.25M and has been a consistent 50–60 point guy, when healthy. Injuries have plagued Arvidsson in recent seasons, so there is concern about acquiring him, but he still provides significant offensive contributions. Arvidsson would be a fantastic addition for the Flames, as he possesses strong offensive micro-stats in almost every offensive category.
San Jose Sharks
The rebuilding/re-tooling Sharks currently find themselves over the cap with a full roster and need to re-sign RFAs Jonah Gadjovich and Noah Gregor. Trading one of their three NHL-calibre goalies making over $2M a season could be the solution, but if the Sharks seek to keep all three, trading a forward could be the move. Two options stick out to me on the Sharks roster, Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc.
I previously discussed Timo Meier in depth when looking at options to replace Matthew Tkachuk and his net-front presence. Meier would be a fantastic addition to the Flames, but his contract status beyond next year is a concern due to his $10M qualifying offer.
Kevin Labanc is the former linemate of Andrew Mangiapane from their junior years with the Barrie Colts of the OHL. There is a plethora of injury concerns with Labanc, but he has shown some offensive flash in the past, notably in 2018–19, where he had 56 points in 82 games (0.683 P/GP). At two more years with a cap hit of $4.725M, there is certainly some risk in taking on Labanc and his previous injury history. But Labanc has had solid offensive metrics at or near the net-front in the past, with decent defensive contributions, so he could be an interesting gamble.
Treliving has already turned what was on track to be a disastrous offseason into one that reignited the Flames. Should there be any additional moves—which seem likely—turning to teams in need to cap relief can put the Flames in a position to pry some players to make them even better. Let’s see how the rest of the offseason pans out for Calgary.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire