The Calgary Flames picked up a needed, well deserved, and almost must-win game on Tuesday night against the visiting Florida Panthers. The teams, who have been intertwined for a few seasons due to some massive trades, still look mismatched with key players wearing different jerseys than we would expect them to. Now with the season series complete—the Flames taking both games—the narrative is hopefully over.
A potential trade is lurking in the midst that could once again add another player to the other team.
The Flames are in need of a scoring winger, and have been for some time. If the team is going to make one move this season, it’s to fill the gap on the wing. With the Florida Panthers in salary cap hell, the perfect candidate would be Anthony Duclair.
Now you may be thinking, why would Florida trade Duclair who is coming off a career-best season and just making $3M per season against the cap? Because the Panthers mismanaged their cap and are unable to activate Duclair without first clearing out salary cap space.
The perfect trade candidate Patric Hornquist, according to Elliotte Friedman has an agreement in place with the Panthers that eliminates him as a trade candidate due to his previous trade to Florida from Pittsburgh. Add in a nearly $6M cap hit from Keith Yandle’s buyout and the math forces the Panthers to make a deal.
Enter: the Calgary Flames.
There are a number of factors that make acquiring Duclair a no-brainer for the Flames.
Anthony Duclair’s statistics
The last three seasons have been Duclair’s oyster in terms of production, especially when comparing to the rest of his NHL career:
Over the three seasons, Duclair has outpaced himself in terms of points per game. Last season he may have shot at a very high rate, but he was rewarded with a career-high of 31 goals. His game has transitioned from just being a background NHLer into being a scoring threat. His contributions were a big reason for the Panthers’ record-setting season last year.
His underlying numbers continue that trend, with a bit more of a story:
According to Evolving-Hockey.com during those last three years, his offensive pace has clearly been some of the best in the league. His GF/60 and xGF/60 at 5v5 are consistently good, especially in 2020–21, while his power play usage took a massive increase last year as part of his deployment with the Panthers. His offensive game is what the team needs.
His defense leaves a little, and in some cases a lot, to be desired. Of course, the same was said of Jonathan Huberdeau after the Flames acquired him. It’s taken him a bit to adjust to Darryl Sutter’s systems, but it’s not impossible. The same could be said for Duclair. In a much more structured system he could thrive.
Duclair’s fit with the Flames
Now of course let’s get the negative out of the way first. Yes, Anthony Duclair is a left shot. The thing is, so is Huberdeau and they played a decent amount together last year.
|Huberdeau – Bennett – Duclair||52.5%||61.3%||52.7%||47.7%|
|Huberdeau – Duclair||52.2%||60.9%||51.3%||47.6%|
According to NaturalStatTrick.com, Duclair had positive metrics across the board in terms of possession and scoring chances. In fact, he had a higher impact himself as a season average than with his most common linemates. With Huberdeau however, they most often than not possessed the puck and generated more chances than their opponents. Perhaps not saying much when the Panthers were such a juggernaut, but we are talking about two players with a previous history and a successful one at that.
The Flames could easily acquire Duclair, and slot him into the top-nine immediately while distributing their lines a bit more evenly as well. It may require him to play on his off-wing, but it’s a spot he’s familiar with. The lines could look something like this:
Huberdeau – Lindholm – Duclair
Mangiapane – Kadri – Toffoli
Ruzicka – Backlund – Coleman
Dube – Lewis – Ritchie
Wishful man’s thinking this could happen (we see you Milan) but it could make the Flames much more of a threat across all lines while still keeping together some of the chemistry formed this season.
The only thing holding the team back is their cap space, which currently sits at around $1.258M. With the accrued space up until the NHL Trade Deadline, they could have around $5.5M to work with, which is plenty.
If the Flames want to execute a deal now, they would have to make a corresponding trade. The clarity around Oliver Kylington’s situation would also help if they are able to place him on LTIR, as that would create enough to execute a Duclair deal immediately.
The verdict on Duclair
Duclair makes a ton of sense for the Flames, and is a player that could easily be on the move from a team that is in need to make some sort of deal. The Flames may have to give up a decent amount to get him, based on his contract and performance, but have a small amount of leverage based on Florida’s cap situation.
Having now made two significant deals together, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Brad Treliving and Bill Zito pick up the phones once again.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire