We are less than four weeks away from the NHL Trade Deadline on March 3. The activity is about to ramp up in the weeks to come, so we are laying out a variety of targets that the Flames might be interested in. We have already focused on the Philadelphia Flyers last week, looking into winger James van Riemsdyk. Today, we focus on Flyers defenceman Justin Braun, who is a pending unrestricted free agent and likely to be dealt by the deadline.
Should the Flames be buyers? Not in the position they are in right now. They currently sit ninth in the Western Conference, due to their incredibly mediocre first 50 games. However, Flames General Manager Brad Treliving committed this team to contending for the Cup when he signed Nazem Kadri in free agency, and traded for and signed Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar to massive extensions. Missing the playoffs simply cannot happen. It’s an unfortunate circumstance to be in, and quite the risk for Treliving to take.
I would prefer the route in which the Flames trade pending UFA’s such as Trevor Lewis, Milan Lucic, Brett Ritchie, and Michael Stone, to try and recoup some of the lower picks they’ve sent away in the last few years. But as mentioned before, the Flames are likely to be buyers—should the Flames remain in the hunt in the weeks leading up to the deadline. So, we will focus on some additions that the Flames could make.
Today’s focus is on Justin Braun, who has been a veteran defenceman for 825 regular season, and 119 playoff games. The 35-year-old defender is known for being a prototypical defensive defenceman. Looking at his microstats, Braun excels in shot blocking, entry defence, physicality, and exit transition.
Per CapFriendly.com, Braun has a cap hit of $1M this season, and is due to become a UFA at the end of the 2022–23 season. Because of the salary increases for the Flames next year, the rental route is very likely the way the Flames go.
Why would the Flames be interested in Braun? Well, due to the absence of Oliver Kylington on the Flames blueline, a hole has developed. Michael Stone is a perfect seventh defender, but in playing a full season, some cracks have started to develop, particularly in the defensive end. Stone’s Isolated 5v5 Impact below, per HockeyViz.com, shows a consistent trend in providing some quality offence, particularly from the right point. However, the trend in his defensive game has never been very positive. Adding a pure defensive defenceman to alternate with Stone makes a ton of sense.
A deeper look into Justin Braun’s game
Is Braun the successful defensive defenceman he’s made out to be? If we look at his Isolated 5v5 Impact, we can see a consistent trend of good defensive impacts. The offensive end isn’t Braun’s focus at all, and it doesn’t need to be for a defensive defenceman. The defensive results are fantastic throughout his career, with limited shot attempts near the front of the net. This is the exact results you look for in a defender, and the 6’2″, 205 lbs Dman would be a perfect fit on Calgary’s third pairing.
Glancing now at Philadelphia’s 5v5 With and Without impacts, we can see the effects he’s had on the Flyers this season. The offensive zone gets worse with Braun on the ice. But, the defensive end goes from being really bad without Braun, to really good with him. The biggest trend I can see is that the Flyers are letting excess shot attempts at the front of the net without Braun on the ice. With Braun on the ice, shot attempts from the opposition are limited at the net front, and the middle of the ice.
Should the Flames pursue Braun?
If the Flames are indeed going to be buyers, and want a defenceman, Braun is a great candidate. The Flames lack depth on the backend, and could use a pure defensive defenceman for the third pair. Justin Braun is a pure defensive defender, and based on our underlying analysis, we can see he’s quite good in his role. I think Braun could play the exact role that Gudbranson played last year: third pairing and first unit penalty kill.
Braun is a guy with a ton of experience, including many deep postseason runs with the Sharks. He’s the exact calibre of veteran defenceman you want to add at the deadline, if you want to make a deep playoff run. As mentioned earlier, Calgary hasn’t shown they are that team in any way so far, but might have to add to save face.
My proposed offer in the van Riemsdyk deep dive met both of the Flames needs. The Flyers would send both James van Riemsdyk and Justin Braun, while the Flames would send Kevin Rooney and a 2024 2nd round pick.
We have a ton more deadline coverage in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!