Calgary Flames

The Flames should sell their pending UFAs ahead of the 2022–23 NHL Trade Deadline

We are now a little more than a week out from the 2022–23 NHL Trade Deadline on March 3. We’ve seen some notable action recently, with the likes of Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, Noel Acciari, and Tyler Motte moving to new teams over recent weeks. Most teams have a clear direction of what they are going to do ahead of the deadline, but a few teams still sit in limbo.

One of those teams is the Calgary Flames, who have racked up losses to the Blackhawks, Senators, Flyers, and Red Wings (twice) over the last nine games. It’s a tough position for General Manager Brad Treliving to find himself in, as he went all-in during the summer, and signed a plethora of lengthy contract extensions.

Discourse ahead of the deadline

With the turmoil the team finds themselves in, I think the best course of action would be to sell on pending unrestricted free agents (UFAs). This would help them to recoup some lower draft capital which they lost going all-in at the deadline last year. The Flames lost a 2023 third-round pick and 2024 seventh in the Jarnkrok deal, as well as a 2023 fifth and 2024 fifth in the Toffoli and Carpenter deals, respectively.

Or, maybe the Flames look at the Tyler Motte deal as an outline. The Senators dealt Motte to the Rangers to Julien Gauthier and a conditional 2023 seventh-rounder, which upgrades to a 2023 sixth-rounder if the Rangers advance past the first round of the playoffs. In this model, you deal a pending UFA for an underachieving player you will have under team control, as well as a draft pick.

Players to choose from

The Flames list of pending UFAs includes Milan Lucic, Trevor Lewis, Brett Ritchie, and Michael Stone. While those aren’t the biggest names on the planet, they could provide some solid depth options for teams looking to go on a deep playoff run.

Milan Lucic

Before we start, let’s make one thing clear. Lucic has a no-move clause (NMC) and a modified no-trade clause (M-NTC). So, Lucic has the final say and could block any move with his NMC, but if he does waive, his M-NTC lists 10 teams which he would accept a move to. Being a family man, Lucic might want to stay put, which is completely within his right. But if he wants to chase another Stanley Cup, I’m sure there would be interest. Lucic has the reputation of being one of the toughest players in the league, and has a Stanley Cup ring from his time with the Boston Bruins.

If Nicolas Deslauriers can fetch a third-rounder at the trade deadline last year, I have to imagine the Flames could get at least a fourth-rounder if they eat half of Lucic’s salary.

Trevor Lewis

The 36-year-old veteran provides a unique blend of skillsets that every GM wants on their fourth line. Lewis is versatile with the ability to play centre or wing, while also contributing to a teams penalty kill. Lewis can also provide veteran experience, and has two Stanley Cup rings from 2012 and 2014 to speak for it. There is always a market for this type of player at the deadline, and the Flames made a similar move when they acquired Ryan Carpenter at the deadline last year. Lewis also has a manageable $800K cap hit that is very easy to fit in.

I’d imagine Lewis could fetch you at least a fourth-rounder, given the Stanley Cup and veteran pedigree he brings with him. At last year’s deadline, Vladislav Namestnikov and Derick Brassard each netted a fourth rounder.

Brett Ritchie

The rough and tough fourth liner has seen himself on the scoresheet a decent amount this season, with six goals in 34 games. I think some team out there would be willing to give up a late pick to bring Ritchie in, and add a guy that can grind down the opponent. Edmonton had interest before he signed with the Flames in the summer, could there be a deal there? His cap hit of $750K is very easy to fit in for any acquiring team.

Michael Stone

As I’m writing this, the status of Michael Stone is up in the air. Sportsnet’s Eric Francis reported that Stone was using crutches and wearing a walking boot on Monday, where he missed a game against the Flyers. Given this injury status, and the fact the Flames are already thin on blueline depth, I would classify a Stone trade as unlikely. But there is always a market for defencemen, especially those with a right shot. Maybe the Flames get a conditional pick back depending on if he meets a games plays threshold. He’s been a perfect depth defenceman for the Flames for several years now, so maybe he sticks around for many more!

Reminiscing about the Glencross trade in 2015

Some might see the Flames selling as them giving up on the season, but that’s not the case. It is just smart asset management to recoup some assets if you aren’t all-in.

Brad Treliving made a sneaky good move during his first deadline, sending Curtis Glencross to the Washington Capitals, in exchange for a 2015 second- and third-round pick. The Flames then went on a run with the “Cardiac Kids” and secured a playoff spot, even going as far as beating the Vancouver Canucks in Round 1. It was a Cinderella run for a team that shipped off a pending UFA at the deadline. And it’s even better looking at what Calgary turned those picks into:

  • The Flames packaged Washington’s 2015 third rounder and their own and sent them to the Arizona Coyotes to move into the later stages of the second round. With that newly acquired second-rounder, the Flames selected Oliver Kylington.
  • Washington’s 2015 second0rounder was packaged along with Calgary’s own 2015 first- and second-round picks, and sent to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Dougie Hamilton.

As we all know, Hamilton was later packaged in a deal with Michael Ferland and unsigned prospect Adam Fox (cries) and sent to the Carolina Hurricanes for Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin.

I would say both trades ended up working out very nicely for the Flames, and it’s all because they sold on a pending UFA at the deadline.

A minimalistic deadline

Trading pending UFAs like Lucic, Lewis, Ritchie, and Stone would not make for an earth-shattering deadline for Calgary. But, it gives the organization the chance to recoup some draft capital or acquire some younger players—like Ottawa just did with the Motte/Gauthier deal. Moving these players would also allow you to give more playing time to the likes of Walker Duehr, Radim Zohorna, or even Nicolas Meloche.

The Glencross deal in 2015 proved that a team can sell its pending free agents, recoup assets, and still make a run for the playoffs. And who knows, maybe you turn the asset you got in one of these deals into the next Oliver Kylington, or use it in a deal to eventually land an Elias Lindholm or a Noah Hanifin. Extreme examples, I know, but given the way this Flames season has gone so far, recouping some extra draft capital or young players seems like a smart play going forward.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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