The NHL Trade Deadline has come and gone, and the Calgary Flames made two moves. Most of the action around the league was done over the past two previous weeks, leaving yesterday’s action to mostly minor moves. The Flames had been extremely quiet heading into yesterday, as they were the only team that wasn’t involved in a trade during the 2022–23 season. They got into action in the last hour of the trade deadline. Both deals were on the minor side in terms of impact, but could be a marginal improvement for the club.
Dryden Hunt for Radim Zohorna
The first trade of the day saw the Flames ship off LW/C Radim Zohorna to the Toronto Maple Leafs, in exchange for LW/RW Dryden Hunt. Both players will report to the respective AHL clubs, for now. Both Zohorna and Hunt are UFA’s at the end of this season.
The Flames previously claimed Zohorna on waivers during preseason, and he has spent the majority of his time with the AHL Wranglers, notching 29 points in 40 games. He also spent 8 games with the Flames this season, with no points. Losing a waiver claim is no harm, no foul.
Who is Dryden Hunt?
Dryden Hunt has been quite the journeyman this season. Starting the season with the New York Rangers, where he had one goal in three games, Hunt was placed on waivers, and claimed by the Colorado Avalanche. I was beating the drum for the Flames to look at Hunt during these waiver placement, as he made a ton of sense for the club:
Hunt played in 25 games with the Avs, notching one goal, before being dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Denis Malgin, on December 19. Hunt played nine games with the Leafs, again scoring one goal, before being placed on waivers, and later assigned to the Toronto Marlies. In 15 games with the Marlies, Hunt had nine points.
Hunt, who lives in Calgary and has familiarity with Flames defenceman MacKenzie Weegar, will surely enjoy the opportunity to stay in one place for the rest of this season. I would imagine the 27-year-old winger will be at the top of the list for call-ups to the main club.
Looking at Hunt’s Isolated 5v5 Impact, courtesy of HockeyViz.com, we can see that Hunt has been a very solid defensive player throughout his time in the NHL so far. He had one very effective season in 2020–21, but the offensive impacts have tailed off since then.
Looking deeper into his microstats, Hunt fits the dump and chase, physical forechecking system that the Flames employ, coupled with good defensive results. I would probably play him over both Nick Ritchie, who we will look at in a bit, and Milan Lucic, to be honest.
It looks as though the Flames have had interest in Hunt for quite some time, dating back to signing him to an entry-level contract all the way back in 2016:
Troy Stecher and Nick Ritchie for Brett Ritchie and Connor Mackey
The last deal of the Flames deadline was a bit of a bigger move, as it involves players on the NHL roster. The Calgary Flames sent RW Brett Ritchie and D Connor Mackey to the Arizona Coyotes, in exchange for LW Nick Ritchie and D Troy Stecher.
The Coyotes’ return
The Flames do right by Connor Mackey, and send him somewhere he can hopefully play. Mackey only got into 10 games with the Flames this season, scoring three points. A very highly touted free agent, here’s hoping Mackey can reach his potential alongside former Flames defenceman Jusso Valimaki. Brett Ritchie was a good 13th forward for the Flames, putting up eight points in 34 games. I didn’t mind him on this Flames team at all, and hoping he finds a good spot in Arizona.
On the flip side, the Flames and Coyotes make news with the first trade exchanging brothers:
The Flames’ return
The brother coming back to Calgary is Nick Ritchie, who is a top ten draft pick from 2014. He has bounced around the league quite a bit, never fully reaching the potential as a power forward. The 6’2″, 230 lbs winger has nine goals and 21 points in 52 games this season, and 80 goals and 181 points in his 465 game career to this date.
The Flames also received defenceman Troy Stecher from the Coyotes, who replaces the need at RD left by Michael Stone’s injury. Stecher has been of interest for the Flames for many years, so they finally get him here. The 5’10”, 186 lbs defenceman plays hard, and has seven points in 61 games this season, and 96 points in his 420 game career thus far. Ritchie, 27, has a cap hit of $2.5M and is a pending UFA at seasons end. Similarly, the 28-year-old Stecher has a cap hit of $1.25M, and is also a pending UFA at season’s end.
Microstats show Stecher as a good in-zone defenceman, who is a quality possession and puck mover. Here is a separate deep dive into Troy Stecher’s game.
What are the Flames getting in Nick Ritchie? Well, to put it bluntly, I don’t see much.
Starting with microstats, Ritchie does fit the dump and chase, plus the physical playstyle of a fourth line played by the Flames. Ritchie is also a volume shooter, and is a net-front presence, which is a category surely missed by the Flames this season. However, Ritchie is very inconsistent, and hasn’t scored a point in 11 games.
Looking at Ritchie’s Isolated 5v5 Impact, we can see that Ritchie does have a history of getting shot opportunities from the net-front. However, Ritchie struggles in the defensive end, being a negative contributor in five of his last six seasons. The last two seasons have been particularly tough, which we can probably attribute to playing on the Coyotes this season.
In glancing at Arizona’s 5v5 impacts with and without Ritchie, we see some concerning trends. Offensively, they are actually a bit better with Ritchie in the lineup, and we can see some shot attempts from the net-front. if he can continue to play at the net-front, it would be a huge boost for the Flames. Defensively, major concerns rise with Ritchie on the ice. Going from +4% to +27% is crazy, with an insane amount of shot attempts happening at all areas of the defensive end.
Is Nick Ritchie an upgrade over Milan Lucic? Maybe? Both are pretty slow skaters, and similar player types.
I don’t think he should be playing over anyone in the top-nine currently, and I would hope he starts on the fourth line, and stays there. I really don’t see much here.
Calgary’s deadline summed up
I am very glad they didn’t expend future assets or current prospects to try and help salvage this season. The Flames have a very low chance at making the playoffs, but stranger things have happened. The addition of Dryden Hunt could be sneaky good, and I think he could be a guy that sticks around for a few seasons. I also like Troy Stecher, and I think he will form a very decent pairing alongside Nikita Zadorov. Hopefully he can stick around for a few seasons. I am not moved by Nick Ritchie at all, but the fact he has some net-front history could at least serve as a useful tool for the reminder of this season.
Ultimately, General Manager Brad Treliving didn’t expend any future assets, and improved his defence. I don’t think this is the deadline many hoped for, but I think they did marginally improve. Lots of question remain, but at least they didn’t add someone like Joel Edmundson, who was linked to the Flames in recent days.
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