Goaltending has been a hot topic in Calgary this season with both Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar underperforming compared to last season. Markstrom’s troubles more notably took the lime light, but Vladar had his inconsistencies this season as well. After setting a franchise record 12-game point streak earlier in the year, Vladar and the Calgary Flames as a whole fell off into a gradual slide.
Much was discussed about the run support—or lack thereof—offered by the offence throughout the season as the team averaged 3.6 goals per game with Vladar in net versus 2.8 goals per game with Markstrom. Regardless, the situation was not ideal either way for the NHL club.
On the other side of the hallway in the Saddledome, Dustin Wolf has once again stolen the show in the AHL. Leading the AHL in all major categories, Wolf has the most shutouts and wins, and the best GAA and SV%. With Wolf destined for his second AHL Goalie of the Year award and another strong Calder Cup run on the front, it raises questions about the long-term plan for the goaltender.
Wolf’s performance hasn’t just been good—it’s been outstanding for two years straight. Next season, it’s time for the undersized goalie to take his place as a full time NHLer.
There lies the problem for Calgary, as they’ll have three NHL calibre goalies and only two roster spots. Trading Markstrom isn’t in the question, so a younger, established NHL backup with starter potential in Vladar is one of Brad Treliving’s biggest assets heading into this offseason.
Trading on draft day
The NHL Draft is going to be a spectacle this year with the most hype since Connor McDavid went first overall in 2015. Brad Treliving has a golden opportunity to move Vladar at the draft. With the tank mentality in full effect this season, there will be teams looking to rebuild virtually from the ground up.
Let’s take a deeper look at some trade proposals that could make sense for Calgary.
Even though the Kraken hold a playoff spot currently in their sophomore season, the team is among the worst in the league in goals saved above average (GSAA). Martin Jones GSAA ranks 86/92 goalies included at -18.46. With Philipp Grubauer playing better this season at a -7.66 GSAA compared to his -24.64 GSAA he posted last season, the Kraken could still look to add a replacement for Jones as he’s taken on a healthy 42 starts this season for the Kraken and will become a free agent at the end of the season.
Vladar could look to be utilized similarly to Jones in a 1A/1B role with Grubauer, also much like Vladar saw clumps of playing time this season in Calgary.
On the trade front, here’s what Seattle could offer.
- To Calgary: 2023 second-round pick (WPG)
- To Seattle: Dan Vladar
Picks are extremely valuable in this year’s draft, hence why the Flames would be after a late second-round selection to replace their lack of a third-round pick. The price may be slightly steep but the market at the deadline was all over the board and Seattle has deep draft capital this year. Could be a win, win for both teams involved.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Flames could try to reunite Vladar with Johnny Gaudreau. Columbus has been a dumpster fire this season after surprisingly winning the Johnny Gaudreau sweepstakes in July. The team looks destined for the highest odds at Connor Bedard and also hold significant draft capital this year after acquiring a conditional first-round pick with Jonathan Quick in a trade that sent Joonas Korpisalo to the Los Angeles Kings at the deadline. That L.A. selection that Columbus holds is on the condition that the Kings make the playoffs which is almost a certainty at this point.
With that in mind, it wouldn’t surprise me if Columbus utilizes this stacked draft class to move picks for more NHL ready talent in the later rounds.
Columbus is in a similar situation as Seattle with goaltending, except they just traded away their starter. It’s a no-brainer that Columbus will be in the goalie market this summer. Vladar has a very attractive contract and could be a perfect player to give a starting role on a relatively young team.
Like Seattle, I think the Blue Jackets would be motivated to move a late second-round or early third-round pick.
- To Calgary: 2023 third-round pick (CBJ)
- To Columbus: Dan Vladar
Columbus also currently owns the Flames’ third round pick, but with Vladar being acquired for a third-round pick from Boston I could see Brad Treliving squeezing as much value out of that high third-rounder from Columbus as possible. Vladar has a much stronger resume at this point. On top of that, an early third-rounder versus a later pick in the same round this year could be as substantial a difference as a second-round to fourth-round drop in next year’s draft class.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues offer a interesting trade opportunity. They’ve definitely entered a rebuild/retool, gaining two first-round picks at the deadline (TOR, NYR). Beyond the long-term strategy, goaltending has been a headline in St. Louis for all the wrong reasons the last few years. The team stuck with Jordan Binnington last offseason and the puck stopper has done much more scrapping and playing tough than stopping pucks. The issue seems to be growing and placing separation between Binnington and the coaching and management of the Blues.
Binnington still has five years left on his current deal but backup Thomas Greiss‘ one-year deal will expire this offseason. Joel Hofer is a young goalie with potential in the Blues system—showing promise in the AHL this year—but he isn’t necessarily ready for a backup role just yet. Vladar could add some stability to the turbulence in the goalie room.
This proposal is a little far fetched I’ll admit. But how sweet it would be to have Jake Neighbours.
- To Calgary: Jake Neighbours
- To St. Louis: Dan Vladar, 2024 third-round pick (CGY)
It is unlikely the Blues part ways with Jake Neighbours but if the return was right they may consider. Besides, what’s the point of making up trade proposals if you don’t bite off more than you can chew every once in a while. The Blues are loaded with picks and with no real solution in sight, they might just go for it. The third-rounder may have to be upped to a second from Calgary’s side of things to seal the deal. It’d be worth it.
Draft day moves can happen
Whether you agree or disagree with these proposals, the Flames are coming up to a pivotal decision within their franchise with the handling of Wolf. In my opinion there’s no reason to keep the young star in the AHL for one more season and that leaves Vladar to exit stage left.
This draft offers a class that’s as deep as ever and could offer much more NHL talent than the average. Capitalizing on an opportunity to move up in the draft this year or accrue more picks in the early to middle rounds is crucial opportunity that could be missed.
The Flames have an asset that can fetch a late high pick and they have the exact solution waiting in the wings to replace him. Vladar has tons of potential in the NHL at a starter level, and plenty of NHL general managers would agree. He just so happens to be the lowest man in the proverbial pecking order of NHL goalies in Calgary’s system.
With time left in the season and the glaring question mark that is the playoffs, the team’s offseason plan could change drastically in the coming months and it could be very interesting to see what the Flames do at the 2023 NHL Draft.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire
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