The Calgary Flames’ offseason has already been extremely interesting with the departures of Brad Treliving and Darryl Sutter in exchange for Craig Conroy, Dave Nonis, and a yet-to-be-named coach. Before that even gets started, it’s important to note that the Flames are already capped out, with new contracts for Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, and Daniel Vladar kicking in this summer. So, the Flames would have to move bodies out before bringing others in. With the disappointment of last season, a new GM in place, and the uncertainty of many Flames players past the 2023–24 season, we can expect some changes.
One of the players that should be of massive interest to the Flames is Alex DeBrincat. There are a flurry of rumours surrounding DeBrincat and his future with the Ottawa Senators right now. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Monday that the Senators have “begun examining the trade market” for the scoring winger.
Who is Alex DeBrincat?
DeBrincat waited to hear his name in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft, but he fell down and needed to wait until Day 2 to get selected. Picked 39th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks, he spent two more years in the OHL before debutting right into the NHL. So why did he fall down the list during the draft? Well, he’s only listed at 5’7″, 165 lbs. But, DeBrincat proved NHL teams wrong, and has cemented himself as a top line winger and scoring threat. His small stature hasn’t affected him much, as his great speed and incredible shot make him extremely effective. The 25 year-old has played in six NHL seasons so far, and has reached the 40-goal plateau twice already. In his 450-game career thus far, DeBrincat has 187 goals and 186 assists for 373 points.
Last summer, DeBrincat was dealt from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Ottawa Senators for a 2022 1st, 2022 2nd, and 2024 3rd. That 2022 1st and 2022 2nd were 7th and 39th overall. The Blackhawks used those picks to select Kevin Korchinski and Paul Ludwinski, respectively. This was a massive draft day deal, which signaled an optimistic end to the Senators’ rebuild. However, things didn’t go as well as Ottawa wanted this past season, and DeBrincat only had 27 goals and 66 points in 82 games.
DeBrincat is a restricted free agent this offseason, which has led to the trade discussion we are seeing now. He is just finishing a three-year, $6.4M AAV contract, but there’s a key to that contract which gives DeBrincat a ton of leverage. Similar to Matthew Tkachuk‘s three-year, $7.0M AAV contract with the Flames, the salary was structured to increase year after year, leaving a larger qualifying offer for the final year. As we saw with Tkachuk, when a player has a bigger salary for a qualifying offer, he can threaten to take that if he doesn’t want to remain with a team.
Tkachuk’s qualifying offer was also $9.0M, so when he told the Flames he didn’t want to sign long-term, they had two options. One, Tkachuk takes his $9.0M qualifying offer and walks straight to free agency after that season finishes. Or two, the team trades the player, and he extends with a team he wants to play for. We saw the second option play with Tkachuk, and it’s looking like the same might occur with DeBrincat. If he is unwilling to extend long-term, can the Senators afford to pay him his $9.0M qualifying offer and lose him after the season? Given that they just spent three big assets—one of which being a top pick—to bring him in, losing him for nothing would hurt. Smart asset management would be to trade him now and attempt to recoup the assets you spent last summer.
One thing both Tkachuk and DeBrincat’s situations show? Never bridge your star players, and if you do, don’t get them leverage for the final year.
A deeper look into DeBrincat’s game
What makes DeBrincat so effective despite his size?
With his high speed, DeBrincat is able to find prime scoring areas of the ice. As we look at the Isolated 5v5 Impact chart courtesy of HockeyViz.com, we can see that DeBrincat finds most of his scoring opportunities from the slot or left face-off circle. This is evidenced by any highlight reel you watch, where DeBrincat is often featured on the left side of the ice, waiting to receive a pass to snipe it home. DeBrincat certainly leaves some things on the table in the defensive end, but has been below average in that category in three of his six seasons.
The rundown on DeBrincat
Given the amount of one-goal games the Flames played in last season and their average power play, DeBrincat is a perfect trade candidate. The Flames need another elite finisher, and getting a guy that has a good chance at hitting the 50-goal plateau in his career is a worthwhile investment. Given that DeBrincat is still only 25, so extending him long-term shouldn’t be a concern at all. DeBrincat brings two elements that this Flames team desperately needs; speed and finishing ability. I think he is the perfect trade candidate for the Flames. They should do everything in their power to bring him in.
Would DeBrincat be open to extending long-term in Calgary? Who knows. If he’s not willing to extend in Ottawa, maybe he doesn’t want to stay in Canada. But, the Flames should definitely check-in on DeBrincat and see if he’d be willing to come here. Acquiring a player like DeBrincat is the type of move they need to make to propel themselves forward.
Could you do a reverse Tkachuk trade, and send two players from the 2024 UFA class and a first-rounder to the Senators for DeBrincat? Some food for thought.
Calgary Flames 2023 Offseason Trade Targets
Read more profiles of potential trade targets for the Calgary Flames this offseason and see if it makes sense for the Flames to pursue these players!