It has been a whirlwind of a road trip for the Calgary Flames. Since their loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Friday night, they have been at the top of headlines around the league, and that all started when Nikita Zadorov’s agent put out a tweet that would later be confirmed that Zadorov had asked for a trade.
Now, speculation has been high since the year started that the Flames would be sellers, Noah Hanifin’s contract talks were nixed after it was reported that the two sides were very close to finalizing an extension, Elias Lindholm and his camp turned down an offer in the summer and there have been little to no negotiations since then. The Flames themselves have backed away from all contract talks after a horrid start to the year. Now it seems like the team will be sellers, as it is almost American Thanksgiving and the team sits near the bottom of the league-wide standings and they may finally embrace the rebuild that they have long needed.
The one problem is that they may be handcuffing themselves when it comes to selling off their big four pending unrestricted free agents, so let’s get into that shall we?
The Flames prefer not to trade within the Pacific
It was reported that the Flames would prefer not to trade (most notably Zadorov and Chris Tanev) within their own division. The thinking behind it is that you don’t want to make your rivals better—and sometimes, sure that is a good way to think about things. Say Matthew Tkachuk really wanted to play for the Vegas Golden Knights, I can see why the Flames would not want to move him there, as he is a star player and you don’t want that star player dominating you for years to come for at least four times a year.
When it comes to Zadorov and Tanev though, you are looking at one player who has been a third pairing defenceman for most of his career, and the other is a soon-to-be 34-year-old on likely the last few years of his career. With all due respect to both players, these are not guys that will come back to haunt you a few years down the line if they decide to extend with that team. Especially when your team will likely be going through some tough times as a rebuilder and won’t be making the playoffs not only this season but for probably a few seasons to come. Quite frankly, who cares where they end up as they may not even be on that team come the 2024–25 season.
At the end of the day, after the deadline, the Flames will have less than twenty games to play, so it seems counterintuitive to take a few teams out of the running that will not maximize their return on the players they will be trading. I don’t think the Montreal Canadiens cared too much when they moved Ben Chiarot to their division rival the Florida Panthers in 2022 for a first-round pick, so the Flames shouldn’t either.
Maximize the return as much as you can
The Flames need to be looking to get the best return they possibly can to try and kickstart their rebuild going into the summer. It makes no sense to me that would you take up to three teams out of the running just because they are in your own division. After the deadline, the Flames may play that team once, so it doesn’t really have an impact on the Flames moving forward.
We have seen it in the past where teams have refused to trade players within their own division and get lousy returns when the other team had something better on the table (Mike Hoffman being traded to San Jose from Ottawa comes to mind). If the Vancouver Canucks or the Edmonton Oilers have the best offer on the table for either Zadorov, Tanev, Lindholm, or Hanifin, you take it.
If you begin to take certain teams out of the running, other GMs around the league will know, and they will lowball the Flames knowing that they only have one or two other trade partners because they won’t trade with two or three other teams. They would effectively be getting strong-armed by other teams.
If a divisional rival doesn’t give the Flames their best offer and they choose to look elsewhere then that’s one thing, but if they blatantly ignore an offer from a team within the division, then Craig Conroy and his team are not doing their jobs, I would say they would be doing their job poorly if that were the case. Create a bidding war between multiple teams, and drive the price up—the only thing that matters is the return, and that is all the Flames should be looking at from here on out.