Parity throughout the National Hockey League is great for the fans, but it can make things a little more difficult for general managers looking to make changes to their roster prior to the trade deadline
The Pacific Division is in gridlock, with just five points separating the top five teams. Many teams around the league believe they are still in the running for a playoff spot, and with just 30 or so games remaining in the regular season, it is still unclear who are the clear-cut ‘buyers’ and who are the ‘sellers’ at this year’s deadline.
The Calgary Flames will likely be active leading up to the cut-off as they look to add a top-six winger to the fold.
Potential Trade Bait in Calgary
When the Flames traded forward Michael Frolik, it opened up $4.3 million in cap space, but it’s been difficult to project what kind of moves Flames’ GM Brad Treliving will attempt to pull off when there really isn’t enough separation in the standings to provide a better understanding of the market. There are some safe assumptions, however, as to which names the Flames could be floating in regards to securing potential deals.
Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski
Sam Bennett is a valuable asset as a trade chip for Calgary, however, with only 7 points in 35 games this season, Bennett has had to provide value in other ways. While he is no longer the offensive presence he was in junior, he still plays a rugged style that is perhaps undervalued during the regular season but becomes invaluable once the post-season begins. Bennett has shown an ability to elevate his game come playoff time and can be a difference-maker with his aggression, forechecking capabilities and (on occasion) flashes of offensive creativity.
One thing you can’t have enough of during a lengthy playoff run is roster depth and teams will definitely be interested in adding to their rosters up the middle. While the immediate trade value of Mark Jankowski may not be evident when looking at his production numbers this season, it doesn’t mean the 25-year-old isn’t a credible trade target.
Through 40 games, Jankowski has just three points and is a minus-12, but he is a smart hockey player with good defensive accountability and has been used effectively in a shutdown role against other teams’ top lines at different times this season.
He’s won 49.7 percent of his career faceoffs, yet has slipped slightly this season, operating at 45.9 percent. The Flames are looking to add a bona fide top-six winger, so if Jankowski gets moved before the deadline, it is likely to assume it would be part of a multi-player deal.
TJ Brodie and Travis Hamonic
Every team wants to bolster their blue line for the playoffs and the Flames feature two significant trade targets that could be moved to help a team in that regard. Both TJ Brodie and Travis Hamonic will be unrestricted free agents (UFAs) at the end of the 2019-20 season which makes their presence in trade talks understandable. Brodie was already rumored to be on the list of players in a potential multi-player trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs this summer, which included Nazem Kadri, but the deal fell through.
The Leafs have had trouble with injuries to defensemen this season, and with Jake Muzzin and Morgan Rielly both missing significant time this year, it might just spark up interest in adding a player like Brodie to the fold moving forward. However, Toronto is in dire need of a right-shot defenseman, which Brodie is not.
On the other hand, Hamonic is on this list primarily because of his UFA status, not to imply he is actively being shopped around. There is no doubt that other teams would be interested in Hamonic who, in his third season in Calgary, has been one of the most consistent defensemen for the Flames, appearing in 189 games. He would be a valuable commodity for any team with playoff aspirations, however, the Flames are still hoping to be one of those teams. In fact, it would be somewhat shocking if Treliving wasn’t aggressively trying to keep Hamonic in the mix long-term in Calgary.
Potential Trade Targets for Flames
Jason Zucker – Minnesota Wild
Jason Zucker was close to becoming a member of the Flames once before and he might be made available again if the Minnesota Wild continue to slip out of contention in the Central Division. Zucker has played 451 NHL games, all with the Wild, and at just 28 years old, still has some tread left. In 40 games this season has a steady 14 goals and 14 assists.
Zucker is a tremendous skater who could keep pace on a potential line with Johnny Gaudreau, although as a left-handed shot he may slot in better on a line with Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm. In any case, he’d provide the Flames with more options.
Potentially, if the Wild trade defenseman Matt Dumba at the deadline, there could be an opening in Minnesota for a left-shot defenseman and Brodie could be parlayed into a deal by the Flames. Zucker does have three more years left on his contract worth $5.5 million per season and a 10-team no-movement clause built into his current deal.
Kasperi Kapanen – Toronto Maple Leafs
Kasperi Kapanen is just 23 years old and would be a potential fit in a younger core in Calgary. He is currently playing on a Maple Leafs team that features Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander, which ultimately leaves little in the way of additional ice-time.
Since the Brodie deal fell through this summer, if Toronto is still interested in acquiring a defenseman from Calgary, it’s possible Kapanen’s name will be in the mix to make a deal happen. Bennett may also be a great fit in Toronto to help provide an element of grit and toughness to the Leafs’ skilled lineup.
As a right-winger, Kapanen could potentially slot in on the second line for the Flames and may find a fit on a line with Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Through 51 games this season Kapanen has just 10 goals and 18 assists but with increased top-six minutes he may add a much-needed offensive element to the Flames.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Ottawa Senators
Ottawa Senators forward John-Gabriel Pageau might be an option for the Flames, potentially in a package deal that includes Jankowski. The Flames are full of options at center, but Pageau is a right shot, which is a coveted feature for the Flames. Merely speculation, but this scenario could certainly bring in some defensive depth at
Pageau has slightly better faceoff numbers than Jankowski at 52.1 percent to 49.7 percent and Ottawa’s asking price at the deadline could potentially be inflated by a career year this season, where the 27-year-old has registered 20 goals and 12 assists in 48 games.
Craig Smith – Nashville Predators
Craig Smith might not be the first name that comes to mind when considering potential fits in Calgary, but he may be a decent sleeper pick for the Flames. Nashville might be in the market to move assets and Smith has had his name mentioned in trade talks in the past.
At 30 years old, Smith brings nine seasons of NHL experience with him, all with the Predators. He has been a consistent goal scorer throughout his career, hitting the 20-goal mark five different times and although his production has dropped off this season with just 11 goals and 22 points in 50 games, he is a plus-13 on the year while playing in a typically third-line role. Smith currently carries a cap hit of $4.25 million but will be a UFA at the end of the season, and right now it doesn’t seem likely the Flames are in the market for a rental right-winger.
What the Flames end up doing at the deadline is still anybody’s guess, but they (and 30 other teams) would benefit from adding a tangible offensive piece to their lineup if they hope to be in the post-season conversation in the spring. There are still questions that need to be answered around the league in regards to who’s in and who’s out, but once that picture begins to reveal itself, then the fun really begins!