It is early January, and the Calgary Flames have had a roundabout season up until this point. Recently, the team has seemed to turn a corner as they went 8-4-4 in 16 games during the month of December. This came after a 5-7-3 showing in November and a hot start to the season. Therefore, the team needs to find some consistency and continue the winning trend if they want to earn a playoff spot in what is shaping up to be a tight Western Conference race. The Flames currently occupy a wild card spot, but have their rival Edmonton Oilers, the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, the St. Louis Blues, and Nashville Predators all nipping at their heels.
Related: Calgary Flames’ Top Trade Targets – 2022-23
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As it stands, the Flames are still struggling with finishing their chances in the offensive zone. They rank 22nd in goals scored for per game with 3.05, yet put an average of 34.5 shots on goal every contest which is tied for fourth league-wide. In addition, the team’s dismal 18.6% success rate on the power play puts them at 26th place in the NHL. It is evident that the team is in need of capitalizing on more of these numerous opportunities, and maybe the problem can be solved externally. Perhaps bolstering their top six with a proven goalscorer could be the answer. Keep in mind, there are approximately two months until the NHL Trade Deadline, so talks should be heating up soon. In the meantime, let’s have a look at more names that could potentially be available via trade for the Flames.
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
First on our list is St. Louis Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko. The Russian forward was documented as having asked for a trade from his team back in the summer of 2021, but nothing has materialized since. He fits the description of being a talented scorer, as he has tallied 262 goals in his 640 career games which equates to an average of 34 per season. He has undergone multiple shoulder surgeries in his young career already, but impressively came back from his most recent one in 2021 to record a career-high 82 points in 75 games.
Tarasenko won the Stanley Cup with the Blues back in 2019, contributing 11 goals which included two game-winners. This season, the 31-year-old has tallied 10 goals and 19 assists in 34 games on a middling Blues squad. The team has underperformed by their standards and is rumoured to be interested in moving on from both Tarasenko and captain Ryan O’Reilly as both are free agents in the offseason.
Tarasenko’s goalscoring and experience would help the Flames immensely. Every team would love to add a winner if given the chance, and his age lines up with their core. The problem that comes with acquiring his services is financial in nature: the winger carries a $7.5 million cap hit that would definitely require some acrobatic work done by general manager (GM) Brad Treliving, as money would have to go out in order for more to come in. If enticed, perhaps the Blues would retain some salary on the one remaining contract year of his. The Flames would have exclusive negotiating rights with Tarasenko before he hits free agency, and it may be hard to fit his new contract in with the salary cap only rising by $1 million next season.
James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia Flyers
Another option for the Flames that is said to be available is Philadelphia Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk. A tad older than Tarasenko at age 33, the American has 13 NHL seasons under his belt. He also happens to be a talented goalscorer, scoring 20 or more goals seven times and twice eclipsing 30. Another attractive feature is his size; he is listed at 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds, something that head coach Darryl Sutter loves having in his lineup. He could also help as a big body on the power play, where he has scored 151 of his 578 career points. Currently, he is operating at his best offensive pace ever with 16 points in 19 games.
The Flyers are mired in a losing season and will most likely be sellers at the trade deadline. We previously explored Travis Konecny, but they may view him as part of their future whereas van Riemsdyk is a free agent after this year and thus will be one of the frontrunners to be moved. Like Tarasenko, his high cap hit would be tough to incorporate into the Flames’ budget but not impossible. The $7 million man would too require some salary retainment and/or movement but could likely be had for a cheaper price as not many GMs in the league view him as a game-breaker.
Andrei Kuzmenko, Vancouver Canucks
Now, for the main course. 26-year-old Russian Andrei Kuzmenko is possibly the most attractive piece available. The first-year Vancouver Canucks forward spent the first eight seasons of his professional career in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), where he blossomed into a prolific scorer. In his first taste of North American hockey, he has also flourished to the tune of 34 points in 37 contests. Unfortunately for him, the Canucks have been very inconsistent as a team and are falling in the league standings. While his 17 goals look great to Flames fans, his 26% shooting percentage should look even better. He is not a volume shooter, rather electing to take smart shots and finish high-danger offensive opportunities. Eight of his tallies have also come on the power play.
What’s even more tantalizing about Kuzmenko is his affordability. The Canucks signed him away from Russia with a one-year, $950,000 entry-level contract. Therefore, the winger will be a free agent at season’s end and will be looking for a new contract. Because he is a first-year player and plays almost exclusively alongside Canucks star Elias Pettersson, one could argue he is in store for a lower-salary bridge deal for two or three years to prove his worth. He would slot in nicely in the Flames’ top six and can fit into this year’s payroll. There is potential that he can be a multi-year investment which makes losing high draft picks or prospects much more worthwhile. Vancouver would probably prefer to re-sign Kuzmenko and also may be hesitant to trade him within their division, so the Flames might have to offer them a convincing package.
In conclusion, adding one of Tarasenko, van Riemsdyk or Kuzmenko would surely make the Flames a better team depending on what pieces are traded for them. As previously stated, the offense needs a boost and each one of these three men would provide that. Trades will be tough with the lack of cap space available, and trading for pending unrestricted free agents always carries with it the risk of losing them in the summer for nothing. The Flames have to decide if they want to be a buyer or stay conservative before the deadline. Their play up until that point will dictate this.