The Calgary Flames had some great work done to their roster this offseason and are ready to come back and make a splash in 2022-23. They are set in net, on defence, and at centre, but the wing is where they need the most help. They have more than enough defencemen, so using one or two in deals could really help the Flames.
There are also players who have yet to get their shots in the NHL and are approaching the age where their chances at an NHL career may hinge on this season. That opportunity may have to come in another organization and the Flames should recognize those individuals. Let’s check out three prospects who could be trade pieces for the Flames in 2022-23.
Though he is only considered a prospect due to his lack of NHL experience, Connor Mackey is 26 years old and is older than Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington, and Juuso Valimaki, three of which who have made an impact in the NHL already.
Though Mackey has proven to be the top defenceman in the American Hockey League (AHL) for Calgary’s affiliate since arriving in 2020, he has skated in just nine NHL games. He wasn’t invisible in those contests either, recording one goal and four points. He is a key penalty killer, go-to defenceman on the top power-play unit, and is the most relied upon defender at even strength.
There is a shot this season for Mackey to make the Flames as the seventh defenceman and get into some games. He hasn’t gotten much of a chance since the Flames have been very fortunate with health on the backend. Putting up eight goals and 52 points in 80 games, he has done very well in the AHL and is worthy of NHL time. The other option before time runs out is to use the value he provides and leverage a trade for some solid assets from a team in need of defensive help, as the Flames don’t appear to have a place for Mackey in their top-six.
The Flames continue not to give Matthew Phillips a shot to prove what value he can provide in the NHL. He is now 24 years old and can’t do much better or develop any more in the AHL where he has been for the last four seasons. In that time he has improved greatly, scoring a career-high 31 goals and 68 points in 65 games last season.
The Flames left a spot open for Jakob Pelletier in their lineup and expect him to make the team out of training camp. But they also went out and got Kevin Rooney who projects to battle with Adam Ruzicka as the fourth line centre. Again, no room for Phillips. There must not be much confidence in his ability to transfer his game over to the NHL, or he would’ve gotten into more than one NHL game already.
It is a make-or-break for Phillips in Calgary. At this point, the Flames need to seriously look into trading him if he doesn’t get time in the NHL. Other teams will be interested after a very strong AHL season, and the Flames could get a solid return.
As mentioned above, the Flames have an abundance of defencemen. But at a certain point, it’s too much. Assuming the Flames roster seven defencemen in the NHL, that leaves 11 more who can play in the AHL. Yan Kuznetsov fits in there somewhere despite having an option to return to junior. It wouldn’t help his development to do so and will need to step up and stand out this season for the Calgary Wranglers.
It appears as though another selection in the 2020 NHL Draft by the Flames has overtaken Kuznetsov. He was taken 50th overall while Jeremie Poirier has surpassed him in overall performance. Poirier was drafted 72nd overall and both he and Kuznetsov are natural left defencemen. Partners in juniors for the Saint John Seadogs, Poirier had more offensive ability while Kuznetsov was strong defensively. The hope was that they could feed off of each other and develop into better all-rounded players. Poirier became a much better defender while Kuznetsov’s offensive side of his game didn’t take off as expected.
As the cabinets are more than full for the Flames in the NHL and AHL, they may have to make another decision and move on from Kuznetsov while another team still sees some value in him. Getting an asset looks to be the best course of action for the young defenceman. It may come by the trade deadline if he hasn’t impressed by then.
So, as there is little room on a strong roster, the Flames must make decisions on these players before they lose them for nothing. All could be solid pieces either for their team or used to bolster their chances to win the Stanley Cup. It is likely we see at least one of these prospects traded by the end of the season.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News and trade talks.
You can find more of his work here.