While it took until the final few minutes of the 2023 trade deadline, the Calgary Flames were able to make a deal, acquiring defenseman Troy Stecher, as well as forward Nick Ritchie in a deal with the Arizona Coyotes. Heading the other way in this swap is defenseman Connor Mackey along with forward Brett Ritchie.
This move shows how tentative general manager Brad Treliving was entering this year’s trade deadline, as many believed he may not be in the buyer’s market given how his team underperformed in 2022-23. However, sitting just five points shy of a playoff spot, it’s clear he hasn’t given up hopes on the postseason yet, making him unwilling to sell either.
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One interesting tidbit of this deal is that it sees brothers in Nick and Brett Ritchie swapped for one another. By all accounts, Nick is the more talented of the two, though his work ethic pales in comparison to his older brother. With that said, let’s take a look at how this trade impacts the Flames for the remainder of the season.
Improvement on the Blue Line
With the absence of Oliver Kylington all season long, paired with the recent injury to Michael Stone, the Flames’ blue line needed this boost, as they have been relying on 26-year-old Dennis Gilbert to hold things down on the right side of the third pairing. While by no means a game-breaker, the 28-year-old Stecher is a significant upgrade and should be of use to head coach Darryl Sutter.
As for Mackey, things just never worked out for him in Calgary. There was plenty of hope that he would become an everyday NHLer after being signed as a free agent out of college in 2020, but he never showed any sort of consistency to earn an everyday spot in the lineup. His time with the Flames ends having played just 19 NHL games over the course of three seasons. If there is an organization in which he can get more playing time, however, the Coyotes may just be the one. Just ask another former Flame in Juuso Valimaki.
Top Nine Winger Finally Added
Up front, the Flames certainly upgraded here, as (Brett) Ritchie is nothing more than a depth NHL forward. On just a one-year deal, he is likely nothing more than a throw-in in this deal, though he may be able to earn himself a short-term extension if he impresses given that the Coyotes will be looking for inexpensive veterans to fill out their roster next season.
As for Nick Ritchie, the Flames received a player who, by all means, has the talent, but has never been able to put it all together at the NHL level. Skating is an issue, as is inconsistency, though at times he has proven capable of putting together offense in bunches. At his best, he is a top-nine forward who can produce offense while providing a great net-front presence on the power play. Whether he is used on the special teams remains to be seen, but it appears Brad Treliving is finally getting his top nine skilled winger he has been searching for all season long.
Disappointing Deadline for the Flames
While many expected little to be done, it is still hard to feel anything but disappointed as a Flames fan with the deadline now having passed. Some were still holding hope that Treliving would push his chips forward and make a big acquisition to help this team get into the playoffs this season, while others were hopeful he could sell off some of his pending unrestricted free agents, and perhaps even a player or two with term remaining, in order to build for the future. Instead, neither occurred, as this, along with the last-second acquisition of Dryden Hunt, were the only deals to be made. That said, however, it does make the Flames a better team than they were prior, and now it is up to this group to do whatever it takes to try and earn a playoff position.