After acquiring Tyler Toffoli from the Montreal Canadiens last month, the Calgary Flames don’t have a ton of cap room left to make another move. While bringing in players at the deadline is always exciting, the Flames already have an extremely capable roster as they near the 60-game mark of the 2021-22 season. This is proven by their 34-15-7 record, which currently has them sitting first in the Pacific Division.
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That said, Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff recently said he believes the Flames will look to add another defenceman for depth purposes. That doesn’t come as a surprise, as many Stanley Cup contending teams often try to add inexpensive options, particularly on the back end, in case of injury as they prepare for the postseason. If general manager Brad Treliving does plan on doing that, here are a few players he may be able to bring in despite his very limited cap space.
Flames fans are familiar with Brett Kulak. He was drafted in the fourth round (105 overall) by the organization back in 2012 and played 101 games with the Flames from 2015-18 before being dealt to the Canadiens before the 2018-19 campaign.
Kulak has remained with the Canadiens since then but is a prime candidate to be moved before the deadline as he is on an expiring deal and likely doesn’t fit into his team’s long-term plans. Despite the Habs’ struggles, he’s had himself a solid season with two goals and ten points in 51 games while averaging a career-high 17:55 of ice time.
Kulak’s contract carries a reasonable $1.8 million cap hit and would be cheap to acquire. However, it would still take a bit of work on Treliving’s part as he only has roughly $680,000 of cap room to work with. It would be possible if he can convince the Canadiens to take on one of the many depth forwards the Flames have and perhaps retain a bit of money on Kulak’s deal as well. Of all the options available, this one is the least likely to happen given the cap hit, but also the most enticing if they can find a way to make it work.
If the Flames are interested in adding even more winning experience to their roster, Luke Schenn may be a name they consider. Despite that the Vancouver Canucks have re-entered the playoff race recently, the expectation is that they will still be sellers rather than buyers at the deadline.
Though he still has an additional season on his deal, Schenn’s name has been discussed as someone who could be on the move. He is on a very cheap $850,000 deal, meaning he wouldn’t be nearly as difficult for Treliving to add as Kulak. The 32-year-old is also having a solid season with the Canucks, averaging north of 17 minutes in ice time per game, his highest since the 2016-17 season.
As mentioned, Schenn would add more winning experience to the Flames’ locker room, as he was part of both Tampa Bay Lightning Cup-winning teams the past two seasons. He would be a nice insurance add for the right-hand side and could be kept around as a depth option for the 2022-23 campaign as well.
Perhaps the best option available for the Flames is Mark Pysyk. The 30-year-old has been a very underrated player throughout his career and is on a one-year deal that only pays him $900,000. While his 11 points in 57 games don’t jump out, he has great underlying numbers not only this season but throughout much of his 510-game career.
With the Buffalo Sabres well outside of a playoff spot, it would be very shocking if they didn’t move Pysyk ahead of the deadline. Despite that Erik Gudbranson is playing quite well for the Flames of late, many would suggest Pysyk is an upgrade and could see plenty of action if Treliving were to acquire him.
Even better is that, if needed, Pysyk has also spent time at forward during his NHL career. He shouldn’t be expected to provide much if any offence, but his versatility could be a huge benefit to any team that makes a move for him ahead of the deadline.
Another very inexpensive option for the Flames on the back end is Jake Middleton. Recently, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun said a number of teams have expressed interest in Middleton, and given the San Jose Sharks’ struggles of late, he appears to be a prime candidate to be moved.
With a cap hit of just $725,000, Middleton is the least expensive option on this list. The 26-year-old has had a solid rookie season for the Sharks, playing a significant role on a penalty kill that ranks second in the NHL.
Middleton, who is 6-foot-3, 210-pounds, also has a bit of a mean streak in his game. He would likely be used as a seventh defenceman if acquired by the Flames and is more than capable of holding his own on the team’s third pairing when called upon. In 40 games this season, he has three goals and nine points, along with 62 penalty minutes.
A Quiet Deadline Day in Calgary
General managers often prefer to add players to their team well ahead of the deadline, so they have time to get comfortable in their new surroundings, and that is exactly what Treliving did in acquiring Toffoli. The move, to this point, has worked out brilliantly, as the goal-scoring winger has seven goals and 12 points in 12 games with the Flames.
Unless Treliving has some other tricks up his sleeve, the Toffoli pickup will remain the team’s big move of the season. As mentioned, cap space is extremely limited, making it difficult to bring in another high-end player. That said, there are plenty of depth options up for grabs, and at least one of the four above should be on Treliving’s radar.