There has been plenty of speculation that Calgary Flames have interest in adding another forward to his roster ahead of the 2022-23 season. General manager Brad Treliving himself has suggested that he may be looking to move a defenseman in the near future, whether that involves bringing a forward back in return or making room to sign one in free agency. According to recent reports, the latter may be the higher possibility.
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Speaking on his 32 Thoughts Podcast, Elliotte Friedman said that he believes the Flames have expressed interest in free-agent forward Evan Rodrigues. The 29-year-old is arguably now the most intriguing forward remaining on the market after Phil Kessel was signed to a one-year deal by the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday evening.
“I don’t think they’re done either,” Friedman said. “I think they’re going to add another forward. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve sniffed around on Evan Rodrigues.”
Friedman also did mention that he believes the Flames expressed some interest in Kessel, and with him no longer available, he expects Treliving to really focus in on Rodrigues. Whether or not the $2.1 million they have in cap space right now is enough to bring him in remains to be seen, but it is worth mentioning again that more space can and likely will be opened up once they move a defenseman.
Rodrigues Remains a Mystery Player
Prior to the 2021-22 season, Rodrigues was viewed very much as a depth, fringe-like NHL player. After all, he had failed to ever crack the 30-point threshold throughout his career up to that point. That said, he did show some promise back in 2017-18, a season in which he scored 25 points in 48 outings. In 2021-22, as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, he was able to put up similar production, but over a full 82-game schedule.
In 82 games this past season, Rodrigues set career highs with 19 goals and 43 points. He continued his solid regular-season showing in the playoffs as well, scoring three goals and five points in seven outings. Many expected that the break-out year would earn him a nice pay day come free agency, though that hasn’t happened yet, and there may be a specific reason as to why.
While Rodrigues’ 43 points on the season seem impressive, they are somewhat disappointing when you consider the start he had in 2021-22. Through the first 30 games of the season, he already had 10 goals and 23 points. By the time the All-Star Break rolled around, he was up to 15 goals and 32 points in 46 outings. However, things fell apart for him in the second half.
Post All-Star Break, Rodrigues’ production fell off a cliff, as he was only able to put up four goals and 11 assists over his final 36 contests. Those numbers are far more representative to what he had done in his career outside of his 2017-18 season, and likely caused many teams to be hesitant on signing him to any sort of significant deal.
Flames Have Surplus of Talent to Surround Him With
While there is uncertainty regarding which version of himself he will be moving forward, he proved this past season that when paired with star talent, he is capable of producing. That in itself seems to make the Flames a good match, as they possess a surplus of offensively talented forwards in guys like Jonathan Huberdeau, Elias Lindholm, Andrew Mangiapane, Nazem Kadri and Tyler Toffoli. Suffice to say, he will have plenty of opportunity to skate on a line with highly talented players.
As far as what a deal for him looks like, it remains anyone’s guess at best. Heading into free agency, there were some who believed he could command a deal as high as $4 million per year, but given that he has been forced to sit and wait for roughly six weeks now, it seems any hope of that has gone out the window. At this point, he is likely in line for a deal similar to Kessel’s recent $1.5 million signing. Assuming that is the case, there is essentially no risk to sign him from the Flames’ perspective.