With the trade deadline already less than a month away, teams are starting to get ready to either sell for future assets or pick players up in hopes of a playoff run. Despite not being in a playoff position at the moment, the Calgary Flames are expected to be buyers at this year’s deadline, given the expectations they had heading into the season. On top of that, general manager Brad Treliving’s future with the organization may be in question if they miss the playoffs, meaning he is going to do everything in his power to get them in.
One forward who doesn’t seem to be getting a ton of attention, and one that I believe could be a great fit for the Flames, is Kyle Palmieri. The New Jersey Devils will be sellers at this year’s deadline, given that they are well outside of a playoff position, and Palmieri, who is on an expiring contract, is one of their most attractive assets.
As far as the Flames’ lineup goes, the 30-year-old Palmieri would be a great addition because he is a goal-scoring right winger. The Flames’ lines this season have seemingly changed game by game, particularly the right side on Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan’s line, which feels like a revolving door at this point. Most recently, they have had Brett Ritchie playing with them, which will not cut it come playoff time.
While Palmieri has struggled this season with just four goals and 12 points in 25 games, a lot of it plays into just how bad the entire Devils roster has been. Prior to this year, he had scored at least 24 goals in five straight seasons, including 25 in 65 games last season. His low goal totals in 2020-21 appear to be bad puck luck more than anything else, as his shooting percentage is at 6.5 percent right now, a far cry from his 586-game career 12.5 percentage.
Aside from being a great addition to their top six, he is also a very good option on the power play. Last season, he had 11 goals on the man advantage, which would have led the Flames. With Calgary’s power play being quite average (15th in league) this season, bringing in Palmieri would provide them a major boost in that department.
Making It Work
The one difficult aspect of bringing in Palmieri for Treliving is the salary cap, which the Flames have very little space remaining. Given that he is on a deal that carries a cap hit of $4.65 million, they will have to get creative. One player they could and would likely have to move in order to get it done is Sam Bennett, who is also on an expiring deal that has a cap hit of $2.55 million.
Given Bennett’s trade request earlier in the season, moving him in exchange for Palmieri certainly makes sense for the Flames. It also makes sense for the Devils, who are not a very good team now but have a lot of young talent who are expected to turn the franchise around soon. While it hasn’t worked out in Calgary, Bennett is still just 24 years old and was a former fourth overall selection. Perhaps a change of scenery is all he needs to discover his offensive touch at the NHL level.
Another interesting aspect to this from the Devils’ end is that Bennett will be a restricted free agent at season’s end, meaning they won’t have to worry about potentially losing him to free agency. He would likely command a contract with a cap hit similar to his current deal or perhaps even a bit lower, making him a very low-risk, high-reward investment for the Devils.
Sooner the Better
The other difficult aspect of not only this trade but any this season involving teams across the border is mandatory 14-day quarantine players have to enter due to the pandemic. With the condensed schedule this season, there are a lot of games played in a two-week span, so it would be tough to not only wait two full weeks to have Palmieri join the mix but also be down another roster player (likely Bennett) in that time.
Still, this is the type of trade Treliving will have to make in order for this team to capture a playoff berth. Continuing to sit and wait is not beneficial to the team, and bringing in Palmieri sooner than later would give him more time to get comfortable and gain chemistry with the Flames. Given where they currently sit in the standings, he has little time to waste.
Former Jr. A player turned writer. Cover both the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers, and am part of both the Flames Faceoff and Oilers Overtime podcasts.