The Calgary Flames are in the heat of the battle and are in a tough spot to make the playoffs for a second season in a row due to their play so far. They have failed to win more than three games in a row and have piled up losing streaks of five and seven at points this season. They sit outside of the playoff picture at the All-Star Break and have some work to do at the trade deadline.
The deadline is less than a month away and the Flames have 12 games before that time. Unless there is a major collapse, the team will be utilizing their cap space to the fullest to ensure they make the playoffs and are successful. This would mean eventually placing Oliver Kylington on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) to give the team an extra $2.5 million to work with. Not only will this save cap space so that the Flames can upgrade the wing and defensive depth this season, they won’t have to use extra assets for cap retention.
The Flames and the rumblings may be almost solely focused on what top-six impactful winger the team is going to trade for at the deadline, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that they also must get better defensively and in their own end this season. There has been a change in personnel on the back end and it has also caused the Flames to have worse results than 2021-22. Many teams will be looking to the Vancouver Canucks and asking about their available defenceman Luke Schenn, but the Flames must make a hard push as he would fix a number of issues and be the perfect addition under Darryl Sutter. Elliotte Friedman brought Schenn up in connection to the Flames on 32 Thoughts: The Podcast saying, “I also wonder if Calgary would be in on Schenn. He’s Darryl Sutter’s kind of guy.”
Loss of Kylington & Gudbranson Emphasizes Need for Schenn
The Flames not only had some turnover up front at forward, but also on the defensive side. They lost Erik Gudbranson in free agency to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Kylington has been in the player assistance program all season overseas as he deals with personal matters (from ‘What are the Flames’ options if Oliver Kylington doesn’t return? Mailbag,’ The Athletic, Jan. 31, 2023). That’s two of six players from that deadly core the Flames put out on the ice every night last season have been replaced. MacKenzie Weegar may be an upgrade from both Kylington and Gudbranson individually, but he brings different elements to the team.
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What the Flames have done to replace that is utilize Michael Stone in a larger role while giving playing time to Connor Mackey, Nick DeSimone, and Dennis Gilbert. This hasn’t produced the same dominant results as last season, emphasizing the need for a more experienced and better quality of defenceman, especially with Chris Tanev missing more time due to injuries this season. The Flames essentially replaced two NHL defencemen with one, despite giving some opportunity to less experienced players trying to break into the NHL.
Hits have been somewhat of an issue for the Flames in comparison to the league the past two seasons, partly because the defence plays softer than they should. But what is even more of a problem is the lack of blocked shots. This season the Flames are 16th in hits with 1,087 and 30th in blocked shots with just 489. This is the second season in a row where they rank 30th in blocked shots. Why there’s a greater need for it this season is the shakiness of Jacob Markstrom in net. Every shot that doesn’t reach the net may stop a goal against. With the lack of physicality, it has made the team easier to play against in their own end and has allowed their opponents to have more free reign without worrying as much about being punished for it.
Schenn could fix a number of problems the Flames have on their blue line and in the defensive zone. He is the NHL’s all-time leader in hits to start, so he would make the Flames much harder to play against. They have just three defencemen in the top 13 in hits on the team, which is abnormal. Schenn already has 237 hits this season, which is nearly one quarter of the entire Flames’ roster. As for blocked shots, Gudbranson was a big loss. He would be leading the Flames with 95 if he were still on the team. It just so happens Schenn would find himself in the top-four in blocked shots on the Flames and has registered 30-plus more blocked shots than Stone this season.
Schenn has a cap hit of $850,000 until the end of the season, which would make him really easy to fit in under the cap. This will also make him highly sought after and the Flames don’t often make trades with the Canucks. The last one came in 2016. These two teams match up twice before the end of the season so the Canucks would have to see Schenn more than they would like. The Flames have the assets to dangle to get a deal done and acquiring him would help patch up some holes.