Flames’ Top-6 Winger Targets if Lucic is Traded

With rumours that the Calgary Flames aren’t done trying to get better and more work needs to be done with the roster, Brad Treliving may see an opportunity to build an even better lineup. A topic of conversation has been the team’s defence. They have 10 defencemen on one-way contracts and it should be a question of when one to two are being moved.

Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson, and MacKenzie Weegar should all be safe, but that still leaves a number of options the Flames could dangle to teams to upgrade their forward group. They are looking for a top-nine winger, but preferably one with top-six capabilities. There are certainly names out there who fit that bill and Treliving can get in contact with.

Moving a defenceman such as Oliver Kylington or Juuso Valimaki won’t be enough if the team wants to free up the cap space to acquire a top-six forward. Their value may be enough, but trading Milan Lucic on top of that to the team they are dealing with or a third party would become essential. With the contracts and age of Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri, and Weegar, the window to win a Stanley Cup is right now.

Related: Flames Must Decide to Keep or Trade Milan Lucic

The Flames need to be focused on what’s right in front of them rather than what could affect them down the line. Let’s take a look at many options the Flames have to upgrade their forward group, whether it be a winger with one year remaining on his deal, more than one, or even a free agent.

Big-Game Wingers That are Available

Vladimir Tarasenko

Tarasenko put in a trade request before last season and Dan Rosen of NHL.com said there is no reason to believe that request has been rescinded. There is one year left on the sniper’s eight-year, $60 million contract. Though it would take a better asset like Kylington and more, the St. Louis Blues can do better than keeping Marco Scandella and/or Robert Bortuzzo around.

Vladimir Tarasenko St. Louis Blues
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Blues may very well let the season start and play out to elevate the trade value of Tarasenko. The smarter play would be to trade him to a team this offseason so that team can get the full season out of him. That, in turn, could bring back better assets, allowing the Blues to go into training camp with no question marks. Though Tarasenko could continue his level of play from last season, scoring 34 goals and 82 points in 75 games, there’s a risk of that not happening or losing him in free agency for nothing.

If the Flames were to acquire a 30-40-goal scorer and insert him into the forward unit they have, it would more than make up for any remaining offensive production they lost. The cost won’t be crazy considering there is one year remaining on Tarasenko’s deal and it would elevate them to one of the Stanley Cup favourites.

Patrick Kane

Kane will be moved by the trade deadline. The problem is that he is likely going to wait until the season is underway to waive his no-move clause. This doesn’t mean the Flames can’t plan ahead and clear cap space. They have the assets and the Chicago Blackhawks could be interested in a younger defenceman after losing Adam Boqvist before last season. Valimaki’s trade value may be lower, but he still has potential. Kylington’s trade value won’t likely get any better than now after the season he is coming off of.

The Flames will have to compete with a number of other teams to acquire Kane, but his production, skill, and experience will be vital for a playoff run if Calgary is hoping to advance further this season. The Flames have the roster to attract the Blackhawks’ star forward into accepting a trade.

Tyler Bertuzzi

Bertuzzi may not be in the future plans of the Detroit Red Wings. He has one year left on his deal at $4.75 million and is an option to extend a new contract to on the Flames’ end if acquired. He plays the perfect style of hockey that will make him Darryl Sutter’s favourite as well as a fan favourite in Calgary.

Tyler Bertuzzi Detroit Red Wings
Tyler Bertuzzi, Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

On a lackluster Red Wings team last season, Bertuzzi put up 30 goals and 62 points in 68 games. He is gritty, a pest, and could be a great addition to the top line next season and the future.

Solid Options for the Flames in the Top-6

Anthony Beauvillier

Beauvillier regressed last season, but the entire New York Islanders just had a season to forget. He was trending towards becoming a consistent 20-30-goal scorer in the NHL before netting just 12 in 75 games. The Islanders haven’t been considered an offensive team for a while, but the Flames have the pieces to be both offensive and defensive.

The young forward isn’t considered a top-line winger right now, but is most definitely a middle-six winger who can easily play on the second line. He is signed for two more seasons and the Islanders’ forward group is pretty packed with veterans. Lou Lamoriello made almost no moves this offseason and would welcome a defenceman with potential that the Flames have to offer. The Islanders could cut the losses and deal Beauvillier with Oliver Wahlstrom, Kieffer Bellows, and Aatu Raty on the rise.

Jordan Eberle

Eberle is one of the three highest-paid forwards on the Seattle Kraken at $5.5 million per season. The team also has six forwards under contract making $5-5.5 million per season. Of that group, Eberle would be the most likely to move as he has the shortest term left on his deal and is the oldest.

Jordan Eberle Seattle Kraken
Jordan Eberle, Seattle Kraken (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The veteran is a top-six forward, but not a top-line winger on a good team like the Flames. He would fit nicely in and has already experienced the other side of the Battle of Alberta. Eberle is still good for 20-plus goals and 40-50 points while having gained a ton of valuable playoff experience going on deep runs with the Islanders. Playing in a strong defensive system for Barry Trotz as a part of the Islanders will make it an easy transition playing for Sutter and the Flames.

James van Riemsdyk

van Riemsdyk has a similarly bad contract as Lucic and one year remaining on that deal as well. There would be no way the Flames would take on the entire contract of the Philadelphia Flyers forward, but in swapping out Lucic for van Riemsdyk, the Flames would gain more offence. That is what the team is looking for, even though the defensive side of van Riemsdyk’s game needs work.

If the veteran Flyer can do one thing, that is still score. His net-front presence on the power play will also add value in that regard and could be slotted in beside strong two-way forwards in Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman. If the Flames are prioritizing goals and offensive production, they can’t deny exactly what van Riemsdyk would bring to the team.

Joonas Donskoi

Something went wrong for Donskoi last season with the Kraken. He was a consistent 15-goal scorer with the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche for the four previous seasons until he managed to score just two goals for the Kraken.

Donskoi very much needs a change in scenery, and at his cap hit ($3.9 million) and one year remaining on his deal, he could come very cheap for the Flames as a later option. If he were to be able to bounce back and provide 15 goals this season, it would be worth the cost.

Free Agents With Potential

There are two remaining free agents, and only two that should be of interest to the Flames. Those players are Sonny Milano and Evan Rodrigues.

Rodrigues may be the best forward option left after a 43-point campaign, but despite the production, he isn’t considered a top-six forward. He played near the top of the lineup in Pittsburgh when the team was really banged up, but after the All-Star Game, he recorded just four goals and 15 points in 36 games. With what the former Penguins forward did with the opportunity, there is the possibility that it could be repeated if the Flames need that sort of help. He could also be a cheap signing and they could get other assets in return for a defenceman the team needs to move.

Evan Rodrigues Pittsburgh Penguins
Evan Rodrigues, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If it comes to adding a free agent, I would expect the Flames to bring in Rodrigues. Elliotte Friedman mentioned on the 32 Thoughts Podcast that, “I don’t think they’re done either. I think they’re going to add another forward. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve sniffed around on Evan Rodrigues.”

As for Milano, he meshed very well with Travor Zegras last season, so it was a shock that the Anaheim Ducks didn’t elect to bring back the young forward. After struggling to find a place in the NHL for a number of years, he broke out last season with 14 goals and 34 points in 66 games. He also wouldn’t be considered a top-six player, but did spend last season in that role.

The Flames can get much better, and if they have the opportunity to do so, why not take it? A team as strong as the one they currently have assembled doesn’t come around too often and isn’t easy to build. Expect more to go down with the Flames before training camp.

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