just added Tyler Toffoli in their roster, the Calgary Flames clearly show that they are more than ever in “win now” mode. Extending their winning streak to nine games, they are one shy of a franchise record. More than a quarter of Toffoli’s wins this season have come last week at a new team. There’s reason to be happy, but the Flames shouldn’t be over yet. What will they do next to improve their roster? We asked, you answered.
More ways for the Flames to improve
The Flames added a major forward in Toffoli without really changing their roster. Sending in progress Tyler Pitlick to the Montreal Canadiens and scratching effectively Brett Ritchie was now the overall result.
Simply put, they made a two-way improvement with the trade: adding Toffoli to the mix and subtracting both Pitlick and Ritchie. Now, there are other areas that can also improve, so what are the general expectations?
Call for help
While Brad Treliving will no doubt continue to work on the phone and either look for a defender to bolster the blue line or a depth ahead to round out the bottom six, the Flames no doubt have players in Stockton who would be viable options to consider.
Realistically, a call from Stockton Heat for a striker and a trade for a defender could make a lot of sense for the team both from a squad improvement and salary cap perspective.
Right now they have Brett Ritchie and Brad Richardson in the press box costing $900,000 and $850,000 respectively. Plausible calls in either Matthew Phillips Where Glenn Gawdin would actually be cheaper as both have caps of $750,000. It’s not a lot, but it’s not trivial either, as it can help make room elsewhere.
Burying Ritchie and Richardson’s hits could be a way to make more room for an NHL defenseman. They can’t just add a defender for free, but they could find a deep defender if either Erik Gudbranson ($1.95M) or Nikita Zadorov ($3.75 million) are plays that go the other way. It would cost them picks though, but they would be clear areas of improvement on the business front.
They are unlikely to move Michael Stonewho was the seventh defenseman on a $750,000 contract, so that makes the max roster optimization game pretty clear: replace one or both of Ritchie and Richardson with a call, and replace one or the other from Zadorov or Gudbranson via an exchange.
Just make a trade
If the Flames are looking to trade without orders, things are a bit simpler. They can target either an attacker from the bottom six or a defender from the third pairing. A deal for needle-pumping depth should see some form of salary withholding from the Flames’ business partner. Again, with the Flames in “win now” mode, cost of business will separate from draft picks to make deals possible.
Right now their worst regular striker is Trevor Lewis. Not having been scratched once this season, Darryl Sutter relied on Lewis to play a defensive role, as well as a large outnumbered presence. An incoming player should be able to take on similar responsibilities or the Flames may view it as an unnecessary decision to make. They clearly enjoy his presence on the ice enough to keep playing him.
On the other hand, a deal for a defender would involve sending a big deal in either Zadorov’s or Gudbranson’s deal the other way, as mentioned above. The two players in the third pair should be considered useless. If the right trading partner shows up, moving one of them should in theory result in an upgrade.
Gudbranson is arguably their worst regular defender, although Zadorov isn’t far ahead. With cap implications involved, they both make sense as bigger trade chips in terms of moving cap hits to acquire a different player.
On the way to heat
If they’re only calling one player from Stockton, it makes sense that it’s a forward to improve the bottom six. It would be hard to convince Sutter that a new defenseman should take as many minutes as Zadorov or Gudbranson right away, and seeing a third-pair defenseman fail in his transition to the NHL would be more detrimental than having the same thing. to a fourth line forward.
Although they have options in Gawdin or Phillips as top scorers, they can also look for players like Byron Froese Where Walker Duehr for more defensive responsibilities too, especially since the only place really available for a striker call-up should be Lewis’s fourth-line role at the moment. Nothing else makes sense.
Trust the current list
If the Flames end up doing nothing at all, that’s not necessarily a totally undesirable outcome. The way the team is playing right now, they should be confident enough to take this roster straight into the playoffs. From the back, they have the best career production of the six players, and most are defensively responsible as well. For their attackers, their roles are pretty clearly defined.
It would be up to Treliving to be confident enough that this list can do it, or perhaps to handle the regret of not going the extra mile for insurance. He can always reward his players by adding one more player who can actually move the needle, so sitting idle should be considered the worst case scenario.
A turning point for Calgary
The general consensus is that this Calgary roster should be good enough to make it out of the first round and, ideally, would make it past the second round as well. Is that enough to bet and hope they can progress beyond that?
This team is as built for the playoffs as it’s ever been before – most games are underpinned by dominant on-ice play. Do they make yet another splash before the trade deadline passes? Only time will tell. What do you think the Flames should do by the deadline?
Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @wincolumnCGY.
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