CALGARY — As Brad Treliving contemplates the possibility of adding to his team before Friday’s trade deadline, he has one significant question to grapple with.
Is this team worthy of having assets of any significance spent on it?
The answer is no, from this vantage point, but we’ll let him respond.
“If we can help ourselves, of course, I’d like to do that,” said Treliving.
“But reality is also part of the equation.”
The reality is that his Calgary Flames have been stuck in neutral all season long, and it’s unrealistic to believe a forward of any significance can change their fortunes.
Ditto on the blue line.
Treliving has spoken of wanting to bolster his top 9 all season long, but has always been open to the possibility that any addition could come internally.
Enter Jakob Pelletier, who is the most exciting thing to happen to the Flames this season.
With four points in his last three games, the Flames would be foolish to take him off the second line where he is building chemistry and getting results with Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri.
The first line, with Tyler Toffoli, Elias Lindholm and Dillon Dube has also been a bright spot, with two of them having career years, and the third anchoring it all.
Mikael Backlund’s line, with Blake Coleman and Andrew Mangiapane, has been the team’s best the last month, and is as reliable defensively as they come.
In short, unless there’s an injury, there’s no room for another forward.
Up front, the Flames are scoring enough goals to be successful (they rank 16th in goals per game), but just need more timely scoring.
Oh, and a stop.
The team’s top five defencemen are proven veterans and shouldn’t be touched.
There is optimism sixth man Michael Stone’s foot injury is a week-to-week situation, and while he’s recovering Dennis Gilbert gives the team competent minutes, not to mention a physical element and presence the coach and his teammates love.
If any additions are made by Friday, they should be low-cost depth plays, adding nothing but proven veterans who can play small roles if injuries dictate.
Then again, losses to Boston and Toronto before Friday could all but take them out of the playoff race and make Treliving’s decision easy: stand pat.
Teams solidly in playoff positions have already paid lofty sums for rentals.
The Flames are fading from the playoff race, making it even harder every day to justify spending anything more than a fourth-round pick on additions.
They don’t have a third pick this year and a second is far too rich to spend, given the Flames precarious situation and the fact they don’t have any significant holes to fill at the moment.
At this point, it hardly makes sense to invest.
Selling isn’t much of an option, as the only expiring contracts are those of aging, fourth-liners like Milan Lucic whose cap hit and role wouldn’t land the Flames anything more than a late draft pick, while also having to pay part of his salary.
Projected deadline day cap space: $3,411,748
Cap space committed to 2023-24: $35,462,500
But that is not something they can, or will, address via trade this week.
Eventually both netminders will return to form.
Depth on the blue line tops the (realistic) list, followed by a scorer up front.
One will be much cheaper than the other, making it much more likely a 30-something defenceman is picked up on the cheap.
Again, as outlined above, there isn’t much room, or rationale, for making a big splash here.
Luke Schenn, D, Vancouver
Darryl Sutter covets experience, championships and size above all else, which is why the 6-foot-2, 225-pound, two-time Stanley Cup champion would be high on any Flames wish list.
Again, if the price tag is a second rounder, it’s hard to justify a move like this for a 33-year-old add to the third-pairing.
The pending UFA’s salary is just $850,000, making him easy to fit in, driving up his value on the open market.
Dmitry Kulikov, D, Anaheim
While the Flames would prefer to add a right-shot defenceman, the 32-year-old lefty has proven he can handle big minutes, albeit on the worst defensive team in the league.
The 6-foot-1, 201 pound Russian comes with a $2.25 million cap hit.
Matt Dumba, D, Minnesota
Although he returned to lineup Sunday after two straight healthy scratches for performance reasons, it’s clear his days in Minnesota are numbered.
The Wild know there will be limited interest in the 28-year-old who carries a $6 million cap hit, and are okay with keeping him the rest of the year.
Unsure how Bill Guerin would feel about trading him to a Flames team his club is theoretically battling with for a playoff spot, but the pending UFA is a right shot depth add for the second power play who is from Calgary.
ASSETS TO TRADE
2nd rounder in 2023
Trading a first-rounder is not on the table, leaving this year’s second-rounder likely the highest price the team would likely be willing to cough up.
4th rounder in 2023
This is a much more comfortable price tag for the team to exchange for some depth.
Despite being one of the AHL’s top scoring leaders all season long, the club gave the diminutive sniper just two NHL starts this year, proving conclusively that his future after this season is elsewhere.
There’s no chance he’ll re-sign here.
While the Flames would benefit from keeping the pending free agent and fan favourite in town for a successful playoff run with the AHL’s Wranglers, if another NHL club is interested in his services for a late-season look-see, Treliving would have to consider it.
The return would be low.
With Treliving there is always the possibility he’d try to swing a hockey deal, involving players with term.
One player he’s long had his eye on is Montreal’s Josh Anderson, who has four more years left on his deal at $5.5 million AAV.
Again, unlikely, given where the Flames are at, but Treliving did something similar last year when he acquired Tyler Toffoli well ahead of the deadline.