The Calgary Flames currently sit in eleventh place in the Western Conference, three points behind the eighth place Dallas Stars. After finally cracking the top eight for the first time in almost a year the Flames had a really tough week at home going 0-1-2. This included a 6-1 loss to their provincial rivals from Edmonton and blown leads of 2-0 and 3-0 in back to back shootout losses. This obviously puts general manager Jay Feaster in a difficult spot heading into Mondays trade deadline. The Flames organization has made it clear their desire to make the playoffs this season after missing out the previous two seasons but does that mean the Flames will automatically be buyers?
Cap and Draft Situation
The Flames are currently right at the 64.3 million cap but have close to 2.5 million of space due the amount of players who have spent time on the LTIR (long term injury reserve). So right off the bat, if Feaster wants to acquire a player he will most likely have to deal away at least some salary in order to take on any salary. For the 2012-2013 season the Flames currently have 47.4 million committed to twelve players. While there still a couple of poor contracts remaining from the Darryl Sutter tenure, Feaster does have a little more flexibility and room to work with. As for the upcoming drafts, the Flames do not have a second round pick in either of the next two drafts which were lost in two different trades. They also lost a fifth round pick to the New Jersey Devils but picked up a fifth and a seventh round pick in separate deals.
What Could The Flames Do?
With the emergence of Leland Irving this season I think the Flames may be in the position to deal a goaltender. The Flames could use either Henrik Karlsson or Irving in a deal to acquire a player or picks. The Flames have prospect Joni Ortio as well as Karri Ramo who was acquired in the Bourque trade. Ramo has played in the NHL and has made his intentions clear that he hopes to return to the NHL as he is currently playing in the KHL.
The Flames do have a number of UFA that could be traded but many of these players currently play significant roles for the Flames. Scott Hannan, Cory Sarich, Tim Jackman, Tom Kostopoulos, David Moss, Lee Stempniak and Olli Jokinen are all pending UFAs. One problem for the Flames is a couple of these players are currently out with injuries and guys like Hannan, Kostopoulos and Jokinen have been a big part of the Flames semi-resurgence in 2012. Even if Feaster has a strong feeling that a player like Jokinen won’t be re-signed this summer I don’t think he deals him on deadline day. He is too important of a player for Flames and in Feaster’s eyes is worth keeping for the last quarter of the season even if the Flames lose him for nothing in the off season.
The Flames could also land a bigger named player but I only believe this happens if the player is either an upcoming RFA or is signed for one or more of the upcoming seasons. I think Feaster has to be cautious and ensure that if he was to follow through with a bigger deal similar to the one he made for Cammalleri it has to be for a younger player who would fit into the long term plans for the Flames.
What Should The Flames Do?
The Flames are in an interesting position as they still have five players out with injuries so you could argue that the return of these players over the next couple of weeks is the equivalent to making a couple of deadline deals. Also the Flames have already made a number of deals leading up to the deadline with the biggest being the acquisition of Mike Cammalleri from the Canadiens. The Flames also picked up Blake Comeau and Blair Jones which are the type of players who are often acquired around the deadline.
I think the Flames have to be very cautious heading into deadline day. I don’t think the Flames can afford to lose any draft picks. I hope that Feaster looks to deal a defencemen as when Chris Butler returns to the lineup they will have eight NHL level players. I know you can’t have too much depth on the back end especially during a playoff chase but the reality is you have Anton Babchuk who hasn’t played a game since January 17th in San Jose siting in the press box collecting his 2.5 million dollar salary. We all know that Sarich will not be re-signed this summer so if you are Feaster you should do everything you can to unload him for a draft pick. I believe the Flames are better off with Sarich out of the lineup as his lack of skating ability makes him a liability on the ice.
The Flames are in a really tough fight for the playoffs and it will most likely come down to the last couple of games to decide if they are in the top eight. Being in a hockey crazed market like Calgary, Feaster has the pressure to win now but also to build a team for the future that can be a legit contender for a Stanley Cup. I believe the Flames will be very quiet on deadline day and if they do make a move I think it will be a minor deal where draft picks are added.