The Calgary Flames are in a tricky spot.
Not a terrible place to be for the club sitting just two points back of a playoff spot in the Western Conference heading into Tuesday night, but the team’s management group has to decide whether to make a bid for some of the deadline’s available pieces or to stand pat and try to slide into the playoffs with what they’ve got.
With number one tendy Mike Smith sidelined with a groin injury and the All Star’s return date very much up in the air, the latter will prove more difficult, especially if the team doesn’t start putting the puck in the net.
Since January 15th, the Flames rank 24th in the NHL in goals while their power play has converted at just 16.7% — 27th-best in the league. Calgary clearly needs to add some scoring zip if they want to shore up their chances at a postseason push, but how much the team is willing to mortgage the future is the question facing general manager Brad Treliving six days from the deadline.
The chances of the team making a deal to acquire anything resembling a starting goaltender are slim, so a lot of this hinges on the health of Smith. Aside from their uncertain outlook in goal, things look good as the Flames boast one of the best top-to-bottom defence corps’ in the NHL and a top-six unit anchored down the middle by Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund.
It’s a bit of a drop-off in the forward group after that, and that’s where the Flames will likely look to make a splash this week. A winger with a scoring touch on the right side of Sam Bennet and Mark Jankowski would solidify the third unit and give the club a very solid top-nine to carry them from here.
Aside from 31-year-old Kris Versteeg’s possible return (which shouldn’t be counted on as a reliable source of offence, if he’s even coming back at all), there’s two especially intriguing options that make the most sense for Calgary, along with a few far-fetched ones.
Michael Grabner: Despite boasting just six assists this season, Grabner has netted 25 tallies and is on pace to match his career high of 34 goals. The 30-year-old is a left-handed shot, but does most of his damage playing right wing and would slot perfectly on the third line with the ability to chip in on the power play.
Thomas Vanek: The 34-year-old pending UFA has proven he’s still good for 20 goals and 50 points per season and, like Grabner, has the vision and IQ to be an effective plug-in piece on the power play. He would come cheap, which helps offset the biggest risk that comes with acquiring Vanek—his notorious scoring slumps.
Both Patrick Maroon and Mark Letestu could help the club in different capacities, but is there any chance blood-rivals Edmonton and Calgary could swing a deal that helps fill the needs of both the Oilers and Flames? The answer to that is probably no. Blake Comeau in Colorado is a nice option as well, but the Avs won’t rush to unload an effective all-around player to Calgary as the they sit just three points behind the Flames.
Who to avoid
Evander Kane, Rick Nash and Mark Hoffman will likely all cost either first a first-round pick and/or multiple young assets which the Flames either don’t have or shouldn’t give up. David Perron and James Neal are pending UFA’s whose names somehow keep popping up in trade rumblings, but the pair have been vital to Vegas’ success this season. Either one will cost the Flames a tonne.