The Flames at the Deadline

When knocking down Ryan Jones is your biggest accomplishment, you haven't had a good year.

The Flames have been one of the most active teams so far this season. They traded Daymond Langkow for Lee Stempniak before the year started; in November, they added Blake Comeau via waivers; and in January they traded Brendan Mikkelson for Blair Jones, and Rene Bourque (and parts) for both Mike Cammalleri and the NHL rights to goaltender Karri Ramo. It would be going too far to suggest that the Flames have completely remade their roster, but with Comeau and Jones they added a couple of players in their twenties who hadn't shown a lot with their old teams, but would be given new opportunities, and in Cammalleri they acquired a more expensive player than Rene Bourque, but reduced their commitment in terms of years.

I liked these moves, but even with the changes, the club is very close to where I expected them to be before the season, namely, the playoff bubble. The Flames are sitting in a three-way tie for eighth in the Western Conference as we approach the deadline, which means that they both have a chance to make the playoffs, but not much chance at going deep. Should they stand pat, or are there moves out there that make sense for the Flames?

First up is the salary chart. Those who've read here before know that I like to use the chart below as a cap space guideline. The Flames have consistently spent to the cap, so we'll be using the $64.3M figure for their budget. Here's the chart:

Top 3 Forwards - 27.5% or 17.68M
Middle 6 Forwards - 20.0% or 12.86M
Top 4 Defenders - 27.5% or 17.68M
Goaltending - 10.0% or 6.43M
Bottom 8 Players - 15.0% or 9.65M

And now let's populate with this year's team:

Top 3 Forwards - Iginla, Cammalleri, Tanguay - 25.7% or 16.50M
Middle 6 Forwards - Stajan, Comeau, Stempniak, Jokinen, Glencross, Moss - 22.9% or 14.75M
Top 4 Defenders - Bouwmeester, Giordano, Sarich, Babchuk - 26.1% or 16.80M
Goaltending - Kiprusoff, Karlsson - 10.4% or 6.70M
Bottom 8 Players - Backlund, Kostopoulos, Horak, Jackman, Bouma, Byron, Jones, Kolanos, Butler, Hannan, Brodie, Smith, Dawes (BO), Hagman (RW) - 17.4% or 11.18M

Like the Canucks, the Flames are currently operating at over 100% thanks to having a few players on injured reserve, but they've banked enough cap space earlier in the season that they do have some room to add (about $2.3M) at this year's deadline. But with a team that isn't in the upper echelon of the Western Conference, the Flames should really be thinking long term. With that in mind, here's what the cap situation looks like for next season (assuming the same $64.3M cap):

Top 3 Forwards - Iginla, Cammalleri, Tanguay - 25.7% or 16.50M
Middle 6 Forwards - Glencross, ???, ???, ???, ???, ??? - 4.0% or 2.55M
Top 4 Defenders - Bouwmeester, Giordano, Butler, ??? - 18.6% or 11.95M
Goaltending - Kiprusoff, Karlsson - 10.4% or 6.70M
Bottom 8 Players - Stajan, Horak, Babchuk, Smith, ???, ???, ???, ??? - 11.8% or 7.58M
Key RFAs - Comeau, Backlund, Ramo
Kery UFAs - Jokinen, Stempniak, Moss, Kostopoulos, Hannan

Unlike the last few seasons, this is a team with substantial flexibility going forward. It would obviously be most helpful for them to ditch the contract of either Matt Stajan or Anton Babchuk at the deadline, but that will be tough to do. Despite his being a healthy scratch for much of the season, Babchuk would seem to be the more plausible of the two to move, and it would clearly be worth it even if they could pick up just a late round pick.

In terms of adding, the Flames will need to remake their middle six forward group this summer, either by signing their own free agents, or adding from outside the organization. That makes Calgary a good candidate to add a player with some term left on his contract. Of the players mentioned frequently as trade candidates over the last several days, the two that I'd have serious interest in if I were in Calgary's position are Derek Roy and Brandon Dubinsky. Either player can be made to fit in the short-term and should fit very well in the medium to long term, but it of course depends on cost. With a long term solution like this, I think it makes sense to put pretty good assets in play, but would stop short of giving up the club's brightest young talent (Backlund and Baertschi). Antoine Vermette would have been a good fit here too because the cost was quite low, but that ship has sailed.

As for a straight rental, the Flames aren't a contending team, so it only makes sense if you're spending at a really low level like "C" grade prospects or picks in the third round or later. With so many injuries, they may actually be able to find something that can help at that price, but there's no need to get dragged into a bidding war for players who can only help this season.

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