News came out recently of a tough break for the Calgary Flames. Defenseman Juuso Valimaki tore his ACL during off-season training. This has changed the perspective of what the Flames are now looking for heading into the season.
With Valimaki’s injury, GM Treliving says the team will be looking externally (trade) for help on the blueline on top of internal options.— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) August 12, 2019
Says Oliver Kylington is a natural internal option, but says team will also start looking at trade options very shortly. #Flames
First of all, it’s tough to imagine why they would seek external options. CapFriendly has Calgary at only $7.7 million under the salary cap — with RFA Matt Tkachuk still to sign. Some media outlets have projected that to be an $8.5 million annual salary on a long-term deal, and even that seems a bit low, considering the tough negotiation and possibility of peer wingers (Mitch Marner, Mikko Rantanen, Patrik Laine) still to sign and potentially setting a higher bar.
Regardless, no matter how that splits out the main takeaway is the entirety of the Flames’ space (and maybe then some) should be earmarked for Tkachuk.
But, since the GM himself mentioned trades, let’s talk trades! (I still don’t see why they wouldn’t sign an Andrew MacDonald or Dion Phaneuf or Ben Hutton type to a low money one-year deal if they wanted a bad depth defenseman, but I digress).
One interesting item with Calgary is that they have both Travis Hamonic and TJ Brodie as unrestricted free agents next summer. Both players have been mentioned at times recently in the trade rumor mill.
Via The Score, here is Calgary’s current situation:
If they’re looking for a Valimaki replacement, it would be the third pair left defenseman spot to push Oliver Kylington or add depth in general. At this point, now you can see why a Pens’ blog is talking so much about the state of the Flames’ blueline, being as Pittsburgh has just the third pair left defenseman anchor to drop.
However, the Pens issue now is that they need to dump salary in order to re-sign Marcus Pettersson. Calgary doesn’t feel like a perfect match, because they really can’t afford to take on too much salary with Tkachuk still looming large. But it’s Calgary themselves who are talking about the interest in adding a depth defender, it’s worth seeing if there’s a way to meet in the middle.
Could the Flames include Michael Frolik (one year left at $4.3 million)? Could the Pens include Bryan Rust (three years at $3.5m). Having one or both of those forwards in the mix could balance the salary considerations out.
Make it a Johnson+Rust for Frolik trade as the main principles, and Pittsburgh saves $2.45 million on the cap — probably enough to re-sign Pettersson if they parlay that by going with seven defensemen. (Or find a way to later flip Frolik for a defender).
From Calgary’s side this would make some sense. In Rust they get an extra winger to hedge against Tkachuk potentially holding out at the start of the season. And while adding $2.45m to the cap doesn’t sound very smart for them, their own GM said they willing to look at adding someone externally, which in very definition means bringing on more salary. Adding two NHL caliber players for $2.45m achieves that sort of goal. Where would they find the room to trim to fit Tkachuk? Not sure but that would be their problem to solve with another transaction to cut costs (and maybe they flip Rust for futures).
Or perhaps the two sides can get more creative and try to fact in a third team with cap space to help out. We’ve seen the Pens do this before, most notably when they used Vegas to help them navigate their tight cap space and Ottawa’s tight budget in making the blockbuster Derick Brassard trade. Even when money doesn’t quite add up, where there is a will there is a way to figure out how to make it happen.
That “will” to want to make a deal from the Pittsburgh side remains a consideration, though. As written here, understandably the Pens won’t want to purge their own left-side defensive depth, so it would make sense to involve an extra team or flip whatever they get from Calgary to add a defender of their own. Either way, their two objectives should be very clear as summer dwindles: find a way to dump the worst performing defender on their team with a terrible contract, and create enough room to re-sign Pettersson. That’s what any moves Pittsburgh makes should be angling towards accomplishing.
Much is still speculative right now. But the one data point out there is that Calgary is definitely scoping around to see if they can work their way into adding defensive depth. The Pens should definitely have interest to see if they can accomplish their own goals to see if they can help. The two sides don’t quite line up perfectly, but they still have a month to use their imaginations and figure out if there’s a path to have each side achieve what they’re looking for.