With this season’s trade deadline fast approaching, Calgary finds itself in an excellent position to make a deep playoff run.
Third in the conference, but more importantly ten points ahead of second place Vancouver in the Northwest Division, Calgary can adopt a less-urgent attitude than in years past and prevent exhaustion from setting in prior to the season’s end.
That being said, the March 4 trade deadline could go far in sealing Calgary’s place at the top of the conference, and perhaps get them closer to winning their first Stanley Cup since 1989.
The injury bug has hit the Flames hard—two players, Rene Bourque and Mark Giordano, went down against Minnesota last week, and both have very slight chances of returning this season. Rhett Warrener has yet to play this season and hopes to be back before season’s end, though the nature of his shoulder surgery leaves him with the distinct possibility of never playing again. Wayne Primeau also remains on injured reserve and his prospects of returning look dim.
That being said, Calgary should really look for a few short term deals to shore up those player absences. The farm system is developing well enough that Calgary doesn’t need to go into panic mode and make any long term deals that would jeopardize the contracts of some of the bigger-name players that Calgary has.
Instead, one or two solid defensemen with expiring contracts should be brought in to fill the void left by Giordano and Warrener, especially given that Calgary doesn’t want to take a chance on Anders Eriksson clearing re-entry waivers, as they would have to pick up half of his contract if another team claimed him.
The lukewarm resurgence of Matthew Lombardi could really benefit the Flames heading towards the deadline. He really hasn’t played consistently enough for Calgary this season, but with Bourque’s injury and Lombardi’s better play Calgary could easily shop him in exchange for a second-line center or a left-wing to replace Bourque.
While Calgary will obviously not be selling its most important pieces, it also shouldn’t trade any of its solid young talent under any circumstances. Curtis Glencross, David Moss, and, to a lesser extent, Dustin Boyd are all having career years for the Flames and have proven nightly that they can control the puck in the offensive zone.
If the Flames find themselves with a little cap space heading into Monday or Tuesday, an additional piece of the puzzle they might try to procure is a veteran goaltender (much like Curtis Joseph last year) to back up Miikka Kiprusoff. The current backup, Curtis McElhinney, has yet to record a victory all season and has just 11 games of NHL experience, including none in the playoffs.
With the position Calgary finds itself in heading towards the trade deadline, it really needn’t be worried about Detroit or San Jose bolstering their teams any further, especially because those teams are already solid enough and not many more expensive players can be added to their rosters.
The teams Calgary should be most worried about are Chicago and Vancouver. Vancouver represents the only legitimate threat to Calgary’s division lead this season and Calgary must maintain the division lead lest they end up in the fourth or fifth seed heading into the playoffs. Calgary should be thoroughly worried about Chicago’s plans, however.
As it stands, Calgary has been unable to muster much against Chicago all season, losing quite badly all four times. If Chicago manages to land a significant deal, Calgary should be really worried for later rounds of the playoffs.
The Calgary faithful fully trust Darryl Sutter to get a deal done to bolster the team by the deadline. If such a deal is made, Calgary could very well see itself hoisting the Stanley Cup once more.