Calgary Wants Back in the First Round

This week, Hockey insider Elliot Friedman announced that the Calgary Flames, who don’t have a pick in the first three rounds, are looking at their options in order to trade for a first-round pick. Prior to the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the Flames acquired defenseman Travis Hamonic from the New York Islanders in exchange for the Flame’s 2018 first round pick (which became the 12th overall pick), their 2018 2nd round pick (43rd overall) and the Islander’s choice of Calgary’s 2019 or 2020 2nd round pick. The Flames also traded their 2018 3rd round pick (74th overall), along with goaltender Chad Johnson and defenseman Brandon Hickey, to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for goaltender Mike Smith.

As we look back on these two very aggressive deals from Brad Treliving and the Calgary Flames, it becomes clear that the gamble did not pay off for the Flames. Not only did Hamonic not live up to the hype surrounding him prior to the trade (not to mention Smith’s horrendous first half of the season), but the Flames fizzled out of the playoff race in the Western Conference in the last few weeks of the season. The ensuing result? They gave the New York Islanders two shots at winning the draft lottery and the Islanders will most likely draft a player that will become better than Hamonic at 12th overall. In order to rectify this mistake, it seems Calgary is looking to sell off some current talent in order to ensure they have young and cheap talent coming through the system.

But then who can Calgary dangle right now that could potential interest other teams? The major talk out of Calgary has focused around defenseman Dougie Hamilton and young center, and former 4th overall pick, Sam Bennet. Would I consider trading Hamilton and his sweetheart 5.75$ million contract if I were Calgary? Hell no! Hamilton is a rock for the Flames at 5v5, on the powerplay and on the penalty kill. He is most probably their most consistent defenseman and is just entering his prime at the age of 24. Treliving might be feeling that Hamonic could potentially replace Hamilton’s production on the back-end if ever he were to be traded for a package of picks and prospects.

I don’t buy it at all, as Dougie Hamilton put up 44 points last year for the Flames, including 17 goals, and that wasn’t even his career best season to date. Hamonic’s best season was back in 201-2015 when he out up 33 points on New York’s top pairing. There is no comparison between the two offensively, and I would be willing to bet that the Flames would greatly miss Hamilton should he be traded.Needless to say, Hamilton should remain put unless there’s a blue-chip defensive prospect a la Mikhail Sergachev coming the other way (along with a 1st round pick).

Sam Bennett is another deal entirely. The young pivot looked like a lost cause early on in his career. His rookie season looked promising, as he put up 36 points in 77 games as a 19 year-old. Unfortunately for the Flames, Bennett regressed in his development the following two seasons, putting up 26 points in 81 and 82 games respectively. The former 4th overall pick in 2014 has been nothing short of a disappointment in Calgary, as he was projected to be the perfect complement down the middle on the second line to Sean Monahan, who is Calgary’s number 1 center.

With Mikael Backlund locked into the 2nd line center position for the next 2-3 years, and youngster Mark Jankowski looking like his potential replacement down the road, Bennett has become expendable for the Flames and could certainly use a change of scenery to jumpstart his career. Will he garner a 1st round pick? Perhaps not, unless he is packaged with other assets, but he can certainly get the Flames an early to mid-second round pick and allow the Flames to pick a talented player that slid out of the first round.

Bennett and Hamilton would make for attractive players to bring up in trade talks, but another defenseman might also be shopped by Calgary. T.J. Brodie has been a staple on Calgary’s left side for the last 5 years and I strongly believe that he could be the odd man out for the Flames due to his age, attractive cap hit and Calgary’s positional strength. The Flames have 19 year-old Juuso Valimaki and 20 year-old Oliver Kylington that are knocking on the door ready to make the jump. They also have Giordano anchored in the top left-defense spot for the next 2-4 years.

Trading Brodie would certainly garner league-wide attention, and could most certainly net a mid-first round pick for a team looking to shore up their defensive corps. Teams like the Devils, Panthers, Kings and Oilers would certainly call the Flames with substantial offers, due to their glaring weaknesses on the left-side of their defense. Calgary thought they were gearing up for a deep playoff run this year, and it didn’t work out that way. They need to ensure that there will a continued infusion of youth and talent if they are ever going to compete for a playoff spot. Trading all those picks for one player should serve as a lesson for Calgary and other GMs that they should only trade those picks when they are absolutely stacked, and the Flames were not. I fully expect Calgary to be a bubble team again next year, so it is in their best interest to let the youth play now and sell off their extra assets, rather than make a desperate trade for the sake of acquiring a pick.