The NHL Trade Deadline has come and passed. As we expected due to the pandemic and the tight cap, the deadline was quieter than in past years, but the Flames and GM Brad Treliving were busy. Let’s get into the moves they made:
On Sunday night, the Calgary Flames sent G David Rittich at 50% retained salary, to the Toronto Maple Leafs, in exchange for a 2022 3rd round draft pick. As I wrote in my past article, Toronto definitely seemed like a clear-cut fit for Rittich, with the injury to Frederik Andersen opening up a spot. I think Rittich will be an excellent fit with the Maple Leafs, as his outgoing nature and vibrant personality will mesh well with the Toronto market. He also now has a shot to play more games than he would have in Calgary, as although Jack Campbell has been incredible, he has struggled over the past week and is suited for more of a tandem gig. I really like a Rittich/Campbell tandem down the stretch, as both goaltenders can get hot, and then once playoffs come and Andersen hopefully comes back, you have insurance at the position. Look at Colorado last year in the playoffs, who lost both goaltenders on their run, and were stuck playing Michael Hutchinson. No disrespect to Michael Hutchinson, but if he is your starter in the playoffs, I wouldn’t expect to go far. As for Calgary, Brad Trelving stated that upon talking to Rittich’s agent, it sounded like the goaltender was going to test the market in free agency this fall, and sign elsewhere for a tandem role. I do not blame him, as Calgary is set with Markstrom in the net for the foreseeable future, so Rittich pursuing more playing time and a higher salary checks out. Getting a 2022 3rd rounder back for Rittich, while in a tight market with few buyers, was a big win for Brad Treliving and the Flames. We saw some goaltenders like Jonathan Bernier and Antti Raanta, who were rumored to be on the move, stay put with their current teams. That is the nature of this current market, as there were few buyers, just Colorado and Toronto trading for goalies in the past week. The fact you were not only able to trade Rittich, a pending UFA away for an asset, but to get a 3rd rounder in a deep draft, is tidy work by Treliving. Rittich was a good look for the organization, as they signed him out of the Czech league for nothing, and got some quality years out of the goaltender, and now a 3rd round draft pick. Another key part of this deal is the fact that the pick is in 2022 instead of 2021, as 2022 picks are more valuable due to the nature of the world, and the draft class. It is tough to say goodbye to fan favourite Big Save Dave, but it was an essential trade to get an asset back for an expiring contract and a guy who was not going to re-sign.
Treliving’s next and final deal happened in the last minutes before the deadline. The deal involved the Flames sending F Sam Bennett and a 2022 6th rounder to the Florida Panthers, in exchange for prospect Emil Heineman and a 2022 2nd rounder. Bennett, who is the organization’s highest draft selection of all time at 4th overall, was a figure in trade discussions for years, even more so after his public trade request in January. Bennett, known for his playoff pedigree, earning the nickname “Playoff Sam Bennett” with Calgary fans, is off to the red hot Florida Panthers who seek their first playoff series win since 1996. It will not be an easy task as their matchup will be with one of Tampa Bay or Carolina, but adding Bennett, along with Nikita Gusev and Brandon Montour, to the mix will help them boost their chances. I really like the fit between Bennett and Panther’s head coach Joel Quenneville, who has given shots to players in the past, like he has done so this season with Carter Verhaeghe. If there is anyone that can help Bennett reach his potential, it is definitely Quenneville. I could see Bennett given a shot at center or wing on a line with Barkov, as his normal linemate Verhaeghe is out week to week, opening a spot for Bennett. The Panthers are getting an RFA in Sam Bennett, so they are able to keep control of him past this year if they choose, another interesting thing to note in this deal. As for the return for Calgary, I am pleasantly surprised! Let’s start with the 2022 2nd rounder. Again, Treliving got a 2022 pick instead of a 2021 pick, which I like, because it will be a deeper draft with more availability to scout, and who knows where the Panthers will be in the league a year from now. I was thinking the Flames might be able to land a single 3rd rounder for Bennett, due to his regular-season struggles and playing on the 4th line for the majority of the year. Getting a 2nd rounder in a deep draft is already more than I was expecting, and we have not even got into prospect Emil Heineman yet, so let us do just that.
Emil Heineman, the 6’1, 185 lbs LWer, is a very intriguing prospect. Based on scouting reports I have read over the past day or so, Heineman projects to be a 3rd line energy player, who is not afraid to go into the dirty areas and throw the odd hit, while also having a monster of a shot. Most scouts agree that Heineman has a high floor, but a lower ceiling, meaning he has a good shot of being an NHL player but is not expected to be a 1st or 2nd line player. That is fine for the role that Heineman plays, as Flames AGM Craig Conroy compared him to Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman. That is a great comparison for a role that the Flames desperately need, someone that can play up and down the lineup, throw the body, create energy, and score some goals. Heineman burst onto the scene in 2019-2020, scoring 26 goals and adding 15 assists for 41 points in 29 games with Leksands JF 20 of the J20 SuperElit. This year playing in the SHL with men, Heineman has 7 goals and 13 points in 43 games with Leksands IF. You might look at those point totals and expect them to be a little higher, but consider that Heineman is still only 19 years old, and playing in a league with men much older than he is. The Flames actually attempted to move up in the second round of the draft to select Heineman, but he was taken 43rd overall before the Flames picked at 50th overall. Now the Flames have a guy they really like and is valued highly by scouts league-wide, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman in his latest 31 Thoughts column. I am astounded by the return for Sam Bennett if I am being honest. The Flames definitely sold the Panthers on Bennett’s previous playoff runs and they paid the price for it. Getting back a good prospect in Heineman, as well as a 2022 2nd rounder for someone you were likely to lose in the expansion draft this off-season, is tremendous work by Treliving.
Overall, the Flames had a stellar deadline, which saw them acquire prospect Emil Heineman, as well as 2022 2nd round and 3rd round draft picks, for two players who were not going to be on the roster next year. In the grand scheme of things this season, you only lost your backup goalie and someone who was playing on the 4th line, so this does not impact the team as much as you would think. The depth is certainly depleted, but the core remains the same. It sucks to see faces head out the door, especially when they are fan favourites in David Rittich and Sam Bennett, but these were necessary moves for the franchise going forward. Now, it is evaluation time for both head coach Darryl Sutter and GM Brad Treliving on this Flames core, as this season continues on and playoffs remain far-fetched.
Thanks for reading, and have a Blasty day!
-James Johnson (@JamesJohnsonYYC on Twitter)