Deadline Decisions: Blue ice a black hole for Flames

Bob Hartley is not letting trade talks distract him or his Calgary Flames, adding that Joni Ortio is keeping the team within reach of a playoff spot.

Between now and Feb. 29, sportsnet.ca will be taking an in-depth look at teams and the decisions facing them leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline. Today: Calgary Flames.

General Manager: Brad Treliving

Pending UFAs: Jiri Hudler, Kris Russell, Jonas Hiller, David Jones, Karri Ramo, Jakub Nakladal

2016 Draft Picks: 1st (Cgy), 2nd (Cgy), 3rd (Cgy), 4th (Cgy), Conditional 4th (Nsh), 5th (Cgy), 6th (Cgy)

No-move or No-trade clauses: Dennis Wideman (NMC), Matt Stajan (NTC)

Cap space on deadline day: $9,265,748

Team Mode: Sell, but keep an eye out for a goalie who can help next fall

Numbers courtesy General Fanager.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way for the Calgary Flames. Well, maybe it was, depending on whom you ask.

The Flames’ unlikely charge to a playoff spot and first-round series win caught a lot of people off guard last year, specifically those who looked at the club’s woeful underlying numbers and thought something was amiss.

While the expectation in many circles was that Calgary would, if not crash, at least slip back toward Earth, the naysayers were given reason to pause when the Flames added two-way right winger Michael Frolik and defenceman Dougie Hamilton in the off-season.

But with key blueliner T.J. Brodie on the shelf, Calgary won just three times in its first 12 outings. By Halloween, it was clear the Flames figured to be sellers at the deadline.

The two most obvious candidates to be moved are right winger Jiri Hudler and blueliner Kris Russell, who should recover soon from a lower-body injury. It’s worth noting, however, that Calgary doesn’t always do the most obvious thing at this time of year.

Two years ago, a Flames team that was well out of the playoff race hung on to Michael Cammalleri when the winger was just months from free agency and likely to leave an Alberta rebuild. Last season, with the team in the thick of the post-season hunt, Calgary shipped out longtime soldier Curtis Glencross, flipping him to the Washington Capitals for second- and third-round picks.

Because Glencross couldn’t find an NHL job this year, it’s easy to say, with the benefit of hindsight, that it was a no-brainer. But there’s a reason the Caps were willing to part with two picks for his services 12 months ago, and Treliving showed fortitude in pulling the trigger.

So what about this year? It’s extremely hard to imagine either Russell or Hudler — both pending UFAs — being Flames after Monday. Russell is a polarizing poster boy in the 'analytics vs. old school' feud. Math-minded people will say he only blocks so many shots because his team never has the puck when he’s on the ice, while heart-and-soul aficionados see a guy who will do anything to help his team win.

Regardless of your stance, expect Russell to be deflecting rubber on another team’s blue line very shorty.

(Incidentally, the Flames may have investigated moving Dennis Wideman and the $5.2-million cap hit he carries through next year before he was suspended 20 games for abuse of an official.)

Hudler’s career-high 31 goals last year was a big reason Calgary punched a post-season ticket, but a couple numbers — he’s 32 and has just nine goals this season — make it an easy decision to part ways. The Flames have also emphatically checked the 'small scoring guy' box with Johnny Gaudreau.

As for something beyond those players, the most likely possibility lies in a crease-related move. The blue ice has been a black hole for Calgary this season and will absolutely be addressed before next year. Could they swoop in and, say, take Jonathan Bernier off the Toronto Maple Leafs’ hands as a reclamation project for pennies on the dollar, knowing they’re only committing to one more year of contract? Perhaps, though the more likely scenario is a summertime move for a proven entity.

Either way, Calgary’s search for a goalie will go a long way in determining what kind of state it's in before next year’s deadline.