Brad Treliving made no bones about it – the cap space he opened up by trading Michael Frolik will be used by the trade deadline.
The departure of the versatile Czech and his $4.3 million cap hit will ultimately land the Flames far more than the fourth-round draft pick Buffalo sent their way Thursday.
“We didn’t trade to keep it in our pocket,” said Treliving of the oh-so-valuable cap space.
“Our intention is to go out and make the team better. This is a big part of it.”
The question over the next 52 days in Calgary now revolves around who?
Which lads around the NHL will the Flames target and ultimately close in on by the Feb. 24 trade deadline?
While adding depth to the blue line is on every GM’s wish list, the most pressing need the Flames have is scoring.
One year removed from being the league’s second-most prolific offensive unit, the Flames now sit 22nd, and could most definitely use another top-six forward capable of filling the net.
There are plenty of players with expiring contracts on borderline teams that fit that bill, setting the stage for the type of rental the Flames are prime candidates to acquire.
With a smidge under $2 million in projected cap space ($4.7 million in deadline cap space), the Flames could essentially take on a $4 million player at this midway point in the season. As the countdown to the deadline draws closer and the amount owing players on their deals diminishes, the Flames can take on even bigger salaries.
In addition to newfound cap space, the Flames also have several attractive young assets they can peddle in a deal.
Most importantly, the GM has an intense desire to up the ante on a team he feels is capable of far more than it has shown this year.
With all that in mind, here are the top five leading candidates:
TYLER TOFFOLI, RW, $4.6 million
The 27-year-old LA Kings winger may be one of the most coveted targets for the Flames, given he’s a right-shooting winger, where the Flames need the most help.
A 31-goal scorer four years ago, whose stock has been dropping ever since, there’s no question the six-foot, 197-pound Scarborough, Ont., native will be moved by a Kings club expected to start selling off major assets soon as part of its rebuild.
Toffoli’s prolific junior career in Ottawa included spending two seasons on the same team as Sean Monahan, perhaps adding to the allure of completing a line in Calgary with Johnny Gaudreau and Monahan.
CHRIS KREIDER, LW, $4.65 million
The Rangers are rebuilding and would love to keep the 28-year old power forward in the fold, but at what cost? The American-born lefty is a six-foot-three, 217-pound bruiser who has scored 28 goals in two of the last three seasons.
The Flames got an up-close look at Kreider Thursday, when his physical play stood out as he establish a net-front presence the Flames would dearly love to add to their second power play unit, replacing Milan Lucic.
The Boston College star, who is close friends with Cam Talbot, would be a pure rental, as he seems destined to either re-up with the Rangers this summer, or land in some other high-profile U.S. market.
That doesn’t mean the Rangers wouldn’t like to first cash in on a few assets at the deadline with a trade of the associate captain, before taking another swing at him.
He has a limited no-trade clause, which could stand in the way of him being sent to Calgary, a la Nazem Kadri.
MIKE HOFFMAN, RW, $5.87 million
Hoffman is one of the most intriguing possibilities as his team’s playoff status will dictate whether he’s on the move or not.
The Florida Panthers currently sit two points out of a wild card spot, and likely won’t be much further ahead or behind that spot by the time the deadline rolls around, meaning his status could hold up some of the dealings.
The 30-year-old would be a great fit in Calgary as the left-handed sniper has thrived on the right wing, where the perennial 20-goal man in Ottawa scored 36 times with the Panthers last season.
Alas, you can cross him off the list of the Panthers surge back into a comfortable playoff spot in the next six weeks, as he’s a big part of the top trio with Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov.
Although it’s unlikely the Panthers can afford to re-sign him, he, too, has a limited no-trade clause.
ZACK KASSIAN, RW, $1.95 million
Yes, I know, this one would be a tough one for Flames fans to swallow after years of hating the Oilers tough guy.
But hear me out.
Demand will be high for the gritty winger around the league due to his low cap hit and newfound scoring touch.
Yes, we all know the man with the career-high 15-goal season is on pace to double that this year because he’s playing top-line minutes on Connor McDavid’s right side.
But that, and his ruggedness, are part of why he might be a good fit in Calgary, as the team would love to add a right-handed shot like who can keep up with the big guns.
Again, the Oilers playoff probabilities will factor in heavily, as they’d never trade him if the playoffs seemed possible.
There’s also the possibility he’ll realize his future is brightest in Edmonton, where he could be convinced to re-sign before hitting free agency this summer.
EVGENII DADONOV, RW, $4 million
A two-time 28-goal scorer since returning from the KHL in 2017, the 30-year-old Russian is in the same boat as Hoffman above.
If the Panthers remain in the playoff hunt he’s an asset they wouldn’t consider moving.
Alas, if things change he’d give the Flames a versatile option to play on any line, as well as the power play, where he moves over to the left side.
He’s on pace for yet another 28-goal season despite currently playing on the third line.