The Calgary Flames' early-season woes show no signs of abating.
They brought their six-game winless skid to an end on Saturday with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, only to drop a 3-2 overtime decision two days later to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Meanwhile, the club is investigating allegations of racism levelled at head coach Bill Peters by a former NHL player.
With 26 points in 27 games, the Flames sit tenth overall in the Western Conference, one point out of a wild-card spot. It's a far cry from their conference-leading 107 points last season. Their ongoing difficulties sparked recent speculation suggesting Flames GM Brad Treliving could shake things up. Some even proposed shopping Johnny Gaudreau.
Their leading scorer since 2015-16, the 26-year-old left winger is well behind last season's career-best 99-point performance. Entering Wednesday's tilt against the Buffalo Sabres, Gaudreau is second among Flames' scorers with 20 points.
Sam Carchidi of The Philadelphia Inquirer believes the Flyers should be front of the line if Gaudreau is available. Citing the winger's youth, skill, South Jersey roots and affordable $6.75-million cap hit, Carchidi feels he would be a good addition to the Flyers' core. Carchidi acknowledged landing Gaudreau would cost the Flyers some high draft picks. If the Flames want more immediate help, he proposed including a veteran winger such as Jakub Voracek or James van Riemsdyk in the deal.
Over the weekend, the New York Post's Larry Brooks wondered if the Flames would consider swapping Gaudreau for New Jersey Devils left winger Taylor Hall if Calgary could re-sign him to a contract extension. Hall, 28, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July.
Treliving recently dismissed any talk of trading his best players. Doing so would be a panic move on his part. Besides, these media-generated trade proposals illustrate how difficult it would be for Treliving to get fair market value for Gaudreau. Voracek and van Riemsdyk are in their 30s with their best seasons behind them. Unless Treliving intends on blowing up his roster and rebuilding, those high draft picks won't help the Flames' playoff hopes this season. Assuming Hall would be amenable to staying in Calgary, his asking price could reach a budget-busting $11 million annually on a long-term deal.
Treliving could make a trade or two in the coming weeks to shake things up. It's a safe bet Gaudreau won't be among those moves.
CANADIENS PREPARING FOR BIG SPLASH?
Speaking of Hall, Sportsnet's Eric Engels believes speculation linking the winger to the Montreal Canadiens is bound to increase.
After narrowly missing the playoffs last season, expectations are high for the Canadiens in 2019-20. With 27 points in 24 games, they're clinging to third place in the Atlantic Division. An 8-1 drubbing by the Boston Bruins on Tuesday extended the Habs winless skid to five games, raising concerns they could soon tumble down the standings.
Engels pointed out the Canadiens have 12 picks in the 2020 NHL Draft plus a strong prospect pool to draw upon for trade bait. The Athletic's Arpon Basu believes GM Marc Bergevin has plenty of cap space – CapFriendly indicates Montreal has more than $8 million with which to work – to make a significant move leading up to the Feb. 24 trade deadline if he so chooses. Bergevin could be hoarding his cap room for a big move later in the season. However, he also had plenty of cap room last season but made only minor moves that did little to improve the Habs’ playoff chances.
That doesn't mean Bergevin won't consider pursuing a big-name rental player. Much will depend, of course, on where the Canadiens are in the standings.
While he could get into the bidding for a scorer like Hall, that's not the Canadiens' biggest need. With a 3.29 goals per game, they're 10th overall in scoring. A better option could be improving their defensive depth. Their recent losing skid was the result of blown leads and poor play in their own zone.
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