Devils Trade Series: The Calgary Flames

Now I’ve never been to Calgary, but I’m pretty sure the movie “Cool Runnings” took place there, aside from playing host to the NHL’s Calgary Flames. The Flames took the next step forward toward their success in 2019, even if their season ended way too early. Either way, it’s time for us to look at the Flames for the next installment of the Devils Army Blog Trade Series.

The recent history of the Flames has been inconsistent, to say the least. For the past few years, the team moved from the old days of Jarome Iginla and Mikka Kiprusoff and into the new era ushered in with New Jersey-native, Johnny Gaudreau. Over the past few seasons, we’ll see the Flames make the playoffs one season, only to fall short the next.

In 2018-19, they appeared to take a massive step forward, not only under the play of Gaudreau but young left wing Matthew Tkachuk. Calgary reentered the NHL playoffs as the Western Conference top seed but didn’t last long. Just like the Tampa Bay Lightning were upset by the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Flames were upset by the second wild card Colorado Avalanche in five games. Their quest for the cup fell short.

The Situation With Calgary

Despite not making it far in the playoffs, Calgary’s questions for next season rely not only on team success and what went wrong but the cap crunch they face. Tkachuk is due for a new contract, and the Flames are going to have to free up some assets to keep their star left winger happy and in Calgary for the long term. Fortunately for the Devils, rumor has it that two of Calgary’s defenseman have become available: Travis Hamonic and T.J. Brodie.

The situation Calgary is in right now is not unlike the situation the Washington Capitals were in when they traded Marcus Johansson away. The Capitals, too, had to free up cap space and sent away a talented player at a discount for the all-important asset of cap space. While Johansson’s tenure with the Devils was plagued with injuries, and he never lived up to the hype, there’s no denying Ray Shero was able to acquire him for a steal. The same opportunity has presented itself with the Flames, and the Devils should take full advantage of it.

Photo from Getty Images

Even better, both players would fill the gaping need in the Devils’ roster for an effective defenseman. Their blue line is expected to improve with the anticipated addition of Ty Smith this next season, but aside from Vantanen and Butcher when he plays his best, the defense needs a massive upgrade. Calgary just might be the place to find that.

Since Brodie and Hamonic are available, they’ll be the two players we’re looking at as trade pieces. Yes, we’d love to have Johnny Hockey trade the Saddledome for Prudential Center, but in all interest of realistically making the Devils better, we’re going to stick to pieces we can actually acquire. Right now these players are the two Calgary defensemen, but don’t expect to get both.

Travis Hamonic

Hamonic is everything the Devils need on their blue line, which if you’ve been reading these articles is a young, right-handed defenseman. He more than fits that bill at 28 years old and 6-foot-2. His weight of 205 pounds could use a little bulking up, but he’d still be a great addition just the way he is.

Although throughout his career he only scores in the area of 20 points per season — he scored 19 this past year in 69 games — there’s a reason his stock may be rising now. After three straight seasons with a negative plus or minus rating, including his last two seasons on the Islanders, Hamonic posted a career-best +21 rating this past year. His last year in an Islanders jersey he was -21. Granted those numbers might be skewed if you consider the Flames overperformed this season, but compare that to the Devils’ current defenseman. Not a single Devils’ defenseman finished last season with a positive +/- record, with the best being Mirco Mueller who finished with a -3 rating. Damon Severson, who was arguably the best defenseman once Vantanen went down with an injury, finished with a -27 rating.

Related: Devils Trade Series: the Winnipeg Jets

There are two major red flags on Hamonic, though. First, the Flames gave up plenty to acquire him from the Islanders. A previous second round pick of the Islanders, Calgary traded a first round pick and two second round picks to acquire Hamonic. No matter how much of a cap crunch they’re in, with that much invested they’ll probably want more than the Devils are willing to give.

Also, there’s the matter of Hamonic’s history with the Islanders. At one point during his tenure on Long Island, Hamonic requested a trade to Western Canada to attend to a ”family matter”. He later rescinded the request, even though he was later traded to Calgary. If Hamonic wanted to get out of the New York/New Jersey metro area once before, there’s little to make us think he’d stay with the Devils once his current deal runs out at the end of next season. Between Brodie and Hamonic, most would consider Harmonic the better of the two, but Brodie comes with less red flags.

T.J. Brodie

Stats wise, Brodie looks like the better defenseman in all categories. While Hamonic usually scores around 20 points in a season, Brodie is good for anywhere between 30 and 40. He ended this last season with nine goals and 25 assists for 34 points in 79 games. He has never played less than 70 games in a season, so he has proved himself durable.

Just like Hamonic, Brodie is 28 years old but much lighter in the weight department, at a slim 185 pounds. Also placing him a slot below Hamonic is the fact he’s a left-handed defenseman when the Devils are in a more critical need for a right-hander. Brodie usually plays on the right side of Calgary’s top defensive pairing, but as the season went on, he started to be replaced by Rasmus Andersson on that same pairing. Brodie also finished with a slightly better +29 rating than Hamonics +21 rating this past season as well.

Photo from Getty Images

Although Hamonic holds the edge on the size and right-handed department, Brodie seems to be in a better position for Shero to pursue. He was also drafted by Calgary in the fourth round of the 2008 Entry Draft. Since they didn’t ”spend” a lot to get him, and it seems like a replacement is ready to take over, he should come considerably cheaper than Hamonic. Don’t expect Calgary to go as low as their original fourth-round pick, however.

Brodie is in the same position as Hamonic, with one year remaining on his deal, so the Devils would have to be very careful not to overpay for him. Considering the Devils hold two second round picks in this year’s draft, it’d be wishful thinking to think they’d move Brodie for a second and a third. The Devils wouldn’t want to give up both their seconds on a player that has no guarantee of staying past this season.

Shero could try to get creative and offer to fix one of Calgary’s needs: goaltending. One of the main reasons behind their early playoff exit was the decision to start veteran goalie Mike Smith over the younger David Rittich, who carried them most of the season. Cory Schneider has a no-trade clause, and there’s almost no shot the Devils want to move their goaltender of the future, Mackenzie Blackwood. Maybe if Shero can convince Schneider to chase a cup in Calgary, the Flames would be more receptive to sending Brodie to New Jersey.

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