As the Calgary Flames line up to face the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night, they find themselves in possession of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference – but barely. Their 29-26-3 record gives them 61 points, one more than the Los Angeles Kings and one less than the Nashville Predators.
Unfortunately, the Flames’ grip on the spot is less than firm. They’re going to need every win they can pick up down the stretch, with the both the Kings and Predators two games behind them.
What’s more, the Flames are down in the goal differential. They’ve scored 152 goals as of press time, but they’ve allowed 165 goals against.
This puts some needs on the table, but Calgary doesn’t have a lot of room to move with no cap space to work with.
At the top of the list is a defenceman to pair with TJ Brodie, which puts blueliners like Colorado’s Tyson Barrie and Buffalo’s Dmitry Kulikov in the spotlight.
The Flames did sign Matt Bartkowski to a two-year, two-way contract and that may or may not address some deficiencies the team has in the bottom end of their defensive core. There was some reporting that the 28-year-old from Pittsburgh would be sent down to Stockton for conditioning, but Calgary put Brett Kulak on the bus instead. That suggests Bartkowski could make his debut against the Canucks.
And indeed, that makes for an interesting story in and of itself as the Canucks let him go via free agency in the summer. The Flames are prepared to give him a chance, but one has to imagine they’ll want to do more as March 1 looms.
Another interesting card in the deck here is the looming expansion draft, which means that the Flames will have to expose a defenceman. Bartkowski could fit that bill, as there’s no chance Calgary wants to part with Brodie or Mark Giordano or Dougie Hamilton. Dennis Wideman and Deryk Engelland could be among those exposed to the Vegas Golden Knights.
To cut to the chase, it’s hard to say how active the Flames will be going into the trade deadline.
But the team does have needs, even if there’s a lack of flexibility. With unrestricted free agents like Kris Versteeg, Brian Elliott, Chad Johnson, Engelland, and Wideman on the docket and RFAs like Sam Bennett, Michael Ferland and Alex Chiasson among the situations to handle, the Flames may be content to just stand pat.
Or they could pull some moves, especially with a game chip like Wideman on the table.
Time will tell.