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Steinberg's Slant: Standing pat doesn't mean standing still

by Pat Steinberg / Calgary Flames

Brad Treliving has a dilemma on his hands. With less than two weeks before the NHL trade deadline, the general manager of the Calgary Flames has a number of different options in front of him.

The Flames have plenty of cap space, they have a full stock of draft picks, a nice cupboard of prospects, and a decent number of roster players they could move elsewhere. Calgary could do any number of different things prior to the deadline, yet I’m of the opinion that doing very little is the way to go.

I know, I know, not doing much at the deadline would be hard to swallow. The Flames are right in the teeth of this Western Conference playoff battle, and we all know how unpredictable things are once the playoffs start. But you also have to take into consideration the bigger picture for the organization, which encompasses more than just this season.

I fall back on three reasons why less is more prior to the deadline. First, let’s take not forget that this group has something pretty special going on right now. We can argue how much the concepts of chemistry and team unity mean at a later date. What I don’t think we can debate, however, is that this group of Flames have a pretty special dynamic about them.

Plain and simple, Calgary is a very tight knit group that believes in the type of hockey they need to play. I’m a guy who tends to lean far more to the analytical side of things. Yet, even I have to admit that I worry about messing with things if you tinker too much with the lineup. Whatever the Flames have got right now, it’s working for them, and I can understand hesitation to mess around too much.

Second, you have to wonder if certain deals might make your team worse. If Calgary were to go ahead and deal off a few of their pending free agents in traditional moves, they’d probably get draft picks back in return. Players like Curtis Glencross and Raphael Diaz would probably fetch you something at the deadline. But if draft picks are coming back in return, then Calgary isn’t getting better on the ice right now. In fact, they’re probably going in the other direction.

The worst that can happen if the Flames elect to hold on to pending free agents is that they walk and sign elsewhere on July 1st. Making sure you maximize assets like that is important if you’re an older team facing the prospect of missing the playoffs. On this team, however, they’re young and on a very good path. Keeping players even with the chance they might walk away for nothing is a risk I’d be willing to take.

Finally, always remember how cutthroat this time of year is. The trade deadline is not a time to be searching for bargains or doing things for good value. If the Flames want to improve their team, it’s going to cost them, and there’s a chance paying the price might not in their best interest.

Yes, Calgary has things that would be of interest to other teams. The Flames have a nice crop of prospects and they have draft picks. There’s no doubt in my mind they could swing a deal to bring in a guy who could help them right now. But that deal would likely be for a rental player another team, likely not in the playoffs, is trying maximize.

“Traditional” deadlines moves for teams trying to get better usually consist of paying a steep price for a depreciating asset. That’s great for some teams, but Calgary is in year two of a rebuild. As positive as this year has been, I still don’t think the Flames are in the position where adding a piece of two will get them over a hump. They should be in that spot soon, but aren’t quite there yet.

I have no inside knowledge as to what Treliving and the Flames are going to do prior to March 2nd. With all the options they have in front of them, I’m sure the conversations going on behind closed doors are fascinating. But approaching the 2015 deadline with some caution is probably a good idea.

I’m not burying my head in the sand. I know the Flames might be in the market to make numerous different trades, and we might see a flurry of activity over the next couple weeks. But I also know how cautiously Treliving has talked about making moves, so standing pat or doing very little is definitely something we could see.

Calgary is starved for playoff hockey, and so it’s easy to understand why the appetite for making moves would be larger than it has been in quite some time. But if they don’t make a bunch of big splashes, remember, this team has done pretty well with what they have right now. If all the Flames do is get some of their young players some valuable playoff experience this season, I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.

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