Reader “Jay” asked yesterday if this column would examine some possible needs and wants for a few teams in the NHL looking to make playoff runs. He specifically mentioned Calgary, LA, Buffalo and Boston. Today, I will take a stab at Calgary and LA to see who they might possibly acquire and who they might deal to make it happen.
Looking first at the Flames, we see that they have a strong defense, good goaltending and rough and tumble forward corps. What’s missing is scoring depth and a reliable backup goalie. Nothing against McElhinney, but should Kiprusoff go down, the Flames might well find themselves in trouble. The same reason applies up front. The Flames have not replaced the goals provided by the departed Mike Cammalleri, and though Rene Bourque has come on lately, they will need more come playoff time.
The problem is that, like many other clubs, the Flames are very close to the cap. A natural target would seem to be someone like Ray Whitney. A proven playoff performer who is always good for a few goals, Whitney could come in and help the Flames immediately and can play anywhere in the lineup. A cap hit of $3.55 million puts him out of Calgary’s price range unless they can move someone to make room.
This brings up another problem, namely, who gets moved. The Flames have a handful of players making big money and a bunch of guys sitting right around the million dollar mark. The Flames aren’t in a position to move the big-ticket guys, and the Hurricanes aren’t likely to be interested in any other Flames players that would offer the requisite salary room. So to me, this looks like a non-starter.
A goaltender might be more in the Flames price range. Florida GM Randy Sexton is known to be looking for a deal. Could the Flames pry Scott Clemmensen out of South Florida? At a cap hit of $1.2 million, the Flames could afford him even without clearing space, and could offer up any number of spare-part type players that might interest the Panthers. A bottom half defender might help the Panthers, and the Flames have a few of them. Perhaps not the best fit, but something could be done here.
Revisiting the Ray Whitney situation, the Los Angeles Kings might be a better fit for the veteran winger. In a position to make the playoffs for the first time in years, the Kings may look to add some veteran presence to help the young and talented squad Dean Lombardi has assembled.
The aforementioned Whitney might just fit the bill for the SoCal crew. As a veteran with playoff experience, he would be the perfect compliment to Ryan Smyth and would provide some insurance should Anze Kopitar’s stick go cold down the stretch.
The Kings have nearly $7 million in available cap space, and could likely be persuaded into sending pending UFA Alex Frolov the other way. With a $4 million price tag but a cap hit of $2.9, he would replace Whitney in Carolina and give the ‘Canes a chance to re-sign the enigmatic winger. Still only 27, he would give the Hurricanes another big body up front and replace the goals that Whitney provides. Given his weak season to date, he may also come at a bargain.
The Kings could also use a little help on defense, where they have good group of youngsters plus Rob Scuderi and grey-beard Sean O’Donnell. Scuderi and Matt Greene both have experience with a playoff run, but the Kings may also consider taking Aaron Ward from Carolina.
Another grizzled veteran with playoff experience, Ward would provide size, strength and added depth to the Kings blueline. He has has a manageable cap-hit of $2.5 million and, like Whitney, is a UFA after this season. Frolov might not be enough to entice Carolina to make the deal, so the Kings could throw in one of their plethora of young forwards, perhaps a guy like Trevor Lewis, who has seemingly been passed on the depth chart.
Agree? Disagree? Lets hear it in the comments.