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The Calgary Flames are not playing their best hockey right now. They have dropped four consecutive games, five of six overall, and put forth some pretty underwhelming efforts along the way.
Even so, they still sit atop the Western Conference in points, goals for, goal differential, and seem poised to host an opening-round playoff series, which bodes well given their success on home soil (17-5-5).
We know they will be buyers at, and leading up to, the trade deadline. What we don't know is the exact extent.
Based on some of the rumors in recent weeks, it seems likely they'll make a notable addition. Or at least try to do so.
More fuel was added to that fire Thursday when Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman referred to the Flames as "big-game hunters" in the rental market.
Excerpt below via 31 Thoughts
The big-game hunters for rentals (including Artemi Panarin) are Calgary, the Islanders, Nashville and Winnipeg for sure. I’ll have more on Boston below, but the Bruins are lurking. Columbus is incredibly intriguing, because, if they don’t keep Panarin, they will use what they get for him to add. I think Pittsburgh and San Jose would be there if they had more assets. Jim Rutherford and Doug Wilson are fearless, but previous moves prevent this.
There are quite a few notables on the market – Panarin, Mark Stone and Matt Duchene headline the bunch – but, if I had to guess, Stone would be the one that interests the Flames the most. He should be, anyway.
He is a point per game player who drives possession, provides elite defense, and can make a significant impact in all aspects of the game. You can probably count on one hand the amount of two-way forwards as good as Stone. I think he'd be an absolute dream fit playing right wing on the 2nd line alongside Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund. Few, if any, top-6 groups would be as good as Calgary's if they were able to make it happen.
Acquiring Stone would not be cheap – we're likely talking a 1st round pick and one of Juuso Valimaki/Rasmus Andersson/Oliver Kylington just to get a seat at the table – but if anyone on the market is worth really paying up for in order to bolster the team's Cup chances, it is Stone.
If they can't get their hands on him, I fully expect the Flames to bring in another established top-6/top-9 forward.
That sure seems like their biggest focus, anyway, given the Flames are only sniffing around the market for depth defenders, and (reportedly) more confident in their goaltending than those on the outside.
More trade deadline talk
Hotstove: Western Conference bounce-back player of the year?
Hotstove: midseason Norris Trophy picks
Hotstove: midseason Hart Trophy picks
Predicting the Pacific Division standings