SUN Hockey Pool

Can draft help Flames score?

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:40 PM ET

Everyone knows the Flames had trouble scoring goals last season, so that should be Sutter’s biggest focus at the Staples Center the next couple of days.

Filling needs is typically what the NHL draft is all about.

It just isn’t always by making picks.

Trades are as big a part of this weekend as the prospect crapshoot, and Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter is often a participant.

With no selections in the first two rounds, there are a few things Sutter can do to make waves.

One is shed some salary and earn some extra picks, which he might want to combine to move up higher in the draft and increase his chances of adding to the talent on the farm.

With eight defencemen on one-way deals for next season — Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr, Mark Giordano, Steve Staios, Cory Sarich, Adam Pardy, Staffan Kronwall and restricted free agent Ian White — it’s a position of strength from which to deal in order to bolster the forward ranks.

Everyone knows the Flames had trouble scoring goals last season, so that should be Sutter’s biggest focus at the Staples Center the next couple of days.

He’d likely have to deal a bigger name like Regehr or White — whom the Flames may not be able to afford if he chooses to go to arbitration — to add an available offensive threat like Marc Savard.

They also have next year’s top pick to bargain with.

If a big splash isn’t possible, then adding picks by parting with a veteran gives Sutter the option of packaging multiples to move up.

As it stands, the Flames have a pair of third-round picks, two more in the fourth, and one in each of the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds.

Getting into the top 60 is the best way to land a player who could make a jump to the NHL sooner than later.

Mikael Backlund is the most skilled prospect on the farm right now, and he should land one of the vacant centre spots for the Flames this year.

Behind him, the cupboards aren’t as bare as some think when it comes to offence.

Mitch Wahl and Greg Nemisz are going pro, and last year’s third-round pick Ryan Howse should be dominant in junior this winter. Free-agent overager Bryan Cameron was a nice offseason pickup from the junior ranks. Goals could also come from the blueline a few years down the road with T.J. Brodie, Tim Erixon and John Negrin looking promising.

Of course, it’s likely none of these guys can help the Flames immediately.

And the Flames certainly need some assistance — last year’s team couldn’t make the playoffs and it’s hard to imagine them scoring too many more goals with the same cast of characters.

That’s what makes the prospect of moving picks and players for more skilled forwards more attractive than the actual draft this weekend.

If the team is stuck with status quo, it will be Saturday afternoon before the Flames even get to the podium.

When they do, offence should still be their top priority. You can’t have enough of it at the NHL level, and as we’ve seen over the years with draft picks like Kris Chucko, Dan Ryder, Dustin Boyd and Chuck Kobasew, things don’t often work out as planned.

At least three of their first four picks should address that need. The other could add to the depth on the blueline.

Defence is still a strength in the organization, but goaltending is becoming a concern as Miikka Kiprusoff gets up in age.

Leland Irving has been the hopeful heir to the NHL starting job since he was drafted in the first round back in 2006, but took a bit of a step backward in development last year and found himself behind Matt Keetley and David Shantz on the depth chart.

Look for the Flames to add a goalie in the later rounds.

Unless they manage to move up or make a big move, the later rounds is as exciting as it gets for Flames fans this weekend.

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca


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