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It’s safe to say that the Calgary Flames haven’t had the season thus far that they had envisioned. Coming out of Tuesday night’s game with the Colorado Avalanche, they’re a game south of .500. They have very little cap space to work with and any call-ups will be tinkering on the fringes of the roster.

Case in point? Tuesday’s recall of Zac Rinaldo.

On its surface, it was a puzzling move. The Stockton Heat had six more forwards with more points than Rinaldo – Matthew Phillips, Byron Froese, Glenn Gawdin, Buddy Robinson, Ryan Lomberg and Justin Kirkland. Surely one of them would be better, especially for a team struggling to score goals.

But let’s be honest here: in a situation where the Flames were facing a team like Colorado (who had eaten their lunch over the last while) and with zero practice time, throwing a new face into the fray would be a challenge. Rinaldo’s been there, done that, and playing him on the fourth line for a game (win or lose) wouldn’t impact his development.

Barring the team snapping out of their season-long funk on their own, changes will probably need to be made. Ruling out a coaching change – Bill Peters has been behind the bench a smidge over a full season – a roster change is probably what needs to happen. All calling up new faces from Stockton would do is tinker along the fringes, but the team lacks the cap space for something more substantial.

So this means that Brad Treliving’s to-do list is actually a pair of trades.

  1. Make a “pennies on the dollar” trade with a lesser asset to open up cap space.
  2. Use this newfound cap space to make a more substantial trade to change up the mix of the team.

The easiest players to lose on the roster right now are probably Michael Frolik ($4.3 million AAV) and Mark Jankowski ($1.675 million AAV). But that’s not a secret: every GM in the league can see this, which makes getting full value for those assets would be challenging. But at this point, it might be more valuable to not get value for them and simply accept a middling pick and the cap space.

The reason why accepting pennies on the dollar for one of the secondary players is that it would allow Treliving to have serious conversations about making a more substantial swap. Right now, Treliving is one of several GMs in serious cap difficulty. If you’re another GM, why would you waste a lot of brainpower exploring trade talks with a team that has $19,000 in cap space to work with?

But if the Flames had more money to work with, suddenly the conversation changes considerably and their ability to move a core piece without downgrading – because a lateral move talent-wise would probably require them to add some cap hit in the trade – increases by a ton.

There’s plenty of reason to think about moving a core piece. Things haven’t gone well for the group this season and shaking things up could be required. But until some cap space is opened up, that’s not even a possibility. If they can, any number of other interesting dominoes could become available to topple.

Who would you move to open up cap? What’s the smallest piece you would accept back? And what would your initial swap allow the Flames to do? Sound off in the comments!