It is the time of year in the National Hockey League where the teams that are not currently playing start to look around their respective organizations and wonder what they can change in order to avoid this exact scenario one year from now. Unfortunately it is very rare that a team is immediately able to address their problems immediately following a failed season, but every once in a while a situation presents itself in which they can solve some of their headaches by helping solve some problems for another National Hockey League organization.
As all of our readers will know 2 of the teams who currently find themselves in such a predicament are the Vancouver Canucks, who missed the playoffs entirely this time around, and the Calgary Flames, an organization that finished first in the Western Conference but was quickly sent packing after just 5 playoff games. These 2 franchises in spite of both being on the outside looking in are in very different stages of their roster development. The Canucks are still quite a way away from being a serious contender, at least in my opinion, while the Flames on the other hand are almost assuredly in "win now" mode after their dominant performance in the 2018 - 2019 NHL regular season.
The Flames however have found themselves with a particularly nasty headache after veteran forward James Neal saw his production and his performance on the ice fall off a cliff this season. The fall from grace for Neal was never more apparent than during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he was made a healthy scratch after failing to produce a single point and went -3 in the series for Calgary. The fact that this happened in the first year of a contract that the Flames signed Neal to last summer, one that will cost the Flames a whopping $5.75 million against the cap for 4 more seasons after this one, is a major problem for the Flames, one that they will look to get rid of in the summer.
No one is going to take on Neal's contract for free though, not after the way he played this year, but The Athletic's Jason Botchford believes that there is a match here between 2 Western Conference rivals, the Flames and the Canucks.
"They can go an aggressively take on (contracts)...take on James Neal from Calgary," began Botchford. "What would Calgary give you? I think they would give you significant assets in return. And he was good not so long ago. The year before this season he was legitimately good."
So why would the Canucks help a team that they compete with in each and every NHL season? Well Botchford believes that the Flames would pay a premium to get rid of Neal's contract.
"To me, if I'm Calgary and they have to pay Tkachuk, I'm thinking it's a first and prospect. And a good one, like a Dillon Dube."
Would you make the trade if you're the Canucks? Would you give up that much to unload Neal if you were the Flames? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.