A promising start to the 2013-14 season quickly faded as the Calgary Flames found their expected spot near the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
While the infusion of three first-round draft picks in 2013 helped bolster the future of the franchise, the Flames still have a long way to go before emerging as a contending team. The 2014 trade deadline. then will be a time for the Flames to sell assets to build for the future.
With Brian Burke running the show in lieu of a new general manager, the team will likely be searching for offers for expiring contracts, most notably that of Mike Cammalleri.
All eyes on Cammalleri
Several teams are interested in bolstering their forward group, which makes Cammalleri a target leading up to the deadline. The 31-year-old is finishing out a five-year, $30 million contract this season that carries a cap-hit of $6 million. He will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
This makes him a prime rental candidate for contending teams, as well as an expendable asset for the Flames.
While Calgary has reportedly negotiated with Cammalleri in varying degrees since November, it remains to be seen if Burke -- an executive who likes to build big, physical teams -- will be interested in retaining the diminutive Cammalleri in lieu of trade compensation.
Where does he go?
The Los Angeles Kings have consistently been mentioned when Cammalleri's name comes up. The club is considered a contender in the West and are coming off consecutive Western Conference Final appearances. The only problem is the same one that's become a constant in L.A.: they're struggling to score.
Rumors have indicated that Kings manager Dean Lombardi will look to bolster the roster with some scoring help, which is where Cammalleri comes into play. Cammalleri originally broke into the NHL with the Kings and spent six years with the franchise, a fact many point to when arguing he will go to L.A.
However, it's believed that the relationship between Cammalleri and Lombardi soured after the two sides went to arbitration, which resulted in Cammalleri being traded to the Flames at the 2008 NHL Draft. (He subsequently signed with Montreal and then was traded back to Calgary.) Whether this is a factor remains to be seen, but Los Angeles needs scoring help and Cammalleri could provide it. He's an intriguing candidate for any team looking to upgrade their forward group heading into the stretch run.
All of that is provided, of course, that the Flames don't look to extend his contract.
Other pieces in play
Lee Stempniak will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and is believed to be available. Stempniak carries a $2.5 million cap-hit and is averaging around 19 minutes per game, which includes time on both specialty units.