Fantasy GMing - Trade Kipper

Kent Wilson
June 04 2009 11:55AM

kipper

Summer is, in some ways, the best time of year for the engaged hockey fan: it's the blank slate. A time of infinite possibilities. It's where all the armchair GM's can pretend they're in charge of the club and make imaginary moves according to their own criteria.

Which is what I'm going to do here. In this on-going series, I'll share what I would do as the Calgary Flames General Manager this summer - by which I mean, not what I think Sutter realistically might do, but what I would do if I magically woke up tomorrow in the big chair.

First up: trade Miikka Kiprusoff.

He led the club to a  finals finish, a NW division crown and is the Franchise's only Vezina winner.  And all those accomplishments obscure the fact that he's no longer a good NHL goaltender. There are multiple, defensible reasons to make this move:

1.) The decline

Since being named the NHL's best goalie in 05/06, Kiprusoff's SV% has steadily, inexorably declined: .923, .917, .906, .903. That's elite, better than average, average, below average. He was tied for 29th in save rate last season and 32nd in the league this year by the same measure. And a decline in team defensive capabilities neither fully explains nor fully excuses Kipper's fall from grace - firstly, because a goaltender of his pay scale and ostensible ability should be outperforming a lackluster defensive scheme anyways AND those who track shot quality neutral measures of save percentage agree that Kipper under-performed this year relative to what could be expected of an average goalie at the NHL leel.

The once-messianic tender hasn't been elite for three seasons and he hasn't even been good for the last two. This is over a period of hundreds of games and thousands and thousands of shots - this is no trend borne of small samples and bad luck. It's legitimate and there's no reason to think it won't continue.

2.) The contract

Kiprusoff has another five years left on his deal, an agreement that will see him average 5.833M/year until he's 37 years old. It also includes a NMC. Should Kipper stagnate - or worse, decline further - this coming season, his dollars will become completely immovable. The cap commitment, the length, his age and the presence of a movement clause plus three straight seasons of worse than average results would turn Kipper into an anvil around the organization's neck for years to come. Once past that point, only a costly buy-out or early retirement would relieve Calgary of that albatross. The former option would be expensive in both real dollars and cap space (an increasingly valuable commodity given the forecasts for dropping cap ceilings in the future) while the latter is extremely unlikely until 13/14 when his real salary drops to 1.5M.

As such, given his rate of decline, this summer will likely be the last chance to bank on Kippers past reputation as a star goalie and convince a rival GM to pick up the tab.

3.) Cap management

The Flames are facing something of budget crunch this year with roughly $48M in cap space committed and several obvious roster holes staring them in the face (top 6 wingers, top 4 defenseman, back-up goalie). The club has 6 "primary" big-dollar contracts in Iginla (7M), Jokinen (5.25M), Langkow (4.5M), Phaneuf (6.5M), Regehr (4M) and Kiprusoff (5.833M) which significantly hamper the organizations cap flexibility. The relative value of each player is arguable, but Kipper is the least likely to provide value for his cap dollars this season and going forward in my estimation.

While some may see him as difficult to replace, the fact of the matter is; 30 other starters have outperformed him the last 2 seasons, almost all of whom were paid less and many of them were acquired via trade, free agency or even the waiver wire. There is a large pool of average-ish goalies in the NHL who are cheaply and easily acquired. Kipper at his former level of performance was nearly irreplacable. Kipper over the last seasons is a dime-a-dozen player and therefore a liability at his pay rate. Moving his cap hit now, replacing him with a cheaper starter and using the resultant savings to fill one or more of the roster holes is the prudent move.

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Former Nations Overlord. Current Fn contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#1 shep
June 04 2009, 01:04PM
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true, true

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#2 Greg
June 04 2009, 05:30PM
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I doubt Kipper is movable at this point already, at least not without taking an undesirable contract back. With Giguere, Huet, and Theodore all likely looking to be moved also, and a guy like 'bulin available to sign, plus the aforementioned large pool of cheap, average-ish goalies, I think you'd probably end up having to pay to get someone to take his contract with the risk he doesn't rebound.

There is one other thing the past 2 seasons have in common with Kippers bad years... Keenan. I think you have to hope that the absence of Keenan turns Kipper around, and bring in a cheap-but-good back up (Labarbara? Johnson?) that can play in the 10-15 game range and push him a bit.

If I'm GM, I go that route and hope it works, because it's really the only option. My plan would be to abandon Aucoin, Bertuzzi, and Cammalleri and go after Bowmeester instead. If he can be had for less than $5.5M, it's REAL close to fitting under the cap (assuming Primeau is buried in the minors, which I'd probably do anyway). I know that's a stretch and some dumb GM might give him a Brian-Campbell contract, but I think there will be a little more restraint this off-season, and Sutter does have a knack for getting big guys on good contracts. If that can't be done, I'd go after Ohlund. Resign Pardy and your defense is set. And Stanley-Cup ready.

Upfront... promote from within. Backlund and Moss play in the top 6. I think the Flames have enough secondary scoring to rely on Iggy and Ollie to carry the rest of the offense (assuming Ollie gets back to the 70-80 point range... he's another Kipper situation... you've got no choice so either he does or your sunk anyway). Then I'd bring in another lunch-bucket guy that can add some secondary scoring to fill in for Moss on the 3rd line... Pettinger would be my target. 4th line remains Boyd-Nystrom-.

I think that puts you right at the cap, so there's no room for trade-deadline calvary, which given what that's cost us and how well it's worked, I think it'd be a good thing anyway. Next season if the cap drops, you'll clear Jokinen's contract anyway so you'd still be OK there. And if you don't get past the first round yet again, well, time for a knock-down-and-rebuild anyway.

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#3 Kent
June 05 2009, 12:18PM
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I doubt Kipper is movable at this point already, at least not without taking an undesirable contract back.

While that seems sensible, I don't know if it's true. Kipper's reputation still seems to carry weight throughout the league: some writers were talking about a potential Vezina nomination during the year and Sutter has gone on record again this off-season to say that he regards Kipper as a "top 5 goalie in this league". I would estimate more than half the Flames fanship still considers him a premier 'tender.

As mentioned, I can't see the rep holding through another mediocre (or worse) season.

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#4 RossCreek
June 05 2009, 02:36PM
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Sign Mikael Samuelsson/Brian Gionta. Sign Ty Conklin/Scott Clemmensen. Sign Francois Beauchemin/Johnny Oduya. Thanks for the good month Bert! Yo Adrian, see ya.

I'd love J-Bo, but just can't come up with a realistic way of fitting him in. The Niedermeyer angle is neat. Supposedly came close last time. Perhaps with Cranbrook just 4 hours away, they'd come as a cheap package for a chance at winning the Cup in Canada (surely wishful thinking, right?). Why did Jim Vandermeer get 2.3? I mean I like the guy and all... BUT TWO POINT THREE!

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#5 Bob Cob
June 05 2009, 03:42PM
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I am not a Flames fan in the least, but trading Kipper would be the stupidest thing Calgary could do. The defense in front of him has to be tightened up and the forwards have to play more of a 2 way game. He just got worn out from playing too many games and facing too many shots. Still I dont think he is a top 5 goalie anymore, he is definitely top 10. Guys in front of him Loungo, Backstrom, Ward, Brodeur, Mason, and Fluery.

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#6 Kent
June 05 2009, 06:40PM
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Bob Cob wrote:

I am not a Flames fan in the least, but trading Kipper would be the stupidest thing Calgary could do. The defense in front of him has to be tightened up and the forwards have to play more of a 2 way game. He just got worn out from playing too many games and facing too many shots. Still I dont think he is a top 5 goalie anymore, he is definitely top 10. Guys in front of him Loungo, Backstrom, Ward, Brodeur, Mason, and Fluery.

Kipper's stats don't support the "played too much" theory. For three straight he's stunk to start the year and then fluctuated between good and mediocre for the rest of the season. One would expect a steady decline in SV% as the year wore on if fatigue was a factor.

The Flames defense could certainly stand to improve, but if Kipper can't be above average without the team being above average, paying him nearly $6M a year doesn't make sense. In addition, his decline in performance suggests he's only going to get worse.

Like I said, dude hasn't been elite for 3 years and hasn't even been "good" for two. He may yet reverse that trend, but it's not a good bet.

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#7 Blazing Ace
June 06 2009, 03:38PM
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I can't believe I'm saying this Kent but you make a convincing case. As much as we would all like to believe it he hasn't been elite in awhile. We simply aren't good enough with Kipper not being good enough.

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