Trade Deadline vs. Off-season

Kent Wilson
January 30 2011 11:28AM

  

 

 

 

In his recent (and excellent) News and Notes piece, Robert notes that the time for the Flames to sell off some big pieces may be the summer rather the upcoming trade deadline. And while I generally agree with him on that topic, the issue is probably a bit more complicated than that. 

 

I have no problem with Feaster waiting until the deadline to see how things shake out, and if he just tinkers around the edges until this summer, that would be OK. That's still the best time to remake a roster since teams have more cap flexibility, or more room to add Calgary's dead weight, however you like.

 

Bob's right. Sort of. In the summer, team's have made their draft day deals and said good-bye to unwanted UFA's. The window where everyone is flush is actually rather short, however. The UFA open market gets going on July 1 and most of the big spenders blow their brains out by the middle of the month. The Flames signed Alex Tanguay, Olli Jokinen, Raitis Ivanans and Tim Jackman on the first day of free agent madness last year. It was pretty much their entire budget. Sutter spent the rest of the summer trying to decide what do with his anchors. If he was shopping the likes of Cory Sarich and Ales Kotalik, he found no buyers - the market was awash with clubs trying to dump salaries and short on team's willing or able to accept them.

The mad, auction-like atmosphere of July 1 drives managers into a feeding frenzy and tends to shift their focus to bidding on free agents rather than making swaps. Why move an asset for player A, if player B can be signed for "free"? The window for attracting your targets is also slim and prices can escalate exponentially. As a result, if you don't move a big ticket early in the season, you may have issues doing so later. The best player to be traded in the summer last year was Simon Gagne and the return for him was...underwhelming.

The market forces that drive up prices on July 1 also operate at the trade deadline, except in favor of trades rather than free agents. Contenders and pretenders scramble to add pieces before the playoffs and there's always a limited supply of sellers and useful players available. In addition, because cap space is prorated as the year progresses, most teams are able to add a big ticket without issue by the time the end of February rolls around. A player's cap hit is reduced to about 1/5th of his yearly average salary by March 1, so Jarome Iginla @ $7M, for example, would cost just 1.54M in cap space for this season. Robyn Regehr would come in at about 880k, etc.

As Robert mentions, there's no on-ice impetus for Feaster to rush into a big trade earlier rather than later. However, it's certainly possible there will be better offers for some of the Flames big guns come the deadline relative to the off-season.

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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 Austin
January 30 2011, 04:10PM
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Well Feaster has already started making roster moves from the NHL down to the AHL so maybe something is gonna happen??

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#2 B
January 30 2011, 07:43PM
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...make a deal for Kovalev. He is makiing 5m, but it will be off the books as he is a UFA in the offseason. He would improve the PP.

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#3 Palt
January 30 2011, 11:16PM
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Well that puts Feaster in an interesting dilenma. If the Flames somehow do make the playoffs, and lose in the first round, without trading their big ticket players at the deadline, the offers during the offseason would be disappointing, to say the least. And, if you decide to trade them next season, they just become another year older, and their skills begin to erode, along with their reputations. Well, one things for sure; Its an interesting time to be a Flames fan.

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#4 jay
January 30 2011, 11:37PM
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i don't get it. the obvious choice is to start building now, slash and burn. is this a contender'?even if they make the playoffs? NO. if you say YES... then you must be a Sutter fan. dream on. the best bet is to dump what they can, get what they can and move on. i was reading whats available. and whats needed around the league. i hate to thrown team guys under the bus but J BO, and REGS can go, if we can dump their contracts.

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#5 FireOnIce
January 30 2011, 11:47PM
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Ship Jokinen back to Florida for someone like Weiss (or Higgins, har har), bury Staios in the minors for his leadership qualities, and make sure Kotalik starts renting an apartment in Abbottsford. Trade Sarich if possible.

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#6 Robert Cleave
January 31 2011, 07:35AM
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The mad, auction-like atmosphere of July 1 drives managers into a feeding frenzy and tends to shift their focus to bidding on free agents rather than making swaps. Why move an asset for player A, if player B can be signed for "free"? The window for attracting your targets is also slim and prices can escalate exponentially. As a result, if you don't move a big ticket early in the season, you may have issues doing so later. The best player to be traded in the summer last year was Simon Gagne and the return for him was...underwhelming.

How many players with significant contracts that weren't pending free agents were traded at last year's deadline? Roughly zero, if memory serves. Every big ticket player on Calgary's roster that people would think about shipping away has a contract that runs beyond next year. Only Jokinen, Sarich, Kotalik and Hagman have contracts that even expire before the end of the current CBA, which means that every team that acquires that type of player has to make considerations beyond the middle of April, so the price paid for a player will have to factor that in. As Pat has noted in his latest piece, Regher might work because his contract is relatively inexpensive beyond this season, but I'd still bet that the Flames would be asked to take salary back.

One other point that no one ever talks about is that next year is extremely unlikely to have any bonus cushion for entry level players. As an example, if Brayden Schenn were to show up on a team's roster this year, his 3.140M cap hit would be largely theoretical, since he wouldn't be likely to reach his bonuses, and if he did make his bonus numbers and his team went over the cap, the team could take the penalty next year, just like Chicago did this year with Toews and Kane. Not optimal, but manageable.

Absent a CBA being in place for 12/13 before next season, there's no "next year", so any player on an ELC in 11/12 will count for their full dollars with no fudging. If you have a top pick on the roster, he'll account for 2nd line cap space right off the hop, whether you end up paying out his bonuses or not.

Now, if you were acquiring a player that was UFA after this year, no biggie, but again, those aren't the players Calgary would move in a blow up, so the math gets a lot more complicated for the acquiring club if they have any young players that they intend to have on their roster next season. I'm not even convinced that the Flames can easily unload any of their big tickets in the summer, so I suppose we'll see if there are many takers should Feaster post the For Sale sign next month.

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#8 Robert Cleave
January 31 2011, 08:28AM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

How many players with significant contracts that weren't pending free agents were traded at last year's deadline? Roughly zero, if memory serves. Every big ticket player on Calgary's roster that people would think about shipping away has a contract that runs beyond next year.

Fair enough, Bob. What made me think of this post was how cold the trade market went last summer and how quickly it happened. Now, a lot of people get in trouble assuming markets are always going to act the same as they did in the past, so it's entirely possible this summer will be different. Like you, given he situation in town (playoffs, "acting GM") I think Feaster will only tinker around the edges anyways, even if there's some interest in the big boys.

Also, as for non-UFA's being moved at the deadline, I think we have two issues operating there: a reluctance to acquire contracts beyond one year in terms of demand, but also a reluctance to move quality non-UFA players in terms of supply. It's possible, for example, that Carolina got calls about Eric Staal last year and the Hurricanes told the inquirers to go pound sand. The Flames are in a position, however, to listen to serious offers for just about anyone I'd argue.

This is all hypothetical of course. I can't really know how the trade market operates without bugging Feaster's phone. But it's what we do around here.

That's all reasonable, and I hope that my sense that not much will happen or that summer is the better time to reshape a club isn't taken as implying I don't think Feaster should listen between now and Feb. 28th, because a GM should always listen. I'll just add one other point, in that if the only thing you want for a return on any player is futures (picks/prospects), the deadline is the better time in that regard. Short term thinking and all that, right? If you want an actual NHLer as part of your return in a trade, and I certainly would for Reggie or Iggy, those guys are harder to obtain in-season from any team that is in the hunt, and neither of those guys will waive their NMC for any other type of team at the deadline.

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#9 icedawg_42
January 31 2011, 08:51AM
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As much as I've enjoyed the show, and cheered as hard as anyone lately, I still feel the team's recent success is somewhat an illusion. We are in for a reality check in the near future. I think Feaster should deal whenever the opportunity arises, and not hold out for another 10-3-3 run. Pat's take on Reggie is interesting. I said before this "streak" that I thought Feaster would wait too long and get too close or past the deadline before the bottom truly drops out. I'd rather sacrifice this (and possibly next) season for a brighter future. You cannot ask the players to intentionally tank, (nor should you) that's not in their makeup. Change is in the hands of the GM.

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#10 marty
January 31 2011, 09:39AM
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A lot of very valid points here. Another I would like to point out is one of the big three has been dealt with (kotalik) with what I'd assume as a buyout or khl for next season that leaves 2 ( joker and hagman) I believe that hagman at the deadline can possibly be moved even though it has been a very under productive season. Teams like wash,pitt and la are looking for scoring help. That potentially leaves joker. .y only hope there is the improved play of moss and that stajan can step it up a bit. Even if what I am sure is one more season of the worst player in hockey here the flames could have upto 6 mil in space with 2 of the 3 gone combine that with what everyone dreads (lanks retirement) and that is 10.5 in space I did not see the team having goin forward. Now how is this addressed goin forward? Feb has 13 games in it and depending which calgary flame team shows up and how other teams in the log jam play will determine how feb 28 and july first are handled. Go flames go and at least for now the games mean something. Great thread

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#11 CitizenFlame
January 31 2011, 01:16PM
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I have to say that I have been very impressed with the moves Feaster has made over the last few weeks. If he demotes Staios to Abbottsford, and then makes a trade at the deadline moving one of our "fringe" players I would say that he warrants the GM job. These are decisions that should have been made a long time ago, but D. Sutter seemed incapable of making. I wish Connie the best and I hope that he finds a role with the org. and I hope that Kotalik turns it around in the minors or Europe. Despite his failures I would like to see him rebound.

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#12 the-wolf
February 01 2011, 08:23AM
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When it comes to pure trade value, the deadline has historically proven to be the best time to make trades.

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#13 Sworkhard
February 01 2011, 01:55PM
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I'm still of the opinion that most of our players will be most valuable at the trade deadline next year when they have expiring contracts, or only 1 year left. At the very least, we won't have to take a lot of salary back to move the expiring contracts, like we might have to if we have a fire sale this year.

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#14 MC Hockey
February 01 2011, 03:31PM
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I think Flames need to make a big move and deal with salary and age issues NOW. Since Ottawa fans and management are so unhappy with their team especially a certain centreman and their goalies (who could be very good on better teams), I would (in fantasy-lala land)trade the following. It would still leaves Flames under cap (if you go on capgeek LTIR figure), save future salary for Flames, and get younger in goal and at C. To Ottawa: Kipper, Backlund, Hagman - WHY: Ottawa gets a better G, they need something at centre for what they give up below, and FLames give them Hagman to balance salaries (only 1 more year on his contract and his stats truly not that bad versus rest of his career). To Calgary: Spezza, Leclaire WHY: FLames finally get a top-notch young centre and high-potential younger goalie for the big stuff they give up above.

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