June 26 2011 09:45AM
After a weekend spent watching the Flames punt one of their hard minutes defenceman out the door at this weekend's draft in St. Paul, like Ryan Lambert, I can only wonder exactly what the hell Jay Feaster is playing at. While I suspect most fans were hoping for the team to begin the clean-out of the club's extraneous players, I'm fairly certain Robyn Regehr wasn't the first name that came to mind. Reggie's move to the balmy climes of Lake Erie wasn't the only move of interest over the weekend, of course, and after the jump I'll offer a few thoughts on the festivities.
Goodbye and good luck:
First off, there's no question that absent Paul Byron becoming a top-six forward, the Flames have engaged in a full-on salary dumping manoeuvre with this trade. Chris Butler won't get much more than a million dollars on his next deal (hopefully), and combined with Alex Tanguay's ticket, which I'll discuss further down the piece, the Flames should be about 2.5M better off against the cap than before the trade.
That in and of itself isn't bad at all, but the return for Regehr when considered as a hockey deal is inadequate. A top four defenceman with an acceptable contract needs to attract more than a bottom pairing defenceman and a middling prospect that might not have been in Buffalo's top ten. The fact that the Flames included a second round pick, which apparently was the price to unburden them of the Kotalik contract, just makes this deal as a stand alone transaction seem that much more questionable on the surface.
As for the players heading to Calgary, I'm not really expecting much from Chris Butler. He wasn't much more than a bottom pairing defender in Buffalo, although the St. Louis native did manage to be on the good side of the outshooting metrics without starting in the other team's end all the time. He was the only semi-regular Sabre defenceman to have a ZS number under 50%, which does suggest that he survived against the competition he faced more of less on merit. He'll join the stable of 5th-6th-7th D on the payroll, and barring significant development on his part the likely best case scenario for him is be part of the third pairing.
Paul Byron has posted some nice scoring numbers in the AHL, and Jay Feaster professed faith that Byron would be in the NHL in the near future. I'll admit that compared to the propects that toiled in Abbotsford, Byron scores like Sid Crosby, but Buffalo was no juggernaut last year and he only got a cup of coffe in the bigs. Hopefully Jay's not simply overwhelmed by the fact that an AHL player can actually manage a point total higher than 35.
The one other thought I did have in the aftermath of the deal was that the Flames might have another move or two ready to set more salary adrift, although including picks on every occasion in order to do so isn't going to get them very far and should be eschewed, obviously. The Flames, presuming that they're willing to send Hagman away to the AHL or Europe, will likely be able to spend about 7-8M on a top four defenceman and another winger that can play in the top nine on July 1st. Whether they should do that or wait until after next year to really start over is a decent enough question, of course.
Long time running:
Alex Tanguay's new deal was pretty clearly linked to moving a major ticket, and to be honest, the yearly amount is pretty low for a top 30 scorer in the NHL that's had one bad season in his entire career. I gather that people are less satisfied with the term of the deal and the modified NTC, and I'm on board with half of that.
People really do need to get over this "Oh My God, another movement clause" silliness, given that we've just witnessed one of Calgary's lifers willingly waive his full NMC to join to a club that isn't exactly the most attractive destination. We also saw Brian Campbell agree to depart one of hockey's marquee franchises for one of the five worst clubs in the game, so it would behoove fans to ratchet down the hysteria a touch. NMC/NTC aren't the end of the world, and since Regehr and Kotalik both had clauses, the Flames now have a net amount of one less than they started the day with. Progress, right? I could have done without the length of the deal because Tanguay might be hard-pressed to sustain his play until he's 36, but since this contract is about a million a year below my cynical guess from a few weeks ago, it's not hurting my feelings that much.
I'm about the last guy to get worked up about the draft, since most 18 year olds aren't anywhere near ready to help a decent NHL team, but I don't mind the Flames' first two picks. Bartschi was always a player that was in the picture for teams drafting in the 10-20 range, so my preferences aside, he was in the ballpark, and Granlund might turn out to be decent down the line as well. They're both reasonably skilled forwards, which is a novel development, and it was interesting to note that the Flames weren't hesitant about picking smaller guys for the first time in roughly forever. That's the one area where the new regime is showing a willingness to explore a different style of player.
I'll also take a stab at why Nikita Filatov went as cheaply as he did. Beyond all the issues that have dogged him in his first couple of years as a pro, timing restricted the potential return for his services as well as the pool of bidding teams. With this being the last year of the CBA, any team having him on the roster would have had to count his entire salary, bonuses and all, against the cap.
Filatov's hit is north of 2M, so a team either had to be convinced that he could play minutes commensurate with that cap hit, which would be in the top nine, or they had to possess enough cap space to live with the possibility that he would languish on the fourth line. Calgary really isn't in that sort of position, and I also suspect that a team benching him or sending him down would run the risk of losing him to the KHL for good, with a draft pick wasted in the process. Ottawa likely made a reasonable gamble in acquiring him, but better organizations than Calgary with more cap room let him slide as well, so I'm not killing Feaster for not jumping on Filatov.
Overall, it's been a bit of an odd stew this weekend. The Flames have almost certainly hurt themselves in the short run by moving one of the few players on the roster that had the capability to handle dificult competition, and the Tanguay signing, although reasonable enough in isolation, isn't exactly the mark of a rebuilding team, so there does seem to be a bit of a contradiction in those two moves. If they spend Regehr's money on a decent defenceman next weekend, I suppose the club could come out OK, but I'm certainly not presuming that's a lock to occur.
On the prospect front, there's no doubt that the team is trying to address the lack of prospect depth at forward with the Bartschi and Granlund selections, and the absence of a big grinding type among the forward choices might indicate the beginning, halting as it may be, towards changing the team's approach to roster construction. If you consider Byron to still be some sort of prospect, it should be noted that he's no giant either, so the old ethos definitely seems put to bed.
It will be very interesting to watch Calgary's moves over the next week as free agency looms, because if they don't do something silly like sign Anton Babchuk to a contract or trade for Ryan Smyth, they might be in the mix next Friday afternoon for a noteworthy player or two. Again, whether that's a good thing is a matter of opinion, but until today's transactions, there wasn't even a chance of that happening.