How to Rebuild the Calgary Flames - A Four Year (and a bit) Plan - Part Three

RexLibris
December 28 2012 09:13AM

  

 

This is a continuation of a series in which I propose a method of rebuilding the Flames organization. For a frame of reference, you can go to the first in the series here.

The Starting Point

 We left off at the last article having traded away Matt Stajan and Jey Bouwmeester. That was just the beginning.

The roster at the beginning of a shortened 2012-2013 season is pretty weak, but this team isn't going to win anything built the way it is. The last three seasons have been wasted, in my opinion, on a snipe hunt. I'll post it a little further down, but for now let's look at the bodies moving in and out before the season starts.

Does Baertschi make the team out of camp?

Um, yeah, about him. I know this may sound like an Oilers' fan getting revenge, but he will spend the entire 2012-2013 season in the AHL. No, I'm not kidding this time. Regardless of roster depth, he isn't a necessary addition for the team at the moment, and the experience he will gain playing in the AHL is more valuable to the organization's future than playing an NHL season on a bad team.

You can chalk this up to me acting on the lessons learned from seeing players like Sam Gagner rushed into the NHL.

This is an extension of a new approach to development whereby nearly all prospects coming out of junior will spend at least one season on the farm team, if not three (the entire length of their entry-level contracts). The same approach would apply to European players as well, that they either continue to develop in their leagues overseas and perhaps spend half a season acclimatizing to the North American game in the AHL. This may seem like an antiquated notion, that geography plays a part in the development of a player. However, I believe that there are significant differences in the way the game is executed in various leagues, and the AHL acts as a reasonable transition.

Underpinning the decision to direct the majority of prospects to the AHL is the belief that a player needs to succeed at their current level before advancing to the next. This is to ensure that when they are called up to the NHL they are ready to play and push the veterans for a position. They also need to earn their promotion to the NHL, in accordance with the organizational focus on merit.

I realize the temptation will be to rush some players to the NHL based on the chance of early encouraging results. That is not part of the plan, and patience will be key to this exercise.

There are no white knights coming to the rescue. Year one is painful and the brunt of it will fall on the defense. Unfortunately, things may yet get worse.

Before the end of the season I would attempt to sign Mikael Backlund to a three-year contract extension for an annual salary cap hit of approximately $2 million (depending on performance). Butler and Brodie would be signed to their contract extensions, likely between now and the end of the year, but as mentioned before, I am anticipating the carry-over of most RFA rights and so qualifying offers would be submitted and a new contract would almost certainly be negotiated with a modest increase into the range of $1.25 million a year over two years.

 I Huff and Puff and Blow This House Down

I’m going to trade Jarome Iginla.

We all knew it was going to happen, but here is where it needs to happen. In fact, it is crucial that the Flames have a season in 2012-2013 as it provides at least the opportunity to recoup something of value in exchange for the iconic player.

Obviously I am operating under the previously stated assumptions of having players waive their NTCs under whatever conditions they see fit. In Iginla's case I think we can ballpark some of those: that it be to an immediate contender, preferably in the Eastern Conference for the sake of travel and avoiding, for the time being, any emotional return to Calgary during the remainder of the season.

My guess is that Iginla would see the direction of the team and decide to waive his NTC to facilitate a move. He has stated that he does not want to be around for a rebuild and that he would waive his NTC if it benefited the team. I take him at his word and what I am doing cannot be called anything other than a rebuild. Although some of you may prefer the term “madness”.

The trade must benefit the Calgary Flames, that is non-negotiable. However, there is little chance that the team “wins” that trade at the time it is made. Iginla means too much to too many people and has so much impact on the team and community.

My asking price for Iginla would be a 1st round pick in 2013 as well as a 2nd round pick in either 2013 or 2014 (my choice to be declared 48 hours prior to the 2013 draft). In addition, if Iginla re-signs with that same team prior to July 15th, 2013, another 1st round selection in the 2014 draft will be forfeit.

No players or prospects in return. Anybody who came back in the deal would forever be labeled with the stigma of having been the return for “Iggy”. I am confident that this is a price most interested teams would be willing to meet. For those who would argue that it simply is not enough for the kind of player that Iginla is, my goal is to get the best price available within a very narrow window of time. If asking for more means that the trade deadline window is missed then the team only ends up paying more and perhaps compromising the long-term plan to suit the needs of a single player, or that he could leave for free-agency and the player is lost for nothing. I will not allow that to happen. The most important thing is that Iginla's value be leveraged for assets best fitting the team's new direction.

You can see where I'm going with this.

So Long Kipper

Miikka Kiprusoff is next.

I have two distinct destinations that come to mind for this scenario, although to be honest, with no clauses or restrictions on his contract, the bidding would be open to everyone. For the purposes of this exercise, let's entertain two possible tradre parters:

1.) The San Jose Sharks for Antti Niemi and a 1st round pick and prospect or

2.) Florida for Jose Theodore and a 1st round pick.

I am going to suggest that the San Jose option is more likely because Doug Wilson can sometimes be an idiot and it would seem that he still believes they have a chance at a championship. San Jose has a weak prospect pool, and the draft position may not be ideal, but the pick is what matters. Included in the deal would have to be a defensive prospect, such as Konrad Abeltshauder. I considered including a conditional pick in 2014 if the Sharks win the Stanley Cup, but given that I have already received a player, a prospect and a 1st round pick, I feel that is a solid return.

Wilson has a history of trading 1st round picks and could easily convinced to part with one in 2013, though for the sake of argument I will assume that Kiprusoff will need to be accompanied by either a draft pick or middling prospect. A 3rd round pick would probably suffice in this instance. Niemi provides decent goaltending for the immediate future and can be paired with Irving, Ortio, or any other goaltender that should appear on the horizon.

Including Antti Niemi in the return means the Sharks would only be raising their salary cap figure by $2 million, and ostensibly losing one year of goaltending service – Niemi is signed until 2015, one year longer than Kiprusoff’s current contract.

This is, in my view, an average to above-average trade-scenario, and the chance that Kiprusoff could be exchanged for more is plausible, but I'm not going to get hung up on debating relative player values at this time. I believe this trade scenario covers all the likely items that would be explored by other teams, it improves their immediate goaltending with an eye to winning a championship and by exchanging their current goaltender it provides only a modest increase in the salary cap.

In the event of the best trade offer not including an NHL-ready goaltender in return, I would follow up with either a UFA signing or a minor trade for a backup/underperforming goaltender. The trade would only go so far as to exchange a very low draft pick (no higher than the 5th round) or a support-level AHL player. In the event that I require a replacement goaltender not acquired in the initial Kiprusoff trade, I would attempt to sign Danny Taylor from the Abbotsford Heat and have he and Irving share the netminding duties until the end of the season.

For the purposes of this exercise I am going to assume that a deal involving Kiprusoff returns an NHL goaltender, for the sake of argument let us imagine it is Niemi, as most teams acquiring players at the deadline will be keeping an eye on mitigating any rise in their salary cap for the 2013-2014 season.

By the time the Stanley Cup is hoisted in mid-June, the Flames are well-under the salary cap, having moved out their captain and franchise player (Iginla), the franchise goaltender, as well as their first-pairing defenseman (Bouwmeester, from the previous article), the final piece of the Phaneuf trade (Stajan) and a marginal NHL defenceman (Babchuk).

The roster is going to look something like this:

    2012-2013  
  Left Wing Center Right Wing
1st Tanguay Gomez Cammalleri
2nd Glencross Cervenka Hudler
3rd Jones Backlund Stempniak
4th Comeau Horak Jackman
Extra     Nemisz
       
1st Giordano Wideman  
2nd Campoli Sarich  
3rd Butler Brodie  
Extra Smith    
       
Starter Niemi    
Backup Irving or Taylor    

In return they likely now have four 1st round selections (their own, one from Bouwmeester, one from Iginla and one from Kirpusoff) in the 2013 draft as well as two 2nd round selections (a conditional one included in the Iginla trade and assumed converted here), a 4th round pick, a 6th round pick and perhaps a conditional 7th round pick with L.A. (conditions unknown at this time). The 2013 5th round pick was forfeit along with Jordan Henry in the deal to acquire Dennis Wideman, while a 3rd round pick was included in the deal to send Kiprusoff to San Jose.

In all likelihood the team will have finished amongst the bottom ten teams of the league. Which honestly isn't too far from where they finished last year anyways (17th).

Colleting Lottery Tickets

*In the event of a full-scale draft lottery following the cancellation of the 2012-2013 season, I'm going to presume that the draft is decided in a fashion similar to that in 2005. This would mean that the Flames would have three entries in the hopper for the selection process, due to three consecutive seasons with neither a playoff spot nor a 1st overall draft selection. Teams are deducted one entry for each occasion of those listed above, to a maximum of two balls.

Based on that, the Flames would have a decent chance of drafting in the top ten in the first round, with the draft snaking down in order so that a 1st overall pick earns the last in the 2nd round, and then the first in the 3rd round, etc.

Were the season to be cancelled, I would make the trades listed above, however under what would obviously be much different circumstances and from a significantly weaker position. I won’t go into details here, but suffice to say that the cancellation of a season would delay my plan by approximately a year, if not more, and in real terms could be deemed disastrous to a Flames organization that has displayed an almost pathological resistance to planning for the future.

For the purpose of this exercise let us imagine that the Flames have landed the 10th overall draft position. This translates into a decent season wherein they pushed for the playoffs, fell short early and were out of the picture during the final days of the season. So basically, just slightly worse than they have been over the last few years.

In addition to that they would likely have two draft picks in the middle of the first round and a fourth in the lower-tier. Shall we say 10th, 15th, 20th and 26th, to err on the side of caution. This doesn't provide the ideal position for any single franchise player with one pick, however, it does provide a wealth of alternatives and opportunities to move up in the draft or address prospect depth within a single draft year. In the following article I will deal with the draft itself.

Of the expiring UFAs and RFAs at the end of the 2013 season, I would retain Joe Piskula, Brett Carson, Ben Walter, Greg Nemisz, Paul Byron, Carter Bancks, and Chris Breen for the Heat while letting Gaelan Patterson, Brady Lamb, Kris Kolanos, Mitch Wahl, Akim Aliu, Bryan Cameron, Leland Irving and Blake Comeau go to free agency. I would attempt to retain the rights to all of the draft picks from the 2011 draft by signing them to their entry-level deals where applicable.

Here endeth part three of the lesson. I stand ready to receive your fire and brimstone in the words below.

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#1 suba steve
December 28 2012, 10:09AM
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Mostly agree with your positions. Need to get as much as you can for these ageing stars, but they do need to be moved before their value to the organization is zero. I also like and agree with the clause (in an Iggy deal) whereby you get more return if he re-signs with the winning bidder, but would also include an extra pick if that team wins the cup in 2013.

May be a bit early to be making a call on who to keep/let go after the 2013 season. A guy like Comeau could show you a reason to keep him in the next few months and Backlund could sh*t the bed, thankfully the GM will have some time to observe and make these decisions.

Four first rounders in 2013 could open up all kinds of possibilities for the future of this team. I would be glued to the draft coverage on June 28 (I will be anyway, but would be much more giddy with four firsts). Lets hope Feaster is a realist and comes to similar conclusions on the future.

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#2 Primo
December 28 2012, 10:34AM
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The greatest thing I like about this website is the ability to express your own opinion about the Flames or the great sport of hockey.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think there would be an article where I would entirely disagree with every opinion expressed about the future of the Flames. Thanks Rex!

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#3 suba steve
December 28 2012, 10:45AM
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@Primo

So lets hear your opinion.

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#4 Michael
December 28 2012, 10:56AM
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Not oppossed to Baertschi spending another year or so in the minors, likley invaluable experience playing in all situations. (and the Heat are better this year than in the past).

Iggy should have been traded years ago, but get what you can while you can...

Kipper, if you can find a reasonable replacement trade him..

The listed roster is pretty small and soft down the middle (Gomez, Cervenka, Backlund, Horak). Overall the roster still needs more size and sandpaper....

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#5 smtorsch
December 28 2012, 10:59AM
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So, to summarize so far: 1. Get better at scouting; 2. Get better at drafting; 3. Trade/waive problem players; 4. Trade players with value for draft picks; 5. Hope draft picks turn into good players.

All of this falls in the "no duh" category, but man alive is it risky. If you're the guy who trades Iginla AND Kiprusoff and those picks don't pan out... yikes.

The Flames are wading ankle-deep in mediocrity and the tide is coming in. The time to do something dramatic, if ever, is now. I think if you're going to go this route, you have to package some of those firsts and move up to draft in the top two then cross your fingers that you get a franchise player in that slot. It's a huge gamble and could just as easily blow up in your face leading the club even deeper into the doldrums.

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#6 Matthew Britton
December 28 2012, 11:00AM
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I agree that Iginla, Kiprusoff, Bouwmeester, Babchuk and Stajan need to go. however, Kolanos is a Bona Fide 4th line replacement player, and with Injuries a liklihood on any team, he can be Valuable. Aliu has earned a shot on this team and should be kept. Forget signing Danny Taylor to split duties with Irving. we have Karri Ramo who will be coming back after this season ends. he and irving are Nhl ready, with few issues in performance. for Kipper, we do not need an NHL ready goalie. Flames have an amazing goaltender depth chart as it is between Abbotsford, Oil Kings (Brossoit), Lamoureux in minors, and Joni Ortio as well. plus Gillies as back up in world juniors. Id say a 1st, 2nd and a legitimate ahl prospect from a struggling team like Buffalo or Tampa, who have no legit starter. as For Iginla, send Him and Stajan to the Habs for a 2nd and one 2nd or 3rd line defenseman. now for Bouwmeester: picks and a prospect. babchuk will get us a late pick and that is it.

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#7 Geoff
December 28 2012, 11:00AM
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Personally, I like the scenario where the season is cancelled and the Flames get the 1st overall pick, snagging Nathan MacKinnon. A man can dream, can't he?

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#8 Brent G.
December 28 2012, 11:00AM
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I'm as big a fan as any of Iggy, Kipper these days but I honestly don't think you will see that kind of return for either of them. I just don't see how a team will legitimately see either player providing that much to them in a playoff run scenario. Plus it seems like teams are starting to learn the stupidity of rental players who are more along for the ride than actually contributing to a victory. Just saying...

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#9 Clay
December 28 2012, 11:04AM
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Agree mostly

However your plan requires an amnesty buyout.

Otherwise, we don't get 3 firsts for 3 players all with cap hits above 5m. Teams will smell blood in the water of cap teams like Cgy, and the market value of at least JBo falls

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#10 Kent Wilson
December 28 2012, 11:26AM
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@smtorsch

The Flames are wading ankle-deep in mediocrity and the tide is coming in.

Nice turn of phrase.

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#11 Kent Wilson
December 28 2012, 11:43AM
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For me, if moving Iginla and Kipper, I'd likely look for a prospect of some quality as part of the return. Prospects with a year or two under their belt are usually better bets than just draft picks (assuming you can scout them with any kind of efficacy).

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#12 suba steve
December 28 2012, 12:06PM
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@Kent Wilson

Less risk, probably. Also less reward, potentially. Hard to say which way to go. As long as Feaster gets it done, I'll be happy.

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#13 Baalzamon
December 28 2012, 12:15PM
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@Matthew Britton

Lamoureau is long gone buddy. He never was technically Flames property anyway. Brossoit and Gillies are both a long way away from even thinking about the NHL (and, in Gillies' case, the AHL).

Also, in what way does Buffalo not have a starter? Ever heard of Ryan Miller?

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#14 Kevin R
December 28 2012, 12:21PM
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Rex, I have no issues at all with your position on this one. smtorsch phrased it as well as anyone can. Assuming this last proposal today by the league brings an agreement & we have a season, I would expect the Flames to have about an 86-88 point season(prorated based on a full season equivalent)& probably picking 8th or 9th. No Kipper, Iggy or JBO & this team is probably flirting with a lottery pick. I love having 4 1st rounders & agree that a better prospect rather than a goalie would be more prudent in a Kipper trade. I think Chicago would be in huge on the Kipper deal & have way better prospects they would part with in addition to that 1st. In fact, Mcneil could be had, based on his disappointment on the Jr squad. I am looking forward to your Draft day post, I love these discussions.

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#15 Derzie
December 28 2012, 02:12PM
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As soon as you said extend Michael Backlund, I stopped reading.

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#16 David
December 28 2012, 03:42PM
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The idea of that roster + 4 1st round draft picks looks a lot easier to be excited for than the current roster + 1 1st round draft pick.

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#17 Karasu89
December 28 2012, 05:07PM
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You cannot trade kipper. you will get max a 2nd rounder for him and maybe a roster player..

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#24 Kevin R
December 28 2012, 07:02PM
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Well when I thought of the 5 1st rounders I thought we could have gotten Washington's 2 1st & Semin for Iggy. The ship has gone & sailed. Now I would be satisfied with 4 1st rounders. I know you are getting beat up for resembling an Oiler style but not as long rebuild type & I am sorry but the idiot Sutter put us in this predicament, so I'm with you. We will probably be going down this path with Feaster, like it or not. I totally didnt agree with some of the RFA's you talked about keeping, but its the Holiday Season & I'm trying to be nice. Guys I would not keep are Carson, Nemitz(may have trade value 5th or 6th), Byron meh we have smaller players with way more upside coming & I definitely would give Aliu a shot & give either Prust or Taylor a chance to backup whoever is our #1 goalie Kipper or Ramo, depending how quick you trade Kipper.

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#25 T&A4Flames
December 28 2012, 10:31PM
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RexLibris wrote:

No issues at all?

Come on, you're letting me down here.

As I recall, you had a plan for five 1st round picks for 2012, did you not? Probably for the best that it didn't happen (2012 wasn't a spectacular draft year), but it would have been an impressive feat.

As for McNeill, maybe. They need to do something in net, but I'm not certain they move their young (and cheap) players right now. Stan Bowman will have to do a lot more to impress me than he has thus far, but trading their hopeful future 2nd line center for a season and a bit of Kiprusoff is pretty risky.

Funny, I suggested McNeill as part of a Kipper trade on one of your earlier posts and got roasted for it by a few people, including you Rex, if I recall correctly. Maybe we get Crawford back along with a pick and McNeill. I know you're trying to keep it simple Rex but its likely we add players as a package. W do have some good depth guys, actually, that's mostly what we have.

I agree with Kent that I would want decent prospects in a trade for Iggy or Kipper, guys that have shown good development. Subaru Steve said "less reward, potentially" but a team trading for these 2 are playoff contenders and likely return low 1st rounders. Thus. IMO, more risk.

Rex, who do you see as potential trade partners for Iggy; teams that would interest Iggy as well?

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#26 HongKongHockeyFan
December 29 2012, 02:00AM
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I still don't understand the Gomez for Stajan trade straight up??? Is this about hoping Gomez's rekindles his Devil's days and helps propels Calgary to the playoffs?

Adding Gomez will simply make Calgary smaller, especially since Calgary has added Cervenka and Hudler already this year to bring up Calgary's skill level. You add in the fact that guys like Cammarelli, Tanguay, Stempniak and Horak play smaller than they are already, adding Gomez will make easier to push Calgary around. Plus it doesn't make sense from a salary cap perspective, even if we lose Iginla and Bouwmeester's salaries.

If your intention is to keep Calgary competitive, then you need to keep Kipper who has been responsible (or essentially prevented) the Flames from drafting in the top 5 the last 4 years.

So you really need to ask yourself what Calgary wants to do with Kipper and how good do you want your goalie to be??? Because the drop off from losing him will be huge compared to losing Iginla or Bouwmeester, who can be replaced by better or different players from a style of play perspective much more cheaply. Arguably bad goaltending has been largely responsible for the Oiler's recent string of drafting luck. However, I would add that losing Bouwmeester's minutes could be a big lost, however, nobody is happy with his pay compared to his performance.

Call me crazy but Kipper has the most trade value considering his age, his salary cap hit, recent track record and potential upside for a team trading for him. So to me Calgary has to decide what they ultimately want to do with Kipper before they decide on trading Iginla or Bouwmeester or Cammarelli/Giordano who would be more sought after. One Kipper is traded then Calgary can decide whether they will follow the scorched earth approach and look to accumulated young assets.

All the other trades/picks up, particularly like signing Campoli, are simply marginal, neutral, negative or simply unnecessary.

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#27 beloch
December 29 2012, 04:10AM
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In previous parts of this series I've said that I have serious reservations about "blowing the team up" and doing a scorched-earth rebuild. The team you have put together is designed to take a run at a lottery pick. Here's one more reason why I'm leery of racing to the bottom.

Esprit du corps is huge. A team with a winning tradition (e.g. the Wings) can make the playoffs year after year in spite of having next to no major talent while a team that's spending to the cap limit and is stocked to the brim with lottery picks will tank year after year seemingly for no other reason than because losing has become tradition.

If the Flames do trade away their leadership and go for lottery picks, there's a real risk that the team won't have the work-ethic or morale to make it out of the basement even once they have the talent. The Oilers are bursting at the seams with talent but will likely finish in the bottom 5 of the league yet again simply because they're so used to losing.

Who knows? Maybe next season is the "next season" Oiler's fans have been raving about for the last five years. I won't hold my breath. As much as I'd love to see a #1 pick to go someplace other than Edmonton, I really don't want to see the Flames wandering the wasteland for half a decade, or more!

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#28 Alt
December 29 2012, 09:40AM
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Noticed the new proposal from NHL included a change to the draft process, that included all non -playoff teams with an equal chance at the top pick.That would change the "fail for nail" attitude of GM.s in a big hurry.Any change to draft picking will have a large consequence with re-building teams.IMO the current system does reward failure,and that reward for failure does need to be altered to stop teams from there 5 year failure plan

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#30 suba steve
December 29 2012, 10:23AM
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@beloch

The Wings have been a first class franchise for a long time. However, like Pittsburgh, there has been a good deal of LUCK that has lead them to their success.

Pat Quinn got upset when it was suggested he rebuild like the Pens did. His response was something like "yeah, Pittsburgh won the #@$%^*ing lottery", meaning Crosby.

Detroit also had a few winning lotto tickets (despite your claim that they have "next to no major talent"). They got Yzerman (3rd overall in 1983), Lidstrom (53rd in '89), Fedorov (74th in '89), Datsyuk (171st in '98), and Zetterberg (210th in '99). Good scouting, sure, but also a boatload of luck. However, now that Lidstrom is gone, I won't be shocked if the good times are coming to an end in Hockey Town.

The Flames had similar success way back when they grabbed Fleury, Suter, Loob, etc with later picks and the team went on to dominate for a time. But this type of luck does not carry a team forever.

My point is, using Detroit as an example is like asking for lightning to strike in the same spot over and over again. It's not impossible, but quite unlikely.

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#35 Mack
December 30 2012, 03:21PM
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"No players or prospects in return. Anybody who came back in the deal would forever be labeled with the stigma of having been the return for “Iggy”."

Whichever players get drafted with those picks would have to deal with that as well. Look at the Kessel trade (kind of the opposite effect, but still).

And while having four 1st rounders sounds very nice, it's a huge gamble, and you have to really trust your scouting department. I think it would be better to try to get a mix of players and prospects, because then you can hedge your bets a bit.

I think Iginla could at the very least get a role player, decent prospect and a 1st, and I also think Pittsburgh seems like the best fit. They pursued Parise hard in the summer, so it's known they'd like to add a good winger, and they've seen how well Crosby and Iginla can work together in the past. I'd ask for one of their good d prospects (Maatta, Pouliot or Harrington) and a forward like Kennedy or Jeffrey along with their 1st. I think a deal like that would be pretty fair for both sides.

As for Kipper, I think the Blackhawks would be the best fit. The only thing holding them back the past two seasons has been goaltending. If they get a good netminder they'll be the team to beat in the West. Crawford and a 1st/forward prospect sounds good to me.

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