Five things: The facts of life

Ryan Lambert
July 11 2013 08:01AM

1. A judicious decision

So the Flames, much to my surprise, didn't make serious runs at any of the league's big free agents this summer, or at least, didn't make runs serious enough to actually attract them. That's not the surprising part. The surprising thing, I guess, is that this team really is committed to tanking hard next season.

It would appear that Feaster is indeed planning to do what's best for the team and not necessarily his job by going forward with a team on which Lee Stempniak and David Jones are the top two right wings every single night.

I love it.

The money I expected Feaster to spend against the cap didn't really matter since the team was never going to come near the ceiling this year or next year or maybe ever, ever, ever again.

I said it on Puck Daddy last week but the thing with this kind of free agent class this summer (see also: a bad one) is that even when they're bad, teams spend like they're not. David Clarkson, as the "prize" of the class, has exactly one 40-plus point season ever and he's 29 years old. Is he a good enough NHLer? Of course. Is he worth anything near the contract he got? No. So the question is this: Why do GMs act like he is? There's not really a good reason for it** except that GMs are not necessarily good at their jobs; if, for example, Dave Nonis had not signed Clarkson, and he did indeed get outbid by Edmonton or whoever (the who doesn't matter in this scenario) the headlines would have been "Leafs lose out on target Clarkson, sign awful No. 1 center for no reason" instead of "Oilers get Clarkson." Considerations such as these do not lend themselves to judicious GMing.

So for Feaster to stay out of it, to some extent anyway (we'll never know for sure if he took a run at anyone of note), was something he couldn't have handled better. Takes a lot of chutzpah to avoid that and enter the season with a roster this bad, but I'm glad to see it.

**(Kent recently attempted to answer this question here ).

2. The minor moves he made

Staying out of the free agent market as a whole wasn't all Feaster got up to, of course. He traded for Kris Russell which is a decent enough defensive deal insofar as one assumes Russell won't be actively terrible. The terms of that one-year deal, by the way, are perfectly acceptable.

But then again he gave Brian McGrattan two more years for reasons that defy logic. That kind of thing is maddening. I don't have to explain to you why.

He also made the Karri Ramo and Corban Knight contracts officially official, and I'm not particularly wild about either of them in theory. In actual practice, I feel like both being slight overpayments doesn't really matter, and if anything people in my position (wanting them to go 0-82-0 next season) should cheer for that kind of thing since it prevents them from adding more expensive pieces. So I guess to that extent I'm fine with it.

And then, as I was writing this, Mikael Backlund got his two-year deal, which came as something of a surprise to me, mainly because I assumed he'd only get one year because this would be his last contract with the team if he doesn't score like 40 points next season. It might still be, because at some point you have to assume they're going to cut bait, but I'll take the term and money both. Good deal for both sides, I think.

3. Get used to the Oilers killing Calgary

So it seems like Craig MacTavish is immediately trying to make a huge impact in Edmonton, and good on him for it. The Oilers are now officially better than the Calgary Flames on paper and probably on the ice as well, and the gap between them is only going to broaden over the next three or four years.

This new playoff format makes things interesting, in that I still don't think either Albertan team is going to be good enough to muscle their way into the postseason under this format. With that having been said, though, (and Flames fans will hate to hear this) any delusions that you might be holding about winning the Battle of Alberta should be checked at the door. The Oilers roster as currently constituted is going to blow Calgary out of the water. If they can improve their defense in any appreciable way any time soon, they'll be good enought to be considered a borderline playoff team.

The Flames need to add roughly six thousand players to get to that point; these, though, are the benefits of starting a rebuild several years earlier before Calgary realized it needed the overhaul.

4. Another thing for which I have to praise Feaster to my chagrin

And finally, to that end, I have to bring up the fact that Hockey Prospectus' Corey Pronman recently ranked the Flames' organization 10th in the league. This is something unfathomable even a year ago, when Pronman had them in the low 20s or so. They might have been in the mid-to-upper 40s before that. Tough to say.

To that extent I understand the people who say I should cut him some slack on the Jankowski and Poirier picks, given that he's also pulled or traded for a number of high-quality players from lower rounds. The team's issue isn't necessarily that they can't draft well, or identify talent.

He's certainly re-stocked the cupboard in a major way, and indeed looks poised to do so again next season when they finish 29th or 30th in the league and take a serious run at a top-flight prospect. This is especially shocking given Feaster's overall drafting record in the past, but if the Flames are acknowledging that they have a problem in any way, this is a brave new world to begin with.

5. The Bieber to-do

Not that this is Flames related but everyone is acting like Justin Bieber touching the Stanley Cup or stepping on the Blackhawks logo or having his jersey hung in Jonathan Toews' locker and that's been a whole thing. Doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Many have pointed out that he touched the Stanley Cup in the past and despite a lot of eye-rolling about it no one cared. But this time he did it dressed like Ice Cube circa 1990 for no readily apparent reason, while standing on the Blackhawks' logo. Greg Wyshynski made the point — and a very logical one — that if you don't want people to step on the logo then you don't put it on the floor, but this being hockey, Tradition wins out over logic.

The reason the logo is on the floor is so that guys have to THINK to avoid it, because it's some sort of holy relic, or whatever. That, of course, is silly. The Flames' logo, or the Blackhawks' or the Jets' or the Bruins' or any other team's is as sacred as any corporate logo, and it stands for something only so far as the guys wearing it are being paid by that team. Think the Blackhawks' logo is this Important Thing to, say, Ray Emery, who was just playing for them but now signed with the Flyers? I have a guess. That guess is no.

As for the Cup, people have eaten cereal out of the Cup. Babies have pooped in the Cup. I would imagine someone has had sex in or against it more than once in its illustrious existence. It's a sports trophy. Justin Bieber touching it is probably the sixth-most disgusting thing to happen to it since Jonathan Toews picked it up a few weeks ago.

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Yer ol' buddy Lambert is handsome and great and everyone loves him. Also you can visit his regular blog at The Two-Line Pass or follow him on Twitter. Lucky you!
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#51 FireOnIce
July 11 2013, 12:16PM
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Alcohol sales in southern Alberta will be at an all-time high this coming season.

I expect many losses to the Oilers and an obnoxious amount of gloating from their fans.

I expect CGY to not make the playoffs anytime soon. Especially given that teams in our division like SJS, VAN, LAK, ANA, and EDM are all better (or got better in the offseason) than the Flames.

I absolutely expect Ramo to put up a better season than Kipper. Miikka checked out a long time ago and they had to beg him to play that final home game. He didn't care and didn't really try. Ramo has a chance to turn this 2 year contract into a fat, Rask-like contract if he does well.

And that will be the sinker for the Flames. If Ramo puts up a stellar season, and Corban Knight is anywhere above average (not to mention goes on a Calder-winning season), and this team competes MOST nights, I could see them finishing 9th or 10th. Hell, maybe even 8th.

Boourns to that.

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#52 McRib
July 11 2013, 12:16PM
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"Get used to the Oilers killing Calgary" Hahahaha. Ya because they are going to be such a physically opposing team with all the Band Aid's still in the lineup (Hall, RNH, Ebs, Hemsky, etc). How did they solve that problem this offseason by trading for David Perron, Lol. Also they should have traded Magnus Paajarvi two season ago, everyone saw it coming that they wouldn't be able to play all those young players and he was the odd man out.... Have the feeling he is going to make Edmonton pay in a large way in St. Louis. They could have gotten a much better return for him if the Oilers had any foresight.

Easily the biggest lopsided scorer in the league, not to mention a huge Band-Aid. He will put up a Hatrick against the basement dwellers in a 7-2 win, but is going to be MIA in close games all season. Remeber when Edmonton was going to kill us in the last meeting of the season, when we had all our rookies in.... Lol. If Edmonton finishes the year outside of the first ten draft picks I would be surprised. This Perron move iseems very desperate move, as the Oilers brass understand the Halls, Ebs of the world are going to want out if things don't turnaround quickly. They offered more for basically every free agent this offseason and couldn't get anyone other than Andrew Ference post-apex and Boyd Gordon just another Ben Eager or Ryan Jones.

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#53 negrilcowboy
July 11 2013, 12:16PM
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RexLibris wrote:

I'm not certain there are going to be that many RFA targets available.

Those teams are above the cap, but have all summer to get below and the LTIR still has to take effect, for instance on Marc Savard's $4million cap hit.

The Flames could offer sheet Pietrangelo, but he has also said he wants to stay in St. Louis. The offer would have to be enough that it would cost the Flames at least a 1st and a 3rd if not a 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

If successful it would bring for the Flames one of the best young defensemen in the game, at the cost of virtually an entire draft year when the team is desperate to add both quality and quantity to their talent pool.

They could offer sheet a player in the range of a 2nd round pick, but that is only likely to bring in a complementary player with potential top six upside, something perhaps similar to a Paajarvi or a Kyle Clifford. It doesn't solve the problem.

Feaster obviously has something in mind, and I'm curious to see what it is.

The RFA market is far from outstanding, however tha allegded cap constraint do not appear to be there, what interests me is that the situation may have been exaggerated slightly to sell false hope. I presume derek Stepan would fetch the Blue Shirts a similiar package to Pietroangelo.

To the point my question is what are the costs to the Flames to upgrade the roster with the 22-26 year old RFA types that don't cost the farm?

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#54 Eddie Shore
July 11 2013, 12:26PM
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@FireOnIce

You can thank guys like McRib for the obnoxious gloating from Oiler fans.

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#55 McRib
July 11 2013, 12:35PM
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@Eddie Shore

Oilers fans have gloated obnoxiously preseason every year for the past three seasons... Doesn't bother me anymore getting more than used to it! Keep drinking the Kool-Aid!! Until the Oilers address the undersized Top. 6 upfront that is unable to show up consistently for 48 games, let alone 82 and replace the very mediocre defense with anyone of real value its Top. 10 drafting for them.

All my friends out east can never understand how the Oilers keep finishing outside of the playoffs, because truth be told they look great every Saturday night on HNIC (when eastern media sees them), but Sundays on a back-to-back in the Columbus's of the league they just never seem to have it. Bringing in David Perron is not going to solve their issues they already have 5-6 David Perrons to look "fancy" scoring on the PP every third game.

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#56 Eddie Shore
July 11 2013, 12:39PM
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@McRib

You think Edmontons defense is worse than Calgarys? And you'd rather have Calgarys top-6 than Edmontons?

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#57 MangoTanker
July 11 2013, 12:41PM
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Eddie Shore wrote:

Honest question... Do you think the Flames have hit rock bottom yet? That is the scary part...

How can they have hit rock bottom now when they "only" got the 6th overall pick? And why is falling lower than that in the standings scary? Pens, Caps, Hawks, and even the Oilers were lottery bad for years. That is where alot of teams fall during a rebuild.

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#58 Eddie Shore
July 11 2013, 12:44PM
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@MangoTanker

I just wondered if Flames fans thought last year was as bad as it will get or if the team will be less competitive this year?

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#59 MangoTanker
July 11 2013, 12:45PM
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@MangoTanker

But to answer the question, no, I personally do not think the Flames have hit rock bottom in terms of their position in the standings. I think the 2014 season could result in a top 5 selection, even if they get league average goaltending. The loss of J-Bouw is gonna be felt bigtime next season. Iginla and Tangs, meh not so much.

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#60 McRib
July 11 2013, 12:59PM
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@Eddie Shore

Absolutely without question, I would rather Calgarys defense over Edmonton's and by no means do I have hopes & dreams of Calgary making the playoffs this year. You can keep Justin Schultz -17 thanks, he needs more work in his own zone. I would be lying if I said I am not envious of Hall & Eberle, but that’s really about it for me from the Top. 6. Sam Gagner some nights as well, but honestly outside of a couple games really failed to notice Yakupov other than on the power play. If RNH or Hemsky could stay healthy I would love to have them. The Oilers offense if they put it together consistantly could be as good as it gets, but they need a couple more solid defenders before they start competing for cups in my eyes. Darnell Nurse was a very solid draft pick. Also with Gernat, Marincin and Klefbom they are headed in the right direction. Gernat is actually my favorite of all three of them.

Edmonton might or should be able to get into the playoffs with consistent scoring from the Top. 6, but by no means am I trembling in my pants like Yer ol' buddy Lambert suggests in this article, at least not yet. But for the Oilers to allow the Flames to walk into their building with 6-7 vets in the press box last season and us to dominate the game, it goes to show how far Edmonton still needs to come.

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#61 the-wolf
July 11 2013, 01:01PM
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MangoTanker wrote:

But to answer the question, no, I personally do not think the Flames have hit rock bottom in terms of their position in the standings. I think the 2014 season could result in a top 5 selection, even if they get league average goaltending. The loss of J-Bouw is gonna be felt bigtime next season. Iginla and Tangs, meh not so much.

second this

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#62 piscera.infada
July 11 2013, 01:07PM
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@Eddie Shore

They'll be less competitive I'm sure. But I think "rock-bottom" in this instance was when management realized they were no longer competing for anything (as the rest of the league knew), leading to the trades and retirement of the past core. Thus, yes, they have hit rock bottom. Will it get worse? Likely. But at least the future is looking brighter - which is more than we can say of the past few years.

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#63 McRib
July 11 2013, 01:12PM
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@the-wolf

If he didn't pull the whole free agent fiasco last summer he would get slack from me, Haha. Just not a fan of having your agent dictate what team your going to play for without ever playing a game, ala Lindrois. Glad the Flames are focusing on getting character players during the rebuild.

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#64 Eddie Shore
July 11 2013, 01:15PM
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@McRib

I think this might be a tough year for you. Young players can be wildly inconsistent, as Oiler fans can painfully attest to, and the Flames will need guys like Brodie, Backlund, Baertschi, Horak to not regress at all in order to be competitive. We will have to agree to disagree as I think the Flames defence will be a huge issue. Gio and Brodie are going to have to play well this year. Don't get me wrong, I don't think the Oilers D is great but I don't think they are as bad as they played last year.

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#65 McRib
July 11 2013, 01:20PM
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@Eddie Shore

Oh, don't get me wrong the Flames are going to struggle at times, but I also don't think we are guaranteed to be awful like most think.

As for Edmonton they are headed in the right direct for sure!!! Just think the Oilers are a couple years away from competing with the Chicago, Boston, LA & Pittsburgh’s of the world. I could see Edmonton having a growth year like the Islanders last year.

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#66 Jordan34
July 11 2013, 01:40PM
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Ilya Kovalchuk announces retirement WHAT THE F@$K???

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#67 lionlager
July 11 2013, 01:41PM
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I've heard all of this "Edmonton will dominate Calgary" stuff for years. I'll believe it when I see it. Watching the Flames' kids beat up the Oilers' 'young superstars' last year was just gold.

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#68 Veggie Dog
July 11 2013, 02:02PM
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Even if the Flames are dreadful for the next few years, it is not going to be the tedious futility without hope of the Isles over the last decade.

Even when Edmonton was getting their teeth kicked in every night for the last few years, they were exciting to watch. Lots of young and enthusiastic players playing a high energy game.

I for one look forward to a few years of high scoring up-tempo games with a ton of optimism about the prospects already in the pipeline, and the ones on the way. Better than the slow hideous decline of from 2004 onwards. Losses are tolerable if the game is exciting, and it gets us more young guys.

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#69 BurningSensation
July 11 2013, 02:28PM
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The Kovy thing is definitely a shocker. $77m is a lot of cash to walk away from.

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#70 negrilcowboy
July 11 2013, 02:33PM
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BurningSensation wrote:

The Kovy thing is definitely a shocker. $77m is a lot of cash to walk away from.

Per freakin plexin dude! khl must be offering alot cake, man hows this effect jersey and the cap?

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#71 aloudoun
July 11 2013, 02:54PM
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@negrilcowboy

Apparently its a $6 million cap hit this coming year, and $250k a year until the contract would have expired (another 11 years) PLUS forfeiting the first round pick next year for the cap circumvention.

Correct me if I am wrong.

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#72 mattyc
July 11 2013, 03:01PM
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@BurningSensation

Do they turn around and sign Grabovski?

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#73 Clyde
July 11 2013, 03:05PM
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Cammy and stajan to the devils

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#74 schevvy
July 11 2013, 03:14PM
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The Devils should NOT be a trade target. Yes, they would take players such as Cammy and Stajan but who do they have to offer in return? Plus, they have no 1st round pick. So, unless they gain some assets, I would stay away from them.

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#75 negrilcowboy
July 11 2013, 03:17PM
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aloudoun wrote:

Apparently its a $6 million cap hit this coming year, and $250k a year until the contract would have expired (another 11 years) PLUS forfeiting the first round pick next year for the cap circumvention.

Correct me if I am wrong.

That was my take, wow what a kick in the throat.

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#76 aloudoun
July 11 2013, 03:20PM
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Kovvalchuk will reportedly sign a contract worth $20 million a year with SKA in the KHL tomorrow. Russia only ha a 13% tax rate while NJ was 45%... Now I can why he left the NHL. It also helps when you will become one of the top paid athletes in the world.

No escrow either...

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#77 Bob Cob
July 11 2013, 03:27PM
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@McRib

You make a valid point, Edmonton does have a long way to go, there only in phase 2 of their rebuild, finding vets to surround the young kids with. The guys like Hall, Eberle, RNH, all have to learn work ethic. That is why the Flames have beaten them so handily the last number of years, not because they are more talented, they where willing to work harder.

As for the Defence, I would take the Oilers over the Flames any day. The Oilers didnt miss the playoffs last year because of the defence, they missed it because they couldn't score 5 on 5 consistantly. There PP was good, and PK was decent, wouldnt be the case if their defence was terrible.

Maturity and veteran leadership are the 2 biggest issues for the Oilers, the addition of Ference and Gordon should help that.

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#78 Baalzamon
July 11 2013, 03:28PM
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@aloudoun

"Kovvalchuk will reportedly sign a contract worth $20 million a year with SKA in the KHL tomorrow"

Is that all?

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#79 ?
July 11 2013, 03:31PM
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@Eddie Shore

I tend to agree. I think Calgary only has 3 top 4 defenceman. Brodie, Gio, and Wideman are top 4 guys. I really hope they dont screw with Brodie's development by pairing him with SOB or Butler. IMO, they pair Brodie with Wideman on the 2nd pairing, and give Gio the truly toughminutes. The question now is who plays with Giordano? Russell? Flames have not been this thin on D entering a season in a long time. They've always had JBOuw, Regehr, Phaneuf, Gio, etc. If TJ Brodie hadnt blossomed into a legit top 4 defenceman, the Flames would be a lock for a top 3 pick in my books, as they would only have a pair of top 4 caliber defeneman.

Right now, the bottom 3 for the Flames on D is Butler, SOB, and Russell. Derek Smith and Mark Cundari are the extras.

Helps for a lottery pick I suppose. Perhaps it also helps some of the younger guys, like Wotherspoon, to join the big club late in the season if they play well enough in the AHL.

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#80 PrairieStew
July 11 2013, 03:51PM
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@RexLibris

The ducks had those guys when they finished 13th too. I am not expecting Ramo & Berra top take the Flames to top 2 in the conference, but even league average goaltending translates to one le goal against 2 out of every 3 nights.

Agree totally in waiting to sell veterans, people pay more at the deadline especially on big cap hits, so trading Cammy now makes no hockey sense.

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#81 Eddie Shore
July 11 2013, 04:21PM
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? wrote:

I tend to agree. I think Calgary only has 3 top 4 defenceman. Brodie, Gio, and Wideman are top 4 guys. I really hope they dont screw with Brodie's development by pairing him with SOB or Butler. IMO, they pair Brodie with Wideman on the 2nd pairing, and give Gio the truly toughminutes. The question now is who plays with Giordano? Russell? Flames have not been this thin on D entering a season in a long time. They've always had JBOuw, Regehr, Phaneuf, Gio, etc. If TJ Brodie hadnt blossomed into a legit top 4 defenceman, the Flames would be a lock for a top 3 pick in my books, as they would only have a pair of top 4 caliber defeneman.

Right now, the bottom 3 for the Flames on D is Butler, SOB, and Russell. Derek Smith and Mark Cundari are the extras.

Helps for a lottery pick I suppose. Perhaps it also helps some of the younger guys, like Wotherspoon, to join the big club late in the season if they play well enough in the AHL.

Agree with it all. An injury to one of the 3 "top 4" and/or less than average goaltending and I'm not sure the Flames don't finish in the bottom 3.

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#82 exsanguinator
July 11 2013, 04:28PM
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Per McGrattan:

I suppose he is very popular in the locker room, great mentor, and always very positive. If you're going to have a team that is likely going to suck this much next season it's probably a good idea to have a motivator like this in the room with all the young guys coming up.

Think the opposite of Edmonton after Smyth was traded. The entire team just stopping giving a damn right then and there. In my opinion that was the beginning of the nightmare for the Oil... nobody wanted to be there any more and the entire team suffered for it.

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#83 Clyde
July 11 2013, 04:33PM
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schevvy wrote:

The Devils should NOT be a trade target. Yes, they would take players such as Cammy and Stajan but who do they have to offer in return? Plus, they have no 1st round pick. So, unless they gain some assets, I would stay away from them.

You wouldn't like guys like Urbom, Merrill, matteau, etc?

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#84 schevvy
July 11 2013, 06:47PM
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@Clyde

Hockey Prospectus has them ranked 28th in prospect ranking. Here's what they have to say:

28. New Jersey Devils The Devils are well stocked in defense prospects with players like Jon Merrill, Steve Santini, and Eric Gelinas, among others, but this system is barren when it comes to forwards. First round pick Stefan Matteau is solid, and Reid Boucher looks good, but overall, the Devils lack scoring punch.

Sounds like a copy of the Flames draft rankings from years past. Matteau would be interesting, and maybe Santini, but otherwise I'm not real keen on their prospects

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#85 BJ
July 11 2013, 07:06PM
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Baalzamon wrote:

"Kovvalchuk will reportedly sign a contract worth $20 million a year with SKA in the KHL tomorrow"

Is that all?

Beautiful city but built on a swamp... oh well I guess 20 million makes up for the hepatitis in the water supply.

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#86 Clyde
July 11 2013, 08:02PM
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schevvy wrote:

Hockey Prospectus has them ranked 28th in prospect ranking. Here's what they have to say:

28. New Jersey Devils The Devils are well stocked in defense prospects with players like Jon Merrill, Steve Santini, and Eric Gelinas, among others, but this system is barren when it comes to forwards. First round pick Stefan Matteau is solid, and Reid Boucher looks good, but overall, the Devils lack scoring punch.

Sounds like a copy of the Flames draft rankings from years past. Matteau would be interesting, and maybe Santini, but otherwise I'm not real keen on their prospects

I wouldn't care if they were ranked 30th as long as the Flames could get a very useful young guy. With our lack of defense and a glut in Jersey, a deal could be possible. Take a gander at a prospect like Urbom in their system. He would be something we could use.

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#87 RexLibris
July 11 2013, 09:01PM
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I'm not sure what motivation Lamoriello would have to begin trading away his young prospects.

He's just lost Parise and Kovalchuk in back-to-back years, traded away this year's 1st round pick and will forfeit next year's.

On top of that, ownership is in transition there with the club struggling beneath a massive debt load.

So if the Flames want to trade them affordable top-shelf talent in exchange for aging and expensive veterans, then I suppose it would be worth the call, but otherwise...

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#88 clyde
July 11 2013, 09:21PM
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RexLibris wrote:

I'm not sure what motivation Lamoriello would have to begin trading away his young prospects.

He's just lost Parise and Kovalchuk in back-to-back years, traded away this year's 1st round pick and will forfeit next year's.

On top of that, ownership is in transition there with the club struggling beneath a massive debt load.

So if the Flames want to trade them affordable top-shelf talent in exchange for aging and expensive veterans, then I suppose it would be worth the call, but otherwise...

They may not be interested but Lou always has a contender and perhaps in Brodeur's last year, he may try to go for it.

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