January 31 2014 10:41AM
Sitting Michael Cammalleri out of Thursday night’s contest against the San Jose Sharks is an easy decision to defend.
He’d had one full practice following 18 days on the shelf with a concussion, and isn’t yet in the kind of game shape to help his team against one of the league’s top clubs.
But when you’re less than a year into a rebuild and that player is one of the most talked about on the trade market as a pending unrestricted free agent, you have to wonder how other teams are viewing the progress.
We all know acting GM Brian Burke is dangling Cammalleri, but the concussion has other teams leery of giving up too much for a potentially injured player. This puts the Flames in a precarious position. They want to showcase his talents on the ice for potential suitors in what is — thanks to the Olympic break and trade freeze that goes with it — a very small and rapidly closing window before the upcoming trade deadline. At the same time, they don’t want anything else to happen to the one player they have who can fetch a decent return on the trade market.
By announcing he’s ready to play, and then holding him out of the lineup for an extra couple of days of conditioning, the message is sent to NHL GMs that they have nothing to worry about if they’re ready to pull the trigger now.
But most will want to see it for themselves on the ice. Until Cammalleri plays, he could be considered a risk.
Or at least that’s the way opponents can play it during negotiations.
What is Cammalleri’s value? It’s a variable rate of return
“If his health is unknown at the trade deadline, then I would say he becomes a secondary player on the trade market and a team takes a chance only if they have other pieces in place or they have missed out entirely on the primary market,” says one former NHL executive who figures Cammalleri’s value has taken a hit.
Another former GM figures teams could get creative in what they offer based on the number of games they get out of Cammalleri through the rest of the regular season and the playoffs.
For example, if the offer is a prospect and a pick, the round could be modified based on Cammalleri’s health. If he suits up (regardless of contribution) for all the remaining games and the playoffs, the pick could be a first-rounder. If he misses more than an ‘X’ number of games, it could be downgraded to a second.
Another area of negotiation teams could ask for more flexibility is salary cap consideration.
“A team may request that the Flames take back a portion of his salary,” says the executive.
His head is in the right place...
Cammalleri is now targeting Saturday night’s clash against the Minnesota Wild as his return date, and head coach Bob Hartley said Thursday he expects big things from his veteran winger.
“I think he’s going to be flying Saturday,” the coach told reporters after explaining the last-minute decision to sit Cammalleri was made to keep consistent with the culture they are trying to build in having the most-prepared guys going out there to try and win every game.
The commodity in question is also best served on a personal level to make sure that when he comes back, he’s in the best possible situation to contribute. His short and long-term future depends on how he plays for the balance of the season. Cammalleri says he’s healthy and that the scratch is not a setback on the concussion front. That bodes well for whichever team lands him.
...But where’s his heart?
Of course, we’re assuming two things here. One, that the Flames don’t want to keep Cammalleri around. And two, that Cammalleri has no intention of staying on as part of the rebuild even if they do want him.
Don’t completely discount the second idea. The Flames are again going to have a fairly high draft pick, and have some young prospects they like in the pipeline as well as an impressive 19-year-old rookie already playing. If Burke stays true to his business model of the past, he will likely try to swing a big deal or two for a young but proven player that will immediately help. You can be sure he’s not planning on making this a terribly long rebuilding process (whether or not you agree with that method is another story altogether.)
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Cammalleri fibbed. “Brian has been really good with me. We’ve had a lot of communication, as far as talking about some different things. I’m not able to speculate on what may or may not happen yet, but as far as that goes.”
As a 31-year-old UFA to be, he will have his choice of landing spots this summer for the second time in five years. He chose the Eastern Conference the last time, and for family reasons that were likely only enhanced by the recent death of his grandfather, no one would be surprised if he made a similar decision in order to be close to home again.
No one could fault him for that, either.