Random Thoughts - The Trade Deadline Approacheth

Kent Wilson
February 14 2014 09:40AM

random-thoughts

Once the Olympics are over all that's left for the Flames is the trade deadline and then to play out the string. The Buffalo Sabres currently lead the race to the bottom by a near insurmountable margin - they trail the Edmonton Oilers by 9 points and the Flames/Panthers by 13. No one is catching them.

It's a two horse race for draft position in the West between the Alberta squads. Calgary has two games in hand and four more points than the Oilers. Edmonton has had a decent last 10-game stretch recently, going 5-3-2, but it is mostly a mirage - their possession numbers continue to stink and it has only been 40+ save performances from Ben Scrivens delivering them a few "W's" recently.

Which is to say it's unlikely the Flames will be able to fall below the Oilers this year. Which is kind of amazing given where the two teams are in their current team building paths.

- One of the reasons Calgary isn't yet Oilers bad is their blueline. Specifically Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie. We've talked a lot about Mikael Backlund this year, but Brodie has very quietly established himself as a legitimate top-pairing, hard minutes option at just 23-years old.

No Flame plays more minutes at even strength than Brodie (19:57) and no defenseman starts out more often in the defensive zone. Brodie nevertheless boasts the best possession rate for blueliners on the team - ahead of even Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman, both of whom get drastically easier assignments.

Brodie's legit. And there's a non-trivial chance he's going to improve.

- Related: remember the kerfuffle over the summer when I suggested a Roman Josi-like contract for Brodie and some of the mainstream media balked as if the suggestion was insane? I'm guessing that doesn't see too outlandish to most folks now.Or at least it shouldn't. 

Brodie is likely to finish inside the top-30 year in terms of average ice time and might cap 30-points. By the time his current bridge deal is done (after next season) I'm fairly certain he'll be the best defender on this team - and trending upwards to boot. My guess is the salary cap will be anywhere from $72M-$75M as well.

Which is to say, he's going to cost a pretty penny to re-sign. That may not matter to the Flames right away since they are probably going to have to struggle to make the cap floor over the next few years, but it could have implications a few years down the road once the club is ready to compete again.

- Switching gears, it feels a bit like some fans are writing off Sven Baertschi. It's been a tough season for the 21-year old, but remember we cautioned against the common sky high expectations 'round these parts back during the summer. I figured a very suscessful season for Baertschi would be sticking as a regular in the NHL and nearing 30-points.

That didn't happen, in part because it seems the decision makers have some issues with Sven's habits off the ice (there are worse players than Baertschi currently skating on the Flames, which usually means the coach doesn't think he can be a "pro" yet), but it doesn't mean it's time to cut bait with the lad.

Very few guys are NHLers in their 20-21 year old seasons. A lot of good-to-great NHLers go through a few bumps at this stage of their career. Baertschi's resume prior to this year is sterling and his offensive abilities and instincts are undeniable. Give the kid some time to figure things out.

- Finally, with the trade deadline approaching, we at FlamesNation are preparing to up our coverage of Calgary's pontetial moves as soon as Canada wins the Gold medal. If I was in the GM seat, the guys I would be putting on the auction block are:

  • Mike Cammalleri
  • Ladislav Smid
  • Chris Butler
  • Shane O'Brien (pipe dream)
  • Lee Stempniak (if he isn't going to re-sign)

Smid and Butler probably surprise some people. With Butler near the top of the league in blocks and Smid carrying a reputation as a hard-nosed warrior-type, I think each guy's trade value might outstrip his actual utility.

Butler has recovered somewhat from his horrendous start to the season, in part because Hartley finally separated his from O'Brien. Butler is functional if he's paired with someone who can manage the puck, but if he has to be the anchoring guy on a pairing, that partnership sinks rapidly. He's 27, but doesn't seem to have meaningfully improved since he arrived in Calgary and doesn't seem to have  much upside beyond "guy who can get in front of a lot of pucks". If anyone offered me a top-60 pick for Butler, I'd take it.

Incredbily, Smid might be the worse player of the twi. The erstwhile Oiler seems to have gathered himself a lot of fans during his short time here in Calgary, but I'm not one of them. Smid is fearless, can seem to absorb a lot of pain and isn't afraid to mix it up here and there, but his weaknesses easily overwhelm his strengths. Aside from O'Brien, Smid is the slowest defender on the Flames blueline. He doesn't have any offensive upside and isn't very good at moving the puck. If something goes wrong with Smid on the ice - a bad bounce, a poor decision - he can't recover.

As a result, Smid has the worst possession rate of the Flames regular defenders this year. In addition, his contract stretches for another three seasons at an average of $3.6M per year. My guess is he's a replacement level defender (at best) by the time his deal terminates in 2016-17, a year in which he'll be owed $4M in salary.

Smid's heart is willing, but the actual ability is lacking and he seems to be on a downward spiral. Burke should see if he can pull a Douglas Murray with some team at the deadline desperate for blueline grit and move Smid for whatever he can get. 

As for Cammalleri, I know there have been rumors of a potential contract extension with the Flames, but I don't really see how that makes sense for either party. Cammalleri will be 32 this June and even the most optimistic estimates don't have the Flames back in the thick of things before he'll turn 35. This upcoming contract is Cammalleri's last real shot at both getting paid and playing for a potential winner. Given his age, Calgary has no reason to give him the sort of money and term it should take to convince Cammalleri to stick around either - he's therefore a much better trade asset than anything else for the club currently.

There's going to be a lot of teams in the hunt for a playoff spot when the deadline rolls around and pretty much all of them could use a top-6 sniper type to one degree or another. Best thing for both parties is to auction him off.

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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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#51 Baalzamon
February 14 2014, 09:45PM
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Walter White wrote:

What would it take to get Chris Stewart from The Blues?

I like his game, good age too.

Sven? (and Reinhart...)

WW

Ew. Why not just re-acquire Ales Kotalik? I hear he's available.

If Stewart costs Sven straight-up it's a grievous overpay. More like Stempniak and a 3rd.

If Sven is traded, it's for a young defenseman. And by young, I mean like Brodie's age or younger. Someone who will still be in his prime when the Flames are competitive again, not someone who will be cresting 30 (like Stewart).

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#52 Walter White
February 14 2014, 10:01PM
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Baalzamon wrote:

Ew. Why not just re-acquire Ales Kotalik? I hear he's available.

If Stewart costs Sven straight-up it's a grievous overpay. More like Stempniak and a 3rd.

If Sven is traded, it's for a young defenseman. And by young, I mean like Brodie's age or younger. Someone who will still be in his prime when the Flames are competitive again, not someone who will be cresting 30 (like Stewart).

Who is going to take care of Gaudreau? May as well get someone who can put the puck in the net. (not sure what side they play on) Please don't say Arnold.....or Westgarth. Maybe Ferland......if he can stay healthy and out of jail.....

WW

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#53 JayD54
February 14 2014, 10:47PM
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coachedpotatoe wrote:

Boston College wins tonight and Johnny G scores a goal.

And Billy Arnold assists on it.

Bill Arnold could be as useful an NHLer, though not as a scorer, as Gaudreau. He's good in both ends of the rink and in the faceoff circle.

And as a senior, a solid shot at being signed this summer.

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#54 beloch
February 15 2014, 12:38AM
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coachedpotatoe wrote:

Boston College wins tonight and Johnny G scores a goal.

Damn! With just one point in the game his ppg falls to 1.97!

You gotta love when a mere single goal from a prospect is a "disappointment".

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#55 coachedpotatoe
February 15 2014, 06:36AM
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@Walter White

WW: I doubt St L is looking to get rid of a key piece of a team that should be in the hunt for the cup, if anything they will be looking to add a player that will help them this season. As to who will protect Gaudreau you mention Ferland but what about Bouma or a Glenx. It seems that throughout his hockey career that Johnny G has used his skill and speed to protect himself. Who has been Martin StL protection or Theo's for that matter?

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#56 coachedpotatoe
February 15 2014, 07:05AM
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In the article you talk about the progression of TJB and part of that has been his time spent with Gio. What the injuries to Gio, Wideman and Russell did was force him to play with other partners and at times he elevated both his game and some of his partners games. He also struggled at times with these other partners.

The injuries also threw out of wack a pretty sound pairing of Russell and Wideman. I think playing with Wides helped Russells game and now he is a confident NHL defender and has now had to play with both Butler and Smid. Butler's season has been a typical Butler season something of a roller coaster; some very good moments and some really scarey moments a lot depends on his partner. Personally I prefer him to Smid when he plays with the right partner. I'm hoping Wide's game gets back on track after the break.

After the NHL defencemen the organizations depth at this position is questionable. Smith is a good AHL defender and can play for an NHL team in an emergency, O'B is no longer able to play at this level and will likely be a distraction at the AHL and the sooner he can move along the better, and Breen is an AHL defender who is not even an NHL replacement. So what does that leave us in the AHL: Billins who many don't like because of his size(he is as big as Russell)he seems to be a decent defender and is a PP quarterback and for the sake of the organization I would keep him. Cundari who had an injury plagued season and is likely only an AHL defender and I'm not sure what I would do here; a great deal depends on how good I think the young prospects will be. Wootherspoon who is becoming a decent AHL pro but who needs more work and I suspect is still a year away although I could see him getting call up duty with the flames next year. Ramage is not having a great year in the AHL but from what I've gleamed from the games I've listened to he often gets the toughest assignments. And then there is Sieloff the one with the most potential but the worst luck. As of today he has played 2 games in the AHL and something like 50 games total over the last two seasons. Even if he gets healthy and plays for the Heat in the playoffs he will need at least 1 full(healthy) season in the AHL to get ready for the NHL.

Then if you look at the prospects you have to ask are any of them ready for the NHL and to be truthful the answer is no. Are any of them ready to be impactful players at the AHL and of that I am not sure. Kanzig, Roy, Culkin, and ???(why can't I remember his name... not enough coffee at 7 a.m.) all might be good AHLer's next year if they get good mentorship and and good coaching, but they are all at least two seasons away from the big club.

The Flames will need to either sign one or two UFA's to shore up their NHL defensive tandems or resign Butler and stay the course.

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#57 coachedpotatoe
February 15 2014, 07:46AM
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Kulak is the missing name(thanks for coffee and the internet)

As I was sitting here I decided to take a look at the Flames organization and see what is wrong with it and looked at the teams demographics. We seem to have an adequate number pf 30-32 year olds who are sound NHL players, we only have 6 NHL players between 25-29 and none of them were players we developed (although it could be argued that Butler 27 has spent as much time here as he did in Buffalo)and 5 players currently on the roster between 22-25, three that we have drafted and developed;Backs, Bouma and Brodie along with Colborne and Byron that we traded for. On the farm there are 8 and most were acquired by trade or free agency under Feaster.

As an organization we could use a few more 25-29 year old pros and really the only way to acquire these is via trade or UFA's. Teams are reluctant to part with good 25-29 year olds via trade unless you pay a kings ransom in younger prospects(personally not something I would do at this time)so the best option is through the UFA market this summer and next; yes you almost always overpay for these guys but at this time we have cap space. Of course we can always just wait for the young guys to develop and force them into carrying the load like in Edmonton but I'm not sure that is the model any of us want to follow.

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#59 aloudoun
February 15 2014, 12:46PM
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@Kent Wilson

Wow! Really? Thats some food for thought.

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#61 Kevin R
February 15 2014, 07:50PM
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@Kent Wilson

I think Flames are in a real unique scenario. We are starting the rebuild with some real decent prospects coming up & a handful of young players that don't have the 1st overall hype really starting to establish themselves as core quality. Add the fact we really really don't have any bad contracts handicapping the team, actually the opposite, we have some real good value contracts. So I'm really torn, we all want top dollar & hope for some of the obvious UFA TDL fodder & really, only Cammi & Stemps have some real decent value possibly coming back. I know we all agree we need decent vets growing with the young players, but they can be had with $$$$ come July & we have a great ability to score some character Vets that can fit & help our rebuilding club with our cap space. Do you flip the likes of Wideman & Hudler who will get you good value & even more depending how creative you want to get & then just buy their replacements come July? I am of the mindset that that would be the way to approach this TDL. If you can get great packages for Wideman & Hudler along with a decent rental package for Cammi & Stemps, that might be the catalyst to parlay returns into some top 5 picks in 2014 & possibly 2015.

Vets I hang on to are Gio, Stajan, GlenX & maybe Smid. We have a lot of youth we need to insert to see where we are next year & it will be a win win. Either guys like Johnny G & Arnold & Knight are going to be successful & we have a decent year to everyones unexpected delight or we have a serious shot at McDavid or Eichel. The following year I would expect the likes of Porrier & Klimchuk & Reinhart to be part of the big club equation & next wave of youth. The targets I would go after with these assets are some highend D prospects. In 2 years, our trade targets should be switching gears to start to become relative again.

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