Time for a Deal?

RexLibris
May 01 2014 01:15PM

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Imagine a party at Ed Snider’s house that includes Brian Burke, Dale Tallon, Garth Snow, and that is hosted by Paul Holmgren. Pretty good recipe for some wicked antics, I think. Some crank calls to the Oval Office, maybe getting $500 worth of pizza delivered to Donald Fehr’s place, and you know Snow doesn’t go home that night without a wedgie.*

That is more or less what is shaping up to happen this summer in Philadelphia. The unpredictable Ed Snider/Paul Holmgren duo are hosting the NHL Entry Draft and Tallon, Burke (and recent hire Brad Treliving) and potentially Snow are all in the mix with picks in the top five.

Brian Burke hates long rebuilds. He also hates traffic jams, hipster jeans, those unlikely-animal-friendship videos and revisionist undergraduate theses on the Sykes-Picot treaty.

But he really hates long rebuilds.

His new GM is more of a blank page when it comes to this sort of thing. Having spent a significant portion of time working for the Phoenix Coyotes organization while they were a ward of the state, there wasn’t much room for roster moves by his former boss, Don Maloney. We’ll have to wait and see in what direction he takes this team. But about his new boss, Burke, we already know a fair bit.

So here’s some food for thought as the Flames wrap up the season and prepare for a pivotal summer (although, let’s face it, most summers are pivotal for NHL teams).

*Meanwhile, Burke stole MacTavish’s invite out of his mailbox and Garth Snow no longer returns Tim Murray’s phone calls.

The Flames' Needs

The Flames need elite young talent but have the luxury of being fairly well-built down the middle. Okay, that didn’t really sound right, but I you get what I mean. They have some decent centers in Backlund and Monahan with Stajan providing the sacrificial old-man power down the middle. On the wings they have some good complementary players in Hudler and Glencross.

After a solid first pairing of Giordano and Brodie, they are also limited by not having enough depth on their backend…huh, that’s two for two. (Is it just me or is hockey filled with potentially inappropriate innuendos? Moving on!)

Essentially, what this means is that the Flames are shopping for some defensemen in the numbers four through six range and good wingers who can slot in with Glencross, Bouma, Hudler, Colborne, Jones, Galiardi and others.

Those assets are relatively easy to grab – darn it, there I go again!

The Flames’ prospect chart, though, is somewhat lacking in a few of these areas, most notably in defense and right wing, and those prospects that are in the system are a long way off from the NHL. So, how does one acquire top-end talent at a young age without necessarily having to go through the draft-and-develop stage?

What_if_Machine

The What-If Machine

What if Brian Burke were to trade the 4th overall pick in this year’s draft to the Colorado Avalanche for Ryan O’Reilly? Would Joe Sakic make that deal? Perhaps. That is a high pick and the Avs have a collection of forwards such that they could afford to be patient with whomever they select. It offers them the chance to re-align their roster if they were to choose a winger, or even potentially improve if they feel that the prospect available at that position has a greater upside than the player they are giving up.  It also means that they can take the money that O’Reilly is likely to ask for and redeploy it elsewhere in the roster to shore up other necessities, or re-sign veterans like Stastny, now that the emergence of Nathan MacKinnon has solidified their center depth.

There is the chance that the Avs would want a little more in the deal, so including Ladislav Smid to bolster their defence might fit, but if we go down that road I would then ask for Mason Geertsen in return as a depth defensive prospect. Geertsen’s junior comparable was often David Musil, and it is easy to see why: both are big bodies and defensive specialists who play with an edge. This isn’t meant to get too in-depth into this process, but just to show that values are relative and that both sides have things the other may value such that a deal could probably be made.

So, in the end the Flames would get a proven NHL player - a very good 2-way center as well as a defensive prospect - while the Avalanche get a high draft pick, a roster player and free up some money.

Is any of Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart, or Leon Draisaitl likely to be significantly better than Ryan O’Reilly? Not necessarily. Perhaps, but O’Reilly is a known commodity and a pretty darned good one at that. Those prospects could out-produce him over the course of their careers, but in examining the move one would have to factor in what the addition of O’Reilly does for the Flames versus the addition of a prospect who may need at least one more year of junior development before joining the NHL team as a rookie.

What if the Flames made that deal for Sean Couturier? If Ekblad were to fall to the Flames would you make that deal? I believe Holmgren would. But in either case, there exists the possibility that the Flames could have a valuable asset in that 4th overall pick and the time could be right for a deft move to improve the roster immediately without giving up anything terribly expensive or costly down the road.

Perhaps in the Couturier case one deals down from 4th to wherever the Flyers draft and picks up Couturier in exchange for adding another draft pick. Again, it depends on who is available. If Ekblad is there I think there is a chance Holmgren takes the swap without hesitation.

I’m not pointing out these two teams to bring specific deals to the conversation, just that there is a window of opportunity this June and perhaps more potential suitors than one might otherwise believe.

Now here’s the other shoe…

What if Burke were to trade next year’s 1st round pick and a prospect like Mark Jankowski to Winnipeg for Evander Kane?

Kane’s issues this season, and even some rumblings of disaffection earlier, have, if not forced the issue, at least opened a window of opportunity for a GM willing to offer what the Jets may feel is fair value and an opportunity to turn the page.

The former 4th overall pick is a young LW, 6’2” and 190lbs with a set of whitewalls on him that can embarrass many defensemen. He has averaged .62 ppg over the first 329 NHL games of his career thus far and one could argue that his point production has been hampered by playing for the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets for the last five years.

While he may not be an elite talent, he is signed long-term at a decent cap hit and is just 22 years old, meaning that the Flames could have him for what should be the upswing in his development.

Burke could be buying at exactly the right time.

For the Flames there is considerable risk as they would now have traded away two 1st round picks in back-to-back years, at the same time they have added significant assets to their top six forwards. And, as anyone familiar with the last two trade deadlines will tell you, 1st round picks can be added in surprising ways and from unforeseen assets.

Yeah, I know Flames fans have been sold on that McDavid draft thing for over a year now. But this past season was expected to be pretty bad and they still only made it to picking 4th overall with a slim chance of moving up to 1st. Is there any reason to expect that they are going to be worse, considerably worse, next year? Trust me on this, to draft 1st overall you have to be bad. Really. Bad. And when one factors in that under the new draft lottery scheme finishing with the worst record only give you a one-in-four chance of drafting 1st overall, then the value of that pick is largely perceptual rather than real. Are next year’s Flames likely to be worse than the Buffalo Sabres? The Edmonton Oilers? The Islanders? Not to mention any number of surprise teams who suffer an unanticipated collapse.

That’s another thing Brian Burke doesn’t like. Lotteries.

Back to the trades.

It is important to consider that neither of these trades would be with a divisional rival, the Flames would be addressing their own needs but also attending to the interests of the other team involved by giving them valuable assets at a cost that does not set them back on their own development path.

In the end, the Flames would be heading into training camp with a forward group built around Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, Sean Monahan, Sven Baertschi, Jiri Hudler, Curtis Glencross and Mikael Backlund with Bouma, Galiardi, Colborne, Stajan, Jones and Granlund in support. I’m no expert, but that starts to look an awful lot like the roster of a professional team in the National Hockey League.

There would likely remain holes on the wing, notably first line RW and third/fourth line LW which could be addressed via free agency. Ales Hemsky and Radim Vrbata as possible RW free agents and Nikolai Kulemin, David Moss, Jussi Jokinen or Steve Downie as LW free agents could add some valuable depth to the lineup. With the addition of Treliving as GM, can we just pencil in Vrbata and Moss now?

Oh, and for the record, I steadfastly resisted putting in any reference to or imagery from the "O'Reilly Factor" in this article. You're welcome.

Falling Down Blue

The blueline would need to be bolstered but with Giordano, Brodie and Wideman to start with and Smid and Russell as the bottom end of the rotation. That would leave very few spots and some very specific talents to shop for. Here there are some options available as well.

Putting together a collection of pending UFAs and a few signed players, here is a look at some options available for the Flames:

2014-04-29_12-45-33

These are potential blueline acquisitions ranked by CorsiRel and QualComp.

2014-04-29_12-46-02

These are the same candidates ranked on CorsiRel and Quality of Teammates.

For my money, I like Fayne, Niskanen, Orpik and Markov as UFA options to fill out the middle of the Flames defensive roster. Coburn would be ideal, but would probably require a significant payment for Holmgren to let him go. MacTavish burned a hole in the floor at last year's draft going back and forth trying to get him but the price was just too high. 

This would give the Flames’ defensive depth chart Brodie, Giordano, Fayne (for example), Orpik (ditto), Wideman, Smid and Russell with Wotherspoon as a call-up.

Not too shabby and it pushes players like Wideman and Smid down the lineup.

Sobriety Test

I’m not saying that this will happen, or even that it ought to happen. What I am suggesting is that there are opportunities out there for the Flames to improve their roster and add elite-level players today. The Pacific division is changing and a window of opportunity has opened.

To illustrate, let me offer you a parable.

Two guys are walking in the woods. They come across a massive grizzly bear who looks a little ticked off and starts growling and coming at them. The first guy drops his pack and starts taking off his boots and lacing up his running shoes. His buddy looks at him and says, “You’re crazy! You can’t run faster than a Grizzly just because you’ve got running shoes on!” The first guy says “I don’t need to outrun the bear, I just need to outrun you!”

Thus is it with the Flames. Do they need to beat the Ducks, Kings and Sharks? Not necessarily. But they could beat the Canucks, Coyotes and Oilers and so long as they stay ahead or tied with teams like the Wild they could qualify as a Wild Card in the playoff race.

The Oilers are undergoing a significant transition under Craig MacTavish and Dallas Eakins and one suspects that they still have considerable hurdles to overcome to balance their roster such that any significant improvements can be made.

Meanwhile, the skies darken in Vancouver (they are sensitive people on the West Coast, they’re offended by words like “rain”), as they enter something like a rebuild, but more innovative and without all the negative waves associated with that outmoded paradigm. This is Vancouver, after all. How do hipsters rebuild? Isn’t shabby-chic their thing, or are they over that too?

The Phoenix Arizona Coyotes appear to be set on the status quo, and while there is a chance that new ownership will want to make a splash in this free agent season, they have been more or less running in place for several years now and I believe could be unseated by a team with a superior skill set and a more aggressive management style.

The Flames can’t trade or draft their way out of the Pacific Division. They are stuck here and therefore the choices are to either get up and try to beat the California teams sooner rather than later, or sit back, get their heads knocked in and draft high for a few years in the hopes that they can draft high enough and well enough to collect the elite level and complementary talent at a rate greater than the rate of renewal amongst the Ducks, Kings and Sharks.

Weighing It Out

The Pros for these moves are that the roster is immediately improved with known quantities that are just entering their most productive years while only relinquishing potential assets (draft picks) and a single roster player and a single prospect. No one area of the organization’s asset wealth is exhausted exclusively (ie: solely trading draft picks) and the significant commitments are all being made to young players as they enter the peak of their careers.

It also means that when the Flames bring their young players into the roster like Gaudreau, Poirier, Klimchuk and Granlund they will be playing behind a strong top six, providing them with developmental shelter. It not only puts the current Flames roster in a position to succeed, but sets it up so that the next generation of drafted prospects can better acclimate to the NHL and hopefully find success.

The Cons of the deal are that the Flames would be putting a lot of stock into the 2014-2015 season and making substantial investments in a young core cobbled together with significant additions from other organizations with no guarantee of how those pieces might work together. It is very likely that the team could miss the playoffs next season with this roster if only because of the time it could take for the roster to mesh into a cohesive team. Also, this addresses neither the Flames’ defensive shortcomings nor their goaltending situation which remains relatively unsettled.

Still, when one considers the benefit versus the cost, I believe that the deals would make the Flames a better team almost immediately and arguably for at least five years onwards. In the modern NHL that would be admirable.

In Review

Out: 2014 4th overall pick (Leon Draisaitl, Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart, Aaron Ekblad or Michael Dal Colle), Ladislav Smid, 2015 1st round pick, Mark Jankowski. As well, additional signings of Andrei Markov and/or Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen and/or Mark Fayne.

In: Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane, Mason Geertsen, and approximately $21 million in salary on O'Reilly, Kane and two UFA defensemen leaving the team with roughly $5 to $6 million in projected cap space. 

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#51 Rockmorton65
May 02 2014, 02:22PM
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Great article, Rex. I would offer a couple of tweaks.

1. Instead of ROR, I would see if the 4th overall would be enough for Bogosian. I can't imagine it would take much more, especially if there someone that Winnipeg is high on.

2. Ask for permission to speak to Stastny's agent. If you can negotiate a deal, I would offer to return their 2nd for his rights. A 2nd may seem like a lot, but I think it would be funny if we could turn Berra into Stastny.

3. Getting Bogo and Stastny would make it easier to sign Cammy, methinks. Sign 2 of the D men you mentioned, and you've got an accelerated rebuild.

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#52 Grant Pynn
May 02 2014, 03:31PM
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This has got to be my favorite post on the site yet. I enjoy the trade talk and seeing this come together would be a stretch knowing that the flames could be a dynasty sooner or later interests me.

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#53 hank williams
May 02 2014, 04:34PM
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now that Gaudreau is signed we need to cash that chip in with some eastern team. How about Adam Larrson and Adam Henrique for Jonny Hockey and our 4th Henrique is a stud! Larsson maybe can be bought low. Could Jersey parlay our fourth and their first round pick into Ekblad? So essentially LArrson and Enrique and their first rounder for Gaudreau and Arron Ekblad.

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#54 loudogYYC
May 02 2014, 05:25PM
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@hank williams

I wish I had more hands, so I could give that offer 4 thumbs down!

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#55 BurningSensation
May 02 2014, 07:01PM
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If we are 'accellerating' the rebuild;

- Make a trade for either Erik Staal or Jason Spezza (both appear to be on the block). They would be bonafide #1Cs who; would push our youngsters down the depth chart to reasonable positions (i.e. Monahan as #3C with cherry zone starts and soft-as-puppies opposition). Both guys are just 30 years old, so they could be part of the team for 3-5 years before they start to fade - but at that point we could replace them with internal candidates (Monahan/Granlund/Knight/this year's #4 overall).

- Trade for Bogosian. He's the exact right profile of the defenseman Calgary needs to build a 2nd unit around (assumes that Gio-Brodie are the top pair moving forward forever more)

- Re-sign Cammalleri

As it stands the big holes in Calgary's roster are;

#1 C (Spezza) #1 RW (Cammalleri) #3 D (Bogosian)

Add those three items and the team is ready to hit the accellerator.

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#56 MontanaMan
May 02 2014, 09:15PM
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BurningSensation wrote:

If we are 'accellerating' the rebuild;

- Make a trade for either Erik Staal or Jason Spezza (both appear to be on the block). They would be bonafide #1Cs who; would push our youngsters down the depth chart to reasonable positions (i.e. Monahan as #3C with cherry zone starts and soft-as-puppies opposition). Both guys are just 30 years old, so they could be part of the team for 3-5 years before they start to fade - but at that point we could replace them with internal candidates (Monahan/Granlund/Knight/this year's #4 overall).

- Trade for Bogosian. He's the exact right profile of the defenseman Calgary needs to build a 2nd unit around (assumes that Gio-Brodie are the top pair moving forward forever more)

- Re-sign Cammalleri

As it stands the big holes in Calgary's roster are;

#1 C (Spezza) #1 RW (Cammalleri) #3 D (Bogosian)

Add those three items and the team is ready to hit the accellerator.

Not a fan of Spezza. There's a good reason that Ottawa is shopping a 30 year old captain. Calgary's makeup is all about "team" and that nobody is bigger than the team so they need to be very careful who they trade for or who they pursue as free agents. Spezza no. Kane no. Bogosian absolutely. Staal no. ROR absolutely. Regardless of who they target, they need to fit into the Flames profile.

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#57 coachedpotatoe
May 02 2014, 09:29PM
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I'm a big RoR fan but I'm not sure I would trade the #4 for him until I see how the draft day shakes down. I also think Colorado is in conflicted situation and you might not have to pay that price; they have 2 centermen that ideally they would probably prefer to keep, but to keep both of them will cost about $14 million. Stastny had a good playoff but RoR was not quite as good. If they don't sign Stastny they could loss him for nothing and he would actually be someone I would look at. RoR on the other hand is younger but might be had for something else they need to get over the top.(Roy has to think they are close, RoR was problematic the last time he was RFA and might prove so again) Both are under 30 and would better fit the Flames than Spezza and I suspect the price would be high.

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#58 Baalzamon
May 03 2014, 10:52PM
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@BurningSensation

Both guys are just 30 years old, so they could be part of the team for 3-5 years before they start to fade

It's too late. They're both fading already. Particularly Spezza, who is also made of glass.

Also, I'm not sure either of them is a bona-fide 1C. Ask any Senators fan who their #1 is; I give it 9 in 10 they tell you it's Kyle Turris.

Honestly, I'm not convinced (healthy)Spezza + Bogosian makes the Flames a playoff team, much less a contender.

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#59 Stubblejumper
May 04 2014, 09:57AM
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Baalzamon wrote:
Both guys are just 30 years old, so they could be part of the team for 3-5 years before they start to fade

It's too late. They're both fading already. Particularly Spezza, who is also made of glass.

Also, I'm not sure either of them is a bona-fide 1C. Ask any Senators fan who their #1 is; I give it 9 in 10 they tell you it's Kyle Turris.

Honestly, I'm not convinced (healthy)Spezza + Bogosian makes the Flames a playoff team, much less a contender.

I agree Baalzamon.

BurningSensation...if the goal of the Flames is to build a cup-contender...which I believe it has to be (or why else have a team?)...then Spezza is not the answer, nor is anyone older than 28 years at most.

The Flames nucleus is 18-23 years of age. This core does not yet have the breadth of players with elite level skill that can contend. Virtually the only way to add to this core is with Top 10 (or better yet Top 5) drafting, plus excellent secondary drafting to fill out the rest of the roster and hopefully develop an elite level player e.g. Doughty, Weber, etc.

By trading away Top 5 picks this year and next we will likely be able to improve the team with some nice assets to become a playoff-capable team. However by doing so we will give up the opportunity to become a cup contender.

The timing of becoming a trader should also be considered. Trades involving core players or Top 10 picks usually occur for a team looking to round out the final pieces of their core, not usually a central core (top 2) piece. Seguin and Thornton deals don't happen often.

For a Cup contending team so far we have perhaps 2 Fwd core assets (Monahan, Gaudreau maybe?) and 1 D core piece (Brodie) in the right age range and elite skill level (Gio will not be around when they contend and should likely be traded in 1-3 years).

Adding Bennett/Draisaitl and a Top 10 pick next year will likely yield two more, leaving ~2 more elite-level F and 1 more D, with the rest being filled by supporting cast of above average talent with the needed mix of skill, size, speed, scoring, physicality.

At this time I would not be in favour of trading away our picks as we would get above average talent at best (or old post-apex talent) rather than elite-level talent to add to the core of a cup contender.

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#60 Hank Williams
May 04 2014, 11:57AM
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horse trading 101 - sell 'em when there yellin' buying when they're cryin' If there is interest down east for this kid, created by his parents potentially, why would should we be afraid to trade this 5 foot 7 wunderkid. His value quite likely will never be higher to the Flames now that he is signed. If we were a deep team, like Chicago, we could then deploy Jonny Hockey like Kane is deployed there. We are several years away. Unless we can lock him away in the minors for two full seasons and risk him turning into Paul Byron, I think the Flames are foolish not to look to cash that chip on the High flyer pick feaster did. Isn,t left wing where we have good depth at? I too dream of him as the next Martin St. Louis, who we traded away too, but this time we can sell with some strength and make our team better. You guys all saw how he got bumped around in his only NHL game when he drew that weak call against Vancouver. It was like he was a pee wee player. He did compete impressively at times but how durable will be? Trade!

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#61 Kevin R
May 04 2014, 12:58PM
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Great post Rex, totally enjoyed this one. But I'm with the majority that this is not the right way to speed up the rebuild. I do think to speed up the rebuild we need to try & acquire that 2014 1st overall Florida are reportedly throwing out there. 2 picks in the top 4 this year, get Ekblad & Bennett, wow in 2 years this team is going to start scaring people. Don't know what it would take, don't know if Florida wants players that will be in the lineup & get them playoff bound immediately but I would pay a good price for that pick, Hudler, Russel & one of our better NHL ready prospects. All guys on good contracts that will be in their starting lineup next fall has to have some appeal to the Panthers.

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#62 loudogYYC
May 04 2014, 02:42PM
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@Hank Williams

So a peewee looking player that got bumped around in his only NHL game should be traded because his value will never be higher?

I don't think you understand this whole trade concept.

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#63 hank williams
May 05 2014, 02:10PM
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never said i fully understood the process. But i do understand odds of success and failure pretty good as a life long gambler of sports. He was bought low and we can parlay him while he is currently perceived as a higher value. Should we gameble that he is the next Marty St Louis or anyhing even remotely close to him or do we gamble that whatever he could bring us today will not only more than likely provide us some solid assets where we need, like young defence or right wing prospects. In addition we have players like him in Baertshi and Byron already. What iam i failing to understand loudogYYC?

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#64 Rockmorton65
May 06 2014, 12:18PM
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@hank williams

Another thing to consider is the Flames track record on trading smaller prospects because they didn't start performing right away. Names like Brett Hull, Marc Savard, Marty St Louis. They were all traded away because they weren't "developing fast enough ". Let's be patient with this kid.

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#65 Hank Williams
May 07 2014, 09:30AM
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Good point rockmorton65. I think with the recent Glen Falls placement of our farm team, it increases the amount of time we can keep this kid on the farm. Sprinkle in a couple of eastern zone call ups to the big club and we could get two full seasons on the farm hopefully. I will use my Pee Wee analogy again; how many talented but small pee wee players become injured or disillusioned from the larger early developed same aged peers. No matter how good the smaller player is, eventually someone tags you a good one. This is why Hockey Calgary and other youth organizations have banned hitting at these levels. The Flames are not able to shelter this player yet. He needs significant time in the minors while his body matures and while the Flames mature a couple of top tier lines who can handle his tougher match ups. I confess, im not sure we need to trade him, especially because of Glen Falls, but it sure is fun to discuss this with y'all.

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#66 JR
May 07 2014, 10:47AM
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This post makes me laugh. For one isn't Rex an oiler nation writer? & 2 this is the exact type of moves Sutter was making to put this team in the situation it's been in the last number of years. This NHL is a young mans games & it's imperative that teams keep they're high draft picks & build through the draft. Unless they think to be a cup contender & are only a piece or 2 away (which the Flames are far from). You don't trade a 4th overall pick & potential lottery pick in 2015 for generational players, so you can fight with the Phoenix's of the world to scratch into the 8th playoff spot. Does this not sound all to familiar to anyone else??

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