Five thoughts: Moving up?

Ryan Lambert
June 12 2014 08:00AM

five

1. Kicking the tires

Word came out over the weekend, as it so often does at this time of year, that a number of teams have been in contact with the Florida Panthers about the possibility of trading for the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft. No surprise, especially because the Panthers have said they might be more willing than top teams usually are to part with it.

You hear that every year as well, of course. There's always that "they might trade down" thing, and you have no way of really knowing how much truth there is to it. But the quotes coming out of Sunrise have all but hung a for-sale sign next to the pick, so here we are.

We have, consequently, seen a number of teams connected with it, and that's nothing new either. Mediocre teams that might want to get aggressive, big-market teams, bad teams that have "A Guy" in mind. Those are the usual suspects when it comes to Who Might Trade Up. The Flames obviously fall into the latter category, and again, normally this wouldn't be any kind of cause for belief that they might actually do it.

But then there was this: Brad Treliving saying that he has in fact reached out to Dale Tallon to ask specifically about trading up, and that's something you see far less often. It's an interesting prospect, obviously.

2. What would it cost?

The first question one would necessarily have to ask here is what the team is willing to give up in order to move up three spots in the draft. One imagines that the ransom would be substantial.

I don't really like to get into this kind of thing because it's a little too HFBoards-ish for my taste, but the Flames would certainly be asked to part with the No. 4 overall pick, as well as a mishmash of actual good roster players (no salary dumps, not to Florida anyway), and high-quality prospects. 

Given how much young talent the Panthers have up front, too, you'd have to think that a good young defenseman would be a must-have in this deal, and that has TJ Brodie's name written all over it. The Flames don't really have anyone else that fits the bill in the same way he does, and he'd be a possession driver for them for years to come. Of course, that would leave the Flames with roughly one other possession-driving defenseman (Mark Giordano, obviously) and five guys who are simply not very good.

You'd probably also have to throw in a Johnny Gaudreau type, or some other high-quality prospect. Sven Baertschi maybe. Then a more B-level guy, like Tyler Wotherspoon or something, to round it out.

Even if those aren't the exact guys Florida's looking for, that's probably about the caliber they'd want. So the question, then, becomes one of exactly who would be good enough to make the Flames move up in such a way.

3. Drafting Ekblad

The obvious answer is the enormous defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who most people seem to think should be the consensus No. 1 pick. Calgary, like every other team in the league, has need of a high-end defenseman such as him, because you really don't succeed in the NHL these days without one. There is no chance at all that he's there at No. 4 should the Flames not move up.

But again, there's that cost to acquire him, and the impact it would have on the team as a whole. Would it hurt to lose Gaudreau or Baertschi? Sure. But the Kings aren't Cup contenders without Doughty, and the Blackhawks without Keith, and the Rangers without McDonagh, and the Bruins without Chara. Ekblad has the ability to rise to their level, but to acquire him the Flames have to take a step back in this "rebuild" of theirs.

Forwards come into this league more ready to compete than defensemen, and thus if you think this is a "rebuild on the fly" (and the Flames' management sure does) then moving up to get Ekblad is grounding the flight temporarily. In the end, it might be worth it, but that's a calculated risk you have to take, especially because you, again, probably have to give up Brodie and thus set your entire D corps back considerably. The D corps is already not-that-good.

4. Drafting a forward

On the other hand, they might really like one of Sams Bennett or Reinhart, or Leon Draisaitl, or Michael Dal Colle, and want to make sure they get him and him alone.

This would not be a very good decision. The fact that you can look at so many drafts and see any one of those four guys as the top forward picked depending on the day and the source shows that there probably isn't much in the way of separation there. The Sams seem to be slightly favored, but not by a lot, and the fact that both Dal Colle and Draisaitl are large men at 6-2/180 and 6-1/208, respectively, might pull them level in the eyes of a certain Calgary Flames executive who fetishizes size to a creepy extent.

Thus, trading up for any one of them likely serves little purpose. With so little separating them, why would you trade a raft of picks, prospects, and players to get someone who's not that much better than the guy you're going to be able to take at No. 4? The Flames might want Bennett at No. 1 overall, just as an example, but would (or rather, should) they really be gutted to get Draisaitl at No. 4 instead?

5. Should they do it?

This isn't a draft with a clear, clear No. 1 guy. It's not the Sidney Crosby draft. The guy you get at No. 1 likely isn't going to be appreciably better any time soon than the guy you get at No. 4, so for the Flames it comes down to what they think the team needs.

The team needs everything, more or less. More forwards, more defensemen, more goalies. Trading away a bunch of what they currently have (not a lot) to get any one prospect would mean that they have a lot lot lot lot lot of faith that Their Guy is going to be a huge difference-maker. As far as I can tell, the only one on the list in that regard is Ekblad.

Even still, I'd be reticent to trade up for him. Is he going to be great for a long time? Yes. But there's not a lot of reason to think this team will be competitive next year, and as such, given the depth of the 2015 draft class, do you really want to be putting all your eggs in this rather shallower basket instead? Probably not. (Though it must be said teams will be more intractable in their willingness to trade down with a Jack Eichel on the board, won't they?)

Until then, just take the best player available.

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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 MontanaMan
June 12 2014, 09:19PM
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gussey wrote:

How about gio for the #1 pick? Top pairing D man in his prime. Could turn fortunes for Florida around quickly. Tallon sounds like he wants to compete now to save his job. For the flames it would suck to lose the best player and captain, but he's 31 coming off the best season of his career. By the time flames are competitive he will be 35ish and well past his prime. It would be a sell high situation. I guess I'm not sure if that's enough, maybe gio and a 3rd or something. It would be a pure scorched earth strategy. We would be last place for sure next year.

I know this comment got trashed but I agree with it. All Flame fans loved the year Gio had and no doubt he's the heart and soul of the team, but this decision needs to be made with the head and not the heart. The Flames are 3-5 years away from being considered a Stanley Cup contender so this trade fits very well into the plan. Pulling the trigger would take big stones - great opportunity for Trev to show what he's got.

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#52 DragonFlame
June 12 2014, 09:45PM
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@MontanaMan

So long as the Flames think they have someone else to (as Bob Hartley said) sell "memberships."

Let's face it, Giordano had just as much to do with the Flames' performance last year (from a work ethics point of view) as anyone from the coaching staff.

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#53 EugeneV
June 12 2014, 10:17PM
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NHL93 wrote:

With Ekblad, I am continually reminded of Chris Phillips who went 1st overall in '96 to the Sens. Phillips is a decent defender and is a guy you can build a corps around.. but he's not Rob Blake/Chara/Bourque/Doughty/Keith.

I imagine my comparison is completely unfair to Ekblad.. but regardless, as Han Solo says: "I got a bad feeling about this".

Speaking of Han Solo, I heard that his foot got crushed in an accident on the set of the new Star Wars movie.

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#54 ?
June 12 2014, 10:44PM
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EugeneV wrote:

Speaking of Han Solo, I heard that his foot got crushed in an accident on the set of the new Star Wars movie.

Perhaps its a sign

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#55 Kevin R
June 12 2014, 10:57PM
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MontanaMan wrote:

I know this comment got trashed but I agree with it. All Flame fans loved the year Gio had and no doubt he's the heart and soul of the team, but this decision needs to be made with the head and not the heart. The Flames are 3-5 years away from being considered a Stanley Cup contender so this trade fits very well into the plan. Pulling the trigger would take big stones - great opportunity for Trev to show what he's got.

Cant do it dude. You have to have the right Captain to bring the best of the young players. Doesn't matter what kind of talent they have, they need to be led until they hit 23-24 & then the leaders step up to lead. Look at the Oilers, 3 1st over-alls & they are drafting ahead of us. You cant under estimate the value of a Captain that brings his players to fight.

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#56 EugeneV
June 12 2014, 11:03PM
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MontanaMan wrote:

I know this comment got trashed but I agree with it. All Flame fans loved the year Gio had and no doubt he's the heart and soul of the team, but this decision needs to be made with the head and not the heart. The Flames are 3-5 years away from being considered a Stanley Cup contender so this trade fits very well into the plan. Pulling the trigger would take big stones - great opportunity for Trev to show what he's got.

I would definitely trade Gio and a 2nd for Ekblad.

"2 years ago Gio," not "now Gio." BUT...

But what about if Gio is closer to the 2 years ago model next year and not the newer improved model?

Then we will have missed out on the sell high opportunity that we have now.

How many years did it take Gio to become the player he is now? 10 years, that's how long since we signed him as a free agent.

What if 5 years from now Ekblad is a top 5 Dman in the league and we traded a non drafted free agent who somehow became a dominant Dman in year 9 & 10 of him being on our team for a true Stud Dman in the right age group?

I think it would be worth doing to get a Dman like Ekblad who fits in the age group of our team going forward will be within.

We will still have Brodie, and I'd MUCH PREFER to trade Gio than Brodie.

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#57 Danglesnipecelly
June 13 2014, 12:44AM
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Dude from Mckeens was on Team 1040 in Vancouver today. Said they have the Sams ahead of Ekblad but difference amongst top 4/5 is negligible. Depends on what a team values/needs. As far as I'm concerned the 4th is as good as the 1st and trading anything is an absolute waste. If there's any Flames trading in the first round it should be to acquire a second pick as Roger Millions suggested on Twitter.

Also on 1040 Bill Waters (buddies with Dale Tallon) said that the only name released as part of an offer for the first overall was Phaneuf from the Leafs as part of a deal and Tallon gave an emphatic NO.

Lots of talk of Vancouver wanting to move up to three or four to grab a centre with Kesler on the way out. Can't see Flames dealing with them - Oilers might be a stretch to but maybe for a D?

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#58 piscera.infada
June 13 2014, 07:38AM
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EugeneV wrote:

I would definitely trade Gio and a 2nd for Ekblad.

"2 years ago Gio," not "now Gio." BUT...

But what about if Gio is closer to the 2 years ago model next year and not the newer improved model?

Then we will have missed out on the sell high opportunity that we have now.

How many years did it take Gio to become the player he is now? 10 years, that's how long since we signed him as a free agent.

What if 5 years from now Ekblad is a top 5 Dman in the league and we traded a non drafted free agent who somehow became a dominant Dman in year 9 & 10 of him being on our team for a true Stud Dman in the right age group?

I think it would be worth doing to get a Dman like Ekblad who fits in the age group of our team going forward will be within.

We will still have Brodie, and I'd MUCH PREFER to trade Gio than Brodie.

That's a whole lot of assumptions. I can agree with you on Gio over Brodie, but I'd rather just not trade anyone to move up the draft all together. If Ekblad drops to 4, and in the next 2 or 3 years replaces Gio on the depth chart then by all means trade him. Trading Gio at this time only makes an already swiss-cheese-like defense group more swiss-cheese-like - if there's one positive about the Flames defense, it's that they have a legitimate top-pairing so no one has to come in a play way over their head.

All of this leaves the assumption that Ekblad will in fact be a true #1 defenseman in the future, and he will actually play "20 years in the league". I'm not going to say that's untrue. But it is a massive risk when you a) trade away your captain and mentor, and b) trade away the one guy who sparked the engine last year.

There is no rule the Flames have to trade up just because the pick is available. It's nice to think of dream scenarios, but in reality, whether it's as expensive as Lambert claims or not, it's still going to be too much to pay for (likely) little payoff down the road. Especially when you consider where this team is. Just keep stockpiling, keep developing, and stay patient - we have a good thing going.

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#59 Burnward
June 13 2014, 10:38AM
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I haven't even prepared myself for the possibility of Ekblad falling to 4.

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#60 Stubblejumper
June 13 2014, 12:40PM
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Burnward wrote:

I haven't even prepared myself for the possibility of Ekblad falling to 4.

An interesting thought. So what would you do...draft Ekblad with exuberance and glee...OR turn around and draft Dal Colle??

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#61 Stubblejumer
June 13 2014, 12:54PM
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@EugeneV

"What if 5 years from now Ekblad is a top 5 Dman in the league and we traded a non drafted free agent who somehow became a dominant Dman in year 9 & 10 of him being on our team for a true Stud Dman in the right age group?

I think it would be worth doing to get a Dman like Ekblad who fits in the age group of our team going forward will be within.

We will still have Brodie, and I'd MUCH PREFER to trade Gio than Brodie"

I think your rationale is generally in the right direction but perhaps the timing and tactic could potentially be enhanced.

Trading Gio is akin to trashers bringing out the "Oilers" fear-mongering comparisons. However given his age, and the peaking of his value (Top 12-15 D man in the league?) the Flames need to assess the best time to maximize his trade value versus the skill, guidance & leadership he brings to a young Flames group.

I'd be in favour of trading Gio...but not until the trade deadline. This gives him 2/3 of the year to mentor/lead the team, while also yielding maximum returns (a 1st, 2nd and solid prospect?) while still having 1 year left on his cap-friendly contract.

Waiting any longer will see significant depreciation.

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#62 Burnward
June 13 2014, 07:41PM
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@Stubblejumper

Much exuberance and glee.

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#63 Franko J
June 14 2014, 12:53AM
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Moving up in this draft would be counterproductive to what they are trying to achieve.

Besides I would want try to obtain as many assets for next years draft. The 2014 draft has many D who are going to be very solid 4/5/6 pairings. Next years draft has 2 very intriguing prospects in Hanifin and Kylington who better suit the Flames need other than Ekblad.

The trading up scenario I think would be just as ludricous as trading Monahan, Russell, Byron and our 4th pick for Spezza.

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