January 18 2016 08:00AM
It's the middle of January and the Flames are currently 13th in the Western Conference, just two points up on basement dwelling Edmonton Oilers. The enduring low quality of the Pacific Division means Calgary still has a chance at the post-season, but hope dims a little after each divisional loss.
We're just over a month away from the trade deadline when Treliving and company will likely have to make a decision about whether the team will make a play for the stretch drive or sell assets and hope for a high draft pick.
For what it's worth, Sport Club Stats currently puts the Flames playoff probability at around 27%. So, absent another multi-game winning streak very soon, Calgary is probably going to be a seller at the deadline. Today's mailbag looks at what will happen to their three pending free agents, as well as Bennett's ceiling and Monahan's next deal.
That would be Jiri Hudler, Kris Russell and David Jones.
I think there's a fair chance the Flames move them all. There's been talk about Calgary trying to re-sign Russell, but the issue is the club likely can't afford what the player will be looking for. This next deal will be Russell's big chance to cash in, so it's unlikely he'll be willing to take less to stick around.
The only way the Flames could even seriously consider inking Russell is if they clear up at least two of the lousy contracts they currently boast on the blueline (Dennis Wideman, Deryk Engelland and Ladislav Smid), which is a significant challenge.
As such, I think the club will auction off both Hudler and Russell at the deadline.
As for Jones, I suspect Treliving will test the market for the RWer but he may find there isn't much demand. From there they will either walk away in the off-season or keep him around on a cheap, short deal for depth purposes.
We still don't have much info on Bennett because he's only played 40+ games at the NHL level as teenager. His scoring has been decent, though not outstanding so far (I anticipate that will change so), but his underlying numbers have been better than average (positive relative possession player already).
One way to look at Bennett's ceiling is consider other similar players. The Projection Project provides a handy tool to compare prospects based on key variables like scoring, league and size.
If we look at Bennett's comparable group, we find that 77% of them became NHLers, with over half of them (16 of 31) becoming first line or elite players. Some of his comparables include Tyler Seguin, Steven Stamkos, Bryan Little and David Backes. Some of the more recent parallels include Robby Fabbri, Sam Reinhart and Nikolaj Ehlers.
Personally, I think Bennett is an excellent NHLer already and will be better than Monahan inside the calendar year. His basement is probably a quality top-six forward, while his ceiling is high-end to elite first line centre.
Team success at the AHL level doesn't tend to matter as much as individual progression. With that in mind, Stockton's season so far is somewhat discouraging. Some of the guys the team expected to press for NHL jobs have run in place or taken a step back (Emile Poirer, Tyler Wotherspoon, Joni Ortio), while no one has really come out of the woodwork and made a name for himself.
It happens, which is why anyone outside of a blue chip prospect is a gamble.
Hayes has pretty good results across the board as a young player, which is why it's surprising he is getting the run around from AV in New York this year.
For fun, here's how Hayes compares to Joe Colbrone in terms of scoring and possession at 5on5 (via Own the Puck):
So, yeah, he's pretty good. If available, the Flames should be inquiring. Especially since the right side is set to get a lot thinner with the absence of Hudler and (maybe) Jones.
Unlike the Gaudreau contract, to which I think the Flames should commit longterm dollars, I'm a little more reluctant about giving big, long-term dollars to Monahan right away. Mostly because I don't know how good he really is. The 21-year-old center's season has been mediocre relative results, with his scoring stalling and his possession game taking a big step back.
As mentioned in the linked Gaudreau/Monahan piece, the team should really find out if Mony can drive results by himself before backing up the brinks truck. Giving elite level contracts to merely very good players is a good way to hamstring a young roster, particular in the face of a stagnating salary cap.
An interesting question. Giordano has played much better recently after a very rocky start, but he still looks like the second best defender on the team behind T.J. Brodie. One wonders if the Flames Captain has hit his peak, which would make his contract... problematic moving forward. The team is emphatic that Gio's getting paid as much for his off-ice contribution as on-ice abilities, but that's the tune that goes out of key the more the former outstrips the latter.
I'm a huge Giordano fan and have staunchly defended him as far back as the contract dispute that sent him to Russia. That said, if Treliving isn't considering these sorts of things, he's not doing his job.
Even with his moderate step back this year and giant deal kicking in next year I'm certain there would be a long line of suitors at the Flames door if they decided to put their captain on the market. Good defenders are always in demand in the market, to say nothing of high scoring, first pairing guys who wear a letter. The asking price would start at a first round pick and high quality prospect and good up from there I'm certain.
Will the Flames even consider this? No. So the speculation is likely moot.
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