FN Mailbag - January 18, 2016

Kent Wilson
January 18 2016 08:00AM

flamesnation

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):

hayes

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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39d8109299a9795cb3b41a4e9b49d501
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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#1 paul
January 18 2016, 08:23AM
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If Hudler's contract demands were reasonable (4x4?), is there a chance we see the Flames re-sign him??

I don't quite see the point of unloading a top 6 winger that fits in with the team, in order to search for another top 6 winger this off-season.

The fact that he has had a pretty terrible year plays well in our favour if you believe he will bounce back.

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#2 ChinookArchYYC
January 18 2016, 08:37AM
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@paul

Hudler as trade fodder is going to be interesting. Groin injuries can be long term and troublesome. This season's poor play and the injury makes him a risky bet for a team looking for help in a deep playoff run.

I don't think he will be back next year, but then again he could come back on a short prove it contract.

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#3 ChinookArchYYC
January 18 2016, 08:47AM
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I've never been much for fan trade speculation, but Kevin Hayes for Russell seems to check boxes for both NY and Calgary. I would personally love that return for Russell.

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#4 vowswithin
January 18 2016, 09:02AM
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Hey Kent, What do you think the cost might be if Kevin Hayes was available to Calgary?

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#5 vowswithin
January 18 2016, 09:08AM
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@ChinookArchYYC

YES PLEASE!

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#6 Parallex
January 18 2016, 09:23AM
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@ChinookArchYYC

That would be a pretty poor trade for NY.

Sure they may like an extra D-man for a cup run but I don't think they'd want to offload current young NHL talent for it when they could probably get something similar without subtracting from the roster. I think you'd have to at least throw in Colborne (and you'd have to eat money on them both... NYR are really close to the cap) in order to get them to bite.

Which I'd totally do.

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#7 Brent G.
January 18 2016, 09:55AM
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paul wrote:

If Hudler's contract demands were reasonable (4x4?), is there a chance we see the Flames re-sign him??

I don't quite see the point of unloading a top 6 winger that fits in with the team, in order to search for another top 6 winger this off-season.

The fact that he has had a pretty terrible year plays well in our favour if you believe he will bounce back.

Considering how poorly the season has gone for Hudler I cant help but wonder if he would consider a one year deal to, hopefully, improve his value on the open market for a big pay day and would give the Flames a better return. Last year was obviously an anomaly of very good results whereas this year has swung the opposite way. Assuming his play did improve next season to career average, the flames may be able to get a 1st at the TDL and he can still get his last big contract.

Probably not popular but just a thought...

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#8 Johnny Goooooooaldreau
January 18 2016, 10:05AM
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Having watched Bennett in person 4 or 5 times now, I absolutely think he will be our #1C inside this season. (even though he won't be on the first line)

What a presence this kid has, the skating, hard on the forecheck, strong on the boards, physical all over the ice, dangles, hands in close and a great shot. What's not to like?

I have no doubt that he will actually be our best player by the time he turns 22.

Good times!

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#9 ChinookArchYYC
January 18 2016, 10:08AM
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@Parallex

Firstly I agree, it would be a poor long-term return. On the other hand, Russell has a high perceived value around the league, an there have been reports that the Flames are getting calls on him. Meanwhile, in NY Hayes has been a healthy scratch twice since Dec 30, and here is what his coach thinks of him:

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault didn't pull his punches when assessing Hayes following Tuesday's contest. He said that the Rangers are "very unhappy with the way he’s played so far." When the coach was asked if he thought Hayes was working hard enough, Vigneault didn't hesitate to say no. We'll see how Hayes responds. Source: The Bergen Reord

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#10 cjc
January 18 2016, 10:17AM
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@ChinookArchYYC

Who wouldn't love to trade an at best third-pairing defender for a potential top six forward?

Everyone seems to think the rest of the league is high on Russell. I just don't see the evidence for that. If Calgary gets a 2nd rounder for him, I'd be pleasantly surprised.

Jeff Petry, by all accounts a solid 2/3rd line defenseman only managed to net a 2nd and a 5th for Edmonton last year. James Wisniewski and a 3rd only netted Columbus a second and two peripheral roster players, and he's consistently averaged 0.5 ppg in his career!

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#11 Stan
January 18 2016, 11:20AM
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cjc wrote:

Who wouldn't love to trade an at best third-pairing defender for a potential top six forward?

Everyone seems to think the rest of the league is high on Russell. I just don't see the evidence for that. If Calgary gets a 2nd rounder for him, I'd be pleasantly surprised.

Jeff Petry, by all accounts a solid 2/3rd line defenseman only managed to net a 2nd and a 5th for Edmonton last year. James Wisniewski and a 3rd only netted Columbus a second and two peripheral roster players, and he's consistently averaged 0.5 ppg in his career!

Firstly, you can't pigeon hole Russell as a third pairing defender. While that is where I see him as fitting on a good team, he has been playing in a second pairing role for the past two seasons. Secondly, why don't you think the rest of the league is high on Russell? It should be fairly obvious that they are, as teams have been calling about him and the even apparently want to try to resign him (according to Friedman). That in itself shows that Russell holds value.

While you have pointed out a couple of trades where the return was poor, their are plenty of other trades that would make you think Russell would return more then what you've outlined. For example, Lovejoy was able to return Despres. Sekera was able to return a first and high end prospect (Mckeown). Looking not exclusively at d-men, GlenX was able to return a 2nd and 3rd round pick. Berra was able to return a 2nd. Stempniak was able to return a 3rd.

In my opinion, Russell is more highly valued around the league then Lovejoy, GlenX, Berra or Stempniak. Not to mention the fact that many coaches and teams value shot blocking (cough tortorella cough) highly and it is well known that teams are always searching for quality d-men that can play a regular shift. Defensive depth is HUGE, especially during the playoffs. Russell showed last year after the Gio injury that he could step up a role and not (completely) drown.

Also worth noting, is that the Rangers D is NOT GOOD. They have been overrated for awhile now, but Girardi and Staal are playing in a second pairing role and are way over their heads.

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#12 Dougie & The Fro
January 18 2016, 11:52AM
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Good stuff Kent, as always.

"...the team should really find out if Mony can drive results by himself before backing up the brinks truck."

If Sean Murder Monohan needs some time away from the Tiny Wizard Johnny Hockey, how's about putting Benney at C next to Johnny? Come on Flames. Doooo iiiiiiiit!

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#13 ClayBort
January 18 2016, 12:20PM
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paul wrote:

If Hudler's contract demands were reasonable (4x4?), is there a chance we see the Flames re-sign him??

I don't quite see the point of unloading a top 6 winger that fits in with the team, in order to search for another top 6 winger this off-season.

The fact that he has had a pretty terrible year plays well in our favour if you believe he will bounce back.

Mathematically, no it isn't possible outside of a bridge deal for Monahan and moving another contract. Flames need ELCs that can play next year. Don't expect any valuable UFAs. The following summer, things open up a bit.

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#14 cjc
January 18 2016, 12:27PM
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@Stan

I'll concede that Russell has played second line minutes, but he hasn't been particularly great there. If you are a crap team, then sure, he is a second line player. But if you are a crap team, then are you looking to trade high picks for UFA defensemen?

People might be making calls about Russell, but that doesn't mean that they're offering second rounders.

If the Rangers D is NOT GOOD, does adding another middling d-man improve things? People here have been saying Russell is in over his head as a second pair D all season.

I didn't include forwards in my comparison, but to address your examples: Sekera - wasn't worth a first/prospect, but that's Edmonton for you. Lovejoy/Despres - touche, although Pit was familiar with Lovejoy. GlenX/Stempniak - forwards with production history, the returns sound about right (esp. a 3rd for Stemp).

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#15 cjc
January 18 2016, 12:31PM
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@cjc

Oops, just remembered that it was LA that traded for Sekera. Well, Carolina murdered them on that trade, but LA was desperate to make the playoffs.

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#16 Stan
January 18 2016, 01:33PM
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cjc wrote:

I'll concede that Russell has played second line minutes, but he hasn't been particularly great there. If you are a crap team, then sure, he is a second line player. But if you are a crap team, then are you looking to trade high picks for UFA defensemen?

People might be making calls about Russell, but that doesn't mean that they're offering second rounders.

If the Rangers D is NOT GOOD, does adding another middling d-man improve things? People here have been saying Russell is in over his head as a second pair D all season.

I didn't include forwards in my comparison, but to address your examples: Sekera - wasn't worth a first/prospect, but that's Edmonton for you. Lovejoy/Despres - touche, although Pit was familiar with Lovejoy. GlenX/Stempniak - forwards with production history, the returns sound about right (esp. a 3rd for Stemp).

I agree that he hasn't been particularly great in a second pairing role, but he isn't a second pairing player on a "crap team" as you stated. He is a second pairing player on a team that went to the playoffs and won a round last year, and is currently fighting for a playoff spot.

While I personally don't like Russell and would like for us to trade him as I think he is a good bottom pairing defender (but over his head as a second pairing defender), I don't think some of the decision makers in the NHL see it the same way. Hartley clearly loves him. Treliving/BB must value him if they are trying to resign him. Other GMs are interested in him and are inquiring about his availability. GMs and coaches value shot blocking, and say what you will about what shot blocking means and if that stat even has merit, but Russell is tops in the league at it. That holds value.

That being said, I think the biggest upside regarding Russell is the position he plays and the dearth of talented d-men available. Quickly: name 5 second pairing d-men that have been reportedly available via trade this season. Off the top of my head I can only think of Hamonic (and the argument could be made that he is a 2/3 dman as opposed to a 3/4). Teams currently are looking to upgrade their defensive depth and this need for defencemen is only going to increase as the trade deadline approaches. Year and year again, teams are always looking for D depth for the playoff push/grind. This bodes well for the Flames if they'd like to move Russell.

Yes you are correct, the Rangers D is not good, so I don't think it's a stretch to argue that adding Russell would improve it. I seriously think that the only Dmen that the Rangers have that are superior to Russell are Yandle and Mcdonagh (I believe they have a rookie d-man who has been playing a regular shift and has been decent but I can't remember his name). That would immediately make Russell their #3 dman. Looking at it through that perspective, I believe you could make an argument that a Russell for Hayes trade could make sense, with spare parts added on each side as necessary.

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#17 Kevin R
January 18 2016, 01:35PM
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cjc wrote:

Oops, just remembered that it was LA that traded for Sekera. Well, Carolina murdered them on that trade, but LA was desperate to make the playoffs.

The guy plays over 20 minutes a game and has for awhile. Thank goodness you aren't the GM ready to give away a 20minute Dman for peanuts. Russell played great last year in the playoff race home stretch & he played great in the playoffs. There is a way bigger sample size of what GM's look at & value, they just don't look at stats & pigeon hole like you are trying to do here.

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#18 Toofun
January 18 2016, 02:59PM
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I think Calgary will get pretty good value for both Hudler and Russell at this year's deadline. There could also be a decent bid for Wideman, to a contender who he would waive his no move clause for. This is going to be a competitive year and a lot of teams will be looking to fill in pieces for a deep playoff run.

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#19 Dougie & The Fro
January 18 2016, 04:13PM
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When is the trade deadline this year?

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#20 Tomas Oppolzer
January 18 2016, 05:58PM
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Dougie & The Fro wrote:

When is the trade deadline this year?

February 29th.

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#21 44stampede
January 18 2016, 06:22PM
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With this many teams in the mix for the playoffs the value of these UFAs good be better than usual.

Russell for Hayes would be a good deal. Not sure the status on Hayes. How many years and how much $$ does he have? I would say that the money will make a difference considering what Russell may be asking for. Probably need Calgary to sweeten the pot.

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#22 Kevin R
January 18 2016, 06:48PM
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44stampede wrote:

With this many teams in the mix for the playoffs the value of these UFAs good be better than usual.

Russell for Hayes would be a good deal. Not sure the status on Hayes. How many years and how much $$ does he have? I would say that the money will make a difference considering what Russell may be asking for. Probably need Calgary to sweeten the pot.

Not an issue, Hayes is a RFA at end of year & is paid $900K Not a big difference when you consider the prorated cap hit. Wideman would probably need to be finessed with a bit of salary taken back.

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#23 ultrathinzigzags
January 18 2016, 08:06PM
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WAs pretty tanked at the end of the BOA but upon further review was it not Backlund he of the defensive zone starts and faceoffs who lost the draw and than flamingoed out of the way of the point shot to allow the Coilers to tie the game??

Thanks again Backs. PS don't stay lot after practice to work on your Atom ranked shot

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#24 MontanaMan
January 18 2016, 08:46PM
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ultrathinzigzags wrote:

WAs pretty tanked at the end of the BOA but upon further review was it not Backlund he of the defensive zone starts and faceoffs who lost the draw and than flamingoed out of the way of the point shot to allow the Coilers to tie the game??

Thanks again Backs. PS don't stay lot after practice to work on your Atom ranked shot

I am likely Backlund's harshest critic and have called for him to be included in a trade, preferably for Hamonic. Having said that, Backlund is playing the best hockey of his career. He has been a key set up man for Bennett and has made his line mates better. And yes, it hurts me to say that!!!

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#25 Johnny Goooooooaldreau
January 19 2016, 12:08AM
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MontanaMan wrote:

I am likely Backlund's harshest critic and have called for him to be included in a trade, preferably for Hamonic. Having said that, Backlund is playing the best hockey of his career. He has been a key set up man for Bennett and has made his line mates better. And yes, it hurts me to say that!!!

It might be a tie, but I think I hate Backlund more than you. I have never hated a Flame since 1979, but the Corsination crowd have made me go from not liking him to hating him. You?

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#26 MontanaMan
January 19 2016, 07:41AM
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Johnny Goooooooaldreau wrote:

It might be a tie, but I think I hate Backlund more than you. I have never hated a Flame since 1979, but the Corsination crowd have made me go from not liking him to hating him. You?

I don't want to start an anti-Backlund thread because I truly believe he is playing well. He's just not my type of hockey player, but that's a personal preference.

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#27 Johnny Goooooooaldreau
January 19 2016, 10:11AM
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MontanaMan wrote:

I don't want to start an anti-Backlund thread because I truly believe he is playing well. He's just not my type of hockey player, but that's a personal preference.

That's the thing, I am not anti Backlund either. As a 3rd line C behind 93 & 23 he is very good. 15 goals 35 - 40 points I am happy, but I just think he is too expensive considering we have Arnold and possibly you know who, to fill that spot at much less cost moving forward, plus the return we could get for Backlund.

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#28 PrairieStew
January 20 2016, 09:57AM
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@Johnny Goooooooaldreau

Never hated any FLames player ? Kari Eloranta? Sasha Lakovic? Craig Muni ? Steve Staios? Gary Leeman? Ken Wregget - or anyone else that came over in the Gilmour trade Mike Bullard ? I could go on.....

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