February 15 2016 08:00AM
We're two weeks away from the trade deadline. The Flames have won more than they've lost recently (despite mostly questionable performances), but the club remains eight points out of a the final wild card spot in the West.
The players and coach will remain committed to "playoffs or bust!", but the management team should start putting its key trade assets on the auction block this week. Though Calgary has more than a few guys they could sell off, Brad Treliving's primary goal should be getting the most he possibly can for the club's two main assets: Kris Russell and Jiri Hudler.
In Hudler's case, the Flames may face another Cammalleri situation, where the player's sub-par pre-deadline performance might undermine his perceived value. That said, the org must commit to one of two things if that's case: 1.) trade the player for the best offer available, even if it's something nominal like a third round pick, or 2.) re-sign him. Letting him walk in the off-season shouldn't be a consideration.
As for Russell, he needs to go no matter what. The club can't afford to re-sign him and his stock will never be higher. Re-signing him shouldn't even be part of the conversation, meaning he should walk even if the club can't (or won't) move him.
Luckily we don't have to fantasize. The Flyers provided an object lesson when they signed Andrew MacDonald to a six-year, $30M deal. Aside from Russell being a bit better offensively, the two are very similar players. MacDonald was a league leading shot blocker, played 20+ minutes a night in the Islanders top-4 and was known as a gritty, down-to-earth defender. He was also one of the worst possession players in the entire league.
Which is why he has spent most of the season in the AHL this year. Of course, the Flyers only saved about $950k off his $5M cap hit, which means over $4M in dead cap space. (He has since been recalled due to Michael Del Zotto's injury.) That's an ugly reality to consider in the current cap environment.
The other reason a $5M/year Russell contract is a bad idea is the Flames' pending cap crunch. The truth is they simply can't afford to add another big ticket to the back-end, to say nothing of one that is more than likely to be a toxic asset in a few years. Giordano, Brodie, Wideman and Hamilton already count about $22.6M in cap space - adding another $5M ticket would mean the club has almost $28M (or about 40% of the total cap) invested in their top-5 defensemen.
Unfortunately I don't think that swap was an option. Smid's status was still unknown this off-season so the club didn't know if we he was going to LTIR or not. That didn't give them a lot of options.
It partially depends on the length of Ramo's injury. I don't think the team will move Hiller if Ramo is out for the season because the org just doesn't have enough goalies to go around. In addition, the interest in Hiller is likely muted thanks to his age (34) and the fact he's suffering through the worst season of his NHL career.
@Kent_Wilson Mailbag questions for you: What does Bob Hartley have to do to get fired? Should they fire him now or after the season?— Fake Steinberg (@fake_steinberg) February 12, 2016
I think he's safe for at least one more off-season.
Hartley will be in trouble if the team stumbles out of the gate again next year, however. With Monahan and Gaudreau getting expensive and Bennett approaching his next deal, the org will officially be moving out of phase one of the rebuild. If the on-ice product doesn't show clear evidence of a step towards true contender status early next season, management may be convinced Hartley isn't the guy who can take things to the next level.
@Kent_Wilson Has the team learned from late 90s/early 2Ks about close calls with playoffs? Should they sell off non-future of franchise?— Rob Jamieson (@robscureness) February 12, 2016
I think the only time finishing just outside the playoff picture is a bad habit for a team is when they are fruitlessly holding on to an aging, expensive roster, like the end of the Iginla era here in town. For the current iteration of the Flames, finishing just outside the playoffs next year would likely represent a solid step forward, which wouldn't be a bad thing.