If there’s any consensus about the Flames current situation, it’s that the club lacks offense. Let’s be more specific and say that the lacks club high-end difference makers, especially with the way Iginla struggled to take on the big boys last year. While I’m actually fairly high on some of the Flames depth guys (Glencross, Moss, Dawes, Hagman) the fact of the matter is, the club doesn’t currently possess a top 6 that will contend with the better teams in the league.
Stajan, Langkow, Iginla, Bourque and (other) can get things going versus the lower end, but are a good bet to struggle against the Datsyuks, Crosbys and Toews of the world. In addition, Calgary’s collection of PP-capable forwards is modest, to say the least.
On top of the Flames already well publicizied cap constraints, the unfortunate truth of the matter is the UFA pool this summer is extremely shallow. Gone are Patrick Marleau and Thomas Plekanec, recently re-signed by their respective clubs. The lone, available superstar forward won’t be worth the contract he lands. So even if Calgary had all the cap room in the world this off-season, there’s a chance it wouldn’t put much of a dent in their need for a big cannon.
Which is why a trade for a flashy name isn’t out of the question. Guys like Spezza and Savard are being publically shopped as we speak and both would provide the sort of high-end offensive abilities the team currently lacks. Savard is older and coming off a severe concussion, but he’s also $3 million cheaper than Spezza and has a solid history of out-playing tough competition. Savard is 32 years old and his contract technically extends to 2017.
However, with the final three seasons paying out at 1.5M, .525M and .525M respectively, the truth is Savard could retire as early as 2014 and not lose out on any significant salary. In effect, it’s a $6.5M contract structured so the cap hit comes in at much more budget friendly $4M.
Jason Spezza is a tougher sell. Naturally gifted with more than a few years of elite production behind him, Spezza is younger and didn’t have his brains recently scrambled, but does come with a much larger cap hit and other question marks. Spezza doen’t have great possession stats on his side, but has indeed played tougher competition in OTT for years and put up some noteworthy numbers.
That said, he’s also played with great players during his career as a Senator, including Alfredsson, who has been a heavy lifter since forever. That muddies the waters somewhat given we can’t be terribly sure Spezza’s the guy driving the bus in OTT. He’s also not the hardest guy to play against and is prone to the odd neutral zone gaffe. As such, his $7M/year contract isn’t a trivial risk, especially given the Flames constant fight to stay under th cap ceiling.
Of course, as with all trade talk, the viability of the deal from a Flames perspective swings on who they have to give up to make it work. A centerpiece guy like, say, Robyn Regehr would likely have to be involved in a Spezza deal. The Bruins would be more interested in shedding salary, so someone of value but lesser dollars would have to be in the equation there (Ian White? Mark Giordano?).
The Flames don’t have a lot of quality players who are good bets to outperform their contracts, so any talk of throwing in Giordano or Dawes should be met with skepticism. On the back-end, the Flames are 8 NHL defenders deep with the likes of Matt Pelech looking to make the leap. If there’s anywhere the org can potentially lose some quality and survive, it’s there. Naturally, the Phaneuf deal was kinda, sorta Sutter’s foray into that territory already, but unfortunately it only yielded capable depth players.
So, Flames fans…does Regehr + make sense for Jason Spezza? Would you move White + for Mark Savard? Because something similar may be the only way Sutter can firm up the team’s greatest area of weakness this summer.