With the Flames position heading into the trade deadline murkier than ever, this deadline discussion proved to be one of the tougher roundtables to put together. Jay Feaster isn’t in a prime position to either buy or sell since the Flames aren’t a team that can easily tank or contend in the present. The path is an obscure one.
I challenged FN contributors Robert Cleave, Pat Steinberg, Ryan Lambert and Kristen Odland with a few questions on the matter. Here are their responses:
1.) Pretend you’re the Flames GM (not "acting" GM…but actual GM). What would your priority be this deadline? Improving the club for the playoff run, in the long-run, stand pat, etc?
Robert Cleave: I’d likely try to make a small-ish move to add to this year’s club. I wouldn’t be completely adverse to a bigger move, but any deal involving the first round pick or Backlund would only be made if the returning player was a) pretty damned good, b) holding a contract beyond this year and c) RFA at the end of said contract. My first priority barring something major cropping up would be to find a decent 5th D, and then maybe one cheap forward to add a bit of depth. If no one wants the club’s middle tier prospects or a low pick in the 2012 draft, so be it. I’d leave the blow-up for the summer unless I got a killer offer for a core player.
Ryan Lambert: Stand pat for sure. It’s become apparent that this is a team that can, for the most part, win hockey games, whatever the reason. As a result, while the playoffs aren’t exactly a foregone conclusion, they’re close, and this run pretty much dictates that you at least try to sneak in rather than hold a fire sale. That’s regardless of whether it’s a good idea. But definitely don’t try to improve the roster —how could you anyway? There’s nothing to sell — and don’t start 86ing players from the roster because you won’t get decent value for anyone you’d want to offload.
Kristen Odland: Priority #1, build for the future. Simply relying on middle-age grit doesn’t work. We know this. And because of previous trades, the Flames have only one pick in the top-100 at the 2011 NHL entry draft. That being said, only a few months ago, the Flames were counted out of playoffs completely. So, tinkering with the current lineup might be the best option — searching for a young, top-nine forward that won’t upset the chemistry in the room. Acting GM Jay Feaster has made it clear he is in the market for a defenceman. And, of course, they could use an extra blueliner — who couldn’t? But getting an offensive player and maybe a draft pick would be ideal.
Pat Steinberg: To be honest, my priority would be to stand pat, even if there are some offers flying in your face. This team was built to be competitive for the playoffs, and approaching the deadline, that’s exactly where they are. If there is a move that can improve the team without giving up future assets, then I’d probably be for it, however I’d be dead set against trading picks or prospects for a quick fix. I’d also be against trading a valuable player right now for something that doesn’t affect the team, because right now, Calgary has a very realistic shot at the postseason.
2.) If you were to trade two roster players from the Flames, which two would it be? Waiver fodder like Hagman, Kotalik and Staios don’t count of course…there has to be some theoretical demand for whoever you choose.
Robert: Depends. If the Flames lose against San Jose and St. Louis, the chances of a playoff berth really aren’t very good, and at that point Glencross and Morrison have to be moved, as well as Babchuk if there’s a market for him. If they win both, they have as good a chance as anyone, and as I said earlier, I’m already inclined to move a bigger piece or two this summer irrespective of results this spring. I put Stajan in the group of players with limited value, by the way. He’s not the worst center in the league, but he’s overpaid by at least a couple of million a year based on current performance, so he’s a boat anchor.
Ryan: If I were to trade someone, it would be someone with an expiring contract for obvious reasons. Alex Tanguay might fetch something given his production to date. Same, I suppose, goes for Brendan Morrison. However, I would, in an ideal world, like to keep Tanguay around this offseason, so the price for him would have to be a little more substantial.
Kristen: Curtis Glencross. The inconsistent winger is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. With the recent streak he’s on, his stock has risen considerably. He fits in right now with Brent Sutter’s system but who’s to say he won’t fall off the map for periods of time next year, or, when they need him the most? Plus, with the 28-year-old’s salary likely to go up in the off-season, is he really worth the investment or should the Flames just cash in on him now? I think the latter. Robyn Regehr is another great asset but is the master of his own fate with a NMC.
Pat: Anton Babchuk and Curtis Glencross would be the obvious choices. Both are putting up solid numbers on this team, and could fetch you something in return, especially if Jay Feaster is hoping to replenish his thin cupboard of 2011 draft picks. However, I’d still rather see the team stick with their pending UFA’s (of which Babchuk and Glencross are both) and take a shot at re-signing them after the season. Bachcuk shouldn’t command any more than his current salary, and if he does, you cut bait. And while Glencross is due a raise, and deserves one, I still think there’s a chance he’s back next season too.
3.) Who would you target for the Flames to acquire this Monday?
Robert: Chris Higgins and Jan Hejda. They fit the bill because they can play a bit, come cheap enough that they can be fit in under the cap, and both of their teams might well be selling by Monday. Florida will be for sure, and Higgins is having an excellent year by the underlying numbers against top-level comp. Hejda might be a trickier extraction with Columbus on the fringes of the playoffs, but he’d make a very nice 5th D on a good team. I suspect that the Flames are looking for a left-shooting defender to play with Babchuk. Hejda’s a bit slow for my taste, but he can PK and play against good players at EV, and unless the club wants to mortgage even more of the future for a high end rental like Joni Pitkanen, the market for skilled defencemen is pretty thin.
Ryan: No one. Or picks and prospects. That’s literally the only thing this team should be attempting to acquire.
Kristen: RW Devin Steoguchi. The 24-year-old Taber, Alta., native is affordable and is decent trade bait for the San Jose Sharks. A good ol’ Alberta boy, the sublimely skilled Setoguchi would fit in the Flames offence well, especially on a line with someone like Mikael Backlund.
Pat: If Calgary can find a way to trade an AHL guy or a late round draft pick for a depth forward or defenceman, I wouldn’t necessarily hate it. Calgary doesn’t have an extra NHL forward right now, and with Adam Pardy’s injury being more long term, they might like another d-man too. But when I say AHL guy, I’d be looking more at a guy like Ryan Stone or something as opposed to a younger player who has potential for something in the NHL.
4.) Pretend you decided to sell a cornerstone player. Who would you deal away out of Kiprusoff, Giordano, Regehr, Bouwmeester and Iginla?
Robert: The temptation would be to name Kipper. He’s had three iffy years out of the last four, and middling goalies are pretty cheap on the market should they try to replace him. That said, virtually every GM in the league knows exactly what I’ve just said, which makes me think that if the Flames are going to unload a major figure, it should be Regher. He still has a decent rep as a shutdown D, so the return would likely have real value, especially if the team in question has had problems signing UFAs in the past. In terms of what I’d want for him, a young forward should be the target. Most teams are extending their young forwards before they ever hit free agency, so you need to deal with a team that has a surplus of them. Until the other day that would have been Dallas, but Nieuwendyk certainly made a mess of that scenario. Of course, if your goal is a total blowup, that means Iginla, obviously. My goal isn’t that, at least not yet, and as I said, Regher has good potential for return with a decent chance of being replaceable via free agency in the next year or two.
Ryan: Kiprusoff. We’ve seen that teams don’t need elite goaltenders to compete in the NHL any more, and if we’re conceding that, then it’s defensive personnel and scoring you need. Kiprusoff is a drag on the cap and probably still gets considered one of the better goalies in the league whether he deserves that mantle or not. He’s also not going to be a cornerstone player much longer anyway.
Kristen: Kiprusoff. He still can steal games, at times, but not like his Vezina Trophy days or circa 2004. The netminder is 34-years-old. Calgary will be faced with this problem, sooner or later. If this team wants to build for the future, they need to start having faith in young goalies … look at Curtis McElhinney and the way his career has turned out. Mentally, it’s tough for an up-and-comer to be drafted into a system like Calgary’s where they play in a back-up role and aren’t challenged on a consistent basis to be competitive. And with a goalie like Abbotsford Heat netminder Leland Irving — the alleged man-in-waiting — it wouldn’t be hard to turn the keys over.
Pat: Well, if the Flames were doing that, they’d certainly be thinking less about this season and more about the seasons down the road, so I’d say Regehr. Without him, the Flames probably don’t make the playoffs…but as I wrote on last month, he also is probably the best value player the team could trade right now. With a number of teams aching for help like that around the league, I could see Regehr fetching a lot.
5.) The Flames have five pending UFA’s of note: Alex Tanguay, Curtis Glencross, Brendan Morrison, Anton Babchuk and Adam Pardy. All are in line for at least moderate raises. The Flames have almost $54M tied up in cap space next year right now and will have to either re-sign or replace each of these guys this off-season. Who do you prioritize at this time?
Robert: Tanguay and Glencross are the guys, if they can be fit in, because they’re legit top-nine forwards that should be able to maintain that form for at least a few more years. Morrison has been a nice bargain, but cheap utility forwards are usually available in the later waves of free agency, and 3rd pairing defencemen like Pardy and Babchuk fall into that category as well, especially since the organization’s deepest pool of potential players is on the blue.
Ryan: Tanguay needs to be re-signed to help ensure that Iginla continues producing for another year or two, and probably can still be had relatively cheaply and probably without a lengthy time commitment. Glencross, I think, will find his payday elsewhere as this performance this season certainly screams "contract year" to me. Morrison can walk. As for both D, I kind of think they’re in the same boat. I’d like to see both of them re-signed but if I were to prioritize one over the other, gimme Babchuk. Love him on the second power play unit, and I think he’s really helped by the system. Pardy’s hurt all the time, and I just don’t care for his all-around game as much.
Kristen: Alex Tanguay would be the priority. His play-making ability is uncanny, especially as Jarome Iginla’s sidekick. Even on the worst possible ice conditions at McMahon Stadium for the NHL Heritage Classic, he was able to set the table in spectacular fashion for Rene Bourque. In his first winter with the Flames, he scored 81 points but his 2007-08 production tailed off to 58 points. This year, with the Flames, he’s already snagged 46 points in 59 games. It said it all last year when Tanguay agreed to return to help out the Flames, taking only $1.7-million — down from his 2009-10 salary of $2.5-million. The Flames need to pay him back.
Pat: It starts with Glencross for me. He’s 28 and, yes, would be in line for a big pay day on the open market. However, if the Flames make the effort and really sell how important he would be to the team long term, I think he might re-sign. He’s never had the type of success he’s had here, and there’s no guarantee it would continue in a different situation. I’d have no problem with the team re-signing Bachuk, providing he doesn’t go over the cap hit he’s at now…raising him to $2 million makes zero sense in my eyes.
Tanguay is due a raise, but I wonder how much money he’ll push for, as he’s made it very clear the Flames are who he wants to be with…from $1.7 to $2.5 would be reasonable I think for both sides. Pardy has injury issues, but he’s an affordable 5-6 guy and wouldn’t be a huge hit on your cap, so I’d have no problem with them re-signing him. As for Morrison…I’d probably let him walk.
Thanks to everyone for participating.
Reminder – join us on Trade Deadline day for a live chat as well as in-depth takes on any moves the Flames make (assuming they do, of course).