What to do with Matt Stajan – Trade For Kaberle?


I was recently asked by frequent commenter the-wolfe to look at a hypothetical trade of Matt Stajan for Tomas Kaberle. The thinking is that perhaps the Flames can swap problem contracts with the Hurricanes while perhaps adding some depth to a blueline that is suddenly puddle deep.

On the surface, Kaberle doesn’t seem like a terrible target. A former all-star, he’s scored 40+ points from the blueline eight times, including 47 last year split between the Bruins and Leafs. Kaberle isn’t young at 33-years old but he’s also not exactly in the what most would consider the twilight years either.

The surface stats are complimentary. The truth, though, is the Leafs mollycoddled Kaberle for years. 

The season the Flames traded Dion Phaneuf for a grab-bag of Leafs, for instance, Ian White came back the other way and was enjoying a career high in terms of points. He ended with 38, a number we now know thanks to hindsight to be mostly an aberration.

White played with Kaberle that season on the Leafs back-end. The pair saw some of the softest circumstances available to anyone who skates more than 13 minutes a night. Kaberle ended the year with a team high zone start ratio of 57.5% and one the lowest quality of competition ratings on the Leafs. His minutes didn’t get any harder once Phaneuf came to town either: the next season, Kaberle’s zone start was 58.3% and his quality of competition rating was again lower/middle of the pack in Toronto (Mike Komisarek saw better quality players in aggregate than Tomas that year).

During the Bruins playoff run, Kaberle continued to get the high ground. His zone start in 25 post-season games with Boston was a team-high 63.7% and only Shane Hnidy saw easier opposition. Kaberle’s other numbers were superficially good in Bean Town, but he was set up to succeed.

Perhaps that’s why the Bruins didn’t bother to re-sign Kaberle. He was inked by Carolina in the off-season and pretty much been a disaster for the Hurricanes with just seven assists in 28 games. His starting position is still the easiest amongst regular skaters (55.3%) and he’s facing the easiest competition on the team (-0.041) but he’s underwater in terms of possession (-6.63 corsi/60).

Those are terrible results for just about any veteran d-man, but especially bad considering Kaberle’s ticket ($4.25M/year for three years). He used to be a guy who would produce on the PP and take advantage of the softies at ES, but one wonders glancing at his numbers this year if, at 33-years old, Kaberle has crested the hill and is on the downslope of his career.

Of course, the question isn’t really is Kaberle good, merely – is he a better bet than Stajan?

The answer is: probably not. In absolute terms, Stajan is a completely middling player, certainly not worth his own contract of $3.5M/year, but he’s at least keeping his head above water while facing the nobodies this year. This is perhaps bad timing because Kaberle scored three points versus the Flames last night and Stajan looked mostly lost, but Matt’s underlying numbers have only been mediocre during his time in Calgary – never terrible. He’s played a depth position this season and held his own with a corsi of +4.81. That isn’t impressive – his zone start is a near team high 54.5% – but at least he’s not underwater, like Kaberle. There’s perhaps some team effects in there, but there isn’t much evidence to suggest Kaberle would suddenly find his form again (as underwhelming as it was previously) if he was moved to Calgary.

In addition, Kaberle is actually marginally more expensive than Stajan and the Flames are filled to the brim with defenders who need sheltering (Brodie, Babchuk, Piskula, Sarich, Smith). Adding another guy to that pile wouldn’t much help Calgary’s blueline depth problems sans Giordano.

The club already has their "guy who is only functional on the PP" in Babchuk. No need to another one, at nearly twice the price – even if they can rid themselves of Stajan in the process. 

  • icedawg_42

    Not a chance, stick with the devil you know. After this year, Stajan will be way easier to trade and/or cheaper for owners to carry. Lets not make their problem our problem, we have enough of our own.

  • Scott

    I can’t imagine trading away a problem contract for one more expensive and longer in term. This would absolutely cause uproar. I just hope that the trades the team makes this year and theis offseason help in transitioning to a rebuild. Picking up another veteran signed to a multiyear contract would undo all other efforts in my mind.

    If the team were to get Kaberle, the def. core would be almost offensive-defensemen (Babchuk, Brodie, Bouwmeester, Smith) and would result in this team being forced to play a more aggressive offensive game, and we just don’t have the forwards for that.

    Better to wait it out and see who’s on the roster at the end of the season, determine your core and go from there.

  • loudogYYC

    Kent, I thought you were on some hard drugs when I read the title.

    That said, I agree. Stajan is pretty mediocre at $1.75, but makes twice that so he’s pretty much garbage. Kaberle is that plus an extra 750,000 against the cap.

    We’ll have to swallow that pill for a long time.

  • OptimusFlame

    No more Leaf cast-offs!!! Stick with the evil you know in Stajan and hope maybe he picks it up…a little bit of false hope but oh well. Stajan’s pay drops to $2.5m next year while his cap hit remains $3.5m. Pretty good trade bait for teams toting the salary cap floor.

  • icedawg_42

    Also, it is worthwhile to note that while Stajan has been getting 4th line style circumstances, he has been playing in those circumstances with 4th line players like Jackman and Kostopolous most nights. While we can debate how much Stajan should be able to lift up otherwise replacement level players, we should acknowledge that it is not like Stajan and an otherwise comparable 3rd line are getting only middling results against soft comp.

  • Scott

    I think I asked you a very similar question as well, or at least I remember it brought up in a Flames Live Chat. On the Surface it could make sense, with out D depth pretty well non-exsistant, some “higher” end talent to help it out would be nice. However looking at those numbers makes me happy to see Stajan lacing them up for the flames. Those are TERRIBLE numbers! If we made that trade there would have to be throw ins, maybe give them back Babchuk along with Stajan? They lose the cap hit of Babchuk earlier, plus it would work out to about the same amount of actual real dollars as well. Though I don’t know if either Babchuk or Kaberle is wanted on our 3rd pairing……

    I think Stajan still has some value in the summer, he has a cap hit of 3.5 but will only be making 2.5 a year in real dollars. He may not be great but some team will look at thim as a decent 3rd line center option.

  • RKD

    Might have to take him seeing as Feaster could be ready to pull the trigger on a Cory Sarich trade at any moment. That would really leave the Flames d even more short-handed on experience.

    Kaberle is soft though, I would prefer a shut down guy, Hannan provides that to some extent. I`m really not sure what Butler is, is he is supposed to be a shutdown guy? He certainly doesn`t exude any offensive prowess.

    You need a mixture which is why Buffalo mixed in Erhoff, Regher with Leopold, and others.

    Vcr. has Salo, Bieksa, Ballard, Hamhuis, etc.

    Depth will be even more important now that Karlsson is out 2 months and Irving has yet to taste the NHL.

  • Vintage Flame

    Making a deal to get Kaberle is no more impressive than some con on the Vegas strip that just ran a shell game on you, preventing you from blowing your hard-earned money in a Casino.

    Sure in both instances you still lose your money, but at least the Casino pumps in so much oxygen that you are happy and full of energy so your attitude is like that GREAT tune Steinberg plays on overtime… On to the next one…

    Kaberle is not a solution to any problem the Flames have on the back end. It would demonstrate nothing this team needs or is trying to accomplish for the future, in fact many would see it a dramatic regression. Not one part of the deal makes sense, even if it mean *gulp* getting rid of Matty Franchise.

    NO deal!

    • Good metaphor VF, and I fully agree. This time needs young experience, someone who can eat hard minutes and still has room to grow. As of right now, we basically need a younger Cory Sarich. Any way we can feed him some stem cells and watch his body body reverse in age?

      As others have pointed out, NO MORE LEAFS! For the love of all that is holy, we don’t want those bums. I’ve always said this before, that SOMEONE on that team had to score, and that’s not a good thing.

      If anything, I still like the rumour someone stated in a previous thread about Iginla+Butler for Semin+Holtby. We get a good young goalie and a skater who has the potential for 30+ goals every season, as long as he shows up to play and doesn’t take penalties like Bourque on steroids.

    • T&A4Flames

      @VF – “Not one part of the deal makes sense, even if it mean *gulp* getting rid of Matty Franchise.”

      Which was the impetus for the idea, but agreed, clearly it doens’t move us ahead in any way.

  • @FireOnIce

    That Iginla and Butler for Semin and Holtby rumour came from Eklund, so don’t read anything into that. I don’t like that deal anyway. If Butler leaves, what are we gonna do, make J-bo play 40 minutes a night? I would maybe consider it if it was just Iggy for those two, but probably not. Semin is awful, and UFA at season’s end.

  • Semin is awful? You’re talking about a player who has scored 26+ goals and 42+ points in 5 straight seasons. He’s hit 34, 38 and 40 in 3 seasons.

    Even with his PIM pretty high this season already, he hit 38-35-73 and 90 PIM in his first season with the Caps.

    Perhaps you are right though, Iginla+Butler for both is a bit of an overpay for what amounts to a rental. Perhaps Iginla and a 2nd/3rd rounder?

    And yes, I know it was from Eklund, so a load of horse sh!t, but sometimes it’s nice to think we might actually get something from our underachieving captain.

  • Franko J

    Kaberle, Semin (rumoured) are not long term solutions for the Flames. If Washington wants to trade I would want included the Avalanche 1st rd pick in any trade that is to be made. Prospects ( blue chip) and draft choices is the start of turning the Flames in the right direction, not rental fly-by-night players.

    Secondly, I agree with Vintage Flame — No Deal. Getting Kaberle is another contract which will prevent the Flames from a two way / one way contract next summer for a developmental player or depth in the AHL.

    Sort of like Babchuk.

    Brett Carson is going to be coming off a conditioning stint with the Heat and I would like to see what he might offer to the Flames blueline.

    Cory Sarich will hardly fetch anything more than future considerations (7th round pick would be awesome). Now if you can include PL3 along with Sarich in a deal that would be the best scenario for Flames. Two contracts (dead wood)gone off the ledger.

  • RKD

    Semin is just the type of player I wouldn’t want on my team. He has been awful this year, and has even been a healthy scratch this year. Is that the type of player I would want from trading Jarome? Hell, no. Plus, he’s essentially a rental. Don’t trade your franchise player for a rental. Personally, I’d want prospects and picks for Iginla.

    • icedawg_42

      If I were Feaster the only way I did a deal with Washington & if Iggy actually agreed to go, would be Wash 1st/Col 1st(Wash have), Semin & Alzner for Butler & Iggy. Then I would get on the phone to both LA & Detroit who both have cap space & desperate for an offensive talent like Semin & get a 1st rounder if possible. If we had to take a Fippula or Dustin Brown to lighten the cap load for the other team, so be it. Semin would not be long term on my team, even if he clicked & started to score with Tanguay or Backlund, that would only up his trade value. Score 3 1st rounders on that deal & I would say we are on our way.

      • T&A4Flames

        I agree. I would really like to have Alzner but I’m not sure how trading Butler helps. I would like to keep both as a young core going forward. Maybe WSH would rather have a vet like Sarich who can help for playoff depth and then his salary is off the books at years end.

        Also, with Semin I would try to move him as well but I would want a good young goalie in return. So, if we are talking LAK, Semin for Bernier and maybe a 2nd (a 1st if Semin’s game picks up). We lack goaltender depth and until I see Irving get in there I want a little more insurance so that we can pick up some more picks/prospects/players for Kip.

        • icedawg_42

          I’ve liked Butler for the most part as well, but if someone told me we could package him somehow for a return of Karl Alzner, I’d jump all over that. Iggy for Semin, not so much but if it were to be sweetened with a top 10 draft pick (which I dont believe there’s any guarantee the Colorado pick would be top 10) I’d go for that. Eklund’s rumor did not include Alzner.

          • Derzie

            I know Ek didnt have Alzner in his rumour, that was a Kev tweaked Ek rumour:). I didnt see any value in a young goalie like Holtby when we have Leiland & to some extent Karlsson to explore. Holtby is too unproven & if we gave up Butler with Iggy & we’re taking Semin off their hands, I would want an Alzner along with those 2 1st rounders Wash have. Agree, there is no guarantee Colorados will be a top 10 pick either, so we are basically getting the upside of Alzner over Butler, Wash will need a dman back there. Not sure on status of Green, but if he’s close to coming back from injury Sarich may be suitable & then perhaps washingtons 1st could be scaled back to a 2nd in that deal.

  • Bikeit

    All this talk about defencemen and lack of defensive depth makes me think that over the last three years the Flames would have had Gormley and Erixon coming into the blueline depth and even playing right now. They wouldn’t have to worry as much about trading for defensive talent and could now focus on top end blue chip forwards. This has put the flames back at least two years in filling draft depth on D.

  • Franko J

    Thanks Kent, effort appreciated.

    Someone mentioned an extra year of term on Kaberle vs Stajan, I thought they expired at the same time, no?

    I agree though. Very valid points and while I’ve never been a huge Kaberle fan I wasn’t aware just how poor his numbers were. Oh well, so much for that idea. Thanks for exploring it though.

    I think your best argument though is this:

    “In addition, Kaberle is actually marginally more expensive than Stajan and the Flames are filled to the brim with defenders who need sheltering (Brodie, Babchuk, Piskula, Sarich, Smith). Adding another guy to that pile wouldn’t much help Calgary’s blueline depth problems sans Giordano.

    The club already has their “guy who is only functional on the PP” in Babchuk. No need to another one, at nearly twice the price – even if they can rid themselves of Stajan in the process.”

    P.S. You’d think that teams like Boston and Carolina would be looking at these same numbers? I mean I floated it as an idea with some possibility due to the contracts, but how do teams commit to paying that kind of money without doing some in-depth analysis?

  • Franko J

    I think thats a great idea they both have the same amount of years left on there contract and we badly need another top 4 defencemen. maybe kaberale is 750k more but at least your getting a player that you can at least use. I dont think Carolina is that dumb to do that trade unless the owners really want the cash back. Kaberale might not put up 40-50 points but at least he could help our team…stajan is only helping by keeping the bench warm, hes just simply to weak to be a bottom 6 forward and doesn’t have enough skill to be a top 6 forward.(pull a “semi-pro” and trade him for a washing machine)

  • T&A4Flames

    What about a Stajan for Brassard swap. Brassard is younger and maybe we could even score a draft pick based on the fact that Stajan’s actual dollars will be $1mil less than his actual cap hit. But, Brassard probably has more upside.

  • Derzie

    Didn’t even read this one. The headline says it all. I hope it is satire because trading Leafs baggage for Leafs baggage is not the way to go. Kaberle is the epitome of overrated having come from the center of the hockey media universe.