1. The Brendan Morrison trade sends a mixed message
The other day Calgary traded Brendan Morrison to Chicago, ostensibly to lend them some help down the middle so they don’t need to keep playing woefully-ineffective center Patrick Kane at the pivot instead.
In return, they got a 25-year-old offensive AHL defenseman who basically has little to no shot of becoming a reliable NHLer. Which would seem frustrating. Except it isn’t.
What the trade actually does, obviously, is free up cap space, which is at once a scary and bewildering prospect. The Flames didn’t really save THAT much by offloading Morrison — a little less than $100,000 if my math is right. The thing is, though, they have plenty of cap space to spare anyway with close to $4.3 million free today, and more than $5.2 ready at the deadline if they choose to wait that long.
So what, ultimately, was the point of the swap? Jay Feaster says it’s to free up a roster spot, but for who? Yeah, Morrison has often been a healthy scratch for Calgary but it’s not like there’s a logjam of guys who would be so preferable on a night-in, night-out basis that you have to move the guy. Sometimes you probably just have to make deals you want to make when you can, I guess.
2. But the John Negin trade does not
This was a who-cares move, and one that doesn’t even begin to effect the organization’s NHL roster.
To me, this move was mainly designed to shift the organization a bit and get a well-traveled player of at least some value, albeit not much, for a guy who has, at this point, next to none. However unfair that might sound, especially given that so much of Negrin’s lack of career development has to do with him being injured basically all the time, it’s absolutely the truth. He’s played just 95 AHL games in three seasons and this year shuttled back and forth between the AHL and ECHL. That’ll usually just about do it for a 22-year-old.
Frankly, I think this might be a bigger deal symbolically than anything else. Negrin was one of the last picks I really remember Darryl Sutter having made during his reign of perceived infallibility and look how it all turned out. It means something. I don’t know what. But something.
3. So what does it all mean?
Monday on the radio, Jay Feaster said something along the lines of, "Our mandate is to win now." Which is a short way of saying, "They’re making me go forward with this team."
That’s frustrating. Obviously he didn’t specify who it was that was mandating this, but whether it’s coming from Ken King or the owners or both, it sucks seeing non-hockey people start telling hockey people what to do. That is, if you consider Jay Feaster a hockey person. And I don’t know that I do.
But in the end, it means the team is probably going to spend what few prospects and picks they have to their name to acquire someone with a decent-enough name, who will no doubt be thrilled to come to a team where everyone good is also 34 years old. And considering what teams are now asking for, even for the most middling names, I don’t even want to think about this.
Reports came out today that Tuomo Ruutu is on the market, for example. Carolina wants a first-round pick and a high-quality prospect for him. You read that right. A 28-year-old guy who has scored 20 or more goals just once in his NHL career can be had for the cost of a little less than Tomas Kaberle fetched last season. Of course, this is coming from the same organization that was asking two first-round picks for Tim Gleason, then gave him more $16 million for four years instead, so maybe they’re just a little off-kilter.
I just hope that’s not the market, you know? Because if those types of guys could fetch anything close to that, and the Flames aren’t selling because the owners don’t want to, then there needs to be some effigy-burning in Calgary.
If there’s even a thought that someone can get a high prospect and a first-round pick for Tuomo Ruutu, what might Miika Kiprusoff have fetched? Oh my.
4. I swear to god if they trade for Jeff Carter I’m gonna lose it
Teams are staying away because they think the cap hit, term, and Carter’s attitude are all prohibitive to getting a deal done, so why do I get the feeling that Feaster is about to barrel through Howson’s door with a blank check and the contract of every prospect in the system in his back pocket?
Who WOULDN’T want a guy like Carter on the team through 2022?
5. It’s time to stop being surprised
And now, as concerns the team itself, I kind of came to a realization over the All-Star break. Will the make the Flames playoffs? Maybe. Probably not. Won’t they? Tough to say. Will they buy in the hopes of doing the former? Now it appears to be an absolute certainty.
And whatever happens, I decided it won’t be shocking to me. They’ve rolled over a number of very good teams this season for absolutely no reason that anyone seems to be able to figure out, and gotten hammered by some real bottom-of-the-barrel bums for reasons that should be kind of obvious at this point.
Lose 9-zip to Boston? I buy it!
Get stomped by Columbus? Absolutely!
Beat Detroit 4-1? Sure!
All of it makes perfect sense for this team. All because none of it makes sense at all.