This is a continuation of a series in which I propose a method of rebuilding the Flames organization. For a frame of reference, you can go to the first in the series here.
The Starting Point
We left off at the last article having traded away Matt Stajan and Jey Bouwmeester. That was just the beginning.
The roster at the beginning of a shortened 2012-2013 season is pretty weak, but this team isn’t going to win anything built the way it is. The last three seasons have been wasted, in my opinion, on a snipe hunt. I’ll post it a little further down, but for now let’s look at the bodies moving in and out before the season starts.
Does Baertschi make the team out of camp?
Um, yeah, about him. I know this may sound like an Oilers’ fan getting revenge, but he will spend the entire 2012-2013 season in the AHL. No, I’m not kidding this time. Regardless of roster depth, he isn’t a necessary addition for the team at the moment, and the experience he will gain playing in the AHL is more valuable to the organization’s future than playing an NHL season on a bad team.
You can chalk this up to me acting on the lessons learned from seeing players like Sam Gagner rushed into the NHL.
This is an extension of a new approach to development whereby nearly all prospects coming out of junior will spend at least one season on the farm team, if not three (the entire length of their entry-level contracts). The same approach would apply to European players as well, that they either continue to develop in their leagues overseas and perhaps spend half a season acclimatizing to the North American game in the AHL. This may seem like an antiquated notion, that geography plays a part in the development of a player. However, I believe that there are significant differences in the way the game is executed in various leagues, and the AHL acts as a reasonable transition.
Underpinning the decision to direct the majority of prospects to the AHL is the belief that a player needs to succeed at their current level before advancing to the next. This is to ensure that when they are called up to the NHL they are ready to play and push the veterans for a position. They also need to earn their promotion to the NHL, in accordance with the organizational focus on merit.
I realize the temptation will be to rush some players to the NHL based on the chance of early encouraging results. That is not part of the plan, and patience will be key to this exercise.
There are no white knights coming to the rescue. Year one is painful and the brunt of it will fall on the defense. Unfortunately, things may yet get worse.
Before the end of the season I would attempt to sign Mikael Backlund to a three-year contract extension for an annual salary cap hit of approximately $2 million (depending on performance). Butler and Brodie would be signed to their contract extensions, likely between now and the end of the year, but as mentioned before, I am anticipating the carry-over of most RFA rights and so qualifying offers would be submitted and a new contract would almost certainly be negotiated with a modest increase into the range of $1.25 million a year over two years.
I Huff and Puff and Blow This House Down
I’m going to trade Jarome Iginla.
We all knew it was going to happen, but here is where it needs to happen. In fact, it is crucial that the Flames have a season in 2012-2013 as it provides at least the opportunity to recoup something of value in exchange for the iconic player.
Obviously I am operating under the previously stated assumptions of having players waive their NTCs under whatever conditions they see fit. In Iginla’s case I think we can ballpark some of those: that it be to an immediate contender, preferably in the Eastern Conference for the sake of travel and avoiding, for the time being, any emotional return to Calgary during the remainder of the season.
My guess is that Iginla would see the direction of the team and decide to waive his NTC to facilitate a move. He has stated that he does not want to be around for a rebuild and that he would waive his NTC if it benefited the team. I take him at his word and what I am doing cannot be called anything other than a rebuild. Although some of you may prefer the term “madness”.
The trade must benefit the Calgary Flames, that is non-negotiable. However, there is little chance that the team “wins” that trade at the time it is made. Iginla means too much to too many people and has so much impact on the team and community.
My asking price for Iginla would be a 1st round pick in 2013 as well as a 2nd round pick in either 2013 or 2014 (my choice to be declared 48 hours prior to the 2013 draft). In addition, if Iginla re-signs with that same team prior to July 15th, 2013, another 1st round selection in the 2014 draft will be forfeit.
No players or prospects in return. Anybody who came back in the deal would forever be labeled with the stigma of having been the return for “Iggy”. I am confident that this is a price most interested teams would be willing to meet. For those who would argue that it simply is not enough for the kind of player that Iginla is, my goal is to get the best price available within a very narrow window of time. If asking for more means that the trade deadline window is missed then the team only ends up paying more and perhaps compromising the long-term plan to suit the needs of a single player, or that he could leave for free-agency and the player is lost for nothing. I will not allow that to happen. The most important thing is that Iginla’s value be leveraged for assets best fitting the team’s new direction.
You can see where I’m going with this.
So Long Kipper
Miikka Kiprusoff is next.
I have two distinct destinations that come to mind for this scenario, although to be honest, with no clauses or restrictions on his contract, the bidding would be open to everyone. For the purposes of this exercise, let’s entertain two possible tradre parters:
1.) The San Jose Sharks for Antti Niemi and a 1st round pick and prospect or
2.) Florida for Jose Theodore and a 1st round pick.
I am going to suggest that the San Jose option is more likely because Doug Wilson can sometimes be an idiot and it would seem that he still believes they have a chance at a championship. San Jose has a weak prospect pool, and the draft position may not be ideal, but the pick is what matters. Included in the deal would have to be a defensive prospect, such as Konrad Abeltshauder. I considered including a conditional pick in 2014 if the Sharks win the Stanley Cup, but given that I have already received a player, a prospect and a 1st round pick, I feel that is a solid return.
Wilson has a history of trading 1st round picks and could easily convinced to part with one in 2013, though for the sake of argument I will assume that Kiprusoff will need to be accompanied by either a draft pick or middling prospect. A 3rd round pick would probably suffice in this instance. Niemi provides decent goaltending for the immediate future and can be paired with Irving, Ortio, or any other goaltender that should appear on the horizon.
Including Antti Niemi in the return means the Sharks would only be raising their salary cap figure by $2 million, and ostensibly losing one year of goaltending service – Niemi is signed until 2015, one year longer than Kiprusoff’s current contract.
This is, in my view, an average to above-average trade-scenario, and the chance that Kiprusoff could be exchanged for more is plausible, but I’m not going to get hung up on debating relative player values at this time. I believe this trade scenario covers all the likely items that would be explored by other teams, it improves their immediate goaltending with an eye to winning a championship and by exchanging their current goaltender it provides only a modest increase in the salary cap.
In the event of the best trade offer not including an NHL-ready goaltender in return, I would follow up with either a UFA signing or a minor trade for a backup/underperforming goaltender. The trade would only go so far as to exchange a very low draft pick (no higher than the 5th round) or a support-level AHL player. In the event that I require a replacement goaltender not acquired in the initial Kiprusoff trade, I would attempt to sign Danny Taylor from the Abbotsford Heat and have he and Irving share the netminding duties until the end of the season.
For the purposes of this exercise I am going to assume that a deal involving Kiprusoff returns an NHL goaltender, for the sake of argument let us imagine it is Niemi, as most teams acquiring players at the deadline will be keeping an eye on mitigating any rise in their salary cap for the 2013-2014 season.
By the time the Stanley Cup is hoisted in mid-June, the Flames are well-under the salary cap, having moved out their captain and franchise player (Iginla), the franchise goaltender, as well as their first-pairing defenseman (Bouwmeester, from the previous article), the final piece of the Phaneuf trade (Stajan) and a marginal NHL defenceman (Babchuk).
The roster is going to look something like this:
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Backup||Irving or Taylor|
In return they likely now have four 1st round selections (their own, one from Bouwmeester, one from Iginla and one from Kirpusoff) in the 2013 draft as well as two 2nd round selections (a conditional one included in the Iginla trade and assumed converted here), a 4th round pick, a 6th round pick and perhaps a conditional 7th round pick with L.A. (conditions unknown at this time). The 2013 5th round pick was forfeit along with Jordan Henry in the deal to acquire Dennis Wideman, while a 3rd round pick was included in the deal to send Kiprusoff to San Jose.
In all likelihood the team will have finished amongst the bottom ten teams of the league. Which honestly isn’t too far from where they finished last year anyways (17th).
Colleting Lottery Tickets
*In the event of a full-scale draft lottery following the cancellation of the 2012-2013 season, I’m going to presume that the draft is decided in a fashion similar to that in 2005. This would mean that the Flames would have three entries in the hopper for the selection process, due to three consecutive seasons with neither a playoff spot nor a 1st overall draft selection. Teams are deducted one entry for each occasion of those listed above, to a maximum of two balls.
Based on that, the Flames would have a decent chance of drafting in the top ten in the first round, with the draft snaking down in order so that a 1st overall pick earns the last in the 2nd round, and then the first in the 3rd round, etc.
Were the season to be cancelled, I would make the trades listed above, however under what would obviously be much different circumstances and from a significantly weaker position. I won’t go into details here, but suffice to say that the cancellation of a season would delay my plan by approximately a year, if not more, and in real terms could be deemed disastrous to a Flames organization that has displayed an almost pathological resistance to planning for the future.
For the purpose of this exercise let us imagine that the Flames have landed the 10th overall draft position. This translates into a decent season wherein they pushed for the playoffs, fell short early and were out of the picture during the final days of the season. So basically, just slightly worse than they have been over the last few years.
In addition to that they would likely have two draft picks in the middle of the first round and a fourth in the lower-tier. Shall we say 10th, 15th, 20th and 26th, to err on the side of caution. This doesn’t provide the ideal position for any single franchise player with one pick, however, it does provide a wealth of alternatives and opportunities to move up in the draft or address prospect depth within a single draft year. In the following article I will deal with the draft itself.
Of the expiring UFAs and RFAs at the end of the 2013 season, I would retain Joe Piskula, Brett Carson, Ben Walter, Greg Nemisz, Paul Byron, Carter Bancks, and Chris Breen for the Heat while letting Gaelan Patterson, Brady Lamb, Kris Kolanos, Mitch Wahl, Akim Aliu, Bryan Cameron, Leland Irving and Blake Comeau go to free agency. I would attempt to retain the rights to all of the draft picks from the 2011 draft by signing them to their entry-level deals where applicable.
Here endeth part three of the lesson. I stand ready to receive your fire and brimstone in the words below.