How to Rebuild the Calgary Flames – A Four Year (and a bit) Plan – Part Six



Year Three of the Rebuild

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. Part five is here.

Now we enter the 2014-2015 season. I expect it to be unpleasant.

Based on these projections the Flames’ roster would feature the following:

  Left Wing Center Right Wing
1st Tanguay Pavelski Cammalleri
2nd Baertschi Backlund Samuelsson
3rd Hudler Cervenka or UFA center UFA
4th Glencross Gordon Jackman
Extra     UFA
1st UFA Wideman  
2nd Giordano Scuderi  
3rd Brodie Butler  
Extra Breen or UFA    
Starter Niemi    
Backup Mason or Ramo    

Some notes on the UFAs listed above – Marcel Goc would be a reasonable range of targeted free-agent for the 3rd line center position, while Steve Downie is a comparable player for the 3rd line winger spot. Rostislav Klesla, Willie Mitchell or Nick Schultz are the style of players who will become free-agents in that year that would be fair targets for the roster spots opening up.

I don’t expect a playoff position from that roster. My expectations are that these players provide an honest effort and professional sincerity in their approach to the game that resonates with Flames fans, despite what the result may be. Based on development projections of other teams in the Northwest Division and to a lesser extent the Western Conference, this roster would likely finish around 14th to 10th in the West and could be in the bottom eight of the league overall.

At the end of the year Curtis Glencross would be a UFA and, depending on his performance and willingness to sign an extension, I would take a long look at trading him. Should he remain relatively injury-free, retain an NHL average shooting percentage, and continue to be a physical player, then the return could easily be a 1st round pick. We have seen other players of equal or lesser value be traded for as much so one could conclude that a GM with a need for Glencross’ skills might be willing to pay. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that I do trade him in order to make room on the roster for graduating prospects and to capitalize on his value.

Depending on the play of Horak I might also look at trading Boyd Gordon. The return may be in the range of a 3rd round pick.

Those roster positions would be replaced with call-ups from the AHL team of stop-gap players, ones that can be recalled and contribute enough over the course of two months. This period provides an excellent opportunity to evaluate and reward the progress of some of our AHL prospects. Again, due to the difficulty in forecasting this far ahead, I am not going to name specific players, but the prospect pool has been sufficiently restocked that short-term call-ups could be managed, with minimal detriment to the player’s long-term development.

I would explore buying out Dennis Wideman at this point. The cap hit would be $1.875 million over four years, and it is entirely likely that his poor defensive play would be hampering this team. However, the lack of defensive options available for promotion from within, and the fact that drafted defensemen usually take longer to develop means that I would most likely be forced to retain him until such time as a more suitable option developed either internally or through free-agency.


Draft Day 2015

Based on those trades, the Flames would again enter the draft with two 1st round picks, their own and one from the Glencross trade, two 2nd round selections (ours plus the Campoli pick), two 3rd round selections (ours and the Gordon pick), a 4th, a 5th, a 6th, and a 7th – ten selections in all. Assuming that the Flames again have their own selection falling somewhere around 8th or 9th, followed by another at approximately 20th, packaging those together along with a 2nd round pick or a roster player may be enough to move up to 2nd overall.

This is obviously entirely hypothetical, but in the event that I am unable to move up to draft in the top three overall, it would significantly improve the prospect depth of the franchise and help solidify the future core of the team. With the imminent influx of talent into the roster at the beginning of the 2015-2016 season, along with previous drafts that ought to have provided a much-needed infusion of prospects into the development system, the focus needs to be on the best player available with the highest potential impact. Depending on the depth of the draft and the position of the player selected the soonest that this player could make an impact is immediately, though perhaps more likely one year removed from the draft. At the very least, I would expect this player to complete their junior career before evaluating a move to the NHL.


Free agency 2015-2016

A free-agent defenceman will be needed at this point as a replacement for the now-departed Campoli. There are few defensive prospects in the Flames system that project to be ready any sooner than the end of the 2016 season and haven’t already been brought up. Based on the retention of Giordano and Wideman, as well as the presumed development of Brodie paired with Scuderi, a 3rd pairing defenseman is needed. A depth defenseman is a more attainable asset via free-agency than many of the other weaknesses in the roster, and should not prove to be an insurmountable challenge. The contract would most likely fall within the $1 million to $2 million range, depending on the caliber of talent acquired and with no restrictions or clauses.

My reluctance to promote a blueliner internally at this point is a reflection on the defensive depth of the Flames prospect system right now. As I have mentioned before, I intend to give each prospect a fair amount of time to develop in the minor league system and the bodies that have been collected thus far are, for the most part, works-in-progress.

My rationale for leaving prospects in the AHL until they are entirely ready is that, when handled in a well-managed system and backed up by proper development coaching, an extended period of apprenticeship in the AHL or overseas can help acclimatize and prepare a player for the NHL. Players are best promoted when they have excelled at a previous level. Some refer to this as the Detroit model but Detroit can do this because they have the NHL talent that allows them to be patient.

My plan institutes that same strategy without the corresponding NHL talent, yet exploits the resulting roster gap to acquire high draft picks and select impact players for the future core of the team. The goal is so that at the end of the process not only has a new core of impact players been assembled and developed, but a new process by which talented and prepared young players are ready to enter the NHL and join the roster. Once that core has achieved a level of play that brings success, this will reinforce the delayed promotion of more recently drafted prospects and allow them sufficient time to develop their skills and understanding of the game in the farm system before moving up.

Ultimately, I am trying to establish a system that will develop young skilled players to complement and occasionally replace the core so that a team can function and even succeed over longer periods of time without having to undertake a larger rebuild with the corresponding high draft picks.

By season’s end I estimate that the Flames salary cap will be below $55 million. It is still considerable, given the meager performances I am anticipating. However, until the bulk of the roster is made up of the new core players, the salary is going to be out of balance with performance.

It is a necessary measure to ensure that key positions are manned by veterans until the new core is ready to step into the lineup. Following that transition, the veterans will gradually be phased out and the new key players will step into those roles and that salary space.

The irony is that the Flames may well become contenders after their salary cap drops as the roster witnesses an influx of young talent.

Rex’s Flames Rebuild Series

  • NateBaldwin

    Just some thoughts rolling around my head..

    Sven seems most likely to be the cornerstone of the rebuild at this point..
    So to me it makes sense to surround him with players he has had some chemistry with.. Thus the Winterhawks 2.0..

    Its quick, and relatively painless, something like this..

    To NYI: Max Reinhart/Irving To CGY: Niedreitter

    To Ott: Butler/ Ferland. To CGY: Bishop/ 2nd

    To STL: J Bo. To CGY: Rattie

    The trades I think are somewhat accurate, I realize Flames loose two of there top 4 defenseman, but heck, send PK Subban an offer sheet!!! They have there picks back..

    If they have a crappy season, they have a chance to draft top 5, maybe even Seth Jones. Done. Main pieces of a decent rebuild complete.

    • NateBaldwin

      Actually, that Irving & Reinhart to NYI for Irving is intriguing, Islanders might like the idea of getting the brothers together. Even if we have to throw in a 2014 3rd, it would be worth it.

      I think Ottawa is a good trade partner but I was thinking JBO for Bishop & their 2013 1st. Bishop gives us our NHL ready backup for Ramo because who knows what goes down with Kipper, especially if Kipper struggles this year. Opens the door to potentially trading Kipper & I would say Washington would be a great destination.

      The team I would target for Butler is Minnesota. He is exactly what they crave, plays solid realiable minutes for 1.3 mill & chances he will get a raise but I dont see much more than 2.0-2,5 mill. I would package Butler & Granlund for Coyle & a 2013 2nd.

      “If”, big “if” we are significantly out of the running early enough, before Iggy has signed an extension, I would gift wrap Iggy/2014 3rd to St Louis for Rattie & 2013 1st. Would love to see Iggy win a Cup in St Louis, I have always had a soft spot for St Louis anyway.

      Way I see it, trading JBO wouldnt be such a big deal as I think Brodie offers the same type of game JBO does & I think the kid is ready to get more minutes dumped on him. No impact to our playoff aspirations. With Bishop in that deal, we immediately improve our goaltending situation overnight & thus can afford to move Leiland & Reinhart +(Stajan???maybe, hes playing better & is only 2.5 mill on a 3.5 cap hit, Islanders like that kind of stuff) something else again will only give Feaster the appearance of trying to go for it. Nino could probably fit immediately. The Butler & Iggy deals would only happen at the trade deadline “if” Flames were obvious sellers.
      So we gain 2 1st rounders & give up a 2014 2nd rounder & 3rd rounder & we gain some pretty good NHL ready prospects inNino/Rattie/Bishop. & we still have Kipper & Cammi if Feasty was so inclined. Now that is what I would call the changing of the guard. But we still have good vets, Tanguay,Stemps, GlenX, Hudler, Wideman, Gio & a truckload of youth & a whole lot of cap space for free agents.

      Sorry Rex, your rebuild is taking way too long:)

      • RexLibris

        On the initial trade proposals from backburner: I think Niederreiter attracts more lucrative offers on the trade market than Reinhart and Irving. Reinhart is looking like a career 3rd line center and Irving just passed through waivers. So the Islanders, those waiver-crazy clowns, could have just taken him for nothing and let him play a few NHL games before sending him through their own waiver wire.

        I think he would be a good fit for the Flames, but to be honest, he isn’t really what they need right now. They need a center. Badly. Another young winger is attractive because he is available, but they need to focus their attention, and assets, on getting their hands on a young center.

        I think Ottawa is going to wait and see how the Luongo deal shapes up before potentially moving Bishop, if they even decide to at all. Luongo’s eventual deal could set a nice price for a player of Bishop’s ilk.

        There was a Bouwmeester trade idea over at another FN article and this is what I had described as being a good long-term deal: “If I were trading Bouwmeester to a cup-ready team, let’s use St. Louis as an example, I would aim for a deal that included a 1st round pick in 2013, a prospect such as either Jani Hakanpaa or Joel Edmundson, and a conditional 3rd round pick that becomes a 2nd if they reach the Western Conference final this season, and a 1st in 2014 if they win the Stanley Cup this season.”

        Rattie is a possibility though, and very likely a name that Feaster would covet.

        KevinR – the rebuild is taking a long time. But that speaks to, at least in my opinion, the depth of the issues facing the organization at this time.

        It is often written here that the Flames should adopt the Detroit Red Wings model of consistent competitiveness. That is what I am trying to outline here, developing an internal model that collects a core of talented players, and then ushers in replacement talent over a gradual period of time to ease any drop off and foster a tradition of success. The problem is that there is virtually no way of avoiding a collapse at this point. The point of no return was passed two seasons ago, now it is all about mitigating the damage.

  • NateBaldwin

    I’m shocked that there’s been no article on the pros/cons/costs/potential of trading for NN.

    What’s up Kent? I demand to know your thoughts on this in a well written, clearly articulated column.

    • RexLibris

      What do you think, wolf? Is he worth bringing in? And if it came to a bidding war, would the Flames have the assets to offer?

      I raised this subject with a co-worker today. Would the Oilers consider Paajarvi for Neiderreiter? Paajarvi has had a better NHL season under his belt but has had less impressive development numbers. They both play the LW, similar size, more or less the same stage of their development. It would be a straight up exchange of prospects.

      Assuming that most other plugged-in fan forums are discussing the same topic, what do you think the Flames would have to offer Snow in order to get his attention for that deal?

      • RexLibris

        I think NN has no leverage to do anything and that the Isles will not move him due to his potential.

        On the other hand, this is the NYI, so anything is possible.

        His stats everywhere outside the NHL are impressive, including at the AHL level. Hard to fathom why he wasn’t even invited to camp.

        His stats last year in the NHL were absymal, but it was while playing on the 4th line for a very crappy team.

        In a top 6 role on a team with talent he would thrive. While not exactly cut out for bottom 6 duties he is responsible defensivley. On a deep enough team he could probably play well on the 3rd line, but the 4th line is a waste of time for him.

        What could Calgary give? NYI would want someone young back, that’s the problem as I see it. If I’m them I ask for Brodie and Backlund.

        Should Calgary do that? I would say no.

        Would JBo agree to go there? He still has a ton of gas in the tank and he’d help their back end, but again, I think NYI would want younger.

        I don’t see a fit in terms of trade, but then maybe I’m missing something,which is what I’m hoping because I think NN would be a good fit with Sven (if it’s true he can play RW as well).

  • loudogYYC

    I like the idea of snatching NN out of NYI for the right price and all, but even with him in the mix, you don’t build teams around wingers, you build them around Centremen and top Defensemen.

    Jankowski better be that young Neiuwendyk Weisbrod talks about. Backlund’s potential is probably 2C and Reinhart could be an awesome 3rd line centre if everything goes right. As much as drafting a stud defenseman would be cool and all, I’d rather the Flames acquire one through trade or FA.
    The Philadephia model more or less, without the wacko Russian goalie.

  • loudogYYC


    Max would be the centerpiece in that deal, you could substitute Irving for a pick, and yes I think Snow would go for it.

    Nino is exactly what the Flames need right now. Baertchi 2.0 on RW. Firstline centre would be top priority, except I think our back up position is more crucial right now. Ottawa has said that they would like a top four D, and Bishop is on the table for precisely that.

    A 2013 first round pick will be way more difficult to acquire than Nino, Bishop or Rattie.

    • RexLibris

      I guess from my perspective I don’t see Reinhart with more than a 3rd line center potential on a good team, so the payment doesn’t appear to match the return. But as I’ve mentioned above, even if that is a fair offer (and really, who are we to decide on that?) there are likely other GMs out there who could, and would, offer more.

      As for Butler as a top four defenseman, I have to disagree there. I think he is capable of playing that role, but only on a weak defensive team. Butler is at his peak playing the #4 role on a defensive rotation, from what I have seen.

      In order to acquire more first round picks for this draft year, the Flames would likely have to trade off significant assets. So I agree, it will be very difficult to acquire the desired picks without initiating a full-scale rebuild.