Sorting Out the Flames Blueline



When Calgary signed Dennis Wideman in the off-season, it resulted in a lot of buzz around a potential Jay Bouwmeester trade. Not only because JayBo is much maligned for not being worth his contract since arriving, but also because it meant the Flames had a lot of defensemen.

With the addition of Wideman, the retention of Sarich and the promotion of TJ Brodie, Calgary has no less than 9 NHL ready bodies, eight of whom also boast one way contracts. Brett Carson is one of them and currently plying his trade for Abbotsford, but with the news that Anton Babchuk is rapidly nearing a return, the club is facing the possibility of having 8 NHLers on the parent club.

Complicating things is the emergence of TJ Brodie as a viable option on the back-end. Hartley has run the kid in the top-4 rotation the last two games and Brodie hasn’t looked out of place, which in turn has bumped Chris Butler into the battle for the third pairing. A battle that will soon involve Sarich, Smith and Babchuk as well.

There are worse problems to have of course. Teams the the Red Wings and Flyers are already running out of useful bodies on the blueline. Their resultant urgency has caused an increase in demand, and, likely, the asking price, for proven NHL defenders around the league. 

Two Choices

So the Flames clearly have a couple of options:

1.) Hang on to all of their bottom-end depth in case injuries hit them later in the year. Having 8 or 9 guys around seems excessive now, but it would only take a long-term malady to Dennis Wideman or Mark Giordano to make those apparently extraneous bodies suddenly vital.

2.) Start shopping one or two of the extra guys around.

The first option obviously holds some appeal. Calgary isn’t any kind of cap crunch, so the only issue would be the logistics of sliding guys in and out of the pressbox now and then. Hardly ideal for the people in question, but welcome to pro hockey.

The second option should therefore only be engaged if the return is worthwhile. With demand currently spiking for rearguards, Jay Feaster might be able to parlay his club’s excess in defenders to address one of its deficiencies: promising young prospects, high-ish draft picks, etc.

In closing, there isn’t any particular impetus to trade away a Chris Butler, Derek Smith or Anton Babchuk right now, but the climate around the league suggests it makes sense to at least make a few calls to a few desperate GM’s. 

Tilted Kilt Viewing Party Tonight

Remeber to swing by the Tilted Kilt tonight on 17th and 4th to watch the Flames take on the Avs and get some free stuff. Let them know you’re there because of FlamesNation and get $10 towards your tab. You’ll also be eligible to win other prizes once you’re there.

Beer, hockey and free stuff. Doesn’t get much better.

  • Agreed – Anton Babchuk carries a $2.5M cap hit (over 82 games), and is a power play specialist that can barely be played safely on the 3rd pairing at even strength

    Cory Sarich carries a $2.0M cap hit, and for an extra season, so while he’s a solid even-strength 3rd pairing defenseman, he’s the more overpaid (due to the extra year).

    Derek Smith is probably the most expendable defensemen, but is barely over the league minimum, and wouldn’t attract much more than a late draft choice in return.

    The question is really what the Flames would do with the cap space. They might just want to wait until the deadline in case injuries hit them, and to see where they are and what they need. I also imagine that their trade values would be highest by then.

    • NateBaldwin

      Waiting until the deadline maximizes asset value, but I fear that by then any shot at o’Reilly will have come and gone. not that I think the flames will make a push for him anyway (unfairly due to the perception of the team i formed during sutter’s management), but I think the longer the flames wait, the more likely it is he either signs in COL or gets picked up by another team. there also a chance the flames will be in a competative position come deadline day and won’t want to divest themselves of assets they don’t need in future years for the sake of playoff depth this year.

  • beloch

    I was trying to figure out why Bouwmeester got such an excessive amount of ice time last season, when a small sample size this season suggests he might benefit from taking a bit more rest on the bench.

    No luck at all.

    Was Butter playing him more against tougher teams? i.e. Was there a clear correlation between Bouwmeester’s TOI and the quality of the opposing team (as judged by final point total for the season)? Nope.

    Was Butter playing him more when the Flames had more power play opportunities against them? Nope. Power play opportunities *for* them? Nope.

    Nothing really seems to stand out and say why Bouwmeesters minutes varied from night to night last season. Just four games into this season, Bouwmeester’s maximum TOI is 28 minutes (against Vancouver). His maximum last season was 30.5 minutes, so it remains to be seen if Bouwmeester really does wind up averaging fewer minutes this season.

  • beloch

    “The second option should therefore only be engaged if the return is worthwhile”

    Uhhh, ok. So trades are only good if they’re good trades. Got it.

    The obvious question is what’s worthwhile? I disagree with KW that only high-ish draft picks or promising prospects are worthwhile. Especially when the guy you are trading is UFA (Babchuk) after the season. If Hartley is rotating 2.5M in and out of your lineup, you have Daryl Sutter-level mis-management.
    I’d take a draft picks, any draft pick, for a potential UFA, and with a smile on my face!

    Also, the time to pull the trigger is now, since once Babs returns leverage is lost in a potential deal.

    • Uhhh, ok. So trades are only good if they’re good trades. Got it.

      Except there are other obvious reasons to make trades in the NHL. To clear a roster spot. To make cap room. To get rid of an unnecessary contract owing to the 50 deal limit.

      As for Babchuk, I personally would trade his contract for just about anything too given I never would have signed it in the first place. My thinking was more geared towards a guy like Butler who could conceivably demand something better.

  • seve927

    I’d take anything for Babchuk. And if you can’t get anything, I’d hope he got picked up on waivers. There is no advantage to having a guy you don’t trust as depth. That would still leave 2 depth guys with NHL experience, plus Breen who I think is capable of filling in in a pinch. Could we get McCarthy back if the situation got really bad?

  • Vintage Flame

    I have to agree that if the circumstances presented themselves and there was any opportunity for the Flames to deal Babchuk, they should take it.

    Feaster got a draft pick for Karlsson, so it’s not inconceivable that he could swing something, anything for Anton.

    If they wait on a guy like Babchuk until the deadline, hoping his value peaks somehow, it’s a stupid wager and they’ll end up skunked.

  • Willi P

    “Tilted Kilt Viewing Party Tonight”….Hmm, sounds interesting (given the pictures). Curious to see the direction of the tilt on the Kilt. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  • I’d take whatever I could get for Babchuk. When’s the trade deadline? I’d hold onto everyone else until around then and gauge where the team is in the standings and go from there.

    Until then, with the season as chaotic as it is, I think the potential for injury is pretty high, so hold onto these guys. Because as bad as they may seem, they’re still better than Chris Breen and Joe Piskula.

  • TheRealPoc

    Chris Butler had a gorgeous assist in the first period tonight. Too bad it was on John Mitchell’s goal.

    I don’t really care what happens to him, so long as it doesn’t involve him playing for the Flames. He’s not an NHL defenceman, I’m sorry.

  • seve927

    In my opinion there is but one defenceman on Flames I would have interest in & that’s Giordano! Jay skates nice but no thanks with that price tag. Not much else is interesting to be honest.