The Flames and Rick Dipietro



A few weeks back, Elliotte Friedman noted that the New York Islanders are making it known around the league that they are willing to give up "something" to any team willing to trade for Rick Dipietro’s contract (and presumably use a compliance buy out to make it go away).

The Flames are uniquely positioned to pull something like that off. The organization has deep pockets, no cap concerns (in case they want to keep the guy on the roster for some reason) and an urgent need for whatever futures the Islanders would be willing to give up.

On the other hand, Dipietro still has 8 years left at $4.5M/year. His compliance buy out would cost 2/3 of his remaining deal, which washes out to a $24M hit. Ouch. 

Now, Murray Edwards is a very rich man, but he was also one of the owners on the front lines of the recent lock-out, so it’s not like he lets his money run through his fingers like sand. The team has certainly been willing to spend money to try to win since about 2004, but setting fire to north of 20 million bills is something else altogether.

Is it worth it?

In terms of dollars and sense, probably not. Basically, New York would have to send over a package of players/futures that would ensure an additional $24M (adjusted for inflation over the long term) in revenue while Edwards owns the team to even make it a break even proposition for him.

If we assume the demand for Flames tickets during the regular season won’t meanginfully change during a rebuild (it didn’t in Edmonton), then there’s not much room during the regualr 82-game schedule to make up that money. We’ll ignore merch sales since those are probably a drop in the bucket. The Flames are likely close to saturation when it comes to advertising/sponsorship and TV rights deals as well, so the only true, incremental revenue available is playoff games.

The common rule of thumb for post-season revenue is every home game is worth about $1M. So if acquiring Dipietro = getting kids who ensure 24 or more playoff dates, then it might be worth Calgary’s time financially.

Of course, the chance of NYI offering players of that value is slim-to-none. You can likely count on your hand the number of players in the league who have that kind of impact. Likely the only one on NY potentially capable of that is John Tavares and he’s not going anywhere.


Let’s pretend for a second that Murray Edwards is suddenly completely unconcerned about the bottom line. What do the Islanders have to offer to covince the Flames to sacrifice $24M?

Nino Niederreiter usually comes up as the most obvious choice. Sven Baertschi’s countryman and former teammate, Niederreiter shot up the draft charts a couple of years ago after a dominating performance for the Swiss team at the World Juniors. The Islanders chose him 5th overall in 2010, despite that fact Nino only scored 60 points in 65 games in his draft year (NHLE of about 23), which is usually the production of late mid-to-late first round forwards.

Niederreiter managed 70 points in 55 games in his draft+1 season, including 41 goals, but then he was playing on a dominant Portland Winterhawks team. Nino was 4th on his team in scoring and even the yet-to-be drafted Sven Baertschi outscored him by 15 points that year (albeit in 11 more games played). In typical Islanders fashion, the club rushed Niederreiter to the NHL the very next season, where through a combination of legit struggles and bad percentages, Niederreiter had one of the worst rookie efforts in recent memory: 55 games, 1 point and a -29 rating.

the 20 year old winger spent the entirety of this past year in the AHL as a result, where he garnered good, but not great, numbers (28 goals, 50 points in 74 games). Brock Nelson, who was chosen 30th overall in the same draft and is the same age, managed 25 goals and 52 points in 66 games, for instance.

Niederreiter is a big guy at 6’2" and 205 pounds who is willing to crash and bang with the best of them. He also has decent enough hands to score 40 in junior and 20+ in the AHL, but I wonder just what his ultimate upside is. His overall production in the WHL was never outstanding and one wonders how much damage the Islanders did by sticking him in the NHL as a 19-year old.

I think he’ll be an NHLer down the line, but I doubt he’s destined to be a true high impact guy. Meaning, from my perspective, Nino alone wouldn’t be enough to justify setting fire to such a large pile of money.

Other options

 Ryan Strome: Another 5th overall draft pick, Strome ran in place in the OHL after scoring 106 points in just 65 games his draft year. He managed 94 points in 53 games as 19 year old this season and he’s a 6’1" centerman, but it’s never a good sign when a dude peaks as a 17 years old in junior. Still, Corey Pronman ranks him as Islanders best prospect and a potential first line center.

Most people scoff at the idea of Strome being available, but again we’re talking about a $24M gift here.

15th overall: The Islanders own the 15th pick in the draft this June, which could yield them a decent player (although probably not a future star). The draft pick alone wouldn’t be enough to trade for Dipietro, but it could sweeten the pot. Another first rounder in the Flames coffers would also given them significant bargaining power in their quest to move higher than 6th overall as well.

Brock Nelson: The aforementioned 2010 first rounder is a 6’3", 205 pound center tore up the WCHA in his sophomore year (28 goals, 47 points in 45 games) before turning pro. Described as a big guy who thinks the game at a high level, Nelson’s only knock is his skating.

Nelson probably won’t be a high-end scorer in the NHL either, but could develop into a useful possession guy if his skating doesn’t hold him back significantly.

Kyle Okposo: Picked 7th overall in 2007, the 25 year old Okposo has established himself as an NHLer at this point, although he has never been able to really live up to the high expectations his draft position engendered. He faced the toughest competition on the Islanders this year on Frans Nielsen’s wing and managed to keep his head above water, so he’s probably a useful guy, but I doubt he’ll score more than the 24-goal, 45-point peak he managed in 2011-12.

Josh Bailey: Another top-10 pick (9th overall in 2008) who has yet to score at a high level in the NHL for the Islanders, there actually isn’t much to recommend Bailey. He was also rushed to the show by NY and has settled into a bland, 30-point, middle rotation forward. He’s only 23 years old so maybe he’ll take another step forward soon, but there hasn’t been any indication in his performance that he’s suddenly going to figure things out and become a true top-6 player down the road.  


The Islanders have a few pieces that may be of interest to Calgary, especially Strome, Niederreiter, Nelson and the 15th overall pick. It’s doubtful almost any combination of the above assets could financially jusitfy the Flames spending $24M to buy-out Dipietro, but if Feaster and Edwards are more interested in speeding up a rebuild than they are in making sure the debits and credits match-up, there could be a deal to be done.

  • everton fc

    Can they park his salary in the AHL somehow? Could he actually play for Abbotsford for a season? Just thinking out loud here – I know it’s about a buyout.

    This could be an opportunity for immediate defencive depth. I like Travis Hamonic.

    Niederreiter and Strome are “the obvious”, but you can’t get both. Or could you? They also have Johan Sundstrom on the farm, as well. Another centre….

    Could you get Neiderreiter and Nelson? Or Nelson and Sundstrom??

    Okposo’s a nice 3rd line grinder. I’ll assume Grabner’s not on the table. To me, Josh Bailey sort of equals Matt Stajan. I’d pass. Matt Martin’s another Prust/Dorsett type. I like him.

    Anders Lee is another big, young centre they have that could be useful depth.

    An interesting discussion, gentlemen!

  • everton fc

    Inflation has been mentioned a few times with regards to how much revenue the team will generate down the road/in the playoffs etc. Keep in mind that inflation also affects how much Edwards will be paying for Dipietro down the road.

    If he is paying $1.5 million/year for 16 years, 16 years from now he will not be paying even close to the equivalent of 1.5M in today’s dollars. Based on current inflation estimates, 10 years from now $1.5M dollars will only be worth $1.1 million in today’s dollars. That will continue to decrease year over year.

    So Edwards will not be paying the full $24 million as it is worth today. Since it is spread out over such a long period of time, it will actually be much less than that (I assume that is why owners agreed that buy-outs could be paid out over twice the number of years remaining on contracts). If he is earning more money 10 years from now as a result of this deal, and he is paying less than $1.5M a year in today’s dollars, he may see it as a worthwhile transaction.

  • Tommynotsohuge

    Does this 24M count go towards the cap or is just to pay Dipi? If none counts towards the cap why would anyone be against a deal?(other then Edwards)

    • Tommynotsohuge

      Compliance buyouts don’t count towards the cap for this year and next season. Which is why the flames have the opportunity to take advantage of Edwards deep pockets and acquire some good talent without sacrificing our few stars ( I use stars loosely)

  • gotommygo


    Apologies… when i say the 24 Mill is nothing of value… i mean to say that it is nothing of value as it relates to the team in terms of draft picks or players. Assuming that this cash would be used in this deal as an investment in the players we would acquire with no ecfect on the scouting budget etc… and assuming that the people who are interested in purchasing sports teams get involved in these businesses because of a passion for the sport and intend to do what it takes to win championships. As a purely business investment pro sports ifor many reasons is not a wise investment.

    • Parallex

      Oh I knew what you meant I just thought it was funny seeing money being referred to as nothing of value considering that money is nothing but an expression of value. 🙂

  • BurningSensation

    Griffin Reinhart is miles ahead of where Travis Haminic was at the same age.

    He’s also bigger and stronger. The biggest question mark is whether he can produce offense at the level of a top pairing defender.

    Even if he can’t, he should still be a hell of a player.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Thanks for putting this together Kent, I’ve been a big proponent of using this strategy for a while now, and it’s nice to see a comprehensive analysis. I only hope the Flames owners are keeping an open mind, and as Kevin R has pointed out looking for a creative solution that could make it work.

    The way I look at this is that I don’t see the different between the Flames spending $1.5M per year on this deal or spending the last $1.5M of the entire cap each season. In other words, as a business owner’s solutions might be to simply make the Franchise a budet team for the entire lenght of the buyout.

    As far as the return, I would look for no less than a group of players immediately, plus a draft choice in each of the next 16 years, with no less than 5 first rounders.

    • supra steve

      Well who wouldn’t be “a big proponent of using this strategy” if the expected return would be “no less than a group of players immediately, plus a draft choice in each of the next 16 years, with no less than 5 first rounders.”

      If that is the price, there is no way the Flames should pass it up, and no way that the Isles will be able to pay it.

      • Scary Gary

        Well, that’s the rub, isn’t it? And Kent addressed it in the article, I think. If a team is going to pay out $24mil in additional salary, they’re going to want something really, really good back and rightfully so. On the other hand, there’s only so much any team, including NYI, are going to be willing to part with.

        That’s why it’s fun to speculate, but the only way to know is to be involved in the dialogue with them. How desperate, exactly, are they to get rid of that salary?

          • Scary Gary

            I think that’s it in a nutshell. It has to be reasonable from both sides & I think you get that by Calgary adding pieces that are useful to the NYI in the short term, like Cammi or Tanguay. I think Cammi is the most appealing to the NYI, in that its only a 1year deal & there is value at the TDL for Cammi. Tanguay would be the perfect throw in for Calgary, a little more $$$ & longer term, but I do think Tanguay would be of use for the Islanders for the next year or 2 at least. I just don’t see them giving up more than Nino, who has had some issues with their team & that 1st rounder. To me its still worth it. Throw as much salary back & just run a internal cap that is the buyout difference while the rebuild is going on. If in 5 years the team is playoff bound & needs to spend to ramp up for a long playoff run, then it’s up to Edwards to spend that extra $$$ when that time comes.

            Feaster should really look at this scenario. Obviously the word is out there & I’m sure teams have had discussions with the NYI’s, I would imagine, Islanders are balking at the price of $24 mill.

            I thought there was no trading allowed until after the Finals but with the Philly trade, does that mean there could be bigger trades made now?

        • ChinookArchYYC

          @ Suba Steve

          That’s exactly right! It’s a lot of money that the Isles are not wanting to part with, so to find a or buyer, or this case a ‘payer’ then they’ll have to make it worthwhile. From my perspective, this and this alone is the biggest barrier to getting something like this done (notwithstanding the owners’ being open to it in the first place.).

          For the record, I think it’s an overpayment too, but if Mr. Wang wants to mitigate costs this is one way of doing it.

  • Rockmorton65

    What about….

    DiPietro, Nino, Strome, 2013 1st, ’13 or ’14 2nd for Tanguay and RFA rights to Butler?

    Strome & 1st compensate for DiPietro
    Nino for Butler
    2nd for Tanguay

    I hestitated to put Tangs in there, but I thought DiPi, Strome, Nino, 1st for Butler was a bit much.

    I can’t see the league approving that.

    • Scary Gary

      Actually, from what I heard floating around out there, the league wouldn’t take a dim view or block a trade based on a lot of the discussions on here. Where the league would step in & penalize similar to what happened to Kovalchuk is any type of circumvention of the rules. The league was well aware that some owners have no problem with paying out $$$ on these amnesty buyouts & some didn’t, hence these kind of deals. But they would step in from what I heard in scenarios like Lecalvier where he’s traded, bought out by the new team & then resigned back by Tampa at min cost. That could be construed as Cap circumvention & have bad enough optics to attract league attention. It’s interesting to see if that scenario ever does develop & how it would be handled by the league.

  • Scary Gary

    Haha gotta love these long contracts. DiPietro hasn’t been an NHL calibre goalie since 2006/2007.

    You have to wonder that although Malkin is awesome now, what he’ll be like in nine or so years when his still making 9.5 million…