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.
– 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.