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.

Targets

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.  

Conclusion

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.

  • Parallex

    Really difficult to figure out what would be worth a buyout of that magnititude. I’d say you can’t even use playoff game revenue given that making the playoffs is a team result and you’d have to determine that what you received from the NYI was directly accountable for 24 of them.

    If someone could be so kind as to establish a hockey version of WAR (I guess it would be PAR in the NHL given that points and not the win are the basic unit of team measurement in hockey unlike baseball) then we could more easily establish what it would take to make that transaction worthwhile. My guess would be a lot… like Strome + Reinhart + Nino + 15th Overall.

    • Standings points are really expensive to buy, so we can look at it from that viewpoint to. It takes about a +3 GD to get a point and that costs about $1M to buy in terms of UFAs.

      So if the Flames can acquire a GD of about +24 versus threshold, they probably get their money’s worth.

      • Parallex

        So in other words they’d basically need to trade us a Sidney Crosby working on the NHL minimum salary for a year before it’d be worth it… good luck with that fella’s.

        That’s a simplification of course, you can get that value spread out over a longer period so long as what you acquire continues to have surplus value on top of it’s actual worth.

  • Lordmork

    Is there any chance Dipietro could serve some kind of quasi-useful role on the Flames? Could he be a backup at a higher level than MacDonald in our potential 3 goalie trifecta? If he could be a useful player for a number of years (working under the assumption that he would probably retire after a few more injury-ridden seasons) then paying 4.5 million a year for a functional if fragile piece and receiving a collection of picks and prospects in return seems like it could be an awfully good deal.

  • Great article Kent!

    I have the same general feeling about the likelihood of DiPietro as I do about Lecavalier, it just doesn’t seem all that likely to happen. As you rightly pointed out, buying out either guy likely won’t even come close to paying for itself and Edwards just doesn’t strike me as a guy who lights his money on fire.

    That being said, this is the type of deal that any team making a profit should look at doing. Acquiring assets in the capped NHL is difficult. Between the salary cap and the existence of a draft you cant really buy assets and therefore it is very difficult, unlike say in european soccer, for richer teams to really use their financial muscle effectively. Rich terms can really only exercise their competitive advantage is resources when it comes to off the ice stuff: facilities, coaching, management, scouting, ect. In these areas rich teams dont seem to have figured out how to exercise an advantage and therefore there really doesn’t seem to be much correlation between financial resources and winning in today’s NHL.

    Knowing both of these things: that assets are hard to acquire and that it seems difficult for rich teams to use a competitive advantage when it comes to off the ice resources, the chance to, in essence, buy assets should be leaped upon by any team. Trading for a player and assets and buying him out could be one of the few ways rich teams can actually use their advantage in resources effectively. For a team like the Leafs, where money is no object, this type of move should be a complete no brainer.

    In the Flames case, a team with a healthy market but not obscene amounts of money, it all comes down to the rich owners willingness to spend money to get assets. It’s easy for us to tell Edwards how to spend his money but I would really hope that he seriously considers the move.

    If I was the Flames brain trust I’d feel comfortable going to Edwards with a package that included DiPietro, Nino/Strome and their 1st.

  • Colin.S

    Don’t really care what Edwards does with his money in this regard, it’s his choice. However my only curiosity in this matter is, would the NHL stop it? Or the NHLPA for that matter. A team using it’s assets to simply make a very expensive problem go away. Would the deal even RESEMBLE a hockey deal, or will they do away with all the smoke and mirrors and the Islanders trade Nino+1st+Dipietro to Calgary for like Greg Nemisz?

    Also it would be 24 Million, but I think that gets spread out of double the length of the contract, no? So they would be paying 1.5 million a year for the next 16 years, which is more doable, but damn that would suck for 16 years.