News and Notes – February 7 2014

As we await the completion of the Sochi opening ceremonies – the Russian anthem is amazing – and the last game of the pre-Olympic portion of the season, here’s some news and notes from the Flames-related hockey world.

The final Olympic roster deadline is Monday. After the disappointment of Mikael Backlund not going – he wasn’t on Sweden’s long list – don’t forget that both Jiri Hudler of the Czech Republic and Mark Giordano of Canada are apparently on their nations’ long lists. If anybody drops out in the next day or two, they both might head over. (Disclosure: it’s not looking likely, though.)

The Flames will play game #57 tomorrow morning in Philadelphia. If somebody told you that the team would win 22 of their first 56, I’m pretty sure you’d take it. Despite being, on-paper, almost an expansion team, the Flames coaching staff have gotten the absolute most lemonade out of these lemons. The emergence of Mikael Backlund, Sean Monahan, Lance Bouma and T.J. Brodie as solid NHL level players has been particularly impressive. They’ll be key pieces moving forward.

Calgary’s biggest problem this season? The same as their problem last season – they constantly get out-scored 5-on-5. The second-biggest problem? Goaltending. Reto Berra has been inconsistent, while Karri Ramo was getting stronger before he tweaked his MCL. Hopefully we get a chance to see what Joni Ortio can do before the end of the season. Expect Ortio to get shipped back to Abbotsford after tomorrow’s game.

Down on the farm, the Heat play tomorrow and Saturday against the visiting Texas Stars, the celebrate the Olympics with a lengthy road trip. They’ll play in Raleigh (against the Charlotte Checkers), Milwaukee and Chicago during the break. Other than Ortio, everybody that would be considered to be sent to the AHL need to clear waivers, so don’t expect much movement otherwise.

Rumours out of Germany are saying that Hamburg Freezers winger David Wolf has signed a deal with the Flames. I’ve heard that he has a long-term deal with the Freezers, so I’m not sure what’s up. Wolf is 6’2” and 215 pounds and is just under a point-per-game in Germany. He’s also attended past Leafs development camps, so Brian Burke knows who he is. He’s 24.

And the Flames organization could be very youthful next season. Players that will (or could be) in the first two years of their pro hockey careers next season include defensemen Tyler Wotherspoon, John Ramage, Patrick Sieloff, Ryan Culkin and Brett Kulak, and forwards Sean Monahan, Emile Poirer, Josh Jooris, Ben Hanowski, Corban Knight, Markus Granlund, Michael Ferland, Turner Elson, Kenny Agostino, Bill Arnold and Johnny Gaudreau. That’s also presuming Jon Gillies doesn’t go pro, too, nor does this year’s first round pick. As you can see, the Flames system will be full of young guys. The important thing for the team’s pro scouts will be to find the right veterans to anchor things and teach these guys how to be effective pros on and off the ice. The organization has many, many UFAs and RFAs, and it’ll be very interesting to see how Brian Burke’s staff manages the transition.

And an absolute metric-ton of cap space for the NHL roster.

We’ll have a ton of prospect and Olympic hockey coverage for you over the next couple of weeks. Sing along at home if you know the words and enjoy the games, everyone.

  • Lordmork

    Got a question for readers. Brian Burke is known for making trades, and I think there’s a lot of hope that he’ll be able to work some magic on Calgary’s roster, especially in extracting value from our UFA’s. If we pass the trade deadline and the both Flames roster and draft pick list look pretty much the same, are you going to be disappointed?

    • piscera.infada

      I’m not sure you can look at it that way – although I doubt that keeps many from being disappointed. Trades are a two-sided deal, right? If the return simply isn’t there, you either take a bad offer (for a UFA, if you can’t resign them), or you don’t make the trade and hope something opens up in the off season. So I won’t feel disappointed. What will disappoint me is if the first round pick and second round pick are gone – which Burke has already said are untouchable.

        • piscera.infada

          Obviously, but you rarely get the kind of return that’s necessary. If you do, it’s likely some team overpaying, and overpaying for what? A dart at the board? You have to assume most front offices aren’t that dumb.

          • piscera.infada

            I was speaking to the Flames trading their first round pick (which Burke said was untouchable). Late-round pick from a playoff team? Yes, that happens. Calgary trading their (let’s say) fifth overall for Gaustad? Nope, not gonna happen given the position this team’s in.

            However, that fifth overall for Jeff Skinner (for instance)? I’d give Rutherford my ear…

          • RexLibris

            Different years and situations. You need to reset expectations every deadline, and each GM is different in how they approach these things.

            I would keep expectations “flexible”.

          • T&A4Flames

            So how do you see the “expectations” going down this year?

            Currently there are really only 3 or 4 guaranteed sellers, CGY, EDM, BUF, FLA and perhaps soon NYI will enter that group, although they likely have at least 2 guys who will go as it stands.

            Add to that teams with the space or willingness to take on salary. Now the ability to complete trades is tighter. Then add the fact that the draft isn’t that deep and teams will likely be a bit more willing to move those picks.

            If you’re going to give 2 2nds in a deep draft for a cement block (Murray), wouldn’t a low 1st for a scorer seem reasonable?

          • RexLibris

            First, the Islanders sent away two players for one 4th round pick.

            The sell-off is already a go.

            But in terms of comparing the Murray trade last year to this, each draft year is different. Every year there is some deal that makes people go “whuh?!”, but that doesn’t mean that these become the norm.

            Like rolling a die, each deadline has to be approached as a discrete event with it’s own set of circumstances particular to the situations of the organizations involved.

            I know Flames fans want Cammalleri to fetch another 1st round pick, but look at the teams that would be in the market and how much cap space they have. The Oilers are having trouble finding a taker for Sam Gagner whose contract is significantly cheaper than Cammalleri’s, and performances aside, if the cap space isn’t there it isn’t there.

            Burke would be wise to re-sign Cammalleri for one year and do this over again next season. Cammalleri could go either way. The cap increase this summer means he’d get paid, but it could go up as much again next season and in the meantime he could put together a better season. Either way, at 30 or 31, he’s going to get a good contract.

            I’ve said Stempniak to L.A. for a 3rd rounder (Burke would want the Oilers’ pick) seems plausible as L.A. can take that cap hit without giving up anything for a cup run.

            Best bet to move Cammalleri is for Burke to retain 50% salary, focus on either a 1st rounder or a very good prospect a year away from the NHL and therefore unlikely to be called upon in a playoff run.

            Something like Cammalleri to Phoenix for Henrik Samuelsson would be a very good deal, if the Coyotes find themselves in a playoff position by March 5th.

          • T&A4Flames

            Cammi for Samuelsson….that’s a no brainer.

            Phoenix would be crazy to give up a solid prospect like that for a suspect rental.

            But if anyone can pull that one off; it would be Burke!

            Fingers crossed.

            WW

          • RexLibris

            I don’t consider Cammalleri a suspect rental.

            He is a proven 2nd line winger who can score and both drives play and can play with various levels of talent.

            His addition to the Phoenix roster, to use that scenario for illustration, would push either David Moss or Paul Bissonette further down the lineup.

          • beloch

            “suspect” in the sense that he had a serious concussion recently, his skills are proven; a healthy Cammi is solid.

            I like Cammi, I would be open to resigning him short term at a reasonable price, even though i dont think it is very likely.
            I think Burke is selling the “if I can’t trade him I will just resign him” routine to drive urgency with the few potential bidders that may be out there…..

            WW

          • beloch

            I think Sam Gagner might be a tougher sell than Cammalleri. His current point pace is the same as Cammalleri, but he’s doing it with cushier zone-starts/QoC and his possession stats are far worse. Also, he’s signed for two more years. Many teams might be looking for a short-term rental only. Finally, Cammalleri is a proven clutch-playoff player while Gagner has never even seen the playoffs.

            I think both of these players could net a late 1st round pick, but probably not a 1st + quality prospect. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if Cammalleri get’s a 1 year extension though. If Burke really doesn’t like the market, he might wait until next year to sell.

          • RexLibris

            I mentioned Gagner because he is younger and isn’t a rental, but the sticking point with him is primarily cap space, and if it is tough to get a cheaper contract on the books then Cammalleri is that much more difficult.

            The advantage in moving Cammalleri in this regard is the Flames could eat 50% and be done with it by June. The Oilers can’t with Gagner because the retention runs the life of the contract. Lombardi has been rumoured to have asked MacTavish to do just that in exchange for Kyle Clifford and a pick and MacTavish would be correct in telling Lombardi to call again later when he is serious about dealing.

            Most recently there has been talk of Holmgren Hextall and the Flyers’ management and scouting group checking in at the Oilers/Devils game tonight.

            MacTavish and Holmgren went back and forth at the draft over Coburn so perhaps something shakes loose here. Not sure what Philadelphia needs (aside from some serious management overhauls), but I suspect MacTavish looks to address top-pairing defense situation or his soon-to-be-vacant 2nd line center hole.

            Teams that may have the deadline cap space to add Cammalleri include Anaheim, New Jersey, the Rangers, Carolina and Minnesota to name a few. Wit cap retention that list could grow to include L.A. and Tampa Bay.

            Not sure what you could get, but you need as many dance partners as possible to make the deal work out for the Flames. Anaheim still seems like a decent bet. Hope that the Vanek market drives prices up amongst the remaining suitors.

          • T&A4Flames

            I can’t say I think of PMB and Regin as a purging of assets. Not much of a sell off. Some have speculated it could be a precursor move to something else. It could be prospects/ picks or pieces for a playoff push.

            I agree with what Burn said re: Gags, he has term on a contract that seems like an over payment after the year he’s had. And he’s an unproven commodity in the PO.

            CGY is one of the few teams likely willing to take and ability to take back more salary than they send out. Done properly they could fetch a good return, IMO.

            I’ve said the same thing about Stemp, a great fit for LA’s PO run and perhaps beyond.

            You assume that Cammi may want to stay and for only a 1 year contract. Given his injuries, he may be looking for some insurance and stability. Not to mention another crack at the cup. If I’m in Cammi’s shoes, I don’t sign a 1 year contract unless it’s with a PO contender.

            But if PHO wants to trade Samuelson for Cammi, I’m on board.

          • RexLibris

            Burke would be wise to re-sign Cammalleri for one year and do this over again next season.

            LOL I posted this suggestion less than a week ago–almost verbatim–and got trashed to hell for it (IIRC). Go figure.

            Something like Cammalleri to Phoenix for Henrik Samuelsson would be a very good deal

            Yes it would, though I’m not sure how willing the Coyotes would be to move one of their few legitimate forward prospects. I’m thinking more along the lines of David Rundblad and a draft pick if we’re lucky.

          • RexLibris

            It wasn’t me trashing. If Cammalleri is open to it, it is the best path of asset management. Not dissimilar to Lowe re-signing Hemsky two years ago – it was Lowe that stepped in when Tambellini couldn’t find a suitor offering more than a 2nd and a 4th round pick for the player.

            Gives both sides a mulligan and while it may cost Cammalleri some money in the short term, it means signing a FA contract a year from now when the cap could be $10 million higher than it is today when he is still only 31/32 years old.

      • Lordmork

        Some of the replies on Ryan’s trade deadline post really make me wonder if a lot of fans either overestimate the value of some of our players, or overestimate Burke’s ability to steal value. I guess I’m curious what expectations are.

        • mattyc

          I don’t think expectations should be overly high. I expect they’ll keep around Butler, and Russell. Means probably Stempniak and Cammalleri are the only major parts they look at moving. I would expect both are worth a B prospect and a draft pick, with a higher pick (maybe 1st) for Cammalleri.

          I’m sure they’ll listen to offers for anyone (how could you not with where the team is), but it doesn’t really make sense to trade anyone under 25. I’m skeptical that there will be legit interest in Wideman or Hudler given the term left on their contracts and the cap uncertainty.

          • T&A4Flames

            The forecast for the cap is that it will rise significantly. If a contender believes hurler or wideman will take them to the next level, they will make a deal

        • piscera.infada

          Obviously. But that’s a product of being a fan in that team’s market. I mean really, I saw some posts on TSN (worst message boards ever, btw) suggesting the Oilers could get Tavares from NYI for Nuge and a second.

          So it’s hardly a Flames-centric position to hold. I do however, find many people on here fairly realistic about values. The Giordano to Edmonton conversation was different as it’s never going to happen because it would have to be an unrealistic return for Burke to think about it (Gagner and a second wouldn’t get it done, obviously).

          But I mean, with a player like Cammi, you have to go into negotiations assuming you can extract a very big return. If it ends up being reasonable (ie: 1st/2nd rounder, prospect) then you probably take it. If it’s underwhelming (ie: 2nd rounder only, or middling prospect only), then I think you by all means attempt to resign him, and assume he can raise his stock (assuming a one-year contract with an overpay).

          Unfortunately, I view our most valuable trade piece as Russell, and he’s also the person we really need to re-sign. If you don’t think he will improve though, you need to trade him at peak value.

          So, to answer your original question: no. Burke isn’t going to get the world for Stempniak, maybe not even Cammi. So tempered (I would call them realistic) expectations wont be disappointment.

          • RexLibris

            Gagne and a second for GIORDANO? Where did you hear that? Wait let me guess on Oilernation? Correct? That’s the website where Oiler fans expect the Oilers to obtain the NHL’s top talented defensemen but they are not expecting to lose any of there core young guys. LOL!

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Yes. If they re-sign before deadline, fine, but if not – they should be gone, especially Stempniak, Cammalleri and maybe even butler. Remainder of UFA’s I’m not a concerned with because the perceived value is lower.

    • T&A4Flames

      I would be disappointed if we remain status quo. I believe that would mean we will likely lose guys like Cammi and Stemp for nothing. If those 2 guys get resigned then fine I guess but I still believe 1 or 2 vets need to go. So whether we move guys at the deadline or the draft, something has to give, IMO.

  • T&A4Flames

    I’m not surprised to hear something like this German kid signing (if its tru). Burke likes to add these undrafted Europeans to try and quicken the rebuild. I’m ok with these type of no-risk moves.

    Piscera brought up Russel and I agree, he is certainly on the disappointed list if he isnt either resigned or moved for solid assets. He is playing well beyond the 4th or 5th rnd’r we gave up to get him. I’m ok if we sell high on him.

    Anyone know which top NCAA undrafted players may be available and of interest to us this year? Ryan?

    • Parallex

      “Anyone know which top NCAA undrafted players may be available and of interest to us this year?”

      The big fish this year is Greg Carey. He’s the guy that everyone will offer a contract to. Probably Shayne Taker as well as far as seniors go. Most of the other folk that NHL teams will sniff around about are Juniors like Trevor van Reimsdyck (although he’s out for the rest of the year with an injury).

  • beloch

    -Ramo is inching his way towards league average, which is impressive given the hole he dug for himself early in the season. He could be a viable starter next season.

    -The team’s position in the standings cannot be described as anything short of craptastic at the moment. It’s outright horrifying. However, we can take comfort from how many of the losses have been close. Better goal-tending and a bit more offense could really tip the scales.

    -It will be interesting to see if Ortio is going to be a part of “better goal-tending” next season.

    -The Flames will hopefully home-brew a little bit of offense by next season, both with improvement of current players and the addition of prospects like Gaudreau. However, they will almost certainly need more than that to return to the playoffs, and there might be a fair bit of it sold off at the deadline for uncertain return.

    -The real question is, “How long will the Flames be a cap-floor team for?”. Yes, the UFA market rarely provides value. However, if you keep the contracts short it does provide an instant boost, and the Flames can afford a whole lotta instant boost. Burke might also prefer to use that cap-space when wheeling and dealing. The fact that he hasn’t used a bit of it so far suggests to me that the owners are cutting bait on a few bad years so they can finance the new arena.

      • seve927

        Flames goaltending since the game on Nov 30 when Ramo beat the Kings 2-1 seemed to take a big turn. To that point, Ramo and Berra were a combined .886. Since then they’ve been .911, Ramo .918 Berra .899.

        I find it interesting that in terms of quality starts since that point, Ramo is 55.6%, Berra is 69.2%. Berra looks horrendous some nights, but that’s a pretty good record of giving your team a chance to win. If he can learn to quiet down in the net a little more, I’d like to see him for another year. It’s been suggested he’s probably at best a backup, but I think he’s either a #1 or nothing. I think it’s the perfect spot to give a guy like this another chance next year. If he stinks it out, Ortio will probably be ready by then.

      • Scary Gary

        Ramo hasn’t climbed past MA Fleury in GAA or SV%. I do like him though. Edit: Karri Ramo 2.66GAA, 0.908SV% and trending up – 2.75 million; Ondrej Pavelec 2.97GAA, 0.901SV% – 3.9 million; Martin Brodeur 2.52GAA, 0.899SV% – 4.5 million; Mike Smith 2.85GAA, 0.910SV% – 5.67 million.

  • T&A4Flames

    I forgot to mention our cap space as well. I think I would be disappointed if Burke didnt start using this space to acquire other assets by eating bad contracts form other teams. It was one of our biggest assets going into the year and we havent really used it. We could argue Smid but that’s a stretch.

  • mk

    I can’t believe people are actually staying “status quo” would be all right. That’s absurd. The Flames are in a rebuild and need to add draft picks and young players for some of their tradeable veterans. They are not making the playoffs for the next five years – fact. If that’s the case, move veterans for youngsters or picks who will contribute to year five and beyond. If not, you end up as a bottom feeder or 5 steps up on a bottom feeder but never a playoff contender.

    • BurningSensation

      These sentiments seem to be disturbingly common among Flames fans, but they need to be squashed. Hard.

      Yes, we are in a rebuild. No, that doesn’t mean we should trade every vet on the team for prospects/picks. For an example of why this is a bad idea, look Northwards. Sure they have 3 #1 overalls (now playing on the same line), and a couple of other nice pieces (Eberle, JSchultz, maybe Marincin or Klefbom), but on the whole outside those top picks the team has no players capable of driving the bus. None. No veteran leadership that can take a game over when the kids struggle. No tough minutes forwards who can do the heavy lifting and ensure the kids don’t get beat on. No elder statesman on the blue who can calm the waters and bring some order to the chaos. They have nobody who can actually ‘lead’.

      In short, dealing away all the vets for hopes-dreams sounds good in theory, but it drags out the rebuild indefinitely.

      Can the Flames make the playoffs in the next five years? Absolutely. I know they will miss this year, and very likely next (McDavid!), but after that I’d say it’s 50/50 – or better. We’ll have a group of kids ready to push to the next level (Monahan, Gaudreau, Baertschi, this years #1 pick, next years #1, Poirier, Seiloff, Wotherspoon, Klimchuk, Gillies, etc.), and a group of hardworking vets who can shelter them as they develop the skills and work habits to be successfful.

      THAT is how you do a rebuild.

      • mattyc

        Maybe they’re “disturbingly common” because they’re right. No question the Flame plan is superior to the Oilers but they can’t become a Ottawa, a Carolina, a Nashville etc who’s only goal is to make the playoffs. A true rebuild is one where you build for success and success is defined as going deep in the playoffs and have a chance at the Stanley Cup. All other rebuilds are designed to get gate receipts from two playoff games.

        • mattyc

          “Maybe they’re “disturbingly common” because they’re right”

          never use the amount of people supporting something as a measure of if it’s right or not.

        • BurningSensation

          Or, more likely, they are ‘disturbingly common’ because they have no idea what they are talking about.

          Ottawa went through no fewer than 3 rebuilds with Alfredsson (when he arrived, when Spezza/Heatley arrived, when Heatley departed), and made it frequently to the playoffs and even to the finals. In none of the rebuilds did they jettison all their vets. Even when they did finally move on from Alfredsson, they still kept Spezza rather than trade him for prospects/picks.

          While there is a difference between teams that are looking to just ‘make the playoffs’ (Columbus, the Islanders, and I’d guess the Oilers),, if only because they haven’t been to the dance in recent memory, ALL the teams who know they are good bets for the playoffs are also thinking they can win it all.

          Even if you think that Carolina is just trying to squeak in for the revenue, the strategy nevertheless still got them a ring.

          I’d settle for that.

    • mattyc

      A rebuild does mean you have to gut your team, nor does it mean you have to maintain the status quo. However if you have no one wanting your vets you might be better keeping them than going fishing for free agents who might not fit. Next years team needs to 5-7 veteran forwards all of NHL ability(GlenX, Backs, Stajun,Hudler,?,?) 3-4 of this years emerging NHL forwards(Monahan, Bouma, Colborne) and a revolving array (Knight,Granlund,Ferland, Poirier, Johny G, Arnold, Hankowksi, etc) of prospects getting their feet wet at the NHL level throughout the season. On the back end we need 4/5 NHL vets (we already have Gio, Wides, TJB, Russell if he resigns, and Smid) and 1-3 younger guys(this is where the picture is really foggy) and 2 NHL goalies say Ramo/Ortio while Gilles spends another year at the NCAA level.

      Add a couple of the right free agents and draft picks and this organization will not need need to be out of the playoffs for five years.

    • supra steve

      What I have heard, and just read:

      “The New York Islanders have acquired forward Thomas Vanek from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for forward Matt Moulson, a conditional first round draft pick in 2014 and a 2015 second round pick.

      Should the first round pick end up being in the top 10 this year, the Islanders have the option to defer the pick to the 2015 NHL Draft.”

      If that is true, unlikely that the Buffalo NYI pick will be for the upcoming draft.

  • beloch

    evsv% for rämö is .918. that’s halfway between replacement and average. that’s pretty good!

    berra’s evsv% is .900. that’s 14 points below replacement. that’s not as good!

    both are at the point where goalies usually stop getting better. berra might have another 6 months but based on what i’ve seen as well as the fact that rämö stops pucks better at even strength than berra does, rämö is the superior goalie. he’s also better than fleury, ward, backstrom, pavelec, brodeur and fasth.

    as a tip: evsv% is the best indicator of a goalie’s ability. regular sv% can be highly dependent on a team’s pk and pp abilities and gaa is basically just regular sv% plus unneeded statistical noise.

    generally, it takes between 2500-3000 ev shots to determine a goalie’s true talent level, but 1000 shots is generally enough to determine if a guy is above replacement level. berra would have to put up a .935 sv% on his next ~400 ev shots to get to replacement level and beat that 1000 shot threshold. i doubt his ability to do that.

    • beloch

      How Ortio’s NHL audition goes is probably going to have a big impact on Berra’s fate. If Ortio looks ready to assume backup duties, Berra will likely wind up in Abby next season. If Gillies turns pro Berra could potentially wind up as an AHL backup, which might not suit Berra’s plans. I can see Berra being retained for depth if he’s willing to resign on a cheap two-way contract, but if he decides it’s got to be the NHL or back to Europe, he’ll likely refuse such an offer and try his luck as a free agent.

      • T&A4Flames

        I don’t think Ortio’s audition has as much to do with it as does Gillies’ decision to either stay in school or go pro. Joey Mac is gone and we still need 4 pro goalies for the NHL and AHL. Roy seems to be playing well enough that he will jump to Abby next season. If a Gillies stays in school, either Berra or Ortio will be the starter in the A.

    • beloch

      I just noticed that, last night, the BC Eagles played a nice game. The bad news is that Johnny didn’t score a single goal. The good news is that Arnold scored a hat-trick and Gaudreau had the A for every one of those goals! This returns Gaudreau’s ppg to a glorious 2.0 ppg, and Arnold’s is now at 1.46 ppg.

      Arnold’s NHLE is currently 49.2 points. This is his final year of college and he’s coming to Calgary at the end of it. The only possible way you can not be excited about Arnold joining the Flames is if you chalk up his utter dominance this year to Gaudreau. The implications of that are entirely delicious.

      Also note: Gaudreau and Arnold are playing in the NCAA. These are not young punks playing in the CHL who will need years of seasoning in the AHL. They’re playing man-sized competition in a league that’s on par with the AHL. The absolute hottest player in Abby is Ben Street, who is sitting at a 1.12 ppg currently.

      Ben Street’s NHLE: 40.5
      Bill Arnold’s NHLE: 49.2
      Gaudreau’s NHLE: 67.2

      Seriously, this gives me wood.

      • BurningSensation

        Thing about Arnold is he’s been tracking as a great third liner pretty much since before he was drafted. Obviously playing with Gaudreau is helping him, but I have no doubt that Gaudreau benefits from Arnold as well.