Five things: Silly season


1. Okay, now I’m positive

I’ve long said that I don’t think Mike Cammalleri was going to come back to Calgary, and now given the term and money distributed to players in the last day or so, I’m convinced he’s gone unless the Flames want to get into a shoving match.

The contracts given to Marian Gaborik (better than Cammalleri) and Ryan Callahan (worse) yesterday have me pretty convinced that when it comes to long-term deals, teams will not be scared off by things like age or durability. Gaborik and Cammalleri are both 32, and the former got seven years out of Los Angeles, albeit at a relatively low price point. Callahan is three years younger, but got six years and $5.5 million out of Tampa despite not producing as much and being all but guaranteed to miss at least a quarter of those seasons, as he does every year.

Cammalleri has to see those contracts and start salivating. Again, his skill falls roughly in the middle of these two players, in my estimation, and he’s likely going to be one of the best wing options on the market this summer. Teams that, ahem, “missed out” on Callahan, or didn’t get a crack at Gaborik, might therefore be anxious to take a run at Cammalleri, who can provide them with goals (20 at even strength in just 63 games last season, on an unproductive team), positive possession play (plus-6 corsi relative, and positive territory on a team that got killed this year) and “leadership” or something like that.

I don’t know that he necessarily commands as much as Callahan, because for some reason people consider Callahan to be A Winner, but $5 million per for five, six seasons sure isn’t out of the question for Cammalleri. I think he has something to contribute now, but I’m not sure that ability is going to be around for much longer.

If those are the terms, it’s not really a bidding war the Flames should be getting themselves into. The problem is they’re going to — of course they are — because they don’t really have many other options. 

2. Goaltending rumors

Meanwhile, it seems that the Flames are going to let Joni Ortio continue to develop in the minors rather than back up Karri Ramo for the big club, which is a good idea. As such, they need a reliable backup netminder of their own, probably a veteran.

I’ve seen some connections with James Reimer, which makes some amount of sense, I suppose. The Leafs (oddly) are basically looking to offload his rights, and they’re going to do it for very little. A conditional pick perhaps. Calgary needs a backup, he’s pretty good. The connection is there. It makes sense. He even serves as something of a security blanket in case Ramo isn’t as good as the Flames think he is. Not that you sneeze at .911 in 40 games last season, but there is reason to be somewhat wary of his ability to routinely be a roughly average NHL starter.

But that might serve as a stopper for Ortio if he’s the real deal (still too early to tell) and goaltending controversies generally don’t end very well. So maybe they take a flier on Reimer — remember, Burke brought him aboard in Toronto, so he’s quite familiar with the player’s work — and maybe they don’t. I would consider him a good option.

Perhaps a better one, though, from an organizational standpoint, is Tomas Vokoun. He’s generally pretty good at this, and coming off a health issue that might be a major point of concern for some teams. He won’t need to be around as long as Reimer would, necessarily, and that might clear the way for Ortio sooner if Ramo doesn’t work out.

This isn’t a bad problem to have, by the way. But the Flames need someone, and those might be the two best options on the market. Beyond that, the market is pretty slim. Maybe you give Ilya Bryzgalov a whirl just for the entertainment. Who knows?

3. Lack of recognition

You can’t really get too upset about the NHL awards because they’re voted on by a bunch of people who really only watch their own teams’ games, and then look at for the rest. This isn’t tried-and-true, through-and-through, of course, because some people obviously also look at corsi and zone starts and all that, but for the most part, they struggle to “get it right” a lot of the time.

This is particularly true if good players were on bad teams. For instance, Alex Ovechkin, who led the league in goals this season, got the lowest vote total (just one fifth-place ballot cast for him) of any 50-goal scorer in recent memory. It was argued to me by Craig Custance, who’s a very smart guy overall, that he couldn’t have been all that valuable if his team didn’t make the playoffs. What’s that old Jay Feaster quote about not having Kiprusoff? “Is there a place lower than 30th?” That’s the Caps without Ovechkin.

Anyway, then there’s Mark Giordano. He was arguably the best defenseman in the league this season, but he finished just 10th, with a single first-place vote to his name. Most voters left him off their ballot entirely. Now, I’m not totally convinced that Giordano suddenly became an elite attacking defenseman this late in his career — his share of individual corsi events for when he was on the ice jumped from the high teens to 25 — but nonetheless you have to praise a good season when it happens. That he was overlooked by so many voters shows a lot of ignorance, but for the PHWA that’s really nothing new.

4. Interesting data

A move the Calgary Flames have made in the last few years, which I think is clearly paying off in terms of boosting the quality of prospects the team generally has now versus five years ago, is that they’ve taken to drafting a lot of college players. Now, a new study — and granted, it’s from a vested interest called College Hockey Inc. — shows that doing so is pretty smart.

The chances that you’ll get 300-plus games out of a first-round draft pick is slightly higher if he’s from the NCAA versus junior, 70 percent to 64 percent from 2000-06. There are a lot of reasons for this, but perhaps chief among them is that it’s easier to judge how college talent will translate to the pros than junior (because the former necessarily means a lot of minutes against grown-ass men).

Further, it’s usually a much smarter strategy later in the draft, in particular. Of all the guys who were in the NHL last season after being selected in the fifth round or later, 48 percent were NCAA players, compared with 52 percent split between the CHL, Europe, or other leagues.

If you click that link, you’re going to see roughly a million graphs that all say the same thing: College hockey is a very fertile bit of ground in which to let prospects develop. The Flames know that, and they’re reaping the benefits.

5. The schedule

Finally, with the NHL schedule now out, the good folks at On the Forecheck have once again compiled all the data and checked to see how much travel each team is going to do. Shockingly, the Flames are only 17th in the league in terms of how many miles they have to go (a little less than 39,000), and tied for the second-smallest number of back-to-backs (10) as well.

Last year, the Flames had 12 back-to-backs, and were traveling a lot more (nearly 49,000). Only three teams traveled more than that. This year, their biggest comparable in terms of travel is the Bruins. And Boston has to travel 64 more miles.

I’m not sure that’s going to have any tangible effect on performance, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

  • Cams is gone. I know he trains hard in the offseason, so I wouldn’t write him off completely, but after this season or next there’s definitely going to be some decline in his game.

    I’m fine to see him walk. His contract doesn’t make sense.

    There aren’t a lot of great options in UFA, Kulemin or Grabovski (or both) would be ok though.

    I have a feeling we won’t be able to attract Grabovski (and not sure we need to add another Center) but Kulemin would be a great pick up and could slot in at 2RW.

  • BitGeek

    So if Cammi is gone, and we didn’t get anything for him at the trade deadline (no picks etc), then the question I have is did Burke really improve his negotiating power for the next time?

    After the trade deadline Cammi went on a tear and I’m thinking that there were a lot of teams that wish they had added him for their run to the playoffs. There might have been a few GM’s kicking themselves that they didn’t offer more for Cammi.

    The next time Burke is in this situation, will thoughts of how he didn’t cave in for a bag of peanuts come to mind for other GM’s? Will they believe that Burke won’t roll over easy? Will other GM’s be willing to pay more for what Burke has to offer rather than not getting the player they want at the trade deadline next time?

    • One would only hope!

      Considering Marian Gaborik was traded for a 2nd + Matt Frattin, the market was horrible. We wouldn’t have gotten much in return, but to lose him for nothing kind of sucks.

      Burke potentially gaining some credibility for being a tough negotiator kind of sounds like a story us fans are going with to stay optimistic about not getting anything for an asset lol.

        • BitGeek

          It’s painfully obvious that Burke came up short and whether or not he was just blustering about “credibility”, there may be some residual effects as a result. There is no way to know for sure if his tactics (ie stubborness) will impact future negotiations with Calgary or not.

          However when GM’s start approaching Calgary for assests they want, and the trend is to overpay for them, we might be able to infer something from that.

        • piscera.infada

          yeah… I call BS on the “tough negotiator” thing.

          And all your years of being an NHL general manager have taught you this?

          There are a few things I know: 1) Calgary has been fleeced in trades in the recent past, and 2) Burke has been doing this long enough that he probably knows how much perception actually plays in the trading process. On the other side of that coin, he would know exactly what the perception of the Flames is/was around the league.

          I’m not saying it’s the whole story, but I don’t think Burke just pulled the leverage/perception argument out of his own butt to save face. As I’ve never had to field calls at the trade deadline about low-ball offers, I’m not really sure what all goes into it. I am, however, willing to believe Burke to some extent about what goes on.

          • mattyc

            I don’t think I need to have been an NHL GM to see that it doesn’t seem like a particularly likely phenomenon. Maybe there’s an element of perception “ohh Brian drives a hard bargain!”, but I’m really skeptical it actually provides a tangible benefit.

            My comment makes it sound like Burke said it to ‘save face’ or something like that… That wasn’t my point. In fact, I’m pretty confident he’s a man who isn’t really concerned with perception or saving face (one of the things I admire/respect about him). I imagine it was just a thing he said. He can say whatever he wants, he’s under no obligation to be truthful or accurate about what happens.

            Again, there’s not really any way to (in)validate his claims. We’re never going to know if some trade or return happens or not based on him holding on Cammalleri, and attributing something to that would be tenuous at best. You can believe him or not, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter.

  • mattyc

    Thanks for a good article was informative while providing opinion with reasoned rationale.

    Re Cammy…yes believe he’s gone

    Re Goalkeeping…am fine with Reimer or anyone…not willing to pay too much. Would rather give up a low prospect to clear up space on the 50 max contract list than give up a 6th or 7th draft pick.

  • gotommygo

    re: NCAA players

    It’s amazing how little I knew about college hockey only a few years ago, but it’ll be hard not to cheer for BC and Providence after all the flames prospects are gone!

    That study you linked includes the players that went the NCAA route, but includes players that were drafted while still in USHL, high school, or lower tier junior programs. Isn’t that usually the case? By the time they crack an NCAA roster they’re usually older than 18, not?

    So I guess that’s the rub — once they are in the NCAA it is easier to assess their skill and they are in fertile development ground, but at the time they are drafted it’s riskier to assess their talent because they are playing in leagues that are inferior to the CHL or European pro leagues.

  • prendrefeu

    Ryan, thanks for that article. Not slighting you in saying this: that was the first article that I read through under your name in which I didn’t find myself left with a negative cloud or anger. It was very well reasoned and balanced.

  • Graham

    $5 million ish per and a two possibly three year contract make sense for a 32 year old Cammy, but a term of six or seven years simply don’t make any sense.
    Unfortunately, we have to let him sign elsewhere, and look at other options. The Flames have lots of cap space, lets just hope they spend it wisely.

  • mattyc

    Just a reminder of the trade deadline, none of the big names moved till quite late in the day. Leaving everybody scrambling at the last minute. Totally not surprised that Cammi didn’t get traded when everyone was aiming for Kesler, Vanek, Gabby first. There just wasnt time to make something happen with Cammi when the dust settled. You can also tell this was the case because of how low everybody sold for. Their GM’s were pushing it to the wire trying to drive up the prices…didn’t work

  • Michael

    Talking free agents, I might be tempted to take a run at Marcel Goc. Deployed as a bottom six center; defensive minded, good face off record, possession driving and can chip in a little offensively (20+ points). Would really add to the bottom six.

  • PrairieStew

    I have advocated letting Cammi walk mostly due to the presence of Johnny and Sven ( and others). Looking at this Gaborik contract makes me rethink it – why not keep him and go long term ?

    They cut out the monstrous cap circumvention by limiting contracts to 8 years but clearly LA is doing it again with Gaborik. A $1m signing bonus and salaries of 6.075 for 3 years, 5.075, 4.575, 3.175 and 3.075. Clearly he’s not playing those last 2 years – by then he will have earned over $65m in his career would he play at 38 for $3 ? I don’t think so.

    Would this work for Cammi ? 4 years at $6, 1 at $5, 1 at $4, 2 at $3 plus a million to sign – 8 years at $40 that is really 6 years of a cap hit of $5. That’s a deal I think.

  • PrairieStew

    I think the Gaborik comparison is a stretch. He is a close to elite player who settled on a steep paycut to play with a stacked team that just won a cup. The compromise was a longer term and there are no retirement cap issues like they Brad Richards contract because of the new cba. Cammy is a mercenary who has left us before and will go to the highest bidder that looks like a contender. His goal total last year was allot of late season goals after we were out of the playoff race and post trade deadline. He found his groove when he needed numbers to justify a big payday, not when the team needed it. I think we can do better via a trade for someone like Patrick Sharp.

  • MonsterPod

    The great thing for Flames fans is that we have a certain leeway to relax. Personally, I don’t care if we get a good back up or not. I want the Flames to develop a positive culture, but I don’t want them to ‘progress’ to 10th in the West this year.

    So I’d like to see more of our young crop coming up instead of any free agency splashes. I’d like to see Corban Knight and Granlund, not Spezza.

    I’d rather watch Wotherspoon cut his teeth than bring in Meszaros.

    I do drink the Burke Kool-Aid. I like the guy and believe in him and I’m certainly more comfortable with him at the helm than Feaster.

    What’s nice for the Flames’ future is that Feaster had a penchant for smaller skilled players and college players whereas I can see Burke bringing in bigger TRUCULANT players and perhaps more CHL guys. This should provide a nice blend down the road.