What will become of long-time Calgary Flames forward Curtis Glencross before the NHL trade deadline?
The 32-year-old middle-six forward is a pending unrestricted free agent, and contract talks between his camp and the Flames appear to have stalled, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
The clock is ticking on Calgary forward Curtis Glencross…
Glencross has no-trade protection, but that hasn’t stopped the likes of Boston, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay (possibly) and Winnipeg from sniffing around at various points this season. No one is talking, but it doesn’t seem like contract talks are gaining traction. It is believed Glencross prefers Anaheim, but it would surprise no one if he works with the Flames to widen that list.
So what’s the right play on the Glencross front? For a Flames club that’s still building for the future, but also finds themselves in the middle of a hotly contested playoff run in the Western Conference, it isn’t a simple question.
Before we can work out what the Flames should do with Glencross, we need to determine what it is he’s providing the club and whether or not we’d bet on him sustaining that level of play as he gets into his mid-30s.
This season Glencross has managed eight goals and 26 points in 48 games while logging very difficult minutes in a defense oriented second-line role. He’s facing the toughest Corsi-relative quality of competition among all Flames forwards and only Sean Monahan has started more 5-on-5 shifts in the defensive zone than Glencross has. Despite facing extremely difficult circumstances Glencross’ team-relative shot attempt differential is in the black and the Flames are outscoring their opponents when he’s on the ice.
So he’s been extremely useful. Glencross has also logged power-play time and is producing points at 5-on-4 at a decent clip.
What’s clear is that, at the moment, Glencross remains an above average middle-six winger. While we can’t quantify it, he’s also been a veteran presence on a team that’s relatively young and green, but has nonetheless managed to execute their game plan with discipline and focus all season long.
Though Glencross’ utility is undeniable, there are signs that his two-way game is beginning to fall off.
While some of this could be usage related, all seven of the forwards with whom Glencross has spent at least 150 minutes playing with at 5-on-5 over the past three seasons have done worse by shot attempt differential with Glencross than they’ve done logging minutes without him. That’s generally a sign of a diminishing fastball, especially for a middle-six guy.
The 32-year-old forward has also been pretty fortunate by the bounces this season at both ends of the rink. It seems likely that Glencross’ on-ice goal differential and his point totals are propped up somewhat by unsustainable percentages that are beyond his control. That has to be a concern. Glencross’ percentage boost makes it much more difficult to evaluate him, particularly because his 5-on-5 shot rate has been on the decline for the past three seasons.
Personally I’d still bet on Glencross being helpful this year, and next. Beyond that it gets dicey.
The Flames have been vocal in the lead up to the trade deadline about the need to keep an eye on the future while maintaining a “cautiously aggressive” posture on the trade market. So if the club decides it’s worth it – for development, morale and marketing purposes – to really try and make the postseason, then keeping Glencross beyond the trade deadline as a cost-free “own rental” isn’t an awful outcome.
Of course neither is a trade that returns a decent future. Glencross’ contract is affordable and expiring, which could make him a hot commodity. With the fall of the Canadian dollar and escrow-related cap uncertainty, teams are likely to be very cautious about adding significant salary commitments for next season.
Whether that uncertainty and reticence ultimately trickles down to impact demand on the rental market remains to be seen. It certainly seems possible, and NHL general managers like Steve Yzerman are already explicitly discussing the rental market as being too rich for their blood. If the Flames can get a second-round pick or a B-level prospect for Glencross, that would have to be tempting – or even a no-brainer – given Calgary’s long-term interests.
Really the only way the Flames could err here is to sign Glencross to a long-term extension that gambles on him maintaining his current form as a 34- and 35-year-old. Avoid that potential pitfall, and it sounds like the Flames intend to, and it’s all gravy.