Flames Trade Deadline 2015: Why They Might Trade Backlund

Let’s get this out of the way first and foremost: I am not saying the Calgary Flames will trade Mikael Backlund. I have no inside information. I am not a sooth-sayer. And I’m not necessarily right.

I am, however, somebody who has spent an inordinate amount of time in the Saddledome this season and watching this team.

So here’s why I think the Calgary Flames might trade Mikael Backlund prior to the trade deadline.

I’ve mentioned this in passing before, so let’s go into a bit more detail.

The Calgary Flames are a club with some sudden forward depth and a bit of a chasm elsewhere in the roster. Particularly when you look at the center ranks, suddenly there’s some depth, and perhaps some riches if Sam Bennett turns out to be something of note.

Up the middle, here’s what the Calgary Flames have in the organization:

  • Sean Monahan
  • Mikael Backlund
  • Joe Colborne
  • Markus Granlund
  • Matt Stajan
  • Josh Jooris
  • Max Reinhart
  • Drew Shore
  • Sam Bennett
  • Bill Arnold
  • Mark Jankowski
  • Matthew Deblouw
  • (Lance Bouma and Paul Byron can play center in a pinch, but aren’t primarily centers.)

Outside of Jankowski and Deblouw, these guys are all at least bubble NHLers.

Now, on the blueline, Calgary is thin. They have three top-flight defenders in Mark Giordano, Kris Russell and T.J. Brodie. And they’re surrounding that trio with what they have remaining, which right now is Raphael Diaz, Dennis Wideman and Deryk Engelland. All are functional. But they’re all basically what they are at this point.

Because of the basic functionality of the three secondary blueliners, Calgary (a) relies a ton on Brodie and Giordano and (b) really hamstrings themselves by having Russell play with Wideman. Granted, Russell with Wideman is better than Russell with Engelland (which was awful), but Russell is a player like Wideman who needs to be with somebody as good as him to be effective. With Wideman, he cheats a bit to cover his own zone because Wideman pinches a lot and isn’t quite mobile enough to make it back to the zone all the time. (The same tendencies exist with Giordano and Brodie, but each guy is extremely mobile and able to race back most of the time.)

That brings us to Mikael Backlund. As Elliotte Friedman has detailed on the Sportsnet site, a lot of teams are calling about Sean Monahan or Sam Bennett, as occurred with Winnipeg and Buffalo when Calgary was looking into Evander Kane and Tyler Myers. They are likely chuckled at good-naturedly by Brad Treliving, who then asks them about other things. But let’s say you’re Calgary and a team says, “You give us a good center, we’ll give you somebody to play with Russell.” (Hopefully they’re right-handed.)

You’re not moving Bennett or Monahan. It’s unlikely that you can trade Stajan’s long-term deal, and you probably want a veteran center to mentor Bennett for a bit. But what about Backlund? He’s due for a raise. He’s a strong possession player. He’s got value. And if you want to use some center depth to fix the team’s lack of defensive depth, the best bet to do so is by swapping out Mikael Backlund.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    Of the 12 players listed, 4 are currently NHL caliber centres at this time in my opinion. Money, Mickis, JoJoo, and Matty Franchise.

    Bennett will be in a year or two (starts on the wing?). Granlund and Shore might turn into 3rd or 4th line C in the future. Maybe even Arnold. Keep them on the farm or on the wing until needed as emergency injury replacements at C.

    Colborne has proven that he is not NHL caliber at C, and I doubt any of the others will be either. Trade these guys, keep the rest. But I’m not BT.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    The last few articles have been kind of absurd. If the flames trade backlund and sign bryzgalov I will have 0 faith in the future of this organization. Backlund dominates game in and game out, hes elevated LANCE BOUMA to a nearly ppg player… That’s an incredible feat. Backlund is our number 1 center and can continue to drive play better than monohan and bennet will be able to for years to come.

    I love you mikis never be traded plz

      • When he wraps up 2 more years of College he’ll be 22/23 and will be fully grown and stepping into a lineup of Monahan Johnny Hockey, Bennett, Poirier, Brodie, all with multi years under their belts.

        I think that will be the most exciting time for us Flames fans and I could see Jankowski getting on that team as a 3rd line big center with some skill. Wishful thinking perhaps but not impossible

        • Greg

          He might still pull a Byron and hit his stride at 24/25 years old. Byron looked like a lost cause for a long time but is a useful player now. But that’s a long time away and a pretty low ceiling to hope for on a 1st round pick.

          • Greg

            I wouldn’t say that’d be his ceiling but start as he’d be playing behind Monahan and Bennett at least at that time. I could see him being a solid 2 way top 6 center..I suppose so could Feaster

  • Derzie

    This Backlund obsession is silly. He’s an underrated player because he plays the toughs and does well. We get it. Doesn’t mean he’s untradeable. Just means that the return needs to be stronger than you would think given a player with his scoring stats. That and as good as he is, he is on IR more than average.

  • Nighteyes

    Backlund is at a perfect age and stage in his development for where the organization is going in its rebuild right now. Since last years draft, I’ve always imagined our future line up down the middle to be Monahan, Bennett and Backlund, with either Jooris, Granlund, Shore or someone like Arnold anchoring the fourth line. I think that’s incredibly deep.

    Don’t trade Backlund, BT. He’s not expendable–he usually has the highest TOI among forwards or is at least in the top three every game. He’s a minute eater and always contributes to the team, even if he remains off the scoresheet.

  • Scary Gary

    Backlund is exactly what this and every team needs, someone to hem the other teams best players in their zone (Getzlaf and Perry for almost two periods), getting the tough assignments and allowing Monahan offensive starts. Not to mention he’s young, affordable, has decent size, can play anywhere in the lineup, has become a leader on the team and chips in a half a point per game.

    Our center prospects flat out aren’t ready.

    I don’t foresee too many scenarios where this trade would make sense.

  • Greg

    I could see a scenario in a few years time where Monahan is taking on all comers and Bennet is scoring lights out, and Gio is hitting the downside of his career, and then suddenly, a late-20s Backlund becomes a very pragmatic trade chip to acquire some much needed blue line help.

    That day is not here yet. Unless we want to pull an Oilers and pencil in a rookie as our Plan A second line Center for next year, moving Backlund now does not make sense. Yet.

  • Greg

    FN knows my position on this so prepare to trash away. I am one who feels Backlund’s value would maximize the return so get it done. Having said that, you need maximum return but the Flames are dealing from a position of power (as opposed to Glencross) where they don’t need to or for that matter don’t want to trade Backlund. But if you make us an offer so good we can’t resist it, make it happen. You don’t know until you ask and the Flames should be prepared to listen to all offers for a soon to be 3rd line center.

  • Greg

    That said, you have to give something good to get something good. If someone offers Weber or Doughty for Backlund, sure, I’m in. Heck I might even do it for a post-apex Keith if that was Chicago’s get-out-of-cap-jail card. But we all know none of that is happening either.

    So I’m really curious, instead of just all the FN comments about how trading Backlund is stupid (it is), what d-man out there would the FN community consider as making sense, today, in a 1 for 1 trade for our beloved Backlund?

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Oliver Ekman Larsson






      This is precisely why this trade won’t happen. This is the type of return it will take to make trading Backlund worth it. The teams that have these D-men won’t make the deal for an “oft-injured defensive centre” as the league views him. He is worth more to us than the offers we would get (which wouldn’t include any of the above). I agree with others. This trade maybe makes sense 2 to 3 years from now when you know what you have in Monahan, Bennett & other centers in the org.

      Re-sign him for 3.5 for 5 and he becomes a very valuable trade chip in a few years.

        • Bean-counting cowboy

          Agreed. Read what I said again. My initial comment on the article is that I don’t agree with trading him… I then also said no one is untradeable. One of these D-men is what it’s going to take for me personally to actually pull the trigger, otherwise he’s more valuable re-signed.

          That’s why this trade is not happening for me and I’m not trading him for a Kris Russell. He’s more valuable at center at this point than a Kris Russell and drives possession better than a Kris Russell ever will.

    • piscera.infada

      So I’m really curious, instead of just all the FN comments about how trading Backlund is stupid (it is), what d-man out there would the FN community consider as making sense, today, in a 1 for 1 trade for our beloved Backlund?

      This is an impossible question to answer, but since you’re throwing Doughty and Weber in the conversation… If the ‘Yotes approached me with Ekman-Larsson for Backlund, Baertschi, and a pick (probably have to be a first, but I’d see if they could lower that). I’d do it. Again, that isn’t going to happen.

      One-for-one, someone said Ryan Ellis (or Jonas Brodin)… While probably the closest comparable, you’d probably have to throw in more. I wonder what it would take to get a player like Hampus Lindholm?

      Realistically though, I tend to agree with the majority here. It’s probably the most reasonable course of action to hold-off, resign him to the great value deal you can probably get him for, and use him to shelter Monahan and Bennett for at least a few more years. Once he’s expendable in that role, you can see what the appetite is for him.

      On the other hand, I agree with others, he’s not a player you “keep under any and all circumstances”. If there’s a great deal for him or involving him, you have to look at it, without a doubt.

  • amaninvan

    No no no no! A thousand times No. Creating roster holes by trading away your depth and forcing young players to accept roles they haven’t been prepared for is Oiler thinking. This team is set up for years of envy around the NHL who look at Monahan, Bennett and Backlund and wish they had that depth at center.

    This team went a decade or more without one top flight center, so now we have finally have some depth. Successful teams are strong down the middle. Don’t mess with a good thing. Calgary is just about there. It ain’t broke, so don’t try to fix it!

  • Rockmorton65

    I could see trading Backlund. I like his game, but I honestly don’t get the obsession with him. He’s good, yes. But looking at the very near future of the center position, we have some great flexibility with him. I don’t think anyone can argue that Bennett/Monahan are our planned 1/2 centers. I’m gonna make a prediction that Bennett will be better than Backlund at this time next year. That makes Backlund, at best, our #3. And thats not taking into account one of the C’s listed above can take it from him (Jooris & Granlund could soon be a good #3), not to mention we have Stajan who can move up and down the lineup.

    The timing here is pretty good, with him being an RFA. I think ultimately it may come down to contract. Would Backlund consider signing another contract for 3/4 C money? I cant see it. He’s going to want to be paid for his 2C ability, and he should get it. Too bad for him he’s behind Bennett and Money.

    We also need a good young top 4D, hopefully with top pairing potential. How can we get it? We wont get it through free agency and barring a disaster, we wont be in a position to draft one. The most viable way is to trade for one. And when you look at our trade chips, there are only a few that could garner that kind of return. Money, Bennett, Gaudreau, Gio, Brodie and Backlund. Of that list, the only one I’d be comfortable parting with is Backlund. I think a top 4 D is harder to find than a 3C.

    Put him in a package for a future/current top pairing D man at the draft. I wonder what a package of our 2015 first (13-18 overall is my guess), Backlund, Baertchi/Klimchuk and maybe another prospect might fetch? At its absolute worst, its worth exploring.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    The collective consciousness of the commentators supersede this writers arguments in a way that Ghandi defeated the British Empire. The wise would prefer to look away and be passive but can’t help but comment on the baseless thought and design.

    Unless you are garnering a future first pairing defenceman prospect to slide under Brodano or a mid to high first round pick you passively move on while building your own empire as I am sure the brass are angling towards “heck no.” You are still at a huge risk to the succession and development of current young centres and prospects so the feeling would be in management that it would have to be a robbery. That said Burke has done it before, but that does not enable this writer to say I told you so if that inevitably happens.

  • Megamind

    Backlund is a RFA and I am sure has been in talks with the Flames. Backlund will determine if he is traded or not with his contract demands.
    If he wants a cap hit of more than 3M/yr, then the Flames will have NO choice but to trade him. He is already behind Monahan, and I’m sure that the coaching staff and management watched Bennett in practice and have an opinion on where he is in reference to Backlund.
    If Backlund doesn’t want to be paid what he is worth, like a really good 3C, then he will get moved. And that is a fact!

    • SmellOfVictory

      Backlund is easily worth 4 million, and would be easily worth more if he didn’t get injured so frequently. With the cap where it is, 4 million on a guy who would be possibly the best 3rd line C in the league would be totally okay.

      • Megamind

        There isn’t a 3C, an actual 3C mind you, getting paid more than 3M in the league. He IS injury prone and physically weak, so no thanks, but if someone wants to give us a pre-apex top 4 D, then yes please.

        • T&A4Flames

          Backlund’s also not a 3C at the moment. He’s a top 2C and will be be likely for at least another 2years. Regardless, he’s worth $4mil +. For comparison, his offensive #’s are pretty comparable to ROR (pts per game).

          If a real good deal comes along,l I love the guy, but you trade him. Stajan is a good possession guy and is better than a 4th line C and can shield Mony and Bennett until his contract is up. Mony has shown this year he can handle tougher assignments and will likely get more next year.

          Ideally I’d rather move Stajan and/or a prospect like Granlund but like many have said, the return likely isn’t that D we need.

          • Megamind

            Unfortunately he is UFA in 2 years when you say he would be our #3, but cap hit is for the life of the contract. That means he needs to be paid like a #3 for the life of his next contract.
            Bennett will be better than him 40 games into next year anyway, so I expect that Backlund WILL be traded between now and the end of the first round of the upcoming draft.

  • RKD

    Totally flawed thinking, put Wotherspoon in first. You need centers to compete for the Stanley Cup, they will need Backlund down the middle with Bennett and Monahan. He can play a great defensive role. Bennett will be entering his first NHL season next year, if they keep Backs they probably will swap him and Bennett in the 2/3 C position until Bennett can fly on his own. You could get good return for Backs, I’m not sure what type of d-man would come back in return. Is it worth trading Back for a 4-5 d-man? Could you get a top 3-dman? Maybe if Backs was packaged with GlenX and Ramo.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Honestly, how often do you see Mickis drive the net? Possession numbers are cool and all but personally I’d rather have a 1/2 center that drives the net a la Bennett and Monahan than a possession guy.
    I wonder who Detroit has in the pipes, Mickis would be a great fit there, Xavier Ouellet might be nice.

  • The Last Big Bear

    I made a list of RHS dmen, it isn’t pretty. Backlund is definitely valuable as a key #3C during our future prime years but a #4 RHS dman would probably be just as big. If you cannot find a fit in the whole league than its very likely a good trade, you can find #3Cs. Here’s my list:

    Myers, Elliot, Hamilton, Bogosian, Vatanen, Larsson, Savard, Ceci, Braun, Spurgeon, Ellis, Tanev, Petrovic, Severson, Gudkas, Sustr, Pysyk, Stone

    It doesn’t include some guys better than Myers that are completely untouchable. It doesn’t include LHS guys that prefer the right side, and it doesn’t include the near-UFA / older RHS guys.

    This list is unfortunately unrealistic from Myers to Ceci (if you cannot envision the other team accepting Backlund plus this year’s first for the player, its unrealistic) and I don’t like Ellis onwards enough for Backlund. So all I could come up with is Braun or Spurgeon.

    I have a feeling Petrovic will be a great player. He’s my #1 target on this list for value and it wouldn’t take Backlund.

    • The Last Big Bear

      I would love to see the Flames trade for a player like Pulock. This kid is big, plays the right way and is a RHS. I believe he went 15th in the first round a year or two again. I agree, I would be ok sending Glencross and Arnold to get this guy. Might appear a bit steep of a price at first but considering our overall lack of depth at this particular position……the Isles could definitely use a guy like Glencross for a playoff run this year.

  • Rockmorton65

    I want these things out of the Flames:

    1) Three Centers Deep (Monahan / Backlund / Bennett)
    2) Three Dmen Deep (Gio / Brodie / ?)
    3) Good Top Line Wingers (Gaudreau / ?)
    4) Great Bottom Line Forwards (Bouma, Jooris, Byron)

    You have your work cut out convincing me that the other dozen and half pieces:

    2015 First Rounder
    2016 First Rounder

    Can’t be packaged in quantity for quality deals to fill those last two question marks. So many enticing forwards that in a 30 team league no one’s interested?

    Backlund is 25 and still continues to improve. Trade him and you lose your opportunity at something real special.

  • Rockmorton65

    Backlund is like a deity around here. I know he looks great on a spreadsheet but seriously, he is just a player.

    I like looking at data as much as anyone. And I really like Backlund. But he isn’t untouchable.

    The guy is either a 3C defensive specialist that is poor at face offs or he is a 2C with inconsistent offensive output. Either way he is really injury prone playing injured or outright missing games. He may not fit on this team long term given our options down the middle.

    Again, unless we pick up a guy like Vermette I doubt we trade him this season. But I could see him moved this summer. Whether you or I like it that could very well be the case.