What would you do with Raphael Diaz?

Looking at Taylor’s piece on Byron inspired a quick look at the Flames’ contracts. After all, pending UFAs to get looked at when the trade deadline rolls around, and Curtis Glencross and Paul Byron are two of those guys. (Alright, so Byron is an RFA, but considering how he wasn’t even qualified last time around, he’s essentially being treated as unrestricted.)

As far as skaters go, there isn’t really anyone else who fits the bill… except for one guy. Raphael Diaz. 

Notable defence targets like Cody Franson and Andrej Sekera are now off the market, so teams with playoff aspirations but in dire need of defensive depth (uh… that aren’t the Flames) are going to have to start looking elsewhere. And Diaz is extremely cheap, both in terms of cap hit, and in what it would probably take to acquire him.

Diaz has only played 39 of the Flames’ 61 games this season, but that’s more Bob Hartley’s fault in thinking that Ladislav Smid and Deryk Engelland made a viable defence pairing than anything else. Smid’s last game came back on Jan. 19, and he’s still on the injured reserve without any word for his return, so you’ve gotta think Diaz isn’t going to lose his place in the lineup any time soon. That, and the fact that he’s joined the powerplay unit, now playing alongside Mark Giordano on the top unit up there.

So you can’t think he’s going anywhere.

… Unless he is.

Trade comparables

Last season, in the time leading up to the trade deadline, a number of bottom pairing NHL defencemen and AHLer tweeners were traded, including:

  • Mark Fraser
  • Raphael Diaz
  • Brian Connelly
  • Mike Weaver
  • David Rundblad
  • Rostislav Klesla
  • Raphael Diaz
  • Brayden McNabb
  • Nick Schultz
  • Andrej Meszaros
  • Raphael Diaz

… Okay, no, Diaz was only traded twice. Once from the Montreal Canadiens to the Vancouver Canucks for Dale Weise (fourth liner), and then from the Canucks to the New York Rangers for a fifth round pick. It would so happen that two other guys on that list – Mike Weaver and Nick Schultz – were also traded for fifth round picks. Andrej Meszaros was apparently worth a third rounder, David Rundblad was traded with another prospect for a second, and everyone else was in a prospect/minor leaguer swap for one another, or a throw-in in a bigger trade.

Diaz’s value seems pretty cemented for us, though. Should the Flames trade him, he’s probably worth a depth forward or a fifth rounder. Maybe a higher pick or a low-level prospect if they’re lucky.

Is that worth it?

That’s what you’ve got to ask yourself in a trade involving an NHLer as low-impact as Diaz. Nowadays, he averages 11:47 for the Flames a game, including some powerplay time. Is that worth more than a fifth rounder to you?

What if he’s re-signed? Should he be? At 29 years old, Diaz is no longer a prospect, but he’s certainly an NHL defenceman. Not a top four guy, but a guy who can play. Is another season or two of Diaz worth more than a mid-round pick? Consider that mid-round picks are extremely far from being a sure bet, but also, as a rebuilding team, you can never have too many picks.

Also consider that before he went down with injury, Adirondack’s highest scoring defenceman was Ryan Culkin, a fifth round pick from the 2012 draft.

Would you take a chance on getting another Culkin, or keep Diaz for another 20 games (with the possibility of an extension)?

Mind that should Diaz be traded with Smid still injured, his replacement would probably be Tyler Wotherspoon. (Probably not Corey Potter. His designated role all season long has been “provide leadership in the AHL, and if one of our main seven guys get hurt, you come up and sit in the pressbox, just in case”. He’s played it perfectly.) Would trading Diaz be addition by subtraction if it got Wotherspoon into the lineup?

The way I see it, it comes down to two main options as far as just Diaz is concerned:

  • Trade him, get an extra pick, play Wotherspoon.
  • Keep him as a regular in the lineup. (This could result in the Flames’ six defencemen staying the same; or maybe another guy – like Dennis Wideman and his contract – has a suitor instead, in which case he probably stays on the bottom pairing, but helps the defence core remain stabilized.)

How do you see it? What’s the best move for the Flames?

  • Good article Ari, and that’s a solid point about Culkin.

    With Gio’s injury and not knowing how bad it really is, I say keep Diaz.

    If Gio is out for even a week or two, Diaz’s value to the team skyrockets because he’s the only option to jump into the top-4.

    On the other hand, if Gio’s only going to miss a game or two, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing Diaz shipped out for a fourth or fifth because Wotherspoon is ready for a bottom pairing role.

  • Diaz is a right shot, which has made a perceptible difference to our power play.

    I like him, and I’d like to keep him. Rather than replace him with Wotherspoon, I’d prefer to make them a pairing (don’t forget, Tyler’s a bigger guy that can play big bodies).

    Ideally I’d like a Wotherspoon/Wideman bottom pairing but that leaves a gap in the middle one.

    TLDR:

    Keep Diaz, Call up Wotherspoon, Keep Smid, Get Engelland off the team ASAP.

  • beloch

    Hartley started Diaz early in the season and, over his first 7 games, his average CF% was an absolutely brutal 37.7%. He also made some truly horrible mistakes, such as giving the puck up in his own slot repeatedly with absolutely dumb no-look passes. He was benched for the remainder of at least one game and, after that, deserved to ride the pine for a good long time, which he did. At that point in the season, I was ready to write him off.

    In January Smid fell to pieces and Hartley had no choice but to play Diaz. Diaz wasn’t great in early January, but he wasn’t as awful as he was earlier in the season. Then something changed. His avearge CF% before January 21st was 42.9%, but it’s been 56.0% since. Going on the powerplay unit has obviously pumped Diaz’s stats up, but his even strength CF% has improved from 41.5% to 48.7% too. Given that he’s done that while playing almost exclusively with Engelland at even strength, I’d go as far as to say Diaz is an adequate third pairing defender. For now.

    There are questions that need to be answered. Why was Diaz so damned horrible at the start of the season? Has he actually improved or is he just having a hot month? I’m curious to see if Diaz could sustain his current level of play over next season. However, if Treliving gets an offer of more than a bag of pucks, he should take it and call Wotherspoon up.

  • T&A4Flames

    I’d keep him and try to sign him to another year, possibly 2. If he’s playing more up to his usual levels, he’s a decent #6. Barring a miracle and we see Englland get moved somewhere, somehow, bring up TSpoon thus relegating Engs to #7. I think Wotherspoon and Diaz could form a decent pairing; their styles compliment each other.