5 things: What to do with Hudler?

1. A doubtful re-signing?

So there has been a lot of talk about what the Flames are going to do with Jiri Hudler and Mark Giordano this summer, and at least the plan with the latter is obvious: They full intend to re-sign Giordano to what should be the final contract of his NHL career, and they’ve said so many times.

The future is far less clear where Hudler is concerned, and I think this is for a number of (obvious) reasons. He’s entering the final year of a four-year contract that pays him $4 million against the cap, and he’s going to be 32 when it expires.

Elliotte Friedman reported the other day that Calgary has been the “most aggressive” team in the league (scroll to Thought No. 8) when it comes to trying to work a deal, and they are clearly looking to the future as they don’t want to take on money that would imperil their ability to re-sign Giordano, Johnny Gaudreau, or Sean Monahan (the latter of whom are, of course, Hudler’s linemates from this past season). Right now, it seems that Hudler is available, but only at a high price.

All of which leads me to believe that Hudler will not be re-signed beyond this coming season, because he’s probably going to be looking for one last big score, and both Gaudreau and Monahan are due extensions at the same time as Hudler and Giordano (and for that matter, also Kris Russell and Jonas Hiller, if they think they’re worth keeping, among others).

Obviously, if next season goes as hoped for those two players in the final year of their entry-level deals, you just give them five or six years at whatever number they feel is reasonable (let’s say it’s the $5-6 million range). That makes sense. Plus the Giordano contract (another $7-8 million?). And with the consideration that Sam Bennett will need a contract the following summer. That’s a lot of potentially big-money deals in a short window, and who knows where the cap will be by then?

2. Good asset management

So the thing is Hudler seems expendable in some respects; the fact that he’s coming off a career year at 31 does not inspire confidence that he would be able to match it going forward. We know that performance after the age of 30 can suddenly drop off a cliff with little warning from one year to the next. Will he drop off at 32 (next season) or 33 (the one after he signs his new deal, with whichever team gives it to him)? Probably not, but if he’s looking to get paid, he probably doesn’t want short-term.

The concern, then, is obviously how much of a burden his contract becomes at age 34-plus, and that’s especially true given how much young talent Calgary in particular will probably be looking to re-sign in that time frame.

Devoting dollars to someone until they’re, say, 36 isn’t a wise investment in many cases simply because age comes for everyone, and Hudler has never exactly been an elite player in this league. He’s often been very good (and I would argue dependent upon strong linemates in a way that wings often are) but he’s just that: A complementary player. A good one, sure, but you see the point.

Paying a lot of money for complementary players is often not a good idea. Teams get very wrapped up in it, of course (look at Boston, for instance), but unless you’re talking about a guy who could probably be more than he is — like an early-30s Marian Hossa, who has always played alongside brilliant players —you need him to be able to do certain things. Hossa is a very good defensive player in addition to being a strong points producer (he averages nearly 74 points per 82-game season in his career) and possession driver.

Hudler is none of these things, and is therefore not worth what he’s likely to seek.

3. Why would they wait to trade him?

Of course, it’s difficult to know the mind of Brad Treliving as it concerns the Hudler situation, and if Calgary is indeed open to trading him, I obviously think they should do what they apparently have been doing: Looking at the options.

If the price is high right now, it’s because they’re counting on teams seeing 25 even-strength goals and 76 points overall, and saying, “Yes please.” If they can wrangle a first-round pick of a good prospect for him, see ya later. But teams may be wising up to the whole “overpaying for aging players” con that has long been a useful tool for smart GMs who see declines coming. The price he fetches might not be as high now as it would have been, say, three or four years ago.

The other issue here, of course, is that the Flames might actually think they’re a borderline playoff team again next year — which seems optimistic to me, but y’know — and that a lack of Hudler playing like it’s the final year of his penultimate Big NHL Deal could be detrimental to the cause. (It might also hurt the production from Monahan and Gaudreau, because they don’t really have any other high-skill wings to put with them, but that might not be a bad thing if it keeps the long-term price down; it’s all about pragmatism.)

So maybe you hold onto him if the price isn’t right, and then you wait until, like, December or January before you start working the phones again, provided the Flames are clearly out of it by then. At that point, with the deadline approaching, teams might see him as a valuable rental, and a good rental can still fetch a decent return in the market.

4. Why would they trade him now?

But it’s possible that, while a rental fetches a decent price, a full-season loan fetches a better one. Maybe not significantly so, but a better one nonetheless.

There’s also the possibility, again, that Hudler’s production drops off significantly. His 5-on-5 shooting percentage in each of the last three seasons with Calgary have ranked as the second- (2015’s 16.7 percent), third- (2014’s 15.5 percent), and fourth-highest (2013’s 14.4 percent) of his career, and the odds that this keeps up do not seem great.

Trading him now insulates the Flames from a down year, both in terms of on-ice production and what it would cost them in terms of lost value in trade (though the former comes with the acknowledgement that a step down for Hudler offensively is probably better than any other Flames forward could provide alongside Gaudreau and Monahan).

It also potentially gets them another first-round pick, or the ability to move up a few spots, in what is widely considered the deepest draft since 2003. Waiting might still net you a first-round pick, but maybe not as good of one as you might like, especially if it becomes a Jarome Iginla situation where teams know you’re going to move him and have no interest in paying top dollar as a result (though at least Jiri Hudler doesn’t have no-trade protection).

So I think what Treliving is doing here is the wise one: Field offers, see if someone knocks your socks off. If they don’t you still have options.

5. One thing is clear

The Flames do, however, have to trade him if they don’t intend to re-sign him. They have to handle this like they did Curtis Glencross’s situation, rather than Mike Cammalleri’s.

The worry is, obviously, that they don’t. If they’re embroiled in a playoff chase again next season (which, I’ll repeat, is doubtful), they might not be as willing to trade him because doing so hurts their chances of making it.

But if they have no plans to re-sign him, regardless of potential playoff position, they must deal him. The issue is that even on his worst days he’s more like a Cammalleri (useful top-six contributor) than he is a Glencross (useful depth guy). The Flames were coming to a point with Glencross where they weren’t going to re-sign him, and he was frankly at least a little replaceable given what they already had on hand.

Again, they have no such player for Hudler. If he’s gone, there’s no one walking through the door who can do what he does.

So if they do indeed wait, trading him might hurt, but it’s imperative.

      • TheoForever

        It is if you consider your track record of about 20+ articles about regression.
        As for Hudler, if we trade him the odds of making the playoffs will decrease drastically, not the same thing as regression but more ammo for you. If we get a huge overpayment that will help down the line, I can live with that.

  • The GREAT Walter White

    The right move is to trade him now.

    We don’t want him getting injured and lose value.

    We don’t want him to have a slow start and lose value.

    We don’t want the distraction.

    We don’t want to take away playing time from young players.

    We don’t want a “Cammi” situation where we get nothing back.

    Easy decision really; trade him now …

    WW

    • RickT

      How off is he? You wouldn’t agree that Hall, RNH, Eberle are top-6 talents? Nail Yakupov, used correctly is as well. Connor McDavid will be.

      That’s 5.

      People need to lay off the Lambert hate. He posts a good article summarizing things that have been said around here recently, with a slightly different perspective, and gets lambasted. There’s nothing overtly contrarian in this piece.

      Y’all just act like children.

      • piscera.infada

        “Lambasted” (no pun, right?).

        I totally agree with you though. This article is very level-headed, and doesn’t have the usual arrogant tone.

        Moreover, I would say Eberle is a marginal top-6 talent (he has seasons where his top-six status is legit, others where he’s a bottom-sixer), as is Yakupov (he’ll get there eventually, probably), but again, I agree with your sentiment.

        I’m with Lambert on this one. I doubt the Flames will be able to sign him, so he’ll need to be moved at some point. I would prefer him moved before the season, but if the market (ie. large return) isn’t there, it won’t be the end of the world to wait until the trade deadline. I still feel as though there’s enough of a market for a top-6 winger coming off his best season, with one-year left on a relatively decent contract, that you should be able to get something very nice back. Pump up the value by retaining salary if you need to, as well. Just don’t sell low.

      • Parallex

        Yakupov has not proven anything yet and “will be” for McDavid is not the same as now….he isn’t even drafted yet…could he be on the top 6 in Chicago in his draft year? I doubt that very much – same for Yakupov who proved to be a bigger debit than an asset with high minus +/- years.

        Lambert is a phoney and can’t back up his musings with facts!

        • Parallex

          C’mon… McDavid would play in every top 6 in the league… ditto Eberle, Hall, and RNH. Come now, those guys are at least as good as any teams sixth best forward.

          The Oilers have sucked but not for lack of forward talent (Garbage Blueliners and Garbage goalies will do that to you no matter how many good forwards you have).

          • Parallex

            So, Ederle would bump Kane or Hossa to third line rw? Did you watch the intense back pressure and puck battles during the playoffs. Two things Eberle does not engage in Many players don’t put up quite the same offensive numbers that Eberle does but they are much better all round players.

          • everton fc

            He’s not playing in the top 6 on that roster. No grit, no back check, no defensive ability. He has great skill off the rush and pp ability but the game is so much more than that.

          • Parallex

            Sooooo you don’t think he’s better in terms of overall current talent then the shadow of his former self that is Brad Richards?

            If you don’t… well then that’s your prerogative but I’ll disagree.

          • Parallex

            Don’t see Richards as one of those guys. He’s not beating out Kane, Hossa, saad or sharp on the wings. Toews is a no brainer and Shaw moves up on special teams due to his grit. He’s not cracking that squad. The only soft player is Kane but he’s truly special.

          • Parallex

            Pure talent, yes. But, if he replaced shaw, the Hawks would not be better. He fills a real unique need with his grit, speed, forechecking, tenacity in puck battles and ability to play anywhere in the lineup. Eberle would give them another pure skill guy who I wouldn’t put ahead of any of their skill guys.

  • OKG

    Man, if only we could poach a prime D prospect for him like Griffin Reinhart or Madison Bowey.

    I can dream, can’t I?

    P.S. This was a Ryan Lambert article that didn’t make me want to headdesk. Props.. I suppose.

    • Parallex

      The Flames could, and should, do better than Reinhart. The player they take at 15th will almost certainly be a better prospect, and the guy they get 45th might be as well.

  • Parallex

    Yes, Hudler should be dealt.

    His value will never be higher then it is right now… heck, if the Flames are willing to eat half the contract value they can offer a team an experienced, top 10 NHL scorer (with no known make-up issues) for a $/cap price lower then that of a 3rd line player.

    That really ought to perk up the ears of any team with any cap issues (be they dollars or cap space).

  • RedMan

    I love what hudler did for monahan and gaudreau this past season being their “dad” and mentor. If we do keep him, I would hope he plays on a line with bennett to mentor him as well and maybe even have bennett live with him like what happened to monahan when he first started.

    Even though I say this, good asset management is key in making a cup contender. I am perfectly fine with trading Hudler now. The pens seem to be our best trading partner. Rutherford has said he doesn’t want to trade malkin and is looking for wingers as they are in constant win now mode. He was willing to give up a 1st pick for Peron and Hudler is easily better than Peron. So i would like either a young D like olli maata straight up or a 1st rounder and a prospect as others have mentioned.

  • CofRed4Life

    “If they’re embroiled in a playoff chase again next season (which, I’ll repeat, is doubtful)”

    Always the optimist, eh?

    That being said, I agree with your post. Hudler is an interesting case for BT over this next little while. I think he knows Hudler needs to be moved eventually. I just really hope he doesn’t sell low just to get Hudler off his hands.

  • RedMan

    What if Hudler signs for a hometown discount? Say 6 years 25 million???

    IF trading, I’d like to see a legit #3 defender under 30 or move up to top 8 in the draft.

  • everton fc

    I personally think we are close to a deeper run in the playoffs with the coaching staff and potential we have right now Hudler is am immediate part of this rebuild. He’s no geezer, has always played full seasons, so he’s durable… He’s proven himself here and while he may not match last seasons #’s, he may very well come close, as he fits in well with his linemates. Sign him and move on. Rebuild with the kids and keep a few vets on the books as we rebuild. 5 years at 23mill… I’d consider that.

    There’s a reason teams would want him. He’s a proven winner. He knows how to win. We need him, as he’s one of the few guys on the team who is a proven winner.

  • T&A4Flames

    This will likely be unpopular but I’ve been thinking about the dilemma re: Gio and Hudler; to resign or not. A couple things we know. Gio will bring in a ransom, regardless of having only 1 more signed year, Norris caliber D don’t become available too often. And Hudler, we’ve been told, won’t be moved for anything less than a huge payment.
    So what if something like this went down. Hudler to NJ for Larsson. He’s no Gio yet, but he’s seems to be on a similar path to TBL’s Hedman. Not so good, good year, break out year. If we get Larsson at that 2nd level, he could be taking over as a legit #1-2 Dman by mid-year. The 1st team I can think that would benefit most from Gio would be MIN. His 1 year $4mil remaining could be great for them. They need to win now and they could fit that contract in. In return I would ask for a 1st, Coyle and Dumba. With Gio, I think they could win next year. our line up could be:

    Gaudreau-Mony-Coyle

    Raymond-Bennett-Shore

    Ferland-Backs-Jones

    Bouma-Stajan-Jooris

    TJ-Larsson

    Wideman-Russell

    Dumba-Wotherspoon

    For those concerned about losing all that vet presence, make a trade with PHI for Lecavalier asking for Sanheim or their 1st in return.

    Thoughts?

  • Parallex

    Hudler is a proven high percentage scorer…a full season with Johnny and Monanhan will only improve his numbers!

    Huds has been rejuvenated by the youngsters and is physically fit and a 5 year renewal would be godd for him and the Flames.

  • everton fc

    Hudler for griffin Rheinhart and Grabner sounds painful but long term pretty good to me.

    I really disagree on our 15th being better than Rheinhart who basically willed Himself a memorial cup.

  • T&A4Flames

    I wonder if Chicago has any interest in trading Hossa? It free up cap room for them not only for the upcoming season but for the 3 following seasons too. Would Hudler at 50% retained value plus Joe Colborne, or Max Reinhart, be enough to net the Flames Hossa and the Hawks 2016 1st round pick. Although Hossa is 5 years older than Hudler his play has not dropped off, he still put up 60+ points last season and is a proven playoff performer with 3 cups and 2 more stanley cup finals appearances in the last 8 seasons. He plays a solid 2 way game and adds size and there is little to no skill drop off between he and Hudler. He could take over Hudler’s role on the top line and his cap hit past this season is probably less than it would cost, both in terms of aav and term, than it would to keep Hudler. This move would help the Flames remain competitive, while adding another 1st round pick to help stock the prospect pool.

  • Parallex

    Flames Nation was turning the corner and becoming somewhat respectable again until Lambert returned to unload yet another giant turd. Some things never change

  • Parallex

    Wow the only thing more disappointing than having a useless, arrogant a-hole of a child such as Lambert is the crap he spews out constantly and tries to pass off as intelligent commentary. What an arrogant, ignorant douche. Get rid of him FlameNation.

    • TheoForever

      Yes we owe the world an apology for producing such an absolute waste of skin. As a child he was always putting things in his mouth and pushing things into electrical sockets. Just would not listen and did not learn from his mistakes. Nothings changed. At the bathhouses he still puts things in his mouth and other places and his writings show he has learned nothing about hockey over the years. Just a complete disappointment and utter embarrassment.

  • I still say that unless you get a crazy offer it isn’t worth breaking up something this team has not had for 15 YEARS – an actual first line.

    Sure you always see what offers are out there. You are a terrible GM if you don’t listen but there is no hurry to unload him. I am not sold on him demanding a huge contract either. I think he is enjoying his time here. Sure he will get paid but will it be excessive? I don’t think so but I guess we’ll see.

    • Who do you take at 8? Is there a prospect that is for sure going to be there that you are that excited about?

      That second scenario is intriguing. Is Dumba potential first pairing? Don’t know that much about him except he played decent minutes for the Peg at the end of the year.