FN Mailbag – June 20, 2015

Mailbag

The sun is shining, the snow has melted and the Stanley Cup has been awarded (to the Chicago Blackhawks…again), so that must mean it’s NHL entry draft time. That also means it’s time to resurrect the FN weekly mailbag feature for a little while, starting today. 

Topics of interest are…well the draft, free agency and trades of course. Oh, and the Flames strange interest in changing their goaltending situation, of course. 

Probably not a whole lot. Certainly not enough to move the Flames up in the draft. You might get a marginally better 20-something on the wing in return, but I’m afraid Colborne (who is also a pending RFA next summer) probably isn’t enough to really get anyone’s attention.

My guess is at least a couple of the Flames RFA’s won’t be qualified. I fear one of them will be Paul Byron thanks to his injury, size and perceived lack of room for him on the active roster, though I really think he should be retained. The other kid I think will leave is Max Reinhart. He ran in place this year and doesn’t seem to have much of a future with the organization.

The Flames desperately need NHL calibre RWers, so it’s not impossible they will target Williams. His counting numbers took a hit last year, but he’s been a great possession player for years.

On the other hand, he’s also 33 years old and his output has fallen the last two seasons running. Ideally, the Flames would want to limit themselves to 3 years or less and south of $4M per year. I kind of doubt that gets it done given Williams’ pedigree, but we’ll see.

It’s going to cost a lot to pry O’Reilly out of Colorado, even if they have no plans to re-sign him. You’d likely have to start with a top-6 player or top-4 defender + Calgary’s first rounder and go up from there. No doubt the Avs would inquire about TJ Brodie, Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett, but in reality they might settle for Dennis Wideman or Mikael Backlund + the first + a decent prospect. And I am probably being optimistic by including Wideman there.

I don’t think you could pry a defensive prospect out of Colorado though. They need all the blueline help they can get.

I think (hope) the team has decided to move on from Brandon Bollig in light of the advancement of Lance Bouma and Ferland. I also suspect Mason Raymond may go away and perhaps Paul Byron as mentioned. Some of this may depend on if they keep Hudler or land anyone in free agency as well.

Not without significant improvement from everyone else. Calgary doesn’t just need improvement at the bottom of the rotation. They need to find a way for everyone not named Backlund, Brodie and Giordano to push play. Some of the kids may do that organically, but there are still big gaps in the top-6 up front and top-4 on the back-end.

If I was Brad Treliving, I would definitely investigate the trade market when it comes to adding another first rounder, moving up a few spots, or packaging a pick and a player to improve the roster. 

If none of that works out, I would look to grab at least one of high talent kids who may slip to the second round, including Daniel Sprong or Anthony Beauvillier.

I left the goalie trade talk till the end because it demands the most attention.

Calgary has been rumoured to be shopping Jonas Hiller for a few weeks now and recently they were also connected to NYR back-up Cam Talbot. The apparent interest of the organization to not only walk away from Ramo but also bump Hiller through trade is kind of baffling to me.

Ramo, at this point, is a mediocre, but capable, NHL goaltender. He makes for a fine back-up, but probably isn’t starter material. Hiller, on the other hand, had an above average season for the Flames last year. His overall SV% was six points better than Ramo (.918 vs .912). His even strength save rate of .927 was better than expected and the second best season we’ve seen out of a Flames goaltender in the last 5 years (Kipper managed a .928 ES SV% in 2011-12). 

In fact, Hiller’s ES SV% was 13th overall amongst goalies who played more than 30 games this past season. Those are solid results and a big reason the Flames made the playoffs (rather than plumbing the depths of the Western Conference again).

Which is to say, there doesn’t seem to be an impetus for moving Hiller this summer, at least not from the outside looking in. The Flames have a completely natural succession plan in place with Ortio set to battle Hiller for the starters role this upcoming season. If Ortio falters, Hiller is good enough to continue to take the reins for another season. If Ortio usurps Hiller, then he has proven to be NHL-ready and Hiller’s deal expires at the end of the year anyways.

I don’t know what has happened to cause Treliving and company to consider deviating from that plan. It’s not the availability of guys like Robin Lehner and Cam Talbot, neither of whom are a guaranteed improvement over Hiller. Both have a decent pedigree, but neither has enough of a resume in the show to ensure a step up from what the Flames have now. In Talbot’s case specifically, he has only played 57 games in the NHL. Granted, with great results, but that’s a minuscule amount of information when it comes to evaluating net minders.

Anyways, this suggests to me that something is going on behind the scenes. Either the team has lost faith in Hiller for something aside from his on-ice performance, or the player has asked for a trade for whatever reason. If the team is set on moving on from Hiller, the availability of other options like those guys mentioned is going to make it a lot harder to deal him and get any kind of return too.

  • RealMcHockeyReturns

    Great answers oh all knowing Kent:) I think you are on the ball but not sure Col would need that much to give up ROR but don’t think he’s a target for Flames anyway…as the Goalie stuff….just confused by the need for changes.

  • Any conversation with the Avalanche and they immediately ask about TJ Brodie. Just as the Flames would (should) immediately ask about Tyson Barrie.

    It would be a very short conversation.

    A trade between the Avs and the Flames could never happen, because both organizations need the same things.

    • MontanaMan

      I actually think Okposo fits into the Flames squad very well. Hard nosed right winger but with good hands around the net. The challenge is that I believe he’s in the final year of his contract and due for a big raise next year so you need to commit big bucks in a year or potentially let him leave with nothing to show.

      • MattyFranchise

        Yeah, that’s pretty much my read on the situation as well. Not sure if we want to give up assets to get a winger that might not be here for the long run.

      • Greg

        If you pick up Okposo, I think you gotta wait until at least the Christmas break before resigning. If you acquire him, sign him big, and then find out he was completely dependent on Tavares for his production, it’d be a hug kick in the rebuild’s nether-regions.

    • MontanaMan

      No go. Those assets would be better spent acquiring a young defenseman. Or staying in the organization.

      If the Flames were legitimately on the cusp, or had their presumptive defense in place already, then yes; acquiring a 27 year old right wing would be a good move. Right now, it’s just a marginally decent, mid-term move with no real purpose.

  • Greg

    I agree with you on the goalie situation Kent… Baffling that they are looking at trade options with the seemingly obvious road map they have in place. The only explanations I can think of is they don’t think Hiller will be around past next season (that may be where they hope to get some cap savings after this year) and are worried Ortio + Gilles for 2016-17 won’t be fully cooked yet and will leave them desperate for goaltending.

    If that’s the case, and they feel better about talbot or Lehner taking over before Ortio could, perhaps it’s Ortio going back in a package? Although that wouldn’t make sense for Lehner.

    Or maybe they’ve got a good offer on Hiller if they can make him expendable? Although resigning ramo would be an easy option if that were the case.

    Can’t see a lot of obvious explanations for it TBH. Best guess is BT probably learned from Mike Smith that goaltending can cover a lot of ills, and is working on a few different angles and won’t stop until one emerges as the clear “Ben bishop” for Calgary for the foreseeable future.

  • TheoForever

    Equally baffled on this Talbot talk. If Ramo did nothing for BT, I get it, let him walk as what happened with Cammi. Circumstances sometime work against you when injuries occur at a bad time.

    But, Hiller??? Totally makes sense to play him next year with the intention of getting at least 30 starts for Ortio. Makes sense to me. I just can’t help but think Hiller soured big time when he didn’t play in Game 5 against Anaheim. Maybe the exit interview wasn’t a raw raw what a great year. I don’t know Hiller. I don’t know if he has an ego. I don’t know he was put off by how Hartley utilized him & Ramo if he felt he was superior to Ramo. Something is forcing this to the surface & hopefully we will know soon. If Oilers are prepared to give the #16 for Talbot, I will be so choked if we trade the #15 for goalie at this stage. I would rather see Flames dump Hiller for whatever we can get, even a San Jose 2nd if all we can get is a Sven like return & resign Ramo for 2 more years. I would rather let both Hiller & Ramo go & give up a 2nd for Ward. I would rather walk away from Ramo & Hiller & take Backstrom & their 2nd rounder oof the wild for Reinhart or Byron. That 1st should be taboo. I am scared the price for Talbot is going to get pushed up to our #15.

    • RexLibris

      If Oilers are prepared to give the #16 for Talbot

      Most recent information was Sather asked about the 16th overall and Chiarelli has said the market starts at a 2nd round pick and maybe one of David Musil or Jujhar Khaira.

      At that rate I’d think we’d be talking about #57 (Montreal’s pick) and one of those prospects.

      Flames could do better if they wanted to at #52 and Reinhart or Ramage.

  • MontanaMan

    I’m glad management realizes the Flames require an upgrade in goaltending. Hillier and Ramo were 1B goalies at best primarily due too inconsistency. This year there are many good veteran options available and they need to take advantage….

  • Burnward

    I’m all for upgrading the goaltending.

    Hiller struck me as being way too aloof and almost “above it” at times last season, if that makes any sense. Weak first goals, not battling. He can fly a kite.

    Ramo was okay, but just all over the place in his net. Scrambling like crazy for no reason, putting himself out of position.

    Both were decent options for what this team was, but if they can get a legit .920-.925 guy…that could make a world of difference.

  • TheoForever

    Lucic is THE CheapSHOT artist of the worst kind, no respect for that guy whatsoever considering his multiple groin attacks from behind. Don’t want him on our team just like I wouldn’t want Cook. Lucic would be perfect for Canucks.

    • Burnward

      At least he’ll punch the hell out of you if you try to go him.

      I can get behind guys that play on the edge like that but then back it up. Horrible to play against, always keep you looking over your shoulder and will answer for themselves.

        • TheoForever

          With all due respect you have no clue what you are talking about. Lucic is a 1 of a kind unique player. 30 goal guy who can literally fight anyone in the league (if his coach lets him – Julian forbid him from fighting in several occasions)

          Watch these and tell me you wouldn’t want that guy getting 30 goals on your team. http://youtu.be/KthQD9W1Pnw

    • TheoForever

      Hoping for that also. Hiller/Ortio is a good enough tandem going into the year. Talbot or Lehner with Ortio doesn’t inspire confidence.
      Perhaps, Hiller wants to be moved?

  • everton fc

    Any GM would kick tires on both Lucic and Okposo. And I know the thumbs down are coming with my next statement, as they have in the past, but kicking tires to see how much salary the Leafs are willing to eat for Kessel would also be wise, as he’s only 27 and will score at the same rate as he is not, for the balance of his contract.

    The problem with these guys, though, is you set the salary-bar very high for guys like Monahan, Gaudreau, Brodie and Bennett, and perhaps even Ferland is he pans out as I suspect he will, down the road. Add Gillies and Ortio to this list if they turn into stars. Keeping contracts in the Treliving-range is most important. The guys a great businessman thus far. The guys aforementioned being shopped by their teams have high price-tags and will raise the same bar here. They may hurt us, fiscally, down the road.

    As for the goalie discussion, we had a very good 1/2 combo here last season. And it could work next season, as well, though we all know one of Hiller/Ramo is history. If you can move Hiller, sign Ramo on a Treliving budget, and use Ramo/Ortio 1/2, I wouldn’t mind. Pretty risky if Ortio crashes out though, and isn’t ready – and perhaps all the talk of Talbot is due to the org seeing this and hearing this from those within who know Ortio’s strengths and weaknesses well – but we are in a rebuild. Lehner’s goals against has been > 3 the past two seasons. He’s only 23, but that’s pretty high. Hiller’s 2.36 GA tied for his previous career low. To me, you go with Ortio and Hiller, as Hiller is better than Talbot and Lehner.

    I also don’t see the logic of the Rangers moving Talbot, unless is strictly a salary cap issue. Can’t remember if it is….

    Hiller/Ortio one more year, or move Hiller now, let Ramo walk or trade his rights for a pick (Rangers also have a cupboard full of young defenders in the organization), and go for Talbot, but there’s no guarantees you can get Talbot. I’d pass on Lehner.

  • RickT

    The only thing that struck me about Hiller is there seemed to be occasions where he would throw team mates under the bus. I didn’t like that – seemed to care a little too much about protecting the opinion of him, and not the team.

    So, I am wondering if maybe he doesn’t fit into the team mentality, and didn’t buy in the same way as the others.