Converting prospects to assets

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The formula above is math, which means it’s scary and might as well be cyrillic. The Calgary Flames are working on a formula of their own, because they have an interesting job on their hands. The Flames have a really solid number of decent prospects, which they should be given credit for. Now the challenge is identifying which of those players they want to have move columns. Let’s face it, Calgary now has to move a few players who were once organizational prospects into a different category: organizational assets.

To do this, however, isn’t necessarily an easy or desirable thing. Teams hate it as much as their fans do when a former prospect goes elsewhere and has success. It stings, it sucks, and it makes you wonder what could have been. But properly choosing which prospects to keep and which ones to deal is what high end, championship level teams do. If the Flames want to get there, they’ll have to do the same thing.

The reasons

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As a Flames fan, I can totally understand why you still clutch your prospects tight to your heart. For the longest time, well, there were none. But there are reasons, three of them in fact, why this has to be done for your team to get better and move forward.

1. Not everyone can play

What winning team is made up of entirely young, inexperienced players? I can’t think of any, to be honest. Even the 2010 Blackhawks had veteran, proven talent like Marian Hossa, John Madden, and Brian Campbell. Winning teams have a mix of players of different ages as the three winning Chicago teams would attest to. For every young Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook (in 2010 anyway), there are more experienced players to go along with them.

So, from a Calgary perspective, yeah there’s a lot of prospects, we get that. The fine folks here at FlamesNation are putting together a top 20 ranking of prospects right now, and we can be excited about some or all of them. But if all 20 player, well, then where does Mark Giordano fit in? Or Matt Stajan? Or even younger, but more proven, players like Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik?

2. You need assets to make important trades

Just having a good core of players doesn’t make you a Stanley Cup winner. Having a good, homegrown nucleus is the most important part of building a championship team, of course. But to truly get to that title winning level, GM’s also have to supplement their core by adding proven, older talent. You can do that two ways. The first is free agency, ala Hossa in Chicago. The second is via the trade route.

In almost every situation, adding a proven player on a high end team means giving up organization assets. Draft picks are big, but prospects who have already started to progress beyond their draft year are equally a crucial. He may not be a top flight player anymore, but the 2012 LA Kings likely don’t win a Stanley Cup without Mike Richards. Well, they wouldn’t have Richards if they weren’t willing to deal Brayden Schenn. In lots of cases, being willing to part with a prospect allows you to make your team better in the immediacy. When trying to win a title, sometimes you have to do that.

3. Draft picks don’t cost money

The Flames are facing a difficult cap situation in the next few years, we all know that. Well, one thing that won’t affect their cap right away is more draft picks. Yeah, eventually if those players turn into NHLers, your cap is affected. But in the short term, you don’t pay cap dollars for a draft pick, which is important for Calgary.

Sven Baertschi is a really solid example. Whether you’re happy he’s gone or not, or whether you like the circumstances or not, the Flames did get a decent return for him. If Brad Treliving doesn’t have that extra pick, he’s not in as good a position to be as flexible as he was at the 2015 Draft. Remember, trading players for picks doesn’t only apply to prospects. Calgary needs to be prepared and looking to do this with roster players right now, too.

The candidates

So who are potential Flames prospects who could now be considered assets? The recent emergence of players like Sam Bennett, Johnny Gaudreau, and Josh Jooris and additions like Frolik have shifted some other players to different columns. Here are three examples that I think fit the bill.

Markus Granlund

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This one makes the most sense for me. Even though he’s seen some NHL time over the last two years, I still consider Granlund an organizational prospect. At the age of 22, he’s seen time down the middle at the highest level and has produced at a very nice level in the American League. Granlund’s biggest problem now is the position he plays, unfortunately.

It sounds really crazy to say, but Calgary is really deep at centre right now. Sean Monahan is a stud, Bennett is going to be a really good pivot too, and Backlund just signed a new contract. After that, you’ve still got Stajan, Jooris, and Joe Colborne at the NHL level not to mention Drew Shore and Bill Arnold a little further down the ladder.

Where the heck is Granlund going to fit? The Flames haven’t seemed open to trying him on the wing, so it looks like centre is where they see him projecting. I think other teams would be interested in Granlund. He’s young, he’s got offensive upside, and he’s still progressing.

Bill Arnold

Arnold would be in much the same camp as Granlund. There’s a lot of centre depth and it is hard to imagine where he’d fit in in the long run. Arnold might not necessarily have the same pro cache as Granlund does right now, mainly because he only has one season under his belt. But what Arnold does possess is some name recognition.

Remember, Calgary’s 2010 fourth round pick played on the most productive line in college hockey just a few years ago with Gaudreau and New York’s Kevin Hayes. Scouts and hockey people know him and have seen him play, so there might be some marketability there.

Ty Wotherspoon

This one is a little more difficult for me, because I’m a huge fan of Wotherspoon. I’ve really enjoyed how he’s progressed since being drafted in 2011, and I think he’s got a chance to be a full time NHL defenceman. The problem for him is, stop me if you’ve heard this before…all those bodies.

The Flames just added Dougie Hamilton to the fold via trade, which made an already deep NHL blueline even deeper. I get it, there are potential established names who could leave in the near future, but that doesn’t change the fact that Calgary has some decent depth on the back end now, too.

Remember, the Flames drafted three more d-men in 2015 including two fairly promising ones. On top of that, Ryan Culkin looks to have really improved his stock with Brett Kulak and Pat Sieloff still in the fold, as well. Wotherspoon has played in the NHL, even a cameo in the playoffs, and impressed on the World Junior stage as well. Teams would most certainly be interested in him.

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I know, I know, even the discussion of trading away prospects is borderline blasphemy for some Flames fans. But they can’t all stay! I’m not advocating to move every single one of the guys I just identified. Hell, I’m not even saying trade them for the sake of trading them. But Calgary is now at a point where they have a nicely stocked cupboard. They’re also at a point where they want to get better and challenge for a title in the next few years. To that to happen, it’s very likely a prospect or two is going to have to move, as much as it might hurt.

  • OKG

    Effectiveness off the face-off circle is an area the Flames require plenty of improvement. Arnold offers that skill where Granlund struggles on face-offs. If I had to chose over one of these young talented forwards I would think this skill set will give Arnold the advantage….

  • OKG

    Stajan’s totally expendable. Backlund fills the role of veteran centerman while being a better player, and we need to drop Stajan’s cap hit anyways. So no to trading Bill Arnold.

    I’m 50/50 on moving Granlund. I want to see what he can do at left wing, it’s his natural position plain and simple.

    Totally open to trading Wotherspoon. Kulak, Hickey, Culkin, Morrisson are just a few prospects who will be ahead of him as soon as training camp. I say package Wotherspoon and Sieloff and see what you can get back. Just don’t get fleeced.

    Really though, right now the Flames have a good veteran group in Hudler / Giordano / Backlund / Frolik / Byron / Brodie / Bouma. Those seven fill the veterans quota. Tack on Nakladal too, maybe, not an NHL vet but certainly a pro vet who’s played in the KHL and looks like a character guy. Either way, those vets plus the young core (Hamilton / Gaudreau / Bennett / Monahan) plus prospects is how this team needs to be built. I do not want to give up prospects just because a random 30 year old is on the team at the bottom of the roster.

    The other veterans – Wideman, Russell, Engelland, Smid, Jones, Colborne, Raymond, Bollig, Stajan and one of the two goaltenders are the players we simply can’t afford. If they have negative value then I’m okay with packaging them with picks or the Sieloff type prospects. Otherwise hopefully they return assets.

    • Burnward

      I want to see what [Granlund] can do at left wing, it’s his natural position plain and simple.

      I agree, except that it’s not his natural position. He’s always been a center. The only LW he’s played was during the one season he played on a line with his brother. Plain and simple.

      • OKG

        I’ll give you that he’s played more center in his career, but I meant his natural game is that of a small skilled winger. Loves streaking down the boards and taking a hard, accurate slapper from 20 feet out, loves cross-ice passes, terrible at faceoffs. If you want to get technical his original position is center just like Hudler’s original position was center and Bouma’s original position was center.

        • I’ll give you that he’s played more center in his career, but I meant his natural game is that of a small skilled winger. Loves streaking down the boards and taking a hard, accurate slapper from 20 feet out, loves cross-ice passes, terrible at faceoffs. If you want to get technical his original position is center just like Hudler’s original position was center and Bouma’s original position was center.

          The Flames have been reticent to do this so far. Certainly if they had the appetite to go down this road, it might give Granlund a better chance to be a full timer in Calgary. I don’t see how or where he fits if they see him as a centre, though.

          • Parallex

            He doesn’t but centers are more valuable then wingers and it’s relatively easy to convert a center to a winger (but not vice-versa). I think of it like Shortstop prospects in baseball… you keep them at shortstop until you’re unable to do so anymore and then move them to 2B/3B. Granlund has waiver exempt eligibility and given the roster crunch it behooves them to keep him as a center until such time that he can either makes the team at any forward position or has to be traded.

  • mk

    I’d be most reluctant to give up Arnold, among that list.

    Could also add Culkin to that list as well, as prospect D do carry trade value (and his value is likely higher than Seiloff’s or Kulkin’s at the moment, and we wouldn’t give up on our more “fresh” D prospects so soon)

  • mk

    Interesting topic & thoughts. Another aspect to consider is that turning multiple lower-quality prospects into a fewer numbers of higher-quality prospects can be very beneficial when building a team. Think picks-for-Hamilton. Stuff-for-Seguin. Arguably, the team that gets the best player in a trade is the winner.

    Having lots of decent prospects to turn into assets this way is super useful.

  • GriffinJeff

    I know it has been addressed, but wouldn’t “converting veterans to assets” be a better move for the Flames? The “cupboards” are stocked, but not overstocked yet.

  • Craig

    The reason that the Flames would keep Arnold above the other prospects in my opinion, is that he would make a perfect bottom 6 centre, which is the only spot that looks to be opening up soon. Granlund is not meant to play a 4th line centre role, and needs offensive minutes to be effective. I like Granlund but I feel that he is expendable.

  • OKG

    I think that trading prospects is a good way to clear salary too. Toronto is a team with space to take on some bad contracts and a desire to get some prospects.

    Engelland + Granlund
    For
    A 5th

  • RedMan

    Awesome article Pat!! Absolutely these are the shadows that are descending upon us & a lot of decisions that can go either way will have to be made. Might help if we had a copy of Trelivings blueprint of what he sees in 2 years. All year we were saying that this summer is going to be illumination shined on where he’s going. I truly think he found out that this team was better & had better prospects than he first thought. He really addressed the blue line this summer. So going into next year, what prospects are we really needing to see more of this year? I think Arnold, Ferland, Jooris, Bennett.
    On D I see Morrison, Nakar, Wotherspoon.

    What does that leave us, Granlund, Shore, Agostino as young prospects that would be nuggets in trade scenarios. Leafs are one team that would love a few of these young guys, same with Jersey. Leafs have a disregard for money, so a 2nd round pick for the likes of Raymond & Shore might be pretty attractive to Leafs. Wideman & Granlund may snag us a nice package. Because in the last 12 months we have made so much progress, BT’s should be combining a few of these prospects to help get a bit of value back & eliminating some of our veterans that were signed as place holders. Might be an interesting August.

  • RedMan

    Ok, what is up with Smid? Is he concussed? Is there any reports or comments from management anytime in the last few months that give any hints as to his status and potential for playing at the beginning of the season?

  • While I agree with the general premise of this article I struggle with names on your list. We have a lot of guys in the NHL who are centers playing out of position but only 3 signed in the AHL that I can see; Granlund, Arnold and Grant. If you move one or both of these guys you significantly hurt your organizational depth. The Flames will still need to sign some depth Center AHL players to fill these needs. At some point do we need to move assets to get better but I am not sure there is any need to do so at the moment.

    • What you are missing is that the Flames have a log jam of centres on the big club as well. You have Monahan, Bennett, Jooris, Backlund, Colborne, Stajan, Shore, Byron all centres on the big team. The AHL is a development league, you can’t worry about having top NHL ready prospects manning an AHL team that is to develop non NHL ready players. If there is no chance of the likes of Granlund, Arnold, Shore, Agostino not being able to crack the lineup for at least 2-3 years because of lack of opportunities, well that would be poor asset management. These young guys could either bring in a needed veteran piece on rental basis for a playoff run, bring in a decent draft pick to to bring in a younger good prospect for a better timing of need or package with a contract dump.

      Really, we want Stockton to do well because that would mean promising young prospects would be making excellent progress, but I wouldn’t want to waist a decent prospect for the sake of trying to win a Calder Cup. Like Pat says, you can find all kinds of reasons to cling on to every prospect but for the sake of asset management & fairness to the young player, you need to make trades that come back to haunt you. All teams go through this in the cycle of an NHL team.

      • Did you not read my second sentence? I am fully aware of all those guys. We often talk about following the Detroit model which includes allowing guys to ripen and they are then ready for the NHL, also possibly more valuable than in trade. Also having good centers help the wingers develop. Imagine Poirier playing with a plug center how will he develop?

    • RedMan

      This is quite an astute observation. With teams paying $500m to join the club they are going to want access to some good players so their teams are not dogs in year 1. So imagine if the NHL came up with expansion rules that said your organization could only protect 15 players form your entire 50 player list. Would you only protect true NHLers or might you also protect some prospects ahead of your 3rd and 4th liners?

      If you were one of the new organizations how many older guys vs prospects would you draft? This I am certain will be a Flames Nation article article at some point closer to the time of expansion. But it could be a fun thing to do now as well. Out of the entire organization(signed assets add Ferland) which 15 would you keep?

      • RedMan

        Yes that would be fun….I would have to know the rules regarding which players do NOT have to be protected. Players on the Flames NHL team or at Stockton with less than 3 years pro experience?

        • RedMan

          I asked FN this question a few months ago in the monday mail bag or whatever they call the Q&A section. It has been clear for a while that the NHL planned on adding two teams.

          I was hoping the FN would pick up on this and actually do an article breaking it all down and laying it out.

          as for the expansion lottery – what are the chances that the NHL changes the rules from the last draft lottery? or, have they already been changed quietly during the last 2 lock outs, with people not paying much attention because there were other issues grabbing attention? inquiring minds want to know.

  • OKG

    Monahan a stud ha! maybe for the flames oh and who’s this Bennett person you guys talk about over here does he play in the NHL, Im sure the flames think Bucklund is good player but someone had to take him. Now you flames that think you have a solid blue line thats nice but it only make other NHL teams want to break it down so have fun this year, and for Jonney Hockey he dosent deserve the name yet if ever how old is he? mite as well spit in every hard working Vet in the game and why on gods green earth hasnt he been laid out yet, im puzzed.