Random Thoughts – Trimming the Fat

random thoughts

The Calgary Flames have had a fine summer. It’s been a long time since the org made so many solid, potentially organization altering acquisitions in such a short span. The only roughly equivalent period I can recall is when pre-madness Darryl Sutter grabbed Miikka Kiprusoff, Daymond Langkow and Kristian Huselius in rough succession. Of course, those additions were spread over a couple of years rather than just a few days (thanks in part to the lock-out). 

The Flames still need to improve, but the rebuild likely took a big jump forward with the acquisitions of Dougie Hamilton and Michael Frolik. While there are a few potential moves left, like signing maybe David Schlemko, Brad Treliving’s big test now is less addition and more subtraction. 

In fact, every area of the roster could use some fat trimming.

– The primary issue is, of course, cap budgeting. We all know next summer is when things get complicated. Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Dennis Wideman are all slated to make north of $5M starting 2016-17. Jiri Hudler will also be up for renewal (assuming he isn’t traded before then). The simple truth is, some of the guys who are currently in the payroll right now simply can’t be by the summer of 2016 if Calgary wants to re-sign many of its big names. 

– The other reason Treliving has to start trimming sooner rather than later is the sheer number of NHL-caliber forwards on this roster. Once Micheal Ferland is signed, Calgary will have no less than 16 bodies jockeying for playing time up front:

Gaudreau – Monahan – Hudler

Bennett – Backlund – Frolik

Bouma – Stajan – Jones 

Raymond – Jooris – Byron 

Ferland – Colborne – Shore

Bollig

Aside from Bennett, all of these guys are waiver eligible. That means the team risks losing them for nothing if they are sent to the AHL. 

In some cases, that would be a blessing (*cough* Bollig, Raymond (*cough*). In fact, demotion may be the solution in Bollig’s case – he has only one year left on his deal at $1.5M. Moving him to Stockton to run out the clock on his deal gains the Flames about $950k in cap savings this season. 

– Speaking of Bollig:

Nice trade there Canucks. (visualization via Glass-To-Crosby)

– Raymond is a much bigger issue. Signed for another couple of years at $3.15M, he’s a middling NHLer who saw his spot in the lineup gobbled up by younger and better (or at least, more interesting) players over the course of the season. Inking him to his contract wasn’t the wrong move by Treliving at the time, but even moderately good bets go bad on occasion. 

– Convincing other clubs to take Raymond is going to be a difficult task. His deal is just high enough that it would put most clubs off given his recent results. 

The only two teams I could even imagine having any interest right now is Buffalo and Carolina. Both clubs have a lot of cap space left (around $14M) and both could use at least one more proven NHL forward on their roster.

In the Sabre’s case, you can pencil 11 forwards into their starting lineup, including rookies Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. That number also includes the doddering Brian Gionta. After that, they have Cody McCormick, Cal O’Reilly and Nick Deslauriers fighting for a spot. 

Carolina is even more desperate. After the Staal brothers and Jeff Skinner, no Hurricane forward makes more than $2M/year. They currently only have 11 NHL forwards total and that’s including guys like Victor Rask, Brad Malone, Chris Terry and Andrej Nestrasil. 

Raymond is not only capable of breaking the Hurricanes roster, he’s probably a top-6 player.  

– Beyond the obvious candidates like Raymond and Bollig, is Matt Stajan. Though I think Stajan remains a good veteran depth option for Calgary for this season, it’s probable his role and cap hit ($3.125M) will be too discordant by this time next year for the team to consider keeping him. HIs performance this year will go a long way to determining if Calgary can move him in the summer by making him more or less desirable in the eyes of potential trade partners. 

– The issues on the back-end are more complicated. Calgary has two guys in Deryk Engelland and Ladislav Smid who are paid way, way too much given their contribution levels and are probably immovable as a result. Smid might be swept to LTIR indefinitely, but Engelland isn’t going anywhere – at least, without the Flames eating most of his salary. His presence isn’t a problem this season, but next summer that $2.9M in cap space is going to look precious and misplaced. 

– Repeat after me: “don’t pay a lot of money for intangibles, don’t pay a lot of money for intangibles…” Say it 10 times. and then append “…even if you need to make the cap floor.” Engelland was only ever a replacement level option on the ice, whatever other value he brings to the team. His pay check should be a third of what it is. 

– Dennis Wideman is a trade candidate for a different reason. It’s probable his stock league-wide will never be higher than it is right now after a career. The thing is, Wideman is a really bad bet to repeat that performance. Not only because he enjoyed career high shooting percentages at 32, but because he figures to lose ice time and opportunity to Dougie Hamilton going forward. 

The conundrum is, Wideman still provides decent depth on the back-end and figures to be a fairly effective (if grandly overpaid) 3rd pairing guy. Furthermore, the Flames still don’t have great options once you get past the Russell and Wideman duo (see notes about Engelland and Smid above). Without another addition, the Flames only have hopefuls and unknowns like Tyler Wotherspoon and Jakub Nakladal to round out the depth. 

Conversely, a modest step back or two for Wideman at $5.25M will definitely harm his perceived value, making it tougher for Treliving to move him next year should the team need his cap room to sign the big names. Bit of a pickle. 

– Finally, there’s the crowded crease. Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo and rookie Joni Ortio are all on one-way deals and are all waiver eligible. Calgary can stash Ortio in the minors without fear before the season starts, but he’ll be subject to waivers after the first recall. That means Treliving can defer to the until the first puck stopper gets injured, at which time it will likely be thrust upon him. 

When Ramo was re-signed, it was assumed the Flames had a deal in place for Hiller in order to clear up the logjam, but nothing ever happened. Hiller is still a quality goalie, in fact the best of the three currently, so he still represents the best bet as a starter for the club. Of course, that’s also why he’d be the easier guy to eventually move. 

– There’s no obvious solution here, but I assume the team goes into the season with the same duo as last year and then plays it by ear from there. 

    • TheoForever

      ..or for a bag of pucks! Colborne has been progressing as a Flames but not fast enough to warrant keeping him beyond this year’s TDL. As for Raymond, the old softie, please BE GONE!

    • TheoForever

      2015/16 isn’t as big an issue cap-wise as 2016/17, so…..

      Trade Raymond for a bad contract only having one year left. The trading team gets rid of a player that is taking up space, and offers them no real value (ie. 7th d-man making $4m). The trading team gains a little cap, but takes on the deal for a longer time. Raymond provides them with some scoring, rather than an expensive popcorn muncher.

      Or trade Stajan and Raymond to a team needing a #3C, and take back something like a prospect or two, or a short-term, bad contract.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    In order to get rid of Bollig, trade him with Raymond, Colbourne, and Bouma for 2016 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th round picks. Add Hiller to the mix for a player or two to fill up roster spots here and in Stockton.

    Easy as that!

    • Matty Franchise Jr

      We should be trading Raymond, Bollig, Jones, Stajan in that order, throw Hiller somewhere there as well.

      Considering that Colborne is one of few bigger players on the club, the chances of him getting traded are low, and rightly so.

      I’m sensing a contradiction here.

      • TheoForever

        No contradiction.

        All the guys I mentioned are older. Raymond is useless and so is Bollig, already younger players have shown to be better than those.

        Jones on expiring contract.

        Stajan is good guy, but he is just blocking a spot from a young guy, like Arnold or Agostino.

        As for Colborne, he is still improving, I believe he will have a breakthrough year. Why trade a young guy that is decent, and has size this team needs.

        BTW. Don’t worry Byron will be there too, on the trade block but after the old guys.

        • Mezzo

          “As for Colborne, he is still improving, I believe he will have a breakthrough year. Why trade a young guy that is decent, and has size this team needs.”

          SO, if he is still basically spinning his wheels this year (a small improvement only) are you willing to give him up on him before the TDL like I suggested?

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    It’s a good thing the Flames never did go down the road of buying out expensive contract’s for prospect’s and draft picks. That would have compounded the situation.

    Never expected we would be able to jump this far ahead in the rebuild.

  • CofRed4Life

    Is it possible a team like New Jersey could be interested in Raymond? They don’t have very much offense, and they have a ton of cap space. I don’t know too much about their situation (other than it’s not good offensively); just spit-balling without much research.

    • The GREAT Walter White

      Yeah… NJ or CAR might be fits.

      It may be a good idea to trade him now while retaining a portion of his salary. .5 – 1 million. That might make him more palatable.

      It would be a better option than demotion and a buyout next summer as that would entail a cap hit just above a million until 2018. Not the best outcome.

      The other option is to play Raymond on the 2nd line with Backs and Frodog in hopes of increasing his trade value.. this would likely entail losing a younger player. Not a good outcome.

      A trade where we pick up a million or less would be the best option… even if we have to sweeten the deal with a late round pick swap.

    • Greg

      NJ is a team I’ve wondered about as well, given our excess of forwards and their publicly stated desire to add offense.

      Given Raymond’s off year though, I doubt anyone would trade for his contract right now, and retaining salary to move him after 1 bad year would be a real sell-low proposition. If you can’t move him without sweetening the pot, I’d rather the flames keep him and see if he bounces back enough to give you better trade options next year or at the TDL.

      In the interim, I’d still argue for a sell-high alternative and clear a spot by moving Bouma instead. I gotta think his age and 16 goals would appeal to an offense-starved team like NJ, and you could get a 2nd or 3rd round pick back. Something’s gotta give up front and I’d rather move a shinier piece to get an asset then lose one for nothing, or worse yet give up an asset to move an unwanted contract before you absolutely have to.

  • SmellOfVictory

    I was thinking that Raymond to Carolina for Liles would be a good choice. I don’t really care if Liles is still NHL capable, but his contract is up at the end of this season so it would free up some space for next offseason.

  • TheoForever

    I like the lines to start the season like this:

    Johnny – Monahan – Frolik

    Bouma – Bennett – Hudler

    Ferland – Backlund – Colborne

    Jooris/Byron/Granlund – Arnold – Shore

    With Poirier, Agostino, to be called up in case of injury.

    Of course, it isn’t going to happen, but it would be a good thing if it did.

    I see some trashes, so which part is no good?

    • Bananaberg

      Hartley probably isn’t breaking up that top line chemistry from last season.

      Bennett would benefit from playing wing with Backlund (who will be the #2 center) and Frolik. Take some defensive responsibility off his shoulders as a rookie and let him see the ice differently. Provides good experience to switch back to center in future years.

      • TheoForever

        Yeah, I can see not wanting to put Bennett in the center position due to his lack of experience. Odds are good that Hartley will go your way, I just like my lines.

        As for breaking up the top pairing, I like the idea of adding some sandpaper to the top line and giving Bennett a skilled player to play with, thus spreading the scoring.

      • mk

        To be fair, Hartley has used Hudler as the rookie-mentor player for a while. He was one of the most common linemates of Monahan, Gaudreau & Baertschi (as a % of Sven’s icetime). It would be consistent that Hartley uses him with Bennett at some point. I’m not sure where that leaves Seanny & Johnny, but it wouldn’t be the weirdest move.

        I could see the lineup TheoForever is suggesting. Or maybe:

        Gaudreau – Monahan – Hudler
        Bennett – Backlund – Frolik
        Bouma – Jooris – Colborne
        etc.

  • FlamesRule

    Raymond has to go – his soft play drives me mad when I see the effort everyone else puts out every game. Trade him, waive him, send him the minors, anything please!

  • The GREAT Walter White

    To be honest; we are still one top 6 forward away from competing.

    Hudler, Monahan, Johnny, Bennett, Frolik……….and?
    Backlund is not top 6.

    WW

    • DestroDertell

      Let’s compare Backlund with the other 2C in the league (or at least, getting 2C minutes).

      Name – ES points/60 (excluding 2nd assists) – Offensive Zone Starts

      Carter 1.68 56%

      Bonino 1.62 44%

      Bergeron 1.59 43%

      Couture 1.58 51%

      Plekanec 1.4 45%

      Johansson 1.3 57%

      Richards 1.19 70%

      Backlund 1.19 37%

      Brassard 1.18 56%

      Kadri 1.16 44%

      Granlund 1.15 60%

      Kesler 0.97 46%

      hahaSutter 0.95 47%

      Zajac 0.63 45%

      Toughest zone starts of the bunch and right in the middle in points. I have a hunch we’ll be OK with him.

      • MontanaMan

        Except Backlund couldn’t carry most of that list’s jockstraps. Backlund is strictly a defensive center and brings very little offence to the game, so his value as a 2C is very limited. He is best suited as a 3C with a 2C bringing more offence but giving up some of Backlund’s defensive prowess. PS – only Flames fans would consider Backlund a 2C – nobody else in the league considers him a true #2.

        • Tomas Oppolzer

          Dude, you can’t say he has “very little offense” without evidence when Destro pointed out that Backlund has a better points/60 than Brassard, Kessler, Kadri, and Granlund. You never provide stats/evidence to back your claims and it makes you look really bad.

  • MonsterPod

    Personally, I don’t like any of this ‘Bennett on the wing’ talk.

    Centers play center, and we need Bennett to be our 2C (or even 1C) in the future.

    MacKinnon didn’t play wing. Col moved O’Reilly there because they want MacK to be their future #1 center.

    We want Bennett and Monny to be our 1/2 punch someday, so I would rather see Bennett play 3C this year and be sheltered like Monny was when he was 19, than see his development tweaked on the wing.

    Let him get crushed in the dot this season, have to scrap and learn and grow. We may be on our way to an excellent 123C.

    • Mezzo

      Seguin, Giroux, Stamkos, Crosby, all started (or played early on in) their careers on the wing and they turned out just fine.

      The wing allows Bennett to learn the pace of the game, whilst having a higher chance of success (hudler/frolik & backlund is better than Jooris/Jones/Raymond/etc)

      Additionally, Bennett on the wing fills a hole in our top 6 rotation. Playing him on the third line creates a hole on the LW as well as a logjam in the Center.

      Finally, we should also keep in mind the expectations on Monahan were much different in his rookie year than Bennett. (high OZ starts will go to the 1st line, not the 3rd line now)

    • Mezzo

      All of this. You should never move a C away from his natural position unless you intend for him to stay there.

      The Flames never used Monahan as a winger. Bennett is a better prospect than Monahan was. There is no reason to believe he can’t handle playing his natural position.

  • Mezzo

    If we take Bollig and Raymond out of the picture we are short a LW; therefore Bennett at LW at least to start the year.

    Also second line of Bennett at C, Ferland or Bouma at LW and Frolick would give us a scoring line with much grit.

  • KACaribou

    A few things I can’t buy into:

    1) Colbourne being traded. The young man came as a long tall wet noodle, and he had worked hard to build himself up to a solid, large, rock who’s tough to get off the puck or away from the net. I really think the young man is just coming into his own and trading him at this point could come with dreaded consequences.

    2) Backlund is a team guy. He can play an offensive role but he’s been asked to protect the kids. He takes all the crap jobs and gets little in reward. I think you can list all the stats you want but I am going with my eyes and personal hockey grey matter on this one. I think the guy is a real rock for the Flames.

    3) Going from what I know about the conservative nature of Coach Bob, I doubt very much Sam Bennett will start at centre. Sam is a tall enough guy but he seems to be clean and is developing his body like a normal 19 year old – which takes time. His strength will come, and he already has the guts and talent. He’ll be our number 1 centre one day, but I think he will start LW on the second line.

  • TheoForever

    I think we might have to wait for the season to start, and a few injuries to happen around the league before some of these moves can be made unfortunately.

    I was thinking New Jersey could also be a possible landing spot for Raymond. But I think Raymond has to be first priority this summer.

    • KACaribou

      Raymond has a limited No Trade clause, I understand. Not sure the terms of it are public but that means all the talk about moving him is a little problematic – though that would be my preference too.

      Like Colborne, I think the plan with him has to be to put him into a situation where he has an opportunity to do well, gain confidence, and enhance his counting stats so that teams come calling about him rather than Calgary peddling him for a bag of pucks with 50% salary retained, or some other painful deal.

  • Greg

    There is a great opportunity to move both Colborne, Russell, and Wideman soon as they are all overvalued after their past season and likely won’t repeat. In the case of the dmen, their seasons were smoke and mirrors.

    Colborne didn’t come into his own as suggested. He benefited early in the season putting up points thanks to the high shooting percentage of linemates (also many secondary assists). He then went ice cold for the last 2/3s of the year. In the playoffs, people fell in love with one goal. He took some brain dead penalties that cost us games (200 feet from his own net). He also gets his head kicked in 5 on 5. He has a few shifts where he appears to protect the puck down low, but his CF% and CF/60 suggest he doesn’t turn that into shots towards the net effectively. Also at his age, he’s approaching “he is what he is” territory.

    You know who used to score some beauty goals? Krystoff Oliwa.

  • clib542

    The only reason people like Colborne is because he is good with the media, so in return the media doesn’t write anything bad about him. If Jankowski ever gets his contract, he better take this same approach.

      • TheoForever

        Yes, he is good in those battles. The funny thing is that if he got a shot on the net from the boards the type of shot that has virtually 0 chance of going in, his Corsi would get better and the Corsi crowd would proclaim him a great player.

        • TheoForever

          Not true. If Colborne took a pot shot from the boards, the other team would have an excellent chance to regain the puck. They’d take it the other way and get more shots. Momentary Corsi boost negated.

          And if they DIDN’T regain the puck, it would mean that Colborne made the right decision and contributed to possession and scoring chances for his linemates, because they’d have retained the puck and kept on the pressure.

  • KACaribou

    Hockey is a lot more than stats. Watch a game. Notice the little things guys like Colbourne and Backlund do.

    Some people are more confident that the statistician is doing a good job than the hockey player. There are shittier stats guys than hockey players!

    It’s like a second assist. Sometimes the goal doesn’t happen unless the second assist guy sets it up; sometimes it is a goal that he literally had nothing to do with but still picked up a point.