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
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:
Presenting: A Tale of Two Brandon’s. pic.twitter.com/6BUhmXbkRo
— Kent Wilson (@Kent_Wilson) July 31, 2015
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.