In the wake of Mark Giordano’s contract extension earlier this week, Calgary’s cap crunch going forward has become even more clear. With big money also due to both Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau for the 2016-2017 season, the Flames are going to be right up against a salary cap that isn’t expected to rise dramatically. Calgary is going to have to make some tough decisions, and some of those choices might have to be made during the coming season. Let’s take a look at their most valuable, and most likely, trade assets for the coming year.
You’ll notice these guys all have one thing in common: they’re in the final year of their contract. I’m not saying the Flames need to trade all of these guys, because that would be silly. But strategically moving one or two of these players could help them with their cap situation while also adding to their asset stockpile. Also keep in mind some of these players may simply walk in free agency at the end of their contract.
This is the highest profile name on the list and also one of the toughest decisions Calgary has to make for next year. While I don’t think it’s out of the question the Flames would sign him to an extension, the reality of it suggests there’s a decent chance Hudler won’t be a part of this team’s long term future.
Here’s the problem: Hudler is due for a substantial raise, but he’ll also be almost 33 years old when an extension would kick in. I know the Flames just went down that same road with Giordano, but to have two contracts of that nature would be quite prohibitive down the road. Hudler’s below average foot speed is also a worry as we’re all well aware how that can catch up to player’s startlingly fast in this day and age.
The only circumstance I could see making sense for Calgary would be a short term extension for Hudler. If they could get him to agree to a one or two year deal, then you could probably make it fit. However, if Hudler has another year similar to last season, then how amenable to doing that will he be?
The biggest dilemma with Hudler might end up being whether to resign him or not, but rather whether to trade him or let him walk. The situation with Mike Cammalleri a few years ago comes to mind, but there’s far more benefit to keeping Hudler past the deadline even if bringing him back isn’t in the cards. For the coming season, Hudler is going to be an integral part of Calgary’s push to get beyond the second round of the playoffs. For that reason, the Flames just may not be willing to trade him.
At the risk of igniting another advanced stats blood feud, I’ll put Russell on this list. He’s on this list because he’s a trade asset the Flames need to think about moving. Much like Hudler, Russell is probably in line for a decent sized raise at the end of the coming season. With a cap hit of $2.6 million right now, seeing Russell come in at around $4 million on an extension isn’t out of the question. Saving some of that money by moving him is something that has to be considered.
I know for some Flames fans, even suggesting this would be sacrilege. Russell embodied all of what was the whimsical narrative of last year’s team. In reality, though, Russell is can’t be considered an untouchable player and would actually carry some solid trade value.
I have Russell on here instead of Dennis Wideman because I think the 28-year-old is a more tradeable player. Sure, you could move Wideman and his big salary somewhere, but you likely aren’t getting a ton for him because of that big price tag. Russell, on the other hand, is far easier to fit in financially and the reputation he has around the league would have a few teams eager to acquire his services.
Losing Russell isn’t the end of the world, especially if you’re okay with moving out Wideman. The two blueliners are comparable in terms of where they slot on the depth chart, and one isn’t a large upgrade on the other. With Dougie Hamilton’s addition and increased organizational depth on the back end, I could see Russell being a viable trade asset for the team this season.
I know that a lot of people like to group Colborne in with the rest of Calgary’s young group of forwards, but he’s actually not that young anymore. He’ll turn 26 in January which is no longer in the “young and promising” column, at least for me. Now, I’ve really liked Colborne’s progression over the last two years and I still think there’s still some nice potential. That potential, however, isn’t enough to keep him off this list.
Colborne is in a strange limbo land when it comes to the Flames. He’s not a part of their young core group of Monahan, Gaudreau, Bennett, etc. But he’s also not established enough to keep him in the long term plans as a veteran like Giordano, Backlund, or Frolik. When determining Colborne’s future with the team, one has to be pretty measured.
Colborne could absolutely have a regular spot in the lineup this season, I don’t doubt that. But he hasn’t done anywhere near enough to have that spot nailed down for the future. I don’t see Colborne in this team’s top six at any point, and I don’t know if he’s well suited to play a two way role in the bottom six. But on a team where he could get top six time, Colborne could be a nice fit.
Colborne has things that NHL GM’s like: size, skill, and a profile that says “first round pick” on it. He’s not going to get you a crazy return or anything like that, but a second or third round draft pick wouldn’t be a total stretch. Knowing that the Flames can live without him this year and beyond, trying to maximize his value this season could be a smart road to go down.
This is the one player I would be surprised to see spend all season with Calgary. That’s not even a knock on Jones, because I still think he’s a capable NHL forward. But at the age of 31 and with his contract, it doesn’t make a ton of sense for him to be with the team beyond this season. With that writing on the wall, and because he’s replaceable on this team, it would be a slight shock to not see him moved this season.
When I say Jones is replaceable, don’t confuse that with him being of replacement level quality. Instead, it refers to how deep the Flames are in the forward ranks. Jones is a bottom six winger and there are capable players who can fill his void if he is indeed moved for a pick or two.
If we’re pretty sure Calgary isn’t going to retain him beyond this season, and if he’s a player they can have success without, the question would be: why wouldn’t you trade him? Sure, Jones might only fetch a fourth or fifth round pick due to his high cap hit, but he’s not Hudler. There’s nowhere near as much benefit keeping Jones beyond the deadline as opposed to Hudler, so get what you can for him. It would also open up potential cap room if the Flames wanted to explore the rental route come February and March.
As we mentioned already, there are going to be circumstances when not trading a player and risking him leaving in free agency is the right call. But all four players listed above should, and likely will, be discussed as potential trade chips this season. That’s where the Flames are now boys and girls; they are no longer in a cap friendly situation. It’s time to determine who’s expendable, even if that isn’t always the most fun exercise