Cutting the Fat

Get out the red pens ladies and gentlemen. The Flames roster needs heavy editing. 

The Flames have too many bodies at every single position. Almost none of them can slip through waivers unencumbered. All the guys you’d want to demote are expensive. All the guys you could demote are too good. 

It’s definitely a conundrum. If a wave of injuries or trades don’t happen during training camp, Calgary will be facing a lot of tough decisions, with the possibility of either losing useful guys on waivers or burying a lot of money in the minors.

Here’s how things look currently. Who would you cut?

Forwards

Gaudreau – Monahan – Hudler 

Bouma – Backlund – Frolik

Raymond – Stajan – Jones

Ferland – Bennett – Jooris

Byron – Shore – Colborne

Bollig

That’s 16 NHL bodies without any of the kids like Bill Arnold, Markus Granlund or Emile Poirier pressing for a job. Even if the team wants to carry two extra forwards, that means they will have to demote at least two guys come October. Sam Bennett and Johnny Gaudreau are the only two forwards on this list who are waiver exempt, but they’re obviously not going anywhere. 

My choices

Brandon Bollig and Drew Shore. As regular readers can no doubt guess, I don’t think Bollig has much to offer at this point, having been made redundant by Ferland and Bouma. Shore is an intriguing player, but he hasn’t proven much at the NHL level and might be the one guy most likely to slip through waivers without being picked up. 

I considered Mason Raymond as well, but I think he can be rehabilitated to some degree. He has proven in the past that he can be a decent middle rotation winger in the NHL. Bollig can’t and Shore hasn’t proven anything. 

If Calgary is sending three guys down, my other choice is Joe Colborne. That’ll be unpopular with many, but I continue to be completely underwhelmed by the erstwhile Leaf. He personally doesn’t generate shots and the team doesn’t generate shots when he’s on the ice. He disappears for weeks at a time. He’s not physical enough to be a grinder. He’s probably never going to a scorer. At 26, I’m not sure we can expect too much more improvement out of him. 

Defense

Giordano – Hamilton

Brodie – Wideman

Russell – Engelland

Smid (Nakladal? Wilson?)

The blueline only really becomes complicated if one of the hopefuls makes a strong case to stick around. If the Flames decide that Nakladal, Wilson or one of the kids has earned a spot, they will have to demote one of Deryk Engelland or Ladislav Smid to make room (assuming Smid is cleared to play). 

With Smid on IR to start the season the Flames will likely be spared this decision for awhile. 

My Choices

If it comes to demoting someone, the choice is an easy one from an on-ice performance perspective. Deryk Engelland is a replacement level player at best. If Smid isn’t 100% (and he hasn’t been for awhile), he’s a good demotion candidate as well. 

Goaltenders

Hiller

Ramo

Ortio

Here’s where things get strange. 

Calgary’s best goalie is Jonas Hiller. By any measure you choose, in terms of both performance last year and career-wise. He’s also the oldest, the most expensive and, apparently, on the outs with the team. 

The problems with demoting Hiller are manifest. He’s a $4.5M salary, which is a huge pill for the owners to swallow. It’s also a massive gamble to go with a combination of Ramo (a career back-up in the NHL) and Joni Ortio (an untested rookie). 

Although we can assume the Flames will improve in terms of shot suppression this year, they probably still aren’t a club that can afford to go with mediocre or worse goaltending if they’re to make the playoffs again. Having good puckstopping is therefore essential to any aspirations the team might have this year. And Jonas Hiller is the best bet to give the club good goaltending. On top of all that, if you demote Hiller to the AHL to start the season, you essentially sewer the asset and almost guarantee he’ll be untradable for the rest of the season. 

On the other hand, the organization just re-signed Ramo, so they won’t be demoting him. And they probably don’t want to risk losing Ortio on waivers. 

My Choice 

Demote Joni Ortio. Even if the team doesn’t take advantage of the brief period where they can send someone down without risking waivers before the season starts, I think there’s a good chance that Ortio will make through waivers untouched. 

Remember that any team claiming him would have to put him on their active NHL roster, meaning a club would have to be picking up Ortio to be their back-up. Right now I don’t think I see any team who would necessarily make that choice. 

It’s the best option out of collection of bad ones. If Brad Treliving deserves any kind of criticism this summer, it might be for the state of Calgary’s goaltending situation right now. The team had a natural succession plan in place with Hiller signed for two years and Ortio tabbed to be his back-up. I’m not sure why the team has turned on Hiller or why they re-signed Ramo without a plan to get rid of him (did a trade or two go south?), but this mess might force them to humiliate a veteran net minder making $4M+ year (and who had the best stats of any Flames goalie last year) or to risk losing one of their better prospects on waivers for nothing. 

Conclusion

If nothing changes in the next few weeks, it’s entirely possible the Flames will be stashing more than $6M in salary in the minors. On the hand, they might lose a quality body or two to the waiver process. Or some mix therein. 

At the very least, we can expect a couple of forwards and at least one goalie to be playing elsewhere when the season opens.

  • everton fc

    I’ll start with the keepers, which I think will be the easiest decision, as the Flames re-signed Ramo.

    Ortio back to the AHL. He and Gilles can run the show down there, though I know they have another goalie there, as well. We might be surprised to see Ramo moved, though. Who knows. The idea of demoting Hiller is, and will remain, a zero percent possibility.

    Defence is the next easiest for me, though I doubt my ideas will reach the front office. Nakladal stays. You sign Wilson if he proves healthy enough. If not you keep Engelland (didn’t say I support this). If Wilson’s signed, waive/trade Engelland. Smid stay on IR.

    Forwards:

    Byron may start the season on IR. If not, he’s got a lot of catching up to do. I’d move Raymond if possible for a pick, but our left side isn’t deep unless you move Bennett back there, which we won’t. Bouma/Raymond/Ferland/Byron/Bollig isn’t deep. Which may save one of Raymond or Byron. Or both.

    If Byron were healthy out of the gate, Raymond’s time here would be short, me thinks…

    Bollig will probably be retained. Again, not saying I agree.

    Down the middle, Shore’s only hope is on the RW. We are set, at centre. I’d put Shore in the AHL. But he has to clear waivers. And I don’t think he will, which may mean adding him to a package deal. Or, he replaces Colborne, but I don’t think Colborne’s going anywhere. The “org” seems to like Colborne. I’d personally like to see Poirier or Shore get Colborne’s minutes, but Colborne may just be a big, 3rd/4th line guy who can win the odd faceoff while using his size in the corners. Apparently he’s gained some more muscle. Maybe this helps him here.

    Arnold has one more year in the “A”. Poirier’s closer to the NHL. Granlund is the mystery, as he’s never been tried at wing here, like Shore has. His only hope is if Bennett moves to the wing, which he won’t, though again our left side is not strong, by my eyes. Has Bennett played any wing in the pre-season yet?

  • Parallex

    I think what the team should do and what the team will do will be radically different.

    I’m not so worried about the goaltender situation… I think they keep Ortio and let it be known that they’re willing to eat money on either of the others in trade. I think Hiller could be traded at that price point without much difficulty.

    At defense it’s even easier, Smid probably won’t be ready to start the season so the only immediate question is whether they want 7 or 8 D on the roster. If the answer is 8 then you simply sign Wilson and you’re done if it’s 7 then you pick whichever of Nakladal/Wilson has the best camp and demote/decline to sign the other (and that choice isn’t one to cause sleepless nights).

    Forward is where the real tough choice will need to be made. Bollig is the easy choice to cut… but that will likely lead to Burke mumbling “something, something, something, TRUCULANCE! something, something, something, BEEF!”… so maybe Treliving doesn’t want that aggrevation. Ultimately I guess I would wager that Bollig and Raymond end up going one way or the other.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Hope you are right on Bollig and Raymond!! I think Ferland and Bouma effectively replace Bollig truculence, as for Raymond if he can’t put the bisket in the basket he is totally useless as a Flame.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Too bad we can’t pick the injuries! One of these marginal, borderline forwards would have been palpable… even a relief for Treliving. TJ Brodie…. this sucks.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    One note on Joe Colborne; he was battling a pretty bad wrist injury most of last season and had fairly extensive reconstructive surgery this off-season. Not trying to make excuses, but there is quite often more than meets the eye as to how a player performs at times. I would think this would impact at the least his shot quantity and quality.

  • KH44

    Need to start looking at age groupings and continue evolving the team by making room for fresh blood.

    Jones is over 30, in the last year of his contract, and is a top candidate to be traded.

    Wideman is 32, in his last contract year, is coming off a 50 point season. He has high trade value but likely will be retained at least until the trade deadline unless someone offers up a 1st round pick in the next few weeks.

    Other 30+ vets that have decent trade value are Raymond, Stajan and Russell. Despite the latter two are particularly well-liked, moving 1 or 2 of these three would support team renewal.

    Three other 30+ players that have less trade value are Bollig, Smid and Engelland. Any reasonable (or less than reasonable) trade offers would assuredly be welcomed.

    • Parallex

      I think Wideman has two years left and a No Trade clause.

      Raymond and Russell aren’t 30 yet.

      Problem with trading everyone is that all these other teams know we need to trade players. I would prefer to bury vets in Stockton, if no one bites, and if they get claimed, so be it. To minimize that, the higher the salary, the better, even though it provides no real cap relief.

    • everton fc

      Russell turned 28 in May. Bollig will be 29 in January.

      I’d keep Russell.

      With Brodie out, we don’t look so deep on “d”. Russell/Wideman is ideally a 5/6 pairing. I see it this way

      Gio/Nakladal
      Hamilton/Wideman or Wilson
      Russell/Wilson or Wideman (or a youngster)

      Anyone think these work?

      • everton fc

        Not really.

        I think

        Gio/Hamilton
        Russell/Wideman
        Wilson/Engs/Nakladal

        with Russell/Wideman going to the third pairing if Wilson/Nakladal can handle the 2nd pairing.

      • Toofun

        Yes agree…a couple of the players are not quite 30.

        However the point is that they are moving in to the territory where they are preventing some of our NHL-ready players from getting space on the team and continuing our rebuild.

        Of these we can generally separate most of the 28+ players as providing more value (capability combined with contract space) or less value.

        Russell and Bollig are two great examples of each category.

        Regarding D pairings with Brodie out I see them as follows:
        – Gio & Hamilton
        – Russell & Wideman
        Nakladal/Rasmussen & Engelland

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Brodie’s injury takes the mystery out of the top pairing… at least to start the year. The other pairings as well.

    Gio/Hamilton

    Russell/Wideman

    Wilson or Wotherspoon/Engelland

    • Trevy

      Totally agree with this scenario regarding our defenseman.

      As for the forwards, Bollig is the obvious first choice. Personally I think Raymond has been a bust and watching him in preseason, it seems nothing has changed. BT is no dummy, he went as far to admit he made a rookie GM mistake by signing the likes of Raymond and Bollig all because he never really knew what he had with the Flames and I’m sure Bollig was a result of trying to score brownie points with Burkie. Now that he’s evaluated the entire organization, you can be sure he’s been trying to peddle Raymond secretly behind closed doors. Not an easy task. Therefore, I see Raymond staying just to showcase him further until some team gets desperate with injuries. Having said that, I would imagine Shore to be the one sent down. Interestingly enough, I wonder if LA would claim him as they are currently seeking a 4th line centre. He would come cheap and get a chance to play with his brother.

      As for the goalie situation, they would be making a huge gamble exposing Ortio. Instead, I would just bite the bullet and send Hiller down.

  • Toofun

    Just wondering how waivers works.

    If we send a player with a bad contract down and he gets picked up by another team, do the Flames simply lose the asset (the player) and the liability (the contract) or is there another twist I don’t know about?

    In the case of goalies, it implies that we can demo both Hiller and Ramo for a while and put the worse one on waivers. If they are picked up then no big deal as we kept the best one and we didn’t really give up anything to get him in the first place since Ramo was a free agent.

    If the demoted goalie isn’t picked up then we get to keep important depth at only the cost of a salary (ok $4 milion is steep insurance but hey this is an important position.)

    What am I missing here?

  • Toofun

    I think Granlund is making a case for himself.. but the forwards that I think should be cut are Shore, Poirier, Bollig and Arnold.

    I would also like to see Kulak get a second look, but for me I think Smid will be cut to on a “conditioning stint” that will last the rest of his contract.

    • Brent G.

      I agree. I didn’t think Shore or Poirier looked all that outstanding at the Calgary game. They could use a little more seasoning in the AHL.

      I think it would be a great idea to explore the trade market for Stajan and Wideman today. Looking at the Flames cap after this season, they should have no trouble signing Gaudreau or Monahan but don’t see how they can keep or replace Hudler. Getting this money off the books would be an ideal situation and, fortunately, I do think both players have enough value, you would expect marginal returns from both.

      I’m really curious to see what Arnold can do. I would expect he is made for a 4th line center role perfectly, leaving Stajan expendable. I like Stajan but you really can’t keep everyone.

  • Toofun

    Putting young guys like Shore and Ortio on waivers is something that a team looking to win it all does. This is still a rebuilding team, with just as much (maybe more) chance of missing the playoffs as making them. Decisions for this team should be based on making this team the best team it can be in two years when realistically its window of competitive opportunity should open up.

    Doing anything less (including signing older veteran defensemen) is no different than what Sutter did after 2004. Thinking that the team made the playoffs and now every decision has to be about making the playoffs. Even if this team misses the playoffs but performs the same way as last year and allows its young players to develop along with integrating in more youth, speed, and skill this season will be a success.

  • Parallex

    To that end you need to find some way of removing the following players from the teams roster. Hopefully through trades, but if need be through demotions.

    Hiller

    Engelland – Smid

    Raymond – Jones – Boling

    Stajan I trade at the deadline when every team is looking for center ice depth.

    Send the young players down that don’t have to clear waivers (Arnold, Granlund, Poirier) and bring them up when there are injuries. But make sure to let them play lots on minutes and develop on the farm.

    The young players that are here that cant clear waivers need to be given a chance to play. A chance to develop. And that is what the coaching staff is for. Teach these young players to be NHL players and show them how to be professionals that can win.

  • KH44

    Forwards without a spot:
    Bollig-Shore-Raymond

    Bollig has no point, Shore is older, and hasn’t proven himself, and Raymond lost his spot to younger, cheaper options. That being said, the team seems to have a soft spot for Bollig and Raymond, and I feel like Ferland, Shore and Byron might be the odd ones out.

    As for the back end, with the injury to Brodie, that buys space for someone, as does Smid’s injury.

    I have Wotherspoon being kept up and Wilson being signed, and both of them dropped when injuries end.

    As for goalies, I have Hiller and Ramo being kept, and us losing Ortio on the waiver wire.

    Because, you know, why manage assets and plan for the future?

  • Trevy

    I’ll go with the keepers:

    1st line: Johnny/Mony/Frolik
    2nd line: Bouma/Backlund/Jones
    3rd line: Ferkland/Bennett/Jooris
    4th line: Granlund/Stajan/Colborne
    Ex. Raymond/Byron

    Defense:
    Gio/Hamilton
    Wotherspoon/Wideman
    Russell/Nakladal
    Ex. Engelland

    Forward logic: Raymond has not looked to be in the same level as the other top 9, but he can be kept as an option. Byron is a utility guy that can cover for any position. Shore and Bollig are the ones to be cut.

    Defense logic: Wotherspoon is capable of playing top 4 minutes, possibly allowing for Russell to take some of his minutes with Wideman. I am not 100% a fan of using the Russell/Wideman combo, as they were a defensive liability last season. Nakladal looks pro ready, so I think he is ok to start limited minutes in the NHL. Even with his lack of experience in NA, he is still looking like a better option than Engelland. Smid starts on IR, and Wilson should be signed then waived to start the season. He is coming off an injury shortened season, so I think they need to start him with the AHL group to learn the Flames’ systems.

      • KH44

        Doooh….

        Forgot that adding Granlund put us at 17 forwards.
        So, Hudler goes in the RW to help develop Bennett, and Jooris becomes and extra. So long Raymond or Byron, whoever shows the least at camp. Granlund has been one of the better prospects at camp, so I think he should stay over Raymond. Granlund has ability to be a 2-way player, whereas Raymond is strictly a top 6 offensive player.

    • KH44

      Disagree with Wotherspoon being “Top 4 ready”…he hasn’t shown yet he is capable of breaking in the top 6 yet.

      With Brodie out I would not drop Russell down to the 3rd pairing…best to keep he and Wideman together who played top 2 minutes for 30 games and playoffs last year and did very well.

      Given Brodie’s absence Engelland will likely be matched with whomever has the best camp and chemistry with Engelland on the third pairing…Wotherspoon, Nakladal, Wilson, Kulak, Morrison, Rasmussen.