Report: Flames hope to ‘shock the system’ by trading Dman; Wideman, Russell could be on the block

Photo Credit: Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports

The Calgary Flames have been in the centre of trade rumours for about 10 days and as their on-ice struggles continue, those rumours is beginning to pick up an elevated sense of urgency.

Unlike most NHL teams the Flames have a surplus of defensemen, who are usually a hot commodity on the trade market. The sense that one gets reading and listening to some of the most reliable insiders in hockey is that the Flames would very much like to make a complicated three-dimensional hockey trade involving veteran Dennis Wideman. Wideman’s most frequent defense partner Kris Russell is hearing his names pop up in trade reports as well, though it still seems like the Flames would much prefer to keep the shot-blocking ace.

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“I don’t think there’s any question that (Flames general manager) Brad Treliving would like to shock the Calgary Flames system, at least get them playing better,” reported TSN’s Bob McKenzie during an Insider Trading segment on Tuesday night, “but he also doesn’t want to make a panic move for the sake of a move this early in the season.”

McKenzie elaborated on the situation, describing the club’s posture – and some of the assorted challenges – involved in moving one of their second-pairing defensemen:

Now they do have depth on defense. Dennis Wideman is a guy that’s been playing very well, and there is some interest in him, and the Calgary Flames have some interest in possibly moving him. But with two years left on his deal at $5.5 million and a no-trade clause, he’s got control of that situation in more ways than one.

Kris Russell is a defenseman on the Calgary Flames that a lot of teams have interest in, but at this point in time – as poor as Russell has played as poorly as the Flames have played – he’s an expiring contract, the Flames don’t want to move him right now and in fact would like to sign him to an extension.

In the same segment TSN and ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun added that the Buffalo Sabres are in the hunt for a top-four defenseman and have discussed the matter with the Flames. With Rasmus Ristolainen, Zach Bogosian and Cody Franson already on the Sabres roster though, you’d have to think their interest would be geared more towards adding a left-handed shooter like Russell.

In addition to Wideman’s steep cap-hit and his no-move clause limiting the Flames’ options, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman pointed out in his latest 30 Thoughts column, Wideman also carries a massive salary – especially in the final year of his contract:

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(Wideman’s) got a no-move clause, but even if he was willing, the problem is his $5.25 million cap hit next season — with an actual salary of $6 million. With so many teams so tight to the ceiling, it’s going to be hard for someone to take it.

If you’re looking for teams with both the need, the cap-space, and the financial solvency to add the full freight of Wideman’s deal, well, you’re pretty much limited to the Sabres. Maybe the Anaheim Ducks? It’s an extremely short list.

Which is why, if the Flames are insistent on moving Wideman, they’ll probably have to add an additional layer of complexity to the transaction by agreeing to retain some salary. As Ryan Pike pointed out in his guide to Flames trade rumours earlier on Tuesday evening:

Even if Wideman didn’t have a no-move, the Flames would probably need to eat a bad contract, or retain salary, or throw in a good pick or prospect to move Wideman. I doubt it happens.

Hard to argue with that, frankly.

It seems that as much as the Flames would prefer to keep Russell in the organization, if the club ultimately decides that they need to shake things up with a trade that may net them legitimate value, he has to be defensemen to move. Russell’s deal is affordable at $2.6 million, and it’s expiring, and if the Flames decide to put him on the market, you’d have to believe that he’d generate significant interest. 

Whether the Flames opt to dangle Russell between now and the NHL trade deadline could hinge on the transitional defensive defenseman’s contract demands. Friedman lists Chris Tanev, T.J. Brodie, Andrej Sekera and Matthias Ekholm as comparables, but most of those players’ cap-hits are pulled down by the fact that their respective teams bought out a variety of their restricted free agent seasons. 

One might note that unlike Russell; Sekera, Tanev and Brodie are top-pair defensemen. Their unrestricted seasons are all valued in the neighbourhood of $5 million (or a bit more). Ekholm is a second pairing guy with mostly defensive value, so that comparable might work a bit better, but if you eliminate the restricted season that the Predators purchased from him, the Swedish defender is being paid an average salary of $3.9 million per for his unrestricted years.

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Can the Flames really afford to add a long-term salary commitment of that size when they still have big extensions to work out with both Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau in the next 10 months? Feel free to colour me skeptical.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I would not be sad to see Russell go. Last year, I mistakenly believed that he was the better option compared to Wideman, but I’ve changed my mind. I’d love to see Wideman’s contract disappear, but if that means eating part of it, plus resigning Russell to a fat $4M+ contract forget it.

    Trade Russell get and asset back, then flog Wideman in his final year.

    • loudogYYC

      I sure hope it is, TSN guys will do a solid every now and then. Hope this is one of those cases.

      In the end common sense will have to kick in, next season you’ll either have Wideman on the last year of a contract at $5.25M and an asset from a Russell trade, or you have Russell with a multi year $3.5M-$4M + the $2M or so retained in order to trade Wideman this season. Russell has to go now, while they can still cash in.

      Sad part is this won’t even be their biggest cap problem next season, they’ll have $6.416M tied up in two #7 defensemen in Smid and Engelland. If only Treliving can convince a GM Smid is a top 4 then we’ll have 2 dmen to dangle this season. Work your magic, Tree.

      • Peplinski's Thunderbird

        Agreed. It makes no sense to trade Wideman and retain salary, only to sign Russell to large contract.

        I like Russell for the most part. He’s a perfectly fine 4/5 Dman making 2.5 mil per year, but anything more than that is a reach IMO.

        I just wonder what the market will be for him and if it’s worthwhile to hang on to him as our own rental type player if we are in the playoff picture in February.

    • RexLibris

      That conversation would probably hinge on the Flames giving up Ortio with Wideman in exchange for Cam Ward or swapping Wideman for Clarkson.

      The Flames have $10.2 million in cap space to the Hurricanes’ $7.6 million and the Jackets’ $4.3 million.

        • Rock

          Assuming Wideman is top 4 you’d have to feel sorry for him in a Blue Jacket uniform with Torts ripping him to pieces. With the no trade he won’t go there. And poor Russell already was a Blue Jacket before.

      • ChinookArchYYC

        Rex, despite being an Oil fan you usually post reasonable stuff & try to be objective. But I have no idea where this came from. Friedman confirmed from other GM’s that Widemans stock has gone up because of his year last year & he hasn’t been on the horrible side of what we have seen this year. There is more value in a 2nd pairing offensive PP player than swapping horrible contracts. Why in God’s name would even consider taking on Ward to add to the Hiller & Ramo fiasco that is costing us over 8.0 mill of our cap space. Clarkson???? Really???? For Wideman???? Cmon, this is just trolling, thought you were above that.

        I am embracing the fact that we are probably not going to get any playoffs this year. That’s ok I guess, just would like to see them play the type of hockey we all loved from last year. To me, we are committed to Brodie/Hamilton & Gio. Those 3 are here no matter how piss poor this year goes. Let’s start getting some of the new guys in here, Nakladal, Kulak, Morrison, hell, lets bring Kylington up for a few cameo appearances at some point. If we can move both Wideman & Russell for the sake of cap, getting prospects & picks & maybe even a high end young player, do it. Don’t care if we do it now or wait until January, whenever gets us the best return.

      • EhPierre

        Simply preposterous.

        For your sake, I hope that you’re trolling…otherwise, my condolences on your lack of insight when it comes to player valuation and the trade market.

      • Bean-counting cowboy

        um. no.

        Wideman has one season after this with his cap hit of 5.25 mil. Clarkson has the same cap hit, but for FOUR more years after this.

        plus he makes 7 mil actual NHL salary for two of those years!

  • EhPierre

    I actually love Wideman and the offensive threat he is each time he’s on the ice. You always feel like he’s gonna make something happen, especially when JH is on the ice too. But his defence is just awful although he’s been a bit better with Gio..

    Russell is just a mess. I really hope flames trade him because I don’t see any value in signing him long term. Kulak is better, probably Nakladal, maybe even.. Engelland

    Nvm Engs is not better. He’s just like bollig but on D

  • MontanaMan

    I would trade Wideman for anything at this point. There is no loss on defence and it frees up money for the next two years. He has some offensive upside but he’s soft as butter, rarely makes a good first pass (especially under pressure) and too slow wide against quick forwards. Yes, Russell has struggled (as have most of the defence) but he’s a much better skater and moves the puck well. For my money, trade Wideman and Backlund (highly overrated) and get picks in return.

  • RKD

    They can’t move Wideman and teams don’t want to be stuck with that cap hit. Russell is younger, cheaper and a tremendous shot blocker. However, he struggles defensively and hasn’t been great with Wides this year. Kulak has looked good in his time with the Flames. Once Brodie returns, a d-man will probably get moved especially if they can’t turn this around.

  • Call me crazy but I haven’t hated Wideman. He is no world beater and he certainly shouldn’t be a top 2 pairing but he seems to me to be a decent top 4 defender at least when comparing to what we have witnessed so far with the rest. One that puts up points and can skate can be especially attractive.

    Having said that, is Wisniewski a good comparable to Wideman? If so, it will be a crappy return if the latest trade with the hurricanes is any indication.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Yeah, I’m on the Trade Russell bandwagon. Get some value for him, then next season have Wotherspoon or Kulak play up with the big team. It’s not as much cap relief as trading Wideman would be, but if other teams are that interested in Russell, get some value for him and go that route.

  • The last thing this team needs is another “shock”.
    We are missing Brodie,Bouma and Ferklund. Hiller looks like he’s throwing games,we re-signed Ramo for 3.9Mil and then put him on waivers,Ortio is put in a horrific spot as hero or goat…Smid is back from the dead and as long as Burke is here,Laddy will be too.Gio is just coming around after his injury and Hammy is like a deer caught in headlights….I could go on and on…

    The Hockey Gods giveth last year,but man,they taketh away this year.

    If we trade a vet Dman in a hungry market,we better get the lions share in return.

  • EhPierre

    Apparently Dallas is willing to trade their first rounder/one of their young defensemen for a veteran defender cuz apparently they think their window is now.

    Idk how their cap looks like but Wideman for a first? Or if Tre is God, Wides for Nichuskin? A man can dream right?

    Edit: apparently they have 1.3 mil in cap space which means we’d have to take back someone like hemsky or klinberg

    • Max_Power

      I think Dallas may be a legit #1 defence man away from being a true cup contender.
      Just out of curiosity, what do people think they’d give up for Gio?
      I’m not saying we should trade Gio, but Gio is not getting younger and the flames are still a few years away. If a team like Dallas thinks their window is now and are willing to overpay.

      How about something like
      To Dallas: Gio, and Hiller (retained salary for cap reasons)
      To Calgary: Lehtonen, Nichushkin, First Rounder, another pick/prospect?

      Dallas gets a legit # 1 in Gio and a stable back up for Niemi.

      Calgary gets good young pieces to continue the rebuild, and a slight upgrade in goal. Lehtonen can be the number one for a couple years until the rebuild is over and Gilles takes over.


    • Peplinski's Thunderbird

      Take back Klingberg?

      What are you smoking and can I buy some?

      Klingberg is arguably their best Dman, and is 23 years old. He’s one of the rising stars of the league.

      Take back Klingberg…. my god man. You’d have to offer Sam Bennet for Klingberg. Seriously.

      • EhPierre

        I only said Klingberg because of his cap hit, which is 4.25 and is the only way the deal would have worked (with the flames taking a contract back at least $4mill) I don’t follow the Stars and thought their back end was generally weak. My bad.

        Didn’t realize he is that good since apparently it’ll take a Bennet to take him

        • Tomas Oppolzer

          Klingberg was arguably the best rookie d-man last year (better stats than Ekblad in almost every way, despite tougher competition and less games) and was at the very least the 2nd best. He is a marquee defensive prospect in the NHL.

    • Parallex

      “Excellent article by Haynes”

      There is no such thing.

      Haynes is a pretty good writer (in terms of his ability to wordsmith) but if you were to throw a nerf ball into the crowd at the Saddledome no matter who you hit that person would have no less knowledge then Haynes. He doesn’t provide any content that you couldn’t find in the Sun sports section nor is he an insider.

      Like I said good writer… but no matter how well you write you can’t turn the uninsightful into the insightful.