Has Derek Grant Made Markus Granlund Expendable?

Last season, the Calgary Flames made Max Reinhart one of their first recalls from their American Hockey League affiliate in Adirondack. A third-year pro, Reinhart was coming up to the end of his entry-level deal and as a player drafted and signed by a previous regime, he was given a shot to prove himself.

He was fine in the NHL, but hardly made a case for future employment. He was soon dispatched back to the AHL, and other players got shots subsequently. Reinhart was traded in the off-season. Based upon the two recalls from the farm thus far this season, I suspect that Derek Grant’s emergence as a useful bottom-six player may have turned Markus Granlund into this season’s version of Max Reinhart.

ALL ABOUT GRANLUND

Markus Granlund is 22. He’s 5’11” and 190-ish pounds. His game is based on finesse and speed, and he came to the Flames system after a few fairly productive seasons in the Finnish SM-Liiga. On the farm, he’s proven to be one of their better players – with a season each in Abbotsford, Adirondack and now Stockton as one of their most prolific offensive weapons and two-way players.

As of this writing, Granlund has suited up for 56 games in the NHL with the Calgary Flames. He’s primarily been used as a third and fourth-line center, with occasional time on the power-play and penalty kill, and he’s amassed 21 points in that time-span. However, two obstacles have stood in the way of Granlund becoming an everyday NHLer: Calgary’s forward depth and his face-off struggles.

FORWARD DEPTH

When Granlund was drafted in 2011 (by Jay Feaster), the Flames didn’t have many good centers – and had few strong center prospects. Aside from Mikael Backlund, the jury was out on the future of the team up the middle. But in 2013 the club drafted Sean Monahan (who went straight to the NHL) and in 2014 they selected Sam Bennett (who also went straight to the NHL), while Josh Jooris came out of nowhere, Bill Arnold won an NCAA championship and became a more prominent prospect, and Matt Stajan revitalized his career by becoming a strong bottom-six center. All of a sudden, Markus Granlund is roughly fifth or sixth on the depth chart in terms of centers.

It might be even worse for wingers. Granlund would have to compete with Kenny Agostino and Emile Poirier for call-ups on the wing, and would have to oust any number of established wingers (Gaudreau, Frolik, Hudler, Bouma, Ferland, Jones…) for ice-time. The only guys the coaching staff would probably rotate him in over on the wings are Mason Raymond and Brandon Bollig, which would likely mean he’d have to play a bottom-six role on the wings, too.

MEET DEREK GRANT

Grant was signed by the Flames on July 1 as a free agent, brought in by Brad Treliving. He came over from the Ottawa Senators system, where he played 25 NHL games in 2012-13 and 2013-14 but otherwise spent time as a reliable pivot for the Binghamton Senators of the AHL. But as a 6’3″, 210ish pound player, Grant seems much more physically-suited to a grinding bottom-six role on the Flames.

And that’s before we get into face-offs.

FACE-OFFS AND THEIR IMPACT

In 29 NHL games, Derek Grant has won 54.5% of his draws, with only 35% offensive zone starts. That’s quite good for a depth guy, as his face-off prowess allows the coaching staff to give favourable starts to the team’s more offensively-suited players, while his size probably helps in puck retrieval. Markus Granlund in his NHL career has won only 38% of his draws, one of the lowest percentages during that time-span in the entire league. Perhaps because of his face-off struggles, he’s gotten 51.8% offensive zone starts in his career, which likely hamstrings the coaching staff’s ability to give the high ground to their top lines.

SUM IT UP

Markus Granlund is a really good AHL player. He probably should be in the NHL by now. But because of the specific circumstances in Calgary – he’s behind a bunch of more established players that can win face-offs as a center, and he’s less established as a winger and behind even more players there – it’s very unlikely that he’ll get a shot going forward. The fact that Derek Grant got the second recall (after Granlund went up and down rather quietly earlier this season) and Grant’s success as a role player during his time in the line-up probably seals Granlund’s fate going forward.

Much like Max Reinhart, Granlund’s a prospect inherited from a prior regime. He’s a player with some value, undoubtedly, but at this point rather than being a fringe guy trying to break into the NHL, he’s probably an asset that they’ll try to maximize in value over the remainder of the season.

  • Brent G.

    If you could get a return of substance (ie mid to late 1st), you have to look at it.

    That being said, granlund doesn’t seem to fit in the bottom 6 centre role, but could he potentially play top 6 wing? Agostino and porier look to have potential but they haven’t had a start to the year that leads you to believe they are guaranteed top 6 wingers (or even nhlers yet).

    I guess what I’m trying to say, it’s too early to pull the trigger on a trade for granlund unless the return is meaningful.

    • wot96

      A mid to late 1st is too high a price. If you get a 2nd for Granlund you would be doing reasonably well. I doubt there are too many teams out there looking for him so I suspect that the Flames would be more inclined to offer him up as a sweetener for taking a meh to poor contract off our hands.

      I quite like the kid but Ryan is right, where does he fit in this line up or the line up they are likely to have next year or the year after?

  • everton fc

    I like Granlund as a player but totally agree, he just doesn’t fit. But he could make the NHL on some other prospect starving teams. I mentioned on the game thread from last night. The emergence of Backlund, Frolick & Bennett as a bonafide solid scoring line is huge. I know we all have Bennett at centre sugar plums dancing in our head but…. Bennett looked fantastic on that line. Those guys consistently were able to generate decent scoring chances on most shifts. If this is what it takes to unleash the offensive side of Backlund, hell ride the wave. Suddenly Hudler Monahan & Gaudreau aren’t under the smothering scrutiny of the opposition’s shutdown commandos. Grant looked good out there, he isn’t a speed demon but the kid has solid board work & wins face-offs. I’m sold.

    So now we have an interesting scenario. Leafs are so hungry for prospects & picks, can we package up Hiller, Granlund & maybe another prospect(Wotherspoon) or pick (3rd?) for Bernier. I think Gilles needs time in the AHL. Not sure how long Bernier is out for, but when he gets back, I think Ortio can clear waivers. Isn’t there a rule that a player picked up on waivers has to stay with the team that claimed him for a period of time? Then we can take our time & decide whether we go with Ramo or Bernier(RFA). I see Granlund cracking the Leafs line up right away & they can cut ties with Hiller at the end of the year & have a good alternative to Reimer. Just spitballing.

    The other thing is would we maybe consider Granlund ++ to Philly for Simmonds? Simmonds with Monahan & Gaudreau may not be a bad fit & would allow us to possibly sell Hudler at the TDL & try to get another 1st rounder.

  • JumpJet

    Maybe I’ve got my Flames coloured glasses on but I still believe Granlund has a higher ceiling than any forward prospect other than Poirier. He plays a skilled game but is smart enough in his own end to play a bigger role than PP specialist. The face-offs is certainly a concern, but long term he could make a better winger than Agostino, Shore (who also might not make it as a center), Hathaway, and maybe even Klimchuk.

    If the Flames trade away Granlund I think he would make them regret it.

    • Cfan in Vic

      They wouldn’t regret it if they don’t have a place to slot him in. I agree that Granlund has a lot of promise due to his offensive talent and gritty style, but where, and when do they play him. If they use him as center, they need someone who can take draws for him (a big deterrent).

      I like him too, and don’t see Grant as a better version of Granlund, but Grant seems really effective in the bottom 6, and then what do you do with Granlund.

      Trade value.

    • Cfan in Vic

      He’s been winning board battles, blocking guys out on the cycle, and generally getting the puck to go the right way. The fact that he’s not standing out, I think, is a direct result of him playing the 4th line center roll to a tee.

      I’ve been watching closely the last three games he’s played and there’s a lot to like about how he’s filling that role.

    • Könniek

      We watched him closer at the Philly & Pitt games just because we didn’t know who the heck he was & why was he called up before some of our other guys. He is not fast, I agree. But he was positionally solid & won face-offs. Really, what more do you want from a 4th line player. He’s perfect & he won’t cost a goofy amount of salary. You pay Stajan 3.1 mill per, he kinda has to play 3rd line. & last night Stajan did a yeoman job against Crosby. Stajan playing 4th line at the cap hit won’t be a luxury we can have for too much longer.

  • Könniek

    Ryan, are you suggesting the Flames should resign David Jones? That the team should keep Mason Raymond, Brandon Bollig, and Matt Stajan?

    I’m in favour of keeping a young affordable prospect than holding on to some of the expensive bottom six.

  • First Name Unidentified

    Being above-average at winning draws is a very employable skill and thats why Grant should earn a regular NHL job just like Yelle, Malhotra, and more recently, Stoll had regular jobs. In addition, he is doing a decent job of skating. Imagine every time he wins a draw and Johnny gets the possession. Decent chance the puck will end up in the enemy zone

    Yes, Grant should be up

  • Cfan in Vic

    I like Derek Grant, but I’ve never believed the role he plays is Granlund’s NHL Role.

    Granlund’s NHL Role will be effective as a top 6 winger. Score goals. Make pretty passes. Get shots through defenders. Score more goals. Kill penalties.

    The fact that Hartley has challenged him to be better at center duties while he’s still a prospect doesn’t mean Granlund will plateau as a Max Reinhart. Granlund is much, much more skilled.

    • Cfan in Vic

      I agree with all of that. But where and when are we going to have room in our top 6?

      Pretty soon, he won’t be waver exempt, and then we’d have to keep him up permanently. Is that going to happen soon? Probably not. It’s better to extract some value than lose him on waivers (small salary, young, decent up-side).

      • Christian Roatis

        The following players did not make their team until they were waiver-eligible IIRC:

        Valteri Filppula
        Jiri Hudler
        Gustav Nysquist
        Tomas Tatar
        Teemu Pulkinen

        When they did make their team, they were big time producers for their team.

        • Cfan in Vic

          The Wings have seemingly always had a great development strategy, and plan the long-term accordingly.

          I’m not saying that kind of foresight is beyond this team, but Detroit has been the development model of this league for quite a while, and I don’t see this team being quite as calculated with their long term projects.

          I see a jam where Granlund needs to go, and it’s looking like they’ll have to put him in a big role soon, or move him.

          • OKG

            You haven’t paid much attention to Treliving, then. Everything he says is all about development, over-riping, waiver status, etc.

            The only prospects he’s moved out so far?:

            Knight is not as good as Shore.

            Sven asked for a trade.

            Reinhart asked for a trade.

            Ramage/Hanowski did not have much of a ceiling.

  • Christian Roatis

    I think Derek Grant makes Markus Granlund expendable as a 4th line centre, because Granlund isn’t made to be a 4th line centre. He needs to be in the Top 9 – in some sort of scoring role – to be effective.

    Granlund is still a better offensive prospect, and I think he could have a lot more NHL success if he moves to the wing. That doesn’t seem to be an option however, and the Flames need someone who can win face-offs and play that grinder role, so Derek Grant is the better option in this circumstance. Doesn’t devalue Granlund though, IMO.

    EDIT: Basically exactly what OKG said above.

  • Christian Roatis

    I’ve been predicting Granlund will end up as a third line winger for two years now so nothing here really surprises me other than the fact that it seems very premature to be shipping him out of town. Yes, he’s not the biggest or fastest, but let’s not forget the skill and speed parts. The guy can generate offense and posy a two way game.

    As for the depth argument, Bollig, Hudler, Jones and Raymond are not exactly long term players here. In other words, space will open up soon enough. Besides, the thought of him playing on a line with Backlund and Frolik is fascinating. I’m not sure the opposition would ever touch the puck with that trio out there. They’d make the perfect third line: the ability to shut down other team’s top lines and to destroy other team’s third lines.

    I’ll say it again. Rebuild, year three!!! So how about we be patient with the 22 year old?

    • ClayBort

      The rubber hits the road at some point. Sometimes you are forced to monetize a guy, even if you like him. This isn’t the same situation as the Flames with Baertschi. Sven wasn’t waiver eligible for a little while.

      As a player approaches waiver eligibility, his trade value starts to plummet. Teams know they could just wait and try to submit a claim. It’s not uncommon to see decent prospects shipped for mid to late round picks (NCAA drafted players close to Aug 15 as well).

      The question isn’t whether or not we still like Granlund… it’s would you rather get a 2nd or 3rd rounder for him or nothing?

  • KACaribou

    As per usual, the blogger is jumping the gun in search of a controversial story.

    Granlund is a 38% faceoff man it says. Ironically Grant was 38% against the Penguins.

    I like Grant too, but to say in a few games that Granlund is expendable reminds me of getting rid of Ortio talk after a couple of bad games… or dump Ramo – he’s terrible takes… or this team was lucky last year and the losing ways of the beginning of this season is the real Flames… and get rid of the coach he’s lost the room takes…

    etc… etc… etc…

      • KACaribou

        Dude: A doctor is a doctor, a lawyer is a lawyer, a garbage man is a sanitary engineer, and a person who has a blog is a blogger. You sir, are a blogger. If for some reason that embarrasses you, find something else to do. It’s a free country. If you had a job at Sports Illustrated or the Calgary Herald, I would call you a sports writer. See definition below:

        “A blog (a truncation of the expression weblog)is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web and consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first). Until 2009, blogs were usually the work of a single individual[citation needed], occasionally of a small group, and often covered a single subject. More recently “multi-author blogs” (MABs) have developed, with posts written by large numbers of authors and professionally edited. MABs from newspapers, other media outlets, universities, think tanks, advocacy groups and similar institutions account for an increasing quantity of blog traffic. The rise of Twitter and other “microblogging” systems helps integrate MABs and single-author blogs into societal newstreams. Blog can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.

        “The emergence and growth of blogs in the late 1990s coincided with the advent of web publishing tools that facilitated the posting of content by non-technical users. (Previously, a knowledge of such technologies as HTML and FTP had been required to publish content on the Web.)

        “A majority are interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments and even message each other via GUI widgets on the blogs, and it is this interactivity that distinguishes them from other static websites.[2] In that sense, blogging can be seen as a form of social networking service. Indeed, bloggers do not only produce content to post on their blogs, but also build social relations with their readers and other bloggers.[3] However, there are high-readership blogs which do not allow comments, such as Daring Fireball.

        “Many blogs provide commentary on a particular subject…”

  • ClayBort

    I think the issue is Granlund approaching waiver eligibility. He’ll get claimed. If the Flames can’t make a home for him, or he can’t carve one out for himself, they should try to find a good return for him.

    Same goes for Wotherspoon.

  • everton fc

    I must admit, the thought of Grant making Granlund expendable never occurred to me. Granlund clearly isn’t going to be a wing here. Or so it seems. There’s never been an experiment in that direction, unless I’ve missed something.

    Ferland w/Grant would be interesting.

  • KACaribou

    The premise of this article is ok but the opening comparison to Reinhart is silly. Granlund had over 50 games XP and over 20 points.

    He has some trade value… he will not be just discarded like Reinhart was. If there is truly no fit he will be packages or moved for a 2nd rnd pick.

    There are still injuries to be had. He may yet get a shot on a scoring line. Grant isnt really a comparable type of player… he doesnt really make Granlund expendable. If we get an injury on a scoring line Granlund will get a shot before Grant.

  • Christian Roatis

    They shouldn’t be filling the same role, IMO. Derek Grant has played very well in the subtle areas of the game. He’s a big body, can protect the puck well and defend.

    The Flames need to continue to develop young skill on the wings. Granlund has proven he can deliver offensively as a small forward in the AHL. Rather than bring him up and play him in Grant-like roles (take faceoffs, muck & grind), why not try him on the wing in a top-6 role?

    Gaudreau-Monahan-Hudler
    Granlund-Bennett-Frolik
    Raymond-Backlund-Jones
    Colborne-Grant-Jooris

    Give him the opportunity to use his vision and puck skills. Adds more octane to the top-6, while allowing others (Colborne/Jones) to shuffle down the depth chart and succeed.

    He hasn’t stood out in recent games on the Flames roster, but he’s never going to be a good 4th line C. Square peg, round hole.