It’s only the second week of January, but already every game is taking on the desperate feel of a “must win”. The Pacific Division is so tightly packed that any team not named “The Kings” can be in or out of the playoffs on the turn of a two game winning (or losing) streak.
@Kent_Wilson with the horrible divisional home loss to the lowly coyotes shud the Flames start to consider tanking?
— Buzz the Dog (@burleywonderdog) January 8, 2016
Right now the Flames are tied with the Sharks for 5th in division with 40 points. But they are only two points behind 3rd placed Vancouver (with two games in hand) and three points up on the basement dwelling Oilers.
There isn’t much more clarity if we pull back and look at league wide standings. The Flames currently occupy 26th overall, but are only six points up on last place (Columbus) and six points back of 15th (Ottawa). A good January or February can put them smack dab in the meaty part of the standings, but a prolonged losing streak will put them in the Auston Matthews race.
From the perspective of the trade deadline, the Flames aren’t clear buyers or sellers at this point. Hopefully the next few weeks simplifies things for Calgary’s decision makers.
With that in mind, we mull over some the clubs trade options in latest edition of mailbag, including Jonathan Drouin, Ben Bishop and Kerby Rychel.
@Kent_Wilson is there a real chance at all that we could land Drouin?
— Thomas Kellner (@altokells29) January 8, 2016
@Kent_Wilson Drouin checks a lot of boxes for the Flames. What would be the absolute most you would give up for him?
— Sean Sheppard (@SoupySean21) January 9, 2016
Drouin is a very interesting trade target. He put up stupidly good numbers in Junior and he was only marginally behind Nathan MacKinnon for consideration as the best prospect in the world during the 2013 draft.
The problem is his progress has been slower than many of his peers and we have very little information on him as a pro to this point. Drouin has only played 89 games in the NHL, mostly as a 4th liner, and scored around a 0.46 PPG. That may not be indicative of anything given his age (20) and circumstances, but this isn’t quite a Tyler Seguin situation. By the time Boston moved Seguin, he was already a very, very good NHLer.
That said, I’d be willing to take the gamble on Drouin. He has sublime offensive talent and instincts, which tend to be both very rare and very expensive to acquire in the NHL. There’s a small chance he doesn’t put things together in the bigs, but his history and pedigree suggest he’s an excellent bet despite the slowish start to his career.
I can’t say what the Flames chances are of landing Drouin. Like the Hamonic situation, the problem here is the team doesn’t really want to trade the player so they’d rather sit and wait than accept a less than stellar return.
The one bargaining chip Calgary may have is their first round pick this year, which, as mentioned in the intro, could very well fall into lottery territory if the team stumbles down the stretch. That could be very persuasive to the Lightning because it essentially guarantees that they will “recoup” the asset.
My completely speculative guess would be something like this: the Flames 2016 first round pick, Jiri Hudler (depth for a playoff run) and another decent level prospect (Kylington).
From the Flames perspective, the gamble plays out in reverse: if they finish bottom-5 in the league, it’s a probably bad trade. If they finish higher, then it’s a much better proposition.
Of course, if Treliving puts this package to Yzerman right now, the Lightning GM will probably ask to sit on it so he can see where the Flames are closer to the trade deadline. That would give him more assurance that the Flames pick will be high. In contrast, The Flames don’t want this because Drouin’s acquisition could theoretically help them move up in the standings. And, if the team is ensconced in a playoff spot by the deadline, then Yzerman is much more likely to pass on the deal.
Short version: it’s complicated.
@Kent_Wilson flames should trade for Ben bishop
— Rod Thick (@karasu8989) January 9, 2016
Bishop is an interesting trade target, but as discussed in this article there’s a lot of variables to consider in his acquisition. Not the least of which is his pricetag which is likely to go up from his current sticker price of about $6M after this year.
That’s a problem for the Flames with guys like Gaudreau, Monahan and Giordano all getting sizeable raises in 2016-17.
@Kent_Wilson the goalie situation still intrigues me. Can ramo do what he’s doing all year? Does he come back?who do we get next year?
— Sam Nigrelli (@sammythebull73) January 8, 2016
We shouldn’t assume Ramo will continue to put up elite numbers, just as it was safe to assume he wouldn’t keep putting up league worst results (which he was doing in October and November). The truth is somewhere in the middle. In fact, his current average for the year (.914 SV%) is in line with his career norms and closer to what we should expect for the rest of the season rather than either of the two extremes.
The Flames goaltending situation still remains unresolved. We probably won’t know more until the season is over because that’s when teams tend to try to figure out their net minders.
@Kent_Wilson What do you see as the plausible destinations/return for Russell?
— Ed (@Ed_Ward42) January 9, 2016
If they remain in the playoff picture, I think the Pittsburgh Penguins might come calling about Russell. Their blueline is highly suspect once you get past Kris Letang and Trevor Daley. Right now, Ben Lovejoy averages the second most ice time per night behind Letang on the Pen’s back-end. Yee-uck.
The Chicago Blackhawks could have interest as well. After their top-3 guys (Keith, Seabrook and Hjalmarsson) there’s a big drop off to a second tier featuring Trevor Van Reimsdyk, Viktor Svedberg, Eric Gustafsson, David Runblad, Michal Roszival and Rob Scuderi. Lots of hopefuls and has beens in there.
@Kent_Wilson What’s going to happen with Wideman, as well as Wotherspoon?
— Travis (@THilli13) January 8, 2016
Likely nothing. If the Flames couldn’t move Wideman after his career season last year, there’s no way there will be a market for him as a third pairing guy with one goal and 18 points in 40 games. Wideman’s contract extends for another season at $5.25M. Maybe they move him at the deadline next season if he rebounds to some degree, but chances are the 32-year old just plays out his deal.
As for Wotherspoon, it’s getting to a point where it’s clear the team doesn’t really consider him a prospect of note. His NHL exposure has gone backwards each year since he turned pro and this year he hasn’t even been talked about as a potential call-up at any point (he has just 3 assists in 28 games on the farm). Wotherspoon’s contract expires after this year and it wouldn’t surprise to see the Flames either cut him loose.
@Kent_Wilson Flames Interest in Rychel, what it’d take to get him, and how they should be trying to get another top6 forward or top4 D-man?
— Colin Ayles (@colinayles11) January 8, 2016
A Rychel deal could mirror the recent Emerson Etem swap (Etem for Nicklas Jensen), where the two teams more or less traded equivalent level prospects. In the Flames case, they may have to sweeten the pot a little given they don’t quite have anyone similar to the former 19th overall pick (Emile Poirier might be the closest).
Picking up a top-6 forward or top-4 defender is going to be much more difficult during the season. At this point in the year, everyone is looking for those and very, very few are offering them. Travis Hamonic remains the one true top rotation guy ostensibly on the market, but clearly the Islanders aren’t in any hurry to deal him.
@Kent_Wilson after WJC, how do we feel about future of MacDonald in goal?
— kingcambie (@kingcambie) January 8, 2016
Not much should be taken from the WJC’s because it’s a very small snippet of time. As such, my view of McDonald wasn’t swayed much by his performance or even his inclusion on the team. He’s had a good (though not great) year so far in the QMJHL, but I don’t really start to evaluate goalies until they hit the pro ranks (unless they are ridiculously dominant in their junior/college days like Jon Gillies).
McDonald still has a long way to go to really be in the conversation as a guy of note for the Flames organization. Let’s wait to see what he does when he’s 22 or so.
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