As we creep closer to the National Hockey League trade deadline, we’ll be speculating a LOT about what the Calgary Flames will or won’t do. But let’s be very blunt here: there isn’t a wrong move they can make in regards to Mark Jankowski.
Allow me to explain.
Providence College has games scheduled until Feb. 27, at which point Hockey East’s playoffs begin. And the NCAA regionals go March 25-27 and the Frozen Four are April 7-9, and the Friars will definitely at least make regionals.
The reason that matters is that the Flames could potentially entice Jankowski to sign an entry-level contract by burning a year of it right away to give him a taste of the NHL right away. But let’s just pretend that that’s not in the cards and that the NHL and college seasons end before Jankowski signs.
Should fans be worried? Nope. Because every option the Flames have available to them in regards to Jankowski is a good one.
PLAN A: HE SIGNS
If Jankowski signs, the Flames get to see if a long-term college prospect (and a first round pick from a prior regime) will pan out. He’s found money, and he’s been pretty good for Providence College this season, scoring just over a point per game. Based on his age, he’d sign a two-year entry-level deal. If he ends up playing NHL games this season, the first year will be burned and he’ll leave the entry-level system a year earlier. That means basically nothing except he’ll be exempt from assignment to the ECHL a year earlier than he otherwise would.
In the grand scheme of things, unless Jankowski turns into Joe Nieuwendyk right away – and wouldn’t that be a nice problem to have – him becoming a restricted free agent after one season or two makes very little difference. Bill Arnold and Bryce Van Brabant were in a similar boat, and it’s not like the Flames were torn asunder by their decision to give them a few NHL games as an enticement to sign.
(Aside: if somehow Providence College bows out early and Jankowski does sign, bringing him onto the NHL roster directly doesn’t burn one of the Flames’ four recalls, so it’s an easy way to give the team an extra healthy body down the stretch.)
PLAN B: THEY TRADE HIM
Think about Jankowski on paper, regardless of the baggage he has with this organization.
- He’s 6’4″.
- He’s 205+ lbs.
- He’s developed into a really good two-way center.
- He’s good at faceoffs.
- He’s won an NCAA championship.
There’s plenty of college free agents worse than Jankowski that develop a good deal of trade buzz. If he doesn’t sign right after the college season is over, they can shop him around and get an asset. And if they don’t get something they like, they have a great fall-back.
For reference, Corban Knight made the Hobey Baker long-list in his senior year and only netted Florida a fourth round pick from Calgary because the Panthers didn’t have any leverage on Knight, who was a fifth round pick. Jankowski isn’t quite as highly-regarded in college hockey circles (he’s not even on the Hobey Baker preliminary fan voting list), but his stature as a former first round pick and placement on a good college team may up his trade value.
For another reference, recall the Tim Erixon trade back in 2011. If Erixon refused to sign with Calgary and went back into the draft, they would’ve “just” gotten a second round pick. But since a few teams (notably the Rangers) didn’t want to risk dealing with the uncertainty of the draft, they gave Calgary a little more (two second rounders and Roman “Scorak” Horak) to assure they got their man. If a team has fallen in love with Jankowski and doesn’t want him to hit the open market on Aug. 15, they could up the ante.
PLAN C: HE WALKS, THEY GET A 2ND ROUNDER
If Jankowski doesn’t sign with the Flames and opts to go elsewhere when he becomes a free agent on Aug. 15, the Flames get a compensatory draft pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. Since Jankowski was selected with the 21st overall pick in the first round of 2012, the Flames would get the 21st pick in the second round of this year’s draft – which would be 51st overall.
This year’s draft is fairly deep, and the Flames would be able to (a) give their scouting staff another kick at the can coming off a few drafts that were pretty solid for that group or (b) give Brad Treliving some ammunition to upgrade the roster through trades, as he did last year to trade up (or down) in the draft if they see a player they like. If your team doesn’t have a ton of picks, they don’t have very much flexibility to wheel, deal, or even just pick several times at the draft.
There’s no bad scenario here.