As we all know, the Flames are probably going to be deadline sellers. That means almost all of their pending UFA’s should be be available to the highest bidder, even if the org kind of wants to keep Kris Russell around (*spoiler* they can’t really afford to).
So the question is where will these guys land? Here’s an assortment of potential destinations.
Jiri Hudler (RW)
Perhaps the Flames’ biggest trade piece, Hudler seems to have awoken from a long slumber this month and may have done enough to resuscitate his perceived value around the league. Which is good because top-6 scorers are often demand a premium around the deadline.
Here’s who could use some offense on the wings:
- Pittsburgh Penguins – The Pens have three top-6 wingers currently: Patrick Honqvist, Phil Kessel and Chris Kunitz. Hudler could round things out nicely for a team that is constantly looking for guys who can complement their 1-2 punch down the middle in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
- Minnesota Wild – With just one win in their last 10 games, the Wild are sinking badly. One of their main problems is offense: amongst other playoff contenders in the West, only the Ducks have scored fewer goals than Minnesota so far.
- Montreal Canadiens – Montreal’s scoring touch vanished right when their goaltending went south, which is why they’ve been the worst team in the league since December. Hudler might be of interest to them if they want to make a final push for the post-season.
- New York Islanders – After their top four scorers (Tavares, Okposo, Nielsen, Nelson), things fall off for the Islanders pretty quickly. Garth Snow and the entire Isles fan base are desperate for a taste of playoff success, so I can see them wanting to load up.
- St. Louis Blues – The Blues have assumed the mantle from the Sharks as the best regular season team who can’t seem to win in the playoffs. Up front, they boast the deadly Vladimir Tarasenko and capable Alex Steen and then a lot of middle tier weapons after that. Hudler could be seen as another arrow in the quiver in the fight against other Western heavyweights like Los Angeles and Chicago.
Kris Russell (D)
With Bob McKenzie’s stating that Kris Russell could be in line for a $25M+ pay day in free agency, the decision to move him at the deadline was essentially made for the Flames. Russell is a guy whose reputation completely outstrips his actual utility, so this is the one trade the Flames absolutely need to execute at the deadline for a variety of reasons. Even if the team somehow claws its way into the playoff picture they should still put Russell on the auction block. His stock will never be higher.
- Chicago Blackhawks – The Hawks’ blueline is hilariously top heavy with things falling off a cliff after the top-3 of Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Nikals Hjalmarsson. With Chicago poised to take another run at the cup they will no doubt be in the market for defensive depth.
- Pittsburgh Penguins – Pittsburgh has even less depth on the back-end than they do on the wings. Aside from Kris Letang, no other Penguins defender makes more than $3M aside from Trevor Daley. It’s depth players and kids all the way down.
- St. Louis Blues – A recent knee injury to Alex Pietrangelo may have the Blues in the market for another defender heading into the stretch drive. St. Louis considered Russell expendable last time he was in town, but maybe they’d like him as depth rental this time around.
- Colorado Avalanche – If they manage to stick in the wildcard spot, Colorado could have interest in Russell to bolster their top-4 rotation. The blueline is easily the Avs biggest area of weakness, with only Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson as legitimate top-4 NHLers at this point.
Karri Ramo (G)
Ramo has improved his stock since being waived early in the season, but the truth is he is a career .906 SV% goaltender. Even if you want to limit things to his post-KHL stint, Ramo is a .911 SV% ‘tender. Competent results, but completely replaceable. Which means the team should consider moving him if someone comes calling.
Obviously this is all moot if Ramo’s recent injury is long term, but for now we’ll assume he’ll be healthy by the end of the month. Some teams who might be interested include:
- Nashville Predators – an excellent club… except for their goaltending. Pekka Rinne has had a dreadful season (.903 SV%) and the club doesn’t seem to trust backup Carter Hutton very much (only eight games played). They could use an established NHLer to spell off (usurp??) Rinne.
- New Jersey Devils – Cory Schneider is legit, but backup Keith Kinkaid is not. If the Devils are convinced they are headed to the playoffs they may want to acquire some Schneider insurance.
- San Jose Sharks – Martin Jones has established himself as an NHL starter this year, but Alex Stalock has stumbled badly with an .884 SV% in 13 games. At 28 years old, Stalock likely isn’t considered a “future asset” worth developing either. Desperate for post-season success, I can see the Sharks shopping for a more capable 1B option.
- Montreal Canadiens – Assuming they manage to pull out of their tailspin and challenge for the playoffs, the Habs could well be in the market for another goaltender. Losing Carey Price has been disastrous and their second best option behind him right now is Ben Scrivens.
Other trade options
- David Jones (UFA)
- Josh Jooris (RFA)
- Markus Granlund (RFA)
- Joe Colborne (RFA)
- Jonas Hiller (UFA)
- Jakub Nakladal (UFA)
The Flames might listen to offers for some of these players, but chances are there won’t be much interest.
While Calgary’s newly complicate goalie situation might dissuade a Ramo (or Hiller) trade, both Jiri Hudler and Kris Russell should garner significant interest for Treliving at the deadline. At the very least, the club should be aiming to get some worthwhile picks and prospects for both of these players.