FN Mailbag – February 15, 2016


We’re two weeks away from the trade deadline. The Flames have won more than they’ve lost recently (despite mostly questionable performances), but the club remains eight points out of a the final wild card spot in the West. 

The players and coach will remain committed to “playoffs or bust!”, but the management team should start putting its key trade assets on the auction block this week. Though Calgary has more than a few guys they could sell off, Brad Treliving’s primary goal should be getting the most he possibly can for the club’s two main assets: Kris Russell and Jiri Hudler. 

In Hudler’s case, the Flames may face another Cammalleri situation, where the player’s sub-par pre-deadline performance might undermine his perceived value. That said, the org must commit to one of two things if that’s case: 1.) trade the player for the best offer available, even if it’s something nominal like a third round pick, or 2.) re-sign him. Letting him walk in the off-season shouldn’t be a consideration. 

As for Russell, he needs to go no matter what. The club can’t afford to re-sign him and his stock will never be higher. Re-signing him shouldn’t even be part of the conversation, meaning he should walk even if the club can’t (or won’t) move him.

Luckily we don’t have to fantasize. The Flyers provided an object lesson when they signed Andrew MacDonald to a six-year, $30M deal. Aside from Russell being a bit better offensively, the two are very similar players. MacDonald was a league leading shot blocker, played 20+ minutes a night in the Islanders top-4 and was known as a gritty, down-to-earth defender. He was also one of the worst possession players in the entire league.

Which is why he has spent most of the season in the AHL this year. Of course, the Flyers only saved about $950k off his $5M cap hit, which means over $4M in dead cap space. (He has since been recalled due to Michael Del Zotto’s injury.) That’s an ugly reality to consider in the current cap environment.

The other reason a $5M/year Russell contract is a bad idea is the Flames’ pending cap crunch. The truth is they simply can’t afford to add another big ticket to the back-end, to say nothing of one that is more than likely to be a toxic asset in a few years. Giordano, Brodie, Wideman and Hamilton already count about $22.6M in cap space – adding another $5M ticket would mean the club has almost $28M (or about 40% of the total cap) invested in their top-5 defensemen.

Unfortunately I don’t think that swap was an option. Smid’s status was still unknown this off-season so the club didn’t know if we he was going to LTIR or not. That didn’t give them a lot of options.

It partially depends on the length of Ramo’s injury. I don’t think the team will move Hiller if Ramo is out for the season because the org just doesn’t have enough goalies to go around. In addition, the interest in Hiller is likely muted thanks to his age (34) and the fact he’s suffering through the worst season of his NHL career.

I think he’s safe for at least one more off-season.

Hartley will be in trouble if the team stumbles out of the gate again next year, however. With Monahan and Gaudreau getting expensive and Bennett approaching his next deal, the org will officially be moving out of phase one of the rebuild. If the on-ice product doesn’t show clear evidence of a step towards true contender status early next season, management may be convinced Hartley isn’t the guy who can take things to the next level.

I think the only time finishing just outside the playoff picture is a bad habit for a team is when they are fruitlessly holding on to an aging, expensive roster, like the end of the Iginla era here in town. For the current iteration of the Flames, finishing just outside the playoffs next year would likely represent a solid step forward, which wouldn’t be a bad thing.

  • RedMan

    So what is the minimum that BT should take for Hudler/Russell? For me it’s a second and a decent prospect.

    Hartley’s future will be decided after the trade deadline when we see how he reacts to a less veteran lineup.If he embraces the new reality he will be here next year if not he will be in Montreal.

    • Brent G.

      I don’t think you can expect anything more than a 2nd for Hudler given how poorly he has looked for the majority of the season. There are many different trade options that will drive that price down.

      • Brent G.

        I would have agreed with you 3 weeks ago but since then he has been much better, he even looked good playing with Colborne and Granlund. I hope teams have noticed this and will pursue him. Playoff teams are looking more at the present than October-December.

    • Brent G.

      Now that Grant is injured, Agostino is the #1 guy I’d like to see get a long look with the big club. Ain’t gonna happen until after the TDL unless there’s another injury or somebody gets exposed to waivers (I think Granlund and Nakladal are exempt?). There’s also the issue of cap space – Calgary may need to sweeten the pot in any trades with other teams by taking back an expiring contract.

      • brodiegio4life

        Management of assets including playing time I believe is calculated carefully on a collective basis including Treliving AND Hartley. As for Hartley unless your a first rounder you will not have his confidence and a player will need to prove himself the traditional way of playing in the minors. That was his label in Colorado and it eventually got him fired!

        Unfortunately for Augostino and Grant they are up against the fact the Flames have too many forwards and bad contracts to deal with. As a UFA both players will likely move to another organization at first opportunity.

    • everton fc

      We are thin on the left side these days, below Gaudreau and Bennett. Would anyone take Agostino over Bouma? Ferland should go back to left wing, his natural position. So this leaves Bouma as our 4th line LW, unless Bennett moves to 2nd line centre, Backlund to third (with Frolik on his right-side, which seems unlikely, as Frolik should get 2nd line minutes)…

      But, Agostino should get time up here this season.

      Can we move Wideman for less (say, to the Bruins) if his suspension’s appeal falls flat? We need to move him. Smid is a better defender this season.

      Would the Isles do Hudler/Russell/prospect or pick for Hamonic/prospect or pick? (We don’t need Strome – where would he play? Unless you move Granlund the other way…) Or would the Bolts take the same type of deal, for Drouin?

      Just some “loose thinking” here.

  • Brent G.

    Kent, I have to respectfully disagree on the last question answered.

    I’m sure I’m not alone in getting tired of they typical pattern of finishing 10th in the west, thus receiving a mediocre prospect (relatively speaking) and missing the playoffs. It has become very clear by their recent play they are at least 1 top end forward away from being a real contender (I’d argue they are 3 top 6 wingers away). Their best prospects are looking to be unable to elevate their play to meet these requirements.

    Simply put, they need high end talent and need a high draft pick to guarantee one of these players. Development of the three young studs aside, they will not be able to compete with the best teams if they are going it alone.

    • cberg

      I absolutely agree.

      While I can appreciate the technical difference Kent is pointing out between now vs the Iginla era, the practical reality is that there is no difference.

      Here’s why: If the team had finished the rebuild and more or less had all of its pieces for the future in place and then went from bottom five to just outside of the playoffs, that’s progress. For example, imagine the Oilers missing the dance by a single point this season – a huge victory, indeed and proof that the team is headed in the right direction.

      However, that is not the Flames. Many pieces are in place, but far from all of them. We need another elite forward, for example. Preferably a big, skilled winger who is also young and cheap. The kind of player that the top end of this year’s draft has in abundance. How else do you get a player like that except from the draft?

      Finishing just outside of the playoffs most likely won’t get us that player while at the same time, the team is obviously nowhere close to being a true contender. So, the reality is the same as the Iginla era. The team spinning its wheels, unable to win it all and not in a position to markedly improve.

      • cberg

        The only real difference, and probably the point Kent was making, is we currently have several top-level prospects that hopefully will be joining the team within the next 2 years. And, our best players are still young and getting better.

        • Brent G.

          Which “top level” prospects do we have in the system that look like one day they may be a top 6 forward? Mangiapane (sp?) is the only one I can think of and still he seems like a long shot at it today.

          Fans of teams always overvalue their own prospects. Not one Flames prospect made it into Buttons top 50 (for whatever it’s worth). Poirier may get it together yet but today doesn’t even look like he will make the nhl (given what I’ve read).

          I’m grumpy about this because I’m tired of the mediocrity this team has provided me, dating back to the infamous young guns. I just want them to look at building a true contender not just a team looking to sneak into the playoffs where “anything can happen.”

          • Burnward

            IMO, one more impact top line winger would change everything.

            Johnny-Mony can score with almost anyone with them.

            Give Sammy a decent option on his wing and that’s a pretty solid group moving forward.

            The defense corps shapes up well.

          • cberg

            Brent, everyone wants to move forward. Arguing about prospects doesn’t make a lot of sense either. At this point I believe there are at least a half dozen guys that can make top 6, but hey, that’s my opinion. You don’t agree, fine. We won’t know for a couple years.

      • piscera.infada

        However, that is not the Flames. Many pieces are in place, but far from all of them. We need another elite forward, for example. Preferably a big, skilled winger who is also young and cheap. The kind of player that the top end of this year’s draft has in abundance. How else do you get a player like that except from the draft?

        I don’t disagree with this line of thinking, but I’ll ask the question I always ask when this is brought up: how do you ensure that you get there?

        This team could very well sell off all sell-able assets–exactly what I expect them to do–and still not be ensured a top-4 or -5 or -whatever pick. How do you reconcile that then? Is it an inherent failure?

        I mean, it’s fantastically easy to say “finish with a top-5 pick if you’re not going to be a playoff team”. However, if your team is not actually bottom-5 bad, is that realistic? I mean, if Gaudreau goes on a tear in the last month, and single handedly drags this team to within 3 points of a playoff spot, is that all for naught?

        Again, I unequivocally agree that one of the big, skilled, cost-controlled wingers at the top-end of this draft is exactly what the Flames need, but if that doesn’t happen, what then? We saw last year that Treliving is able to address core weaknesses through all available avenues (like, defense). We can hope against hope that it’s all as clear as “drafting a good player”, but I doubt that it will be that clear when all is said and done, and I don’t think that’s inherently the failure of anyone.

        • cberg

          I hear you, but was speaking in direct response to Kent’s answer. I don’t believe that finishing just outside of the playoffs marks an improvement for this team. Then again, rereading Kent’s answer he states “next year,” so my bad for misreading that. The Flames may well just miss next year while taking big steps, so a different scenario.

          However, I think my point is still valid in that spinning your wheels with an expired veteran team is no different than spinning your wheels with an incomplete rebuild. So Hiller becoming Gump Worsley and JG lighting it up (more so than usual) and costing the team a much better chance at a top pick is a waste because its unsustainable. Much like some of those winning streaks in the Iginla era were nothing but a mirage.

      • Flames Fan in Edmonchuck

        I absolutely agree with Kent. Both you and Brent G are promoting a culture of losing/failure in order to gain assets at the draft. This is the Oiler model of rebuild and they are obviously suffering from such an approach. How do you explain to the Flames core (JG, Monahan, Bennett, Brodie, Hamilton) that now is not the time to win???

        • piscera.infada

          No, I’m saying this team is in a rebuild and need to finish it because they’re nowhere close to being contenders. It’s not about tanking, it’s about moving out unnecessary vets and cap space. If that leads to another high pick, great. If not, you’ve gained other assets to make another Hamilton type move. It’s about not stubbornly spinning wheels with a mediocre team hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.

          • piscera.infada

            That, I completely agree with. Especially the last part. Some people seem to argue that the Hamilton deal was not in-line with “rebuilding” because it’s not “drafting high”. If you aren’t drafting high, acquiring assets that you can turn into young, high-ceiling, cost controlled developmental assets is the best course of action. This is what they did with Hamilton. This is what they need to be willing to do again. And, this is why that trade last year gave me confidence in Treliving. He gets it, rebuilding is not solely about drafting high, it’s about acquiring the right assets regardless of how they come available.

          • RealMcHockeyReturns

            I agree and while it would be unlikely, getting Right-shooting Coyle (on reasonable 5-year contract) from Minnesota for a package including Russell, Markus Granlund (brother connection), a 2nd rounder this year (Minn missing a bunch of picks) would be awesome, and perhaps add Agostino and Flames also getting something else back like RW Fontaine will make it get done.

  • RKD

    Playoffs or bust! That type of thinking has landed us in a world of hurt before. Losses this week should make things crystal clear. Lots of player having poor seasons really hurts their trade value. Right now Russell and Ramo hold the most value. Kris Russell at $5 million is an absolute joke. He’s just not worth that kind of money. Trading Huds and Russell should be a no-brainer. They need to stock up on assets they can use in a package deal to address their positions of weakness: a #1 starter, one top 4 d-man and one top 6 forward.

    • brodiegio4life

      they have the goalie and #4 dman in the system, it’ll just take some time for them to be ready, as for a top 6 winger… getting one of the Finns in the draft this year would solve that.

  • Kevin R

    A gloomy cold splash of reality is looking at the standings. We have 28 games left. Lets say 92 points may get you a wildcard position in playoffs, we would then need approx. 40 points to be talking playoffs. Means we need to win 20 of the 28 remaining games, almost a .75% clip. We are a .500 team at best. I think the magic number is 9. 9 losses & we can put a fork in this. So if I’m on the TDL meter, if I’m Tre, I want to see 6 wins out of the next 8 games prior to the TDL.

  • Burnward

    This team isn’t anywhere near bad enough to finish last or to think of tanking. And they won’t be anytime soon with this defense corps.

    They sweep this homestand and it’s right back to playoff talk. Everyone is kind of coming back to the pack and they have games in hand.

    Then again, Hiller is in net right now.

    • Burnward

      Shocking though with all the hype at the beginning of the year for the D corps, with less than 30 games left the best that can be said is that they aren’t bad enough to finish last.

      Very Dissapointing. I’d never have believed that

      • piscera.infada

        Meh. I was saying at the time of the Hamilton trade that many of the over-the-top prognostications about the defense corps were way, way overblown.

        I mean, really what did people think? Russell and Wideman weren’t bad? They were all last season. Wideman had a career-year scoring-wise, but he was somewhat bound to fall off.

        Here’s the deal. Giordano and Brodie are an elite first-pair. That’s it. I’m sick and tired of people treating Hamilton both at the time of the trade and now as a fully-formed defenseman, with no holes in his game at 22 years of age.

        This blueline is set-up very, very well for the future–several relatively high-ceiling prospects, a big three that should be able to form a solid nucleus for those prospects. Anything else you hear, or have heard, is nothing more than hyperbole.

  • Flames Fan in Edmonchuck

    There is definitely a danger in the “no man’s land” approach. But there is an equal danger in the “fire sale everything draft high until we have the perfect team” approach… the Oilers have tried the later, to no avail…. the approach the team should take is in the middle. Let be what they will be on the ice, make all trades that make you better and draft the best you can, regardless of where you are in the standings… trying to demolish for better draft picks usually bites you in the a$$

  • Flames Fan in Edmonchuck

    There’s such a fine line with that last question. For instance in 2014-15 if we have a few extra points we’d have missed out on Bennett and it would not have been worth those extra wins. However, look at Eichel and McDavid, they’re still on the worst teams in the league. No one player can change a teams fortunes that way. 4 out of the past 27 1 overall picks have cups.