Trade Deadline Risk and Reward: Jiri Hudler

The future of Jiri Hudler has been a hot topic around these parts since last year’s career season. Hudler shattered his previous career highs in every offensive category and was one of the driving forces behind Calgary’s surprise appearance in the 2015 postseason. 

This season, though, has been a different story. Hudler has been dramatically less productive and less effective this year which makes many wonder how much he’ll fetch in a trade. Does he need to be moved at all costs? Let’s discuss.

This is third of our four part risk and reward pieces leading up to the deadline. Here’s how it looks:

  • Karri Ramo – February 8th
  • David Jones – February 16th
  • Jiri Hudler – Today
  • Kris Russell – Still to come
And now the familiar format continues with Hudler…

Trade him

Risk: The biggest “risk” when talking about a trade for Hudler is his market value right now. There’s a good chance Calgary won’t get great value for Hudler, which loosely counts as a risk, at least for my purposes. Why? Well, Hudler has not been a very effective player this year. Lately, he’s been better, but by and large, the comparisons between this year and last year are rather staggering. We can all see the point totals are way down, but it’s not just there that we’ve seen a drop off.

Last season, Hudler was one of the team’s more effective forwards. On a negative possession team, Hudler’s 46.7% Corsi rate ranked him third among regulars; that correlated nicely with his 54.3% offensive zone start ratio which was second on the team. Add that in with how dynamic he was offensively, his linemates, and a 19.6% shooting percentage and you have the ingredients of a 76 point season.

Let’s skip to this year. Plotting possession in all situations against his zone start ratio, you’ll see below that Hudler has been average at best in comparison to the rest of the team. The graph below includes data up to and including February 17th.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 4.41.44 PM

So, on the possession side, Hudler’s 48.4% raw rating is very much in the middle of the pack, which wouldn’t be alarming at all if we weren’t talking about such skewed utilization. Hudler’s offensive zone start number is up to a team high 62.4% which should have a much higher corresponding possession total.

Hudler’s shooting percentage has also come way down, which accounts partially for the drop in his counting numbers. Through 49 games played this year, he’s at 12% which is still high but nowhere near the lofty number of last season.

What I’m trying to illustrate is that I’m not sure there is going to be a huge market for Hudler’s services. I do think there will be interest and I fully believe the Flames will be able to find a landing spot for him. However, if they’re expecting a king’s ransom for him in return, the team will likely be disappointed.

The only other risk that could apply with Hudler is the hole he might leave on right side. Even with the signing of Michael Frolik last summer, right wing is not an area of organizational strength for the Flames. I think they’ll be able to address that in the coming months, but that’s never a guarantee. As you’ll find out in our verdict, though, it’s a risk I think the team needs to be willing to take.

Reward: It’s true that Calgary would have gotten far better value for Hudler if they had traded him last season or last summer. For me, though, that type of hindsight thinking isn’t productive and matters not to the conversation. That said, I still think the Flames can get a decent, if not spectacular, return for Hudler.

Even if Hudler’s offensive numbers are down this year, he still does produce at a decent level. His recent offensive surge speaks to that (and certainly helps Calgary’s case in trying to showcase him). I can pinpoint a few teams looking to add a little depth in their top six ranks, and with an expiring contract, they don’t assume a whole lot of risk if things don’t work out.

So what is a realistic return for a guy like Hudler? Well, GM’s seem to have let sensibility enter into their thought process in recent years, so you can likely throw out the idea of a first round pick. But would a couple picks like, say a third and a fourth, be out of the question? I don’t think so, and for a player you’re not going forward with, that’s not an awful return.

Keep him

Risk: First off, by keeping Hudler beyond the February 29th trade deadline, the Flames risk losing an asset for nothing. Mike Cammalleri was a unique situation in 2014 and stayed beyond the deadline, but I can’t really see the same type of scenario playing out again. Despite all the circumstances that led to it, losing Cammelleri for nothing doesn’t look great looking back. Why kick yourself down the road in this situation?

Let’s just say, for the sake of this article, that Hudler wants to come back and the team is able to get him on an affordable, short term contract. That unlikely occurrence also carries with it some risk, mainly because Hudler looks like a player on a downward trajectory.

I don’t necessarily think Hudler’s disappointing season thus far is a fluke or a misnomer. Foot speed has never been a strong suit of his and he’s 32 now. I’m not saying Hudler can’t be a somewhat useful player over the next few years. Suggesting a return to ’14-15 form is unlikely isn’t off base either, though. Bringing him back and expecting a dramatic reversal seems a little unrealistic.

Reward: Even with Hudler trending downward, you can’t say it would be all bad if he were back next season. However, the circumstances would have to be very specific for that to happen. The only way you can justify bringing Hudler back is if the contract is of the short term nature (one or two years) and at or around his current cap hit.

In that case, Calgary would have a decently productive forward to play in their top six and would buy them time to find a more long term solution on the right side. Hudler can help you on a powerplay and can still be dangerous, specifically in an offensively skewed role similar to the one he’s been cast in this season. Unfortunately, these conditions are unlikely to be met which renders a return for Hudler very, very unlikely.

Verdict

The Flames need to do everything in their power to try and trade Hudler. I fully believe there are teams interested, and as such, I fully believe there to be a realistic landing spot for him. Calgary needs to be prepared to have a sliding scale here, too. Setting an asking price and being rigid on it doesn’t make much sense here. 

Do you trade Hudler for a seventh round pick just because that’s the only offer you have? No, maybe not. But if the team’s asking price is a second and a fourth and you’ve got an offer on the table for a third and a fifth, I still think you need to make that trade.

    • Greg

      It’s starting to look like there’s a lot more sellers than buyers, especially given the cap constraints without a significant lift next year. I hope they get more too, but I wouldn’t be overly surprised if that’s all they can get.

      • supra steve

        UFA’s create no cap constraints for next year. Teams selling overpaid players that are signed beyond this season, yeah, they are worthless. So, your point is invalid WRT our UFAs.

  • supra steve

    From my uneducated point of view, you need at very least a second rounder. But, I thought the same with Cammi a few years back too.

    A similar return to Glencross would be ideal. Will some GM meet or better that? We’ll know in 9 days or less.

  • The GREAT Walter White

    BB/BT will be waisting an early pick on a goalie again this year; so we need to make some trades to create extra second round picks to offset the waisted goalie pick……

    WW

  • FlamesRock

    Interesting article! I would trade hider even for just a 7th round pick, just because we also get the added benefit of hopefully finishing lower in the standings and auditioning some AHL talent.

  • freethe flames

    I am wondering if his value has not gone up with his recent play. He has played much better the last 3 weeks and teams looking to add are more concerned with how a player is trending not how they played in October-December. Also with the injuries to Hossa and Gaboric might those teams be looking for a RW with playoff experience, by all accounts a good team guy and can score. He is a short term rental for them and he would not hurt their team chemistry. He will get us more than a 7th.

    • ApolloRising

      What?!? God NO. Yak is incredibly terrible. He would make the Flames much worse. Just because a player went first overall, doesn’t make them good. He is a huge defensive liability, made of glass and has a terrible attitude. He is worth a bag of used hockey pucks and maybe-maybe our old washing machine. No way is he worth Russell and Bouma. And no way would I want him poisoning the locker room.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Wonder what Ron Francis is thinking. One last crack at the playoffs with the Staal’s? They’re only two points out.

    Carolina has LA’s and their own 1st round pick this year. They also have an injured Wisnewski they are paying who by all accounts may not play at all this year. Is there a potential Clarkson type deal to be had here with a budget team?

    Wideman and Wishnewski are both right handed PP specialists. They are essentially the exact same player at the same cap hit, age and term. Carolina may rather shell out the cash for a player that could join them for a play-off push vs. one on the injured reserve (ala Clarkson/Horton).

    How about Wideman, Russell & Hudler for Wishnewski and LA’s 1st? We can even retain salary on one or both of Russell and Hudler?

    Carolina is 3rd in the league in advanced metrics. Maybe they should go for it? They would still have their own 1st at the draft.

    We can buy out/trade the Wiz in the summer – like we were going to have to do with Wideman anyways.

  • flamesburn89

    Asking price should start at a second rounder for Hudler. The closer we get to the deadline, the more likely it is that teams start getting desperate, increasing the chances of a bidding war.

    Although Hudler isn’t gonna hit 70 points this year, 32 points in 50 games is nothing to sneeze at. I don’t think Treliving will have too much trouble getting decent return for Jiri Hudler.

    • RedMan

      I think Hudler is a very attractive addition to a playoff team that wants top 6th depth for a deep run. He is practically free, can play on any team’s the top six, and brings leadership, maturity and respect to the dressing room.

      I would not be so quick to believe, as some are suggesting, that he will not get much attention. In fact,I think Hudler may actually be one of the top free agents being sought after this time around because he is such a high end top 6 guy that is practically free forward depth.

      Plus, scouts are aware that he was playing through a lingering injury in the early early season and is now rounding in to form and feeling healthy.

      I believe the Flames will get a late first rounder for Hudler, and at least a 2nd for Russell, maybe more.

  • Kevin R

    Wow. Some pretty low ball proposals on here. No wonder there aren’t any deals happening if this is reflective & probably is of the tire kicking. Hudler, even after his poor start has more value than what Glencross was. I would say his return will be either a late 1st or a 2nd a decent level prospect. Hudler is & has been playing top line here & I do believe Flames have a legitimate top line in the NHL. So top 6 forwards are not in abundance out there. Rental aspect does drag his return down but a 3rd & a 5th Patty would be an utter fail in my view. There will be more buyers than sellers.

  • RKD

    Trade him, when we didn’t trade Cammy he left for more money. I doubt Hudler would sign here again for less money and why sign him? Hoping he will return to form and then trading him next season is foolish. What if his play drops off again or he’s about the same then there’s no change in his value. Even if they get some picks for him we can turn those around in a trade to address other areas.

  • RedMan

    the thing that is really messing with trades is the pending decrease in the cap/increase in US dollar, which has everyone unsure of what will happen.

    If anything is certain about the upcoming TDL, it is the uncertainty caused by the CAP/Dollar issues. I expect teams to be very cautious personally, and see a lot of players take hair cuts or, like Glencross, be forced to retire much earlier than they woulds have just 5 years ago.

    The game favors youth because of the speed and need to perform at speed, and the CAP is forcing teams to pay high end guys big money and fill the rest of the roster with prospects and cheap role players.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    The team that most needs Hudler is a team that won’t be going postseason this year. This team needs a very reliable, creative and durable right winger like Hudler is to complement its top line, which currently features a dynamic left winger who is a top ten scorer and a third-year centre whose stats have dipped a bit this but whose future looks very promising. It is possible the said centre might eventually drop to the second line and be replaced on the top line by one of the most exciting rookies in the league, a 19-year-old who already plays all three zones of the ice remarkably well for a player with less than a year in the league.

    The said team is badly in need of a top-line right winger, amongst other needs. The team has tried to fill the first line right winger spot by committee during the year, but the only player who seems to fit is an impending UFA who the team is thinking of dealing this month lest he sign with another club in the summer.

    Sometimes the best solutions are staring you in the mug.

    • ApolloRising

      Doing the same thing over and over, then expecting different results is not the answer. That’s the definition of insanity…or the Oilers… ;). The Flames need to attract a top RW. I’ve explained how the Flames could free up cap space in another post, which would solve the cap problem to bring in the right RW. Frolik is perfect as their #2 guy. Hudler doesn’t fit on the Flames anymore. He was a great mentor while he lasted. But if the Flames want to become a contender they need to move on. They also need to solve their goalie issue. But that’s a whole other beast.

  • Rus

    I worry there may be too much optimism about how your average draft picks turn out, and not enough recognition of how rare scoring talent is. Go through the list of Flames forwards over the last 15 years and you will find piles of Bourques, Colbornes, Lombardis & Glencrosses for whom we had higher hopes but simply don’t score enough. There’s only so many role players you need and looking down the roster (& in the minors), there is no one to replace Hudler’s production. Dependable 60-point guys are neither common nor cheap. Sign him now. He is a good fit and worth the money.
    FYI, Scott Cullen did nice work on what picks from different rounds generally become. Average second rounder is somewhere between “Very Good Minor Leaguer, 50-200 NHL games” and “Minor Leaguer, under 50 NHL games”.
    http://www.tsn.ca/statistically-speaking-expected-value-of-nhl-draft-picks-1.317819

    • freethe flames

      I like Hudler and you make a valid argument; however he will not sign for an affordable contract and we have little cap space to sign him for what he thinks he worth.

      Which means finding a UFA, making a trade or being patient and see what develops next year. The Flames have to trade him and if he wants to be back here at a reduced salary then he will find his way back. Ideally that first line needs a speed merchant with some size and grit to his game.