With the playoffs now a distant dream, the rest of the Flames season becomes about other priorities. Aside from trying to leverage a handful of assets at the deadline, the club has the final quarter of the season to gather some intel for next year.
The experiments have already begun with Sam Bennett being moved back to center. We already know he’s a pretty good left wing, so now the decision makers will get a chunk of games to see if he can drive play as a pivot as well. Guys like Jakub Nakladal, Tyler Wotherspoon and Joni Ortio might also get some longer looks than otherwise would have been possible if the team was “going for it.”
Discovering if any of the club’s hopefuls have NHL upside is especially important for the Flames as they move into rough budgetary waters this offseason.
— Thomas Kellner (@altokells29) February 19, 2016
— Mack Laube (@MackLaube) February 19, 2016
— kingcambie (@kingcambie) February 19, 2016
— kingcambie (@kingcambie) February 19, 2016
Lots of interest in Johnny Gaudreau’s next deal this week. Let’s start with the last question first.
We’ll begin by establishing that Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta were actually really good NHLers for a long time. Gomez scored 60+ points six times in his career and 50+ nine times. He was one of the best puck distributing pivots in the NHL for awhile. As for Gionta, although he only crested 40+ goals once, he was a 20+ goal scorer for six consecutive seasons.
So Gaudreau becoming Gionta or Gomez isn’t a terrible thing.
Of course, chances are the young Flame is a step beyond both those guys. The list of players that have done what he has done in the last few years is vanishingly small. His Hobey Baker award winning season in the NCAA was arguably the best since Paul Kariya. He is already, by far, the Flames’ most dangerous player just part way through his second season in the league (the gap between him and Sean Monahan this year is 18 points… and they play on the same line). If he finishes with 80+ points this year, he joins a list of players to hit 140+ points in their first two seasons that includes names like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane and Alex Ovechkin.
Nothing is certain when you talking about forecasting future performance but I consider Gaudreau as good a bet the organization has seen since Jarome Iginla.
As for signing Gaudreau to a bridge deal that takes him to the edge of UFA status… Well, I don’t know why the Flames would do that but the longest possible deal like that would be five years. Players have to be over 27 years old or have played in the league for seven years to become a UFA.
The longest possible deal Gaudreau can sign under the CBA is eight years, so that would eat up three years of UFA status. That is no doubt what the Flames will be pushing for.
As for what he will cost, people have rightly set Vladimir Tarasenko’s recent $7.5M/year contract as the relevant precedent. Guys like Ovechkin, Malkin and Crosby jumped up above $8M on their second deals while others like Taylor Hall, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews came in around around $6M. My guess is Gaudreau settles somewhere in between the $6M “floor” and the $7.5-$8M “ceiling”.
— Geoff Grebliunas (@flamesfanatic04) February 19, 2016
I sure hope so.
Russell is a player with a really good reputation around the league and defenders usually demand a premium at the deadline. If the Flames can get a bidding war going for Russell, there’s a chance they get a couple of assets for him. Speaking of which…
— hunter (@HunterMurphy101) February 19, 2016
Right now the club just has two: their own first and second round picks. If they manage to move both Russell and Hudler, I would expect a minimum of two more top-60 picks to be added to the coffers, though it could be even more than that depending on the market. For now we’ll put the over/under at four.
— Will Colford (@WColfo) February 19, 2016
Absolutely, though I’m sure there isn’t much of a market for him.
The Flames’ record in Wideman’s absence isn’t necessarily indicative of the player’s value to the club. Over relatively short time periods, there can be very little correlation between a player’s presence on the active roster and a team’s success rate. For example, I remember years ago the Flames lost Iginla to injury for a month. The team went something like 9-3-1 while he was out, but nobody concluded Calgary was better without him as a result.
Wideman has slowed considerably at this point in his career and is probably best deployed as a bottom-pairing PP specialist. At $5.25M he’s overpaid and on the back-nine of his career. My guess is if the Flames really do want to trade him, they’ll have to eat some of his salary or accept a bad deal back in return.
— Luis Saenz (@loudogYYC) February 19, 2016
Short answer: no.
Longer answer: I have some time for Bickell as a player – he’s a decent middle tier winger and actually has a good record of quality possession play. He’s also that mix of size and meanness that the org is no doubt still looking for.
That said, the Flames have to be extra judicious in how they spend money moving forward, so acquiring a $4.5M third liner is probably out of the question. Of course, Bickell becomes a lot more interesting if the Hawks are willing to retain 50% of his deal. Bickell at $2.25M is more palatable.
— Harvey Easterbrook (@bezer89) February 19, 2016
Brodie’s lone “weakness” at this point is his relative inability to get shots on net from the blueline. Although I think he has a good shot if he’s able to fully unleash it, Brodie still seems very hesitant to shoot the puck himself, preferring to look for the pass. And when he does take the shot, it’s often grudging and as a last resort, which means he tends to fire it into blocks or wide of the net.
I don’t know if that is something he’ll be able to improve on or not. Part of it is a skill set, but it’s also a mindset which is much harder to change.
Nevertheless, even if Brodie never becomes a big shooter/goal scorer, he’s still an incredible player and perhaps on one of the best value contracts in the league.
— Jared Jones (@jones2emit0) February 19, 2016
That’s the million dollar (or more) question for the org’s executives this off-season. With pending raises to Gaudreau, Monahan and Giordano, the club is going to have to spend a bunch of money just to run in place. Improving the roster is the focus given this season’s results, but with the cap potentially falling and almost all of the Flames’ marquee players suddenly getting more expensive, Treliving and company are going to have to get creative in order to stay on budget and get better.
There are no easy methods to dump bad money. There are buyouts, which lights money on fire and eats up a portion of cap space. There’s also the aforementioned mechanism of retaining money in trades, which has similar drawbacks to buyouts. Calgary can choose to demote bad deals to the AHL, but that only saves them a paltry $950k in cap space per player.
So it’s ugly. The Flames may be forced to move out players who are still marginally useful but are nevertheless relatively expendable like a Matt Stajan if they can’t disappear the likes of Brandon Bollig, Mason Raymond or Ladislav Smid.
The lone bit of good news is things open up after next year. By 2017-18, Wideman ($5.25M), Smid ($3.5M), Deryk Engelland ($2.917M), Raymond ($3.15M) and Bollig ($1.25M) are all gone. That’s over $16M in cap space that can hopefully be more astutely invested in the summer of 2017.