FN Mailbag – February 22, 2016

Mailbag

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. 

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”.

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…

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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. 

    • piscera.infada

      Proven to be not more than replacement level (in all aspects of his game).

      The one big (overlooked) thing here: Granlund is waiver eligible next year, Shinkaruk is not. That alone, gives you some roster flexibility.

  • flamesburn89

    Interesting deal for the Flames. With Bob Hartley moving Bennett back to his natural centre position, I think the writing was on the wall for Granlund. The Flames have 4 centres better than him, so maybe this is the right time to move on. Too bad he never got much of look on the wing. Good luck to the kid in Vancouver, I think he’ll do fine.

    I like that the Flames got back a winger in this deal. With Jones and Hudler likely gone at the end of the year, the Flames need some guys to play in the top 9 along with Gaudreau, Frolik, and Ferland in the coming years. We’ll see if Shinkaruk can be one of those guys.

  • Backburner

    I don’t mind this trade, this is a pretty good return for Granlund.

    If anything one of Hartley crazy experiments is gone.

    I don’t know if Shinkaruk will ever be an effective top six, but at if anything it gives Calgary a little stability if they end up trading another prospect.

  • BurningSensation

    Really like this trade! (and it makes up for gifting the Canucks Baertschi for a 2nd)

    Granlund is older, better rounded, and capable of playing C, but Shinkaruk is both younger, more explosive, and has a much higher offensive ceiling.

    And if you think we got screwed here, it could be worse, we were probably after Virtanen, and settled for Shinkaruk.

  • everton fc

    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.

    Three of these deals above were made by the current regime.

    The Granlund for Shinkaruk deal is a potential steal for the Flames, though I always heard Shinkaruk was a bit of a peck, in terms of his attitude. And the point about the hip surgery is a valid one.

    How about this line;

    Shinkaruk/Bennett/Frolik

    Are they flying him from Utica to Calgary?? Why not, at this stage of the season.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Before the great unwashed declare Treliving the next Stan Bowman, they should see what he does to clear up this $16M white elephant. Then again, maybe he doesn’t see it as problem in need of a fix.

      He should have relatively few problems moving Hudler and Russell, but then again I wouldn’t either and I’m no GM.

      The real test of his GMing is how he manages a fairly significant chunk of his salary cap tied up in unproductive assets at a time when he has to dole out 2 major contracts and offer solid proof that he team is actually getting better on the ice.

      Until Treliving can show me he can do this, I remain unconvinced that he is any better a GM than old Buttons and Bows was.

      • supra steve

        True, a lot of cap space being spent unwisely for the 2016-17 season.

        However…also true that in Hudler, Jones, Russell, Hiller, and Ramo, there is no less than $18.9 million coming off the cap at the end of this season. That provides the flexibility to sign JG, SM, a starting goalie, as well as providing space to promote from within (moving cheap AHLers to Calgary next season). Winning the cup is not in the cards for 2016-17 anyway, this sets the club up to make some more moves after all the cap space you mentioned comes available after the ’16-’17 season.

        Don’t sweat it, it’s all gonna work out.

        • RedMan

          you made an interesting observation, namely that the Flames won’t be competing for a cup in the 16-17 season.

          it seems to me that when Brad Treliving put together his original plan, they signed rugged place holders to last through to the end of 16-17, which to me indicates hat they did not plan on competing for a cup until the 17-18 season.

          that means they expected to continue adding/developing youngster through to the end of next season…

          if this is the case, the timelines look good, even if we all are aghast at the expensive rugged placeholders (Engelland/Bollig).

          my guess is that outside of the things they can’t control (Wideman’s suspension/injuries) the Flames have a master plan and have not deviated from it.

  • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

    Harvey Easterbrook wrote: “Why is Brodie not closer to an elite scoring defenseman? Is he being used incorrectly? Will he be?”

    TJ has 36 points in 49 games.1 less point than Giordano in 9 less games.

    Defenseman points per game (min. 45 GP) 2015-16

    Karlsson OTT 1.08

    Letang PIT .94

    Burns SJS .86

    Klingberg DAL .80

    Subban MTL .78

    OEL PHO .78

    Brodie CGY .734

    Keith CHI .730

    Josi NSH .71

    Barrie COL .69

    Carlson WAS .68

    Doughty LAK .66

    Giordano CGY .64

    Suter MIN .64

    Faulk CAR .63

    Byfuglien WPG .62

    Hedman TBL .62

    Weber NSH .61

    Seabrook CHI .60

    Shattenkirk STL .58

    Yandle NYR .56

    Brodie looks pretty much elite to me scoring wise plus the fact that he is awesome everywhere on the ice

    • MattyFranchise

      His question makes a lot more sense if he’s just talking about goals. Gio is 3rd for defenseman goals with 15 while Brodie is way down at 57th.

      So yeah, Brodie’s 0.08 goals per game is a little disconcerting in that context. He rockets up to 5th overall in assists though so his lack of goal scoring isn’t (and really, shouldn’t be) a major concern.

      In my opinion he’s the best defenseman on the team. In my mind there’s no credible argument against it. Gio is only getting more attention because his goal total is pretty damn impressive.

      Either way, they’re both excellent defensemen and I’m happy they’re both ours.

      • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

        I like Gio, but have always said he should have been traded.

        I would still trade him today.

        Giordano, Hudler and Engelland (1/2 retained salary) to NYI

        Hamonic, Strome Plus either of Barzal or Ho-Sang to CGY.

  • ApolloRising

    Wideman ($5.25M), Smid ($3.5M), Deryk Engelland ($2.917M), Raymond ($3.15M) and Bollig ($1.25M)….God I hope Treliving can wave his magic wand and remove these players from the team. If the wand doesn’t work, then use his Jedi mind tricks or resort to blood magic. Just make them vanish…

  • Yeah next year is going to be tough making all the contracts work with the “dead” money on 3rd, 4th liners and 5-7th D. Having written that, there is also the extensions of the young guys that will be on the books after next year.

    That’s why BT gets paid the big bucks.