The Calgary Flames are in the bottom five teams in the NHL, and thus, they are sellers. No mind the whole “the Pacific Division is terrible, they have a chance” or “they’re only 11 points out of a wild card spot with three games in hand” things – the Flames will, barring some catastrophic event to other teams over the next few weeks, not be going to the playoffs this season.
They’ve lost five of their last six games, after all. If there was ever a time for the current Flames roster to prove it deserves to go to the post-season… Well, that time has already passed.
To that end, the Flames appear to have fully embraced the idea of being sellers at the deadline, to the extent that basically everybody with an expiring contract (within reason!) is available.
Steady trade talk league wide. Cgy Flames with a list of players in play. Russell, Hudler, Colborne, Jooris, Hiller and Jones. #TradeCentre
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) February 24, 2016
Sell off all your impending free agents
Markus Granlund, an upcoming RFA who had appeared to crack the Flames’ NHL roster – and, indeed, is now on the Vancouver Canucks’ – was already traded. He was an expiring contract with an uncertain future, traded for Hunter Shinkaruk: a younger player still under contract for another two seasons after this one.
That’s one soon-to-be free agent down, and quite a few more to go.
Joe Colborne and Josh Jooris will both be RFAs after this season, like Granlund; Kris Russell, Jiri Hudler, Jonas Hiller, and David Jones, meanwhile, are all set to hit the open market, and none are players that should really in the Flames’ future plans.
The only players with expiring contracts not listed as trade targets are:
- Johnny Gaudreau, RFA (and OBVIOUSLY not going anywhere)
- Sean Monahan, RFA (in a slightly less expensive boat than Gaudreau, in all likelihood)
- Tyler Wotherspoon, RFA (recently called up, recently playing, probably not on anybody’s list)
- Jakub Nakladal, UFA (the same as Wotherspoon, but without team control)
- Joni Ortio, RFA (in pretty much the exact same boat as Wotherspoon)
- Karri Ramo, UFA (done for the season with injury)
And a slew of players still in the minors: Bryce van Brabant, Drew Shore, Bill Arnold, Kenny Agostino, Derek Grant, Freddie Hamilton, Kevin Poulin, and Turner Elson. Of that group, Grant is probably the only one who would garner real interest, but being week-to-week with a broken jaw puts a severe damper on things.
So basically: if you have an expiring contract and have been in the NHL for some time now, the Flames have said you’re available. It’s due diligence, at least.
Colborne and Jooris are on pretty much opposite ends of the spectrum. Jooris is good for what he is: a depth forward with solid possession numbers and an occasional scoring touch. Colborne, on the other hand, has been bounced all over the place: from first line to press box, all the while being one of the Flames’ most prolific power play players to never score a point, much to many of our confusions.
Jooris has been healthy scratched throughout the year, though, which could be an indication the Flames don’t see him in their future plans – which would be a mistake. But Colborne, despite being healthy scratched once or twice, has seen preferential treatment all season long: maybe as a bid to boost his trade value, or maybe just the benefactor of some good ol’ player bias.
That, or there’s a disconnect between who the general manager and coach believe should be in the lineup.
The way Jooris plays and has been utilized this season, it’s difficult to see the Flames getting fair value for him. Colborne, on the other hand? If you can cash in on him, do it.
There’s no dancing around this: Russell and Hudler absolutely have to go. That’s not a reflection on them as players, either: it’s just simple logic. We’re talking about players who are in prolific roles, who are both going to want raises that will probably price themselves out of the Flames’ cap, who are both aging, and who are both set to hit the open market.
A team in the Flames’ position would be ill-advised to let many of their free agents go for nothing, let alone players with substantial interest surrounding them. The trade deadline is essentially a failure if either Russell or Hudler is still available to wear a Flames jersey when the team plays Philadelphia the night of Feb. 29.
Jones is a less interesting case. Sure, he should be on the trade block, and anything that can be gotten for him – even if it’s just a mid-round pick – should be considered. If the Flames still like him as a depth option, there’s always a chance he could come back after free agency; he’s a player who will almost certainly be getting a lesser cap hit than the $4 million he currently carries. He’s hardly exceptional, but he is an NHLer, and worthy of consideration.
Hiller, on the other hand, is the most interesting target available. Not because of the year he’s had – and it’s been bad – but because he’s a goalie, one of the loneliest positions in sports. And all the Flames have beyond him are Ortio and Kevin Poulin.
It’s entirely possible the Flames acquire another goalie at the deadline, leaving them a little less decimated to close out the year. But if they don’t, then trading Hiller is the ultimate sign of surrender on the season. How many teams’ AHL tandems become their NHL ones in the same year?
On the other hand, it would be beneficial, if only so the Flames could alternate starts between both Ortio and Poulin and see what they have with both players. The net is for anybody’s taking next season, after all. The establishment is gone. Try as many options as are available to you. Hiller is a body presently in the way; if he’s traded, then he won’t be.