Dreger: Flames have as many as 6 players ‘in play’, including Russell, Hudler

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.

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.

The RFAs

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.

The UFAs

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.

    • supra steve

      Everyone wants to see Grant and or Agostino get a shot with the Flames, Jooris is standing in their way. He has been a good Flame, but IF someone offers a decent return for his services, I would wish him well and send him on his way.

      • piscera.infada

        Jooris alone, is not standing in anyone’s way. I could say Gaudreau’s standing in their way. It doesn’t make sense to trade him. You keep the good players, and jettison the poor players. If Colborne outlives Jooris it’s a mistake. If Bollig outlives Jooris, mistake. Bouma? Mistake, in my opinion. I can go on.

        I get it. He’s cheap, but he’s not as replaceable as people are eluding to. He’s the guy that should be replacing the guys who are replaceable.

        To me, trading Jooris stinks of another Byron-esque mistake. Not a huge deal in the micro, but it does show a bit of an undervaluation of certain known skills as opposed to others. The problem with those mistakes, is that if you keep making them, you undermine your bottom-six–and then by extension, you make more Bollig-esque mistakes while you’re chasing your tail.

        • supra steve

          Or, if you’ve got a coach that thinks Jooris is replaceable, and a GM (and presumably his staff) who think Jooris is replaceable…perhaps he is indeed replaceable.

          Let me stress again, he should not be given away, they need a good asset in return, or they keep him.

          • piscera.infada

            if you’ve got a coach that thinks Jooris is replaceable[…]

            And that’s the problem here. I have no doubt in my mind that if management sees him as replaceable, it’s because the coach sees him as replaceable. That’s an issue even when that coach doesn’t routinely mistake bad hockey players for good ones, and it’s doubly so when your coach is Bob Hartley.

            Brad Treliving should be making moves to insulate his roster from Hartley’s ludicrous player utilization.

            I agree, for the right price, every player on a roster is move-able (every single one). My argument is premised on the fact that (as many have echoed here) I don’t think Jooris will re-coup anywhere near the value he has to the team if played correctly. That’s the issue. Colborne will probably return more based on pedigree alone, but is he really worth more? No. He’s not.

          • supra steve

            “And that’s the problem here. I have no doubt in my mind that if management sees him as replaceable, it’s because the coach sees him as replaceable.”

            I, for one, give BT (and staff) credit for being smarter than that.

          • piscera.infada

            But that kind of the point, right? What makes Jooris expendable? The fact that he’s consistently sat in favour of players who make a less positive impact. Therefore, he appears expendable.

            I don’t understand what the rush is to make Jooris a “trade-able asset”. It’s not like he’ll command big money, he’s less than one year removed from a very successful rookie campaign, and he has great underlying numbers for his current role on the team. It doesn’t make sense, unless management has soured on an intriguing, cost-effective asset simply because he hasn’t been used correctly this season.

          • Greg

            It only makes sense if they are getting a better asset back. I’d question if even a 2nd rounder is worth it as there’s at least an 80% chance that would turn into something of lesser value than Jooris. And I highly doubt anyone would give up said 2nd rounder for him.

            But if he is attracting interest as part of a package…

        • Jumping Jack Flash

          I could not agree more…..as I sit here watching Byron playing against the Caps fresh off a new deal, on the ice protecting a 1 goal lead in the final 2 minutes. It is nice to see how a player can flourish when his coach believes in him. The guy kills penalties and now is used in the shootouts. I could not be more happy for the guy. IMO Jooris is cut from the same cloth with a great attitude and will succeed…. Hopefully it will be here.

      • everton fc

        Jooris is primarily a centre and right wing. He’s Byron, basically, in many ways. He was in Byron’s way, come to think of it.

        He was never pegged to score goals at this level. He was never really pegged to make this level, particularly this soon. He’s not standing in Agostino’s way. Agsotino’s a LW, Jooris RW. Maybe Grant’s, but I doubt that, as well.

        He is standing in the way of players like Hamilton and Hathaway. Perhaps even Poirier, whose having a horrific sophomore season. I’d personally like to see Agsotino-Grant-Jooris at some point this season. I see Jooris as a potential playmaker, good on the PK. If they move Jooris, Agostino-Grant-Hamilton2, before the end of this campaign.

        (Unrelated, but Hunter Smith could be one of the worst 2nd round picks we’ve made in some time. Current regime, by the way. Just sayin’.)

      • everton fc

        Agostino is a LW. Jooris is primarily a RW. So he’s not standing in Agostino’s way.

        As for Grant, Stajan is in his way. Grant has leap-frogged Arnold, in my opinion. At 6’3″, he’s got size and used it well, when he was up here earlier in the year. I’d like to see Agostino-Grant-Jooris at some point. Or, if Jooris is moved, Agostino-Grant-Hamilton2. Or, if Grant’s out for a while, Agostino-Hamilton2-Jooris. I think these are interesting 4th line combos. I also see Agostino as a potential 3rd line LW.

        Agostino-Backlund-Frolik would be interesting, as well. Right now. I bet we’d see goals from that trio.

        The challenges are:

        Ferland: Where does he fit? Is he a LW, can he play RW on a regular basis?? Is a 2nd/3rd/4th line player??? You keep him, but find his place and keep him there.

        Agostino: LW on a team with Gaudreau, Ferland, Bouma, ??? We are sparse on the left side. Agsostino should be up here. He probably will be, sooner than later. Shinkurak also has all the opportunity he needs to make the big club, as I believe Ferland will successfully move to the right-side, to replace Jones.

        Bouma: Is he a 3rd or 4th line LW? Is he the one in both Agostino’s and Grant’s way? he plays centre and LW. So do Agostino and Grant. I’d bet Agostino give you more consistent production offencively, than Bouma. Or would Bouma shine on a 3rd line with Backlund and Frolik?? Or should Bouma become fodder for a package deal for a true 1st line RW – a young prospect w/potential. Nuchushkin would really be a nice scoop. So would Okposo, if we could afford him.

        We clearly need a 1st line RW. And maybe a 2nd line RW if we keep Backlund and Frolik together, which we should. Rolling 3 solid lines next season is what we need to do, with a 4th line as good as most teams 3rd lines. We have the foundations to do this – can you name a better third line than one featuring Backlund and Frolik? I said ‘better’. Hard to do.

  • beloch

    Jooris is the kind of cheap, competent bum that everybody wants in their bottom six but isn’t willing to pay much for. If you’re Treliving, you need to recognize that the market price for some players doesn’t adequately reflect their value.

    Russel is just the opposite. He’s not worth much to this team given that they have next to no hope of extending him with the salary he wants, so his market value is bound to be a lot higher than his worth to the Flames.

  • Greg

    I see Jooris the same way I saw Byron (which btw, glad for him to see that contract). For every Frolik you add at $4M+, if you subtract a Byron (now Jooris?) at ~$1M, you are taking at least as many steps back as you are forward.

    Just say no to trading Jooris!

  • MarbledBlueCheese

    Let’s not forget about trading Matt Stajan.

    I really like the guy and the player but his term and contract are too much for where he slots in.

    Also I have a theory that this team won’t win a Stanley Cup until it doesn’t have any former leafs on it (see: Colborne, Stempniak, Stajan, the guys from the Phaneuf trade, Gary Leeman, …)

  • freethe flames

    Let me start by saying I like Jooris and Bouma but both have not produced like last year, had they even been close we would be talking about being in the playoff race instead a lack of production by the bottom 6 has contributed to the problems. They are not totally to blame but they contributed. Personally I don’t want them traded but if they were part of a deal to get us a legit first line RW or a number 4 Dman I would not be unhappy. There are guys in Stockton who can be energy guys and might be able to produce at the level we got from them this year. WE have not gotten to see them this year.

    The Stockton game is on 960 tonight I hope to give it a listen.

    • piscera.infada

      We knew that Bouma and Jooris (well, mostly Bouma) would not produce like they did last year. Jooris actually has very similar production to last year in terms of primary points. No, he’s not shooting the lights out this year, but again, expected.

      The issue is, Jooris prevents offense against in a non-negligible way. That–for a team that has had a hard time keeping pucks out of their own net–is something they need more of, not arbitrarily less of. I don’t doubt there are players in Stockton that can come up and do some of those same things. But again, for a roster that has a hard time pushing the puck the correct way, shouldn’t you be trying to stockpile those guys instead of at the very least, breaking even?

      • freethe flames

        I’m not going to disagree with you on anything you said which is why I started my comments with I like both these players. However if adding either of them to a package to get a legit top 6 RW and 1 or 2 of our UFA’s to get one I would not be totally upset by it. Again I believe there are guys on the farm who could step up the plate and help replace what they bring.

  • Greg

    It’s interesting that Hiller’s name is out there given the season he had and Ramo being done. But if the flames are going fire sale and he’s getting interest, I’d love to see them get something back.

    I’ve wondered if Elliot is out long term and the Blues feel a need to get a plan B in place (especially since Allen was just out with a bad injury too and probably shouldn’t be taking on a heavy work load), would it be possible to construct a workable trade with Hiller and Elliot swapping teams?

    Perhaps something like:
    Hiller (50% retained)
    Hudler (50% retained)

    Elliot (assuming he’s out long term but would be our starter next year)
    Brouwer (the only “bad”ish contract Stl has, makes the cap work)

    • flames2015

      I would say there is no chance for an Elliot and Hiller swap. Even with Elliot out for long term, both him and Allen are on cheap favorable contracts until the end of 2018. There’s no reason for the blues to deal him for a goaltender that’s 4 years older with a worse save %. Maybe a trade for him to be a rental with another player but I honestly don’t see it.

      Hiller and Hudler are both UFAs anyway they would both serve has rentals from the time being and theres no reason at all for us to retain any salaries for them to facilitate a trade.

  • RedMan

    What we really need is a list of available UFA’s at the end of the 16-17 season. BT clearly had a plan to start contending by the 17-18 season based on the placeholder cotracts which will be expiring, and may want to add a highend winger at this time next year, or the following year.

    So, who will he available?

  • Franko J

    With Russell, Hudler, and Jones trade rumour’s swirling about I hope Treliving can at least somehow trade for someone (or picks) who can actually play against Anaheim and LA.

    The past couple of games the Flames did put up a valiant effort against the heavyweight’s of the Pacific, but were clearly the inferior team. Just from my observations the Flames are still a major work in progress until they can actually play at the next level.

    With so much hype surrounding the trade deadline I’m cautiously optimistic Treliving will make the right moves to put this team in a better position next season.

    Too bad Ramo was injured, I think he would have garnered some interest as well. I just hope that there are no Mike Cammalleri deals made.

  • freethe flames

    We all have so much fun playing GM but none of us have enough knowledge of what is going on behind the scenes. Whatever BT does some will be over the moon about it and others will be disappointed, but what most of us agree on is; “Make a trade already.” so we can have something new to talk about.