Photo credit: David Banks/USA TODAY Sports
It’s no guarantee, but it’s possible tonight is it for a handful of Flames players.
Tonight marks the final game before the trade deadline. Fittingly, it’s at home, allowing fans to give appropriate, appreciative sendoffs to favourites (and not-so-favourites), depending on how things go.
See, some of these players (Jiri Hudler, Kris Russell) should be gone no matter what. Then there are other expiring contracts, such as David Jones’, Jonas Hiller’s, Joe Colborne’s, and Josh Jooris’ – the six players noted as in play – that may yet still see themselves play out the season on the same team.
And some might get traded before the game even starts. It’s only the morning, after all.
In the meantime, while everyone’s still here, let’s take one last look at how expiring contract trade bait seasons have gone – and where they’re at now.
Hudler had a modest start. He scored the first goal of the season, albeit in a 5-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks; naturally, Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau assisted on it. Of Hudler’s 35 points this season, Gaudreau and Monahan have both had a hand in 18 of them apiece, with 10 of them being a combination effort of all three – and with seven of them coming in the month of February alone.
February has, indeed, been Hudler’s month. He started his season off with four goals and 10 points through 12 October games, which nobody would object to, though his team’s record all the while was abhorrent. Hudler completely fell off in the following month, though, posting just four assists through 10 games in November.
November was when he started getting sick, which may or may not have been a cover for being a healthy scratch; this practice continued in December as well, when he scored just one goal and six points through 12 games. In January, he suffered a groin injury, and was often held out of the lineup. He only had one goal and four points through seven games that month.
Thank goodness for the final month before the trade deadline, though. Healthy and reunited with his linemates of yesteryear, Hudler has scored four goals and 11 points through 12 games this month.
His revival truly couldn’t have come at a better time.
In 2014-15, Russell set a new NHL record for shot blocking while only missing three games. Injuries have been a problem for him this season, though, most recently missing the last six games straight. Fortunately, it sounds as though his injury isn’t so dire as to scare off potential suitors, because this is a guy the Flames cannot afford to let go to free agency: not when he’s one of their best trade chips.
Russell has never been a big scorer, and until he came to Calgary, he’d never played big minutes, either. That hasn’t faltered this season, though: his third as a Flame. He has consistently averaged well over 20 minutes a game throughout the season, with his highest count being 27:23 played against the Detroit Red Wings in a 3-2 overtime win.
His least utilized effort was just 6:03 against the Chicago Blackhawks, when he had to leave the game prematurely due to a shot block. That one instance aside, there are just five other games in which he’s failed to crack 20 minutes of ice time.
Russell is billed as a top four defenceman, and he’s played such minutes all season long. Hopefully someone wants that badly enough to pony up for it.
We’ve gone from talking about how pleasantly Jones surprised us at the start of the season, and even musing about a possible extension for him, to… not really discussing him in the slightest.
That fits with who Jones is. He’s an NHLer, but he’s an unremarkable one. He’s a solid depth player, but that’s basically it. He had a wild November, scoring four goals over 12 games – and remember, there was a time he was the Flames’ leading goal-scorer – but has been quiet since then, notably scoring just two goals and six points through the 34 games he’s played from December until now.
Jones may have once led the Flames in scoring, but we’re long past that now. The good news is, probably nobody ever really expected him to be a major contributor, so his drop in production doesn’t really hinder things at all.
If somebody wants him as a depth option and can give the Flames a little bit in the way of futures, great; if not, he’ll continue playing a depth role on the Flames, taking a lot more defensive zone starts than offensive ones at least as a means of sheltering the younger guys still finding their footing (and hopefully, there are more of those yet to come).
Hiller has basically been a mess all season long. He’s 34 years old, his cap hit is $4.5 million (albeit less now as the season has gone on, but still relatively high compared to what other rental goalies may have). He played seven games in October, but only managed a .861 save percentage; his most-played month has been this one, with eight games, but his save percentage is only .893.
Most recently, Hiller had one heroic effort coming in cold against the Sharks, and since then, got five straight starts, most with less-than-impressive results, before finally losing his job to a kid who couldn’t even firmly hold down the starter’s role in the AHL (though to be fair said kid, Joni Ortio, has had just as up-and-down season as Hiller has).
Hiller suffered a month-long injury in late October, when he finally had a chance to be the starter. Otherwise, he’s just been plain benched. He had his most recent chance – and failed to do much at all with it.
Colborne has been all throughout the lineup. First line. Fourth line. Press box. Shootout specialist. Formerly and currently (but not all season long) a regular power play contributor, despite the fact he has shown zero ability to be affective in the role (as evidenced by his zero points). The extra attacker in a game’s dying minutes, for reasons I’m not sure any of us have grasped.
He has 22 points through 51 games this season, on pace for 31 points: a new career high, despite games lost to injury and healthy scratches. And yet… he just doesn’t seem to have a place in this lineup. Most recently, he’s been playing alongside Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik, but that’s not really an indication of his abilities; Mason Raymond had success alongside those two. A potted plant would probably be a kickass third linemate with those two.
He most came alive in November and December, scoring 13 points over 25 games; this month, he has four points through 11 games. He’s cooled off.
Colborne has all the tools. Size. Hands. But he seems absent-minded half the time, prone to going on aimless romps through the offensive zone right before turning the puck over, with seemingly no awareness of the situation on the ice. For the points he may put up – and he has been a modest scorer through his time in Calgary – he’s still a defensive liability, and even when he’s hot, things just look off.
But if a team sees past that and simply wants to go for the size and the hands, they should. Colborne was acquired for a fourth round pick; recouping that or anything more would be a win.
Jooris has not had a particularly great season, largely in part because he keeps getting healthy scratched for reasons that are, generally, mystifying. When he’s out on the ice, he’s typically hauling ass, making smart plays, and being a great penalty killer when the time arises, so what’s caused him to be a healthy scratch for 20 games so far this season isn’t apparently evident.
He hasn’t scored much – just eight points through 40 games – and that’s reason enough alone to balk at the idea of trading him. Jooris is a player who will do the little things right. You rarely see those guys get assessed fairly on the market; it’s hard to see any return for Jooris being worth more than the value he brings on the ice – when he actually gets to step on the ice, that is.
He’s hovered around 12 minutes a game all season long. It should also be noted that he scores about as much as Matt Stajan does – all while being cheaper and younger. Jooris’ contract would be more appealing than Stajan’s to any potential trade suitors, obviously, but there’s no reason to trade him for the sake of it.
Seriously, please do not trade Josh Jooris. Also, please actually dress him on a regular basis.