Welp it’s trade deadline day and the Flames have already taken care of a big piece of business, moving JIri Hudler to the Panthers for a second rounder (2016) and fourth rounder (2018??).
The return isn’t a bad one, but it also shows how wacky the deadline market can be. Over the last handful of years the Flames have put Mike Cammalleri, Curtis Glencross and Jiri Hudler on the auction block at the end of February. Cammalleri was a proven 20-30 goal scorer, Jiri Hudler was one season removed from leading the league in even strength points and Glencross… was a solid third line winger on the decline. For some reason, the Flames got the biggest return for Curtis Glencross (second + third round picks).
Which is to say it’s really hard to predict the market. Sometimes good players get peanuts or don’t move at all. And sometimes you trade Doug Murray for not one but two second round picks. Or you trade former top-11 pick Filip Forsberg for Martin Erat (??).
So strap in folks. The only thing we can say with any certainty is that Kris Russell will move today. Other than that, it’s an open table.
— Sasha Ferce (@konnie7889) February 26, 2016
— KingQuong (@KingQuong) February 26, 2016
— KingQuong (@KingQuong) February 26, 2016
Hudler is gone, obviously, but the Flames still have Russell as a prime trading chip. The Chicago Blackhawks have aggressively loaded up prior to the deadline, so it will be interesting to see what, if anything, the Stars do to counter. My guess is they will be sniffing around guys like Hamhuis and Vrbata out of Vancouver.
That doesn’t mean Nichushkin is necessarily in play for a rental. There have been rumours about the 20-year-old Russian for a month or two now, but I imagine Dallas would rather move him for a more meaningful long-term return like Jonathan Drouin or Travis Hamonic. At least, that’s what I would hold out for if I was Jim Nill.
Assuming for a minute the Stars would take Russell as part of package for Nichushkin, I image the Flames would have to throw in one of their best prospects at the very least to close the deal. Rasmus Andersson probably tops the list.
To finish this up, people have asked me about Nichushkin since the rumours arose, so I figured I’d weigh in on the player. His results in the NHL so far are ambiguous at best. As a teenaged rookie, he scored 14 goals and 34 points in 79 games, which is nothing to sneeze at. He had his sophomore season wiped out by injury and he has seemingly struggled to fully regain his footing since. This year he has managed just eight goals and 24 points in 60 contests.
Nevertheless, Nichushkin’s underlying numbers are actually decent this year. He’s generating points at about a second liner rate given his ice time and his possession impact is middle of the road. That said, if we take his career as a whole so far he looks more like a third liner than anything else. Via Own the Puck:
Which is why the Stars might be willing to move on, even though the player a 6’4″, 205 pound RW who can skate like the wind.
Nichushkin is still very young and has lots of opportunity to improve. He’s no slam dunk to become anything more than a middle tier forward, however.
— Nikolas Morianos (@NikolasMorianos) February 26, 2016
— AlyFox[lwCoyote] (@lw_Coyote) February 26, 2016
I don’t know how many surprises there can be on this roster. The list of untouchables is short (Gaudreau, Monahan, Brodie, Giordano, Bennett), though there are some excellent support players who probably shouldn’t be in play either (Hamilton, Backlund, Frolik). The wildcards are Colborne, Jones, Jooris, Ferland, Bouma and Stajan. Some of the players from the latter group might be moved for nominal returns or packaged for a bigger one, though I’d prefer the team keep Ferland and Jooris as cheap young depth at the very least.
I think the biggest surprise will be if the Flames can somehow move one of their more “unpleasant” contracts. Think Wideman, Engelland, Smid, Bollig or Raymond. Tall order, but you never know – the Blackhawks managed to trade Rob Scuderi and he’s awful.
— Braedon (@NiddNation) February 26, 2016
This is a question better left to after the season, but for now let’s say it’s likely a mix between the two. The Flames have more than a few below average possession guys skating for them this year, but the coaching staff has also failed to transition the team from a counter punch strategy to something more possession-focused. The Flames remain very much reliant on things like collapsing, blocking shots and stretch passes, which tends to make it difficult to get the puck out of your zone most nights.
That said, keep in mind the Flames possession game has improved. Last year they were the third worst team in the league at 44.5%. This year they are sixth last at 47.6%. Still not even mediocre, but it’s at least it’s a step forward. Of course, the other things that hurt Calgary this year was their goaltending and special teams, so apportion blame to players and coaches accordingly.
We will examine this in much greater detail in this summer.