Flames reassign Tyler Wotherspoon to Stockton Heat

In the aftermath of the trade deadline, there’s some housekeeping the Flames need to do. Things get a bit complex once the 23-man roster limit is lifted, but they’re only allowed four recalls between now and the rest of the season – recalls a team needs to use wisely.

Tyler Wotherspoon and Joni Ortio were both returned to the Stockton Heat via paper transactions, making them eligible to play in the AHL playoffs should the Heat make them. (They might – they’re near the bottom of their division, but there isn’t a lot of separation between the middling teams.) Wotherspoon and Ortio were also recalled – because without them, the Flames wouldn’t have had enough players to dress a full lineup against the Flyers.

They were up on emergency basis. Now that Jyrki Jokipakka has joined the Flames, there’s no emergency on defence; and so, the Flames can’t keep Wotherspoon up without burning another recall – so back down he goes.

This means a couple of things for the defence. First, they have just six available defencemen now, so there are no spares. (Dennis Wideman’s suspension will be over in six games, or two weeks.) Second, as mentioned earlier this morning, Jakub Nakladal was not a part of the paper transactions movement – and so, it doesn’t look like he’ll return to the AHL this season at all.

I can think of a couple of reasons as to why the Flames would take Nakladal over Wotherspoon for the time being. Nakladal is older, an impending unrestricted free agent, and probably more suited for the NHL right now. Wotherspoon, meanwhile, had a good showing when he was up: but as an upcoming restricted free agent, the team keeps control over him; besides, more time in the AHL will likely do him more good than it will Nakladal.

And by not sending Nakladal down, even via paper transaction, the Flames don’t burn one of their four recalls on him.

It’s also better to send Wotherspoon down now rather than burn a recall on him. The Flames will have seven defencemen – soon to be eight – meaning there will be one or two extras. Extras sit in the pressbox, and Wotherspoon was a pretty likely candidate. Why burn a limited resource just for the player to not play? In the AHL, he should get top minutes again.

As it stands, the Flames have burned just one recall: Garnet Hathaway, who made his NHL debut last night. The Flames would have 11 forwards without him, but he’s still a regular recall, because it’s the Flames’ own fault they were at 11 forwards. Losing a body to a trade isn’t the same as losing one to an injury, after all.

The Flames can still recall three players between now and the rest of the season, unless there’s another emergency, in which case they can bring up more.

What about Joni Ortio?

Ortio, who is projected to start tonight, is still with the Flames on emergency basis. I presume by now, new Flames goalie Niklas Backstrom has joined the rest of the team in Boston; if he hasn’t, then the Flames still need Ortio up on emergency basis. He also hasn’t played in over a year, so he may not be physically ready to play, in which case, the Flames would be left with just Jonas Hiller. That doesn’t work – so Ortio gets to stay up.

For now. Once Backstrom is good to go, the Flames will either have to send Ortio down, or use their second recall on him.

Which would you rather the Flames do: go with a tandem of Hiller and Backstrom for the rest of the season, average age 36 years old, or use one of their recalls on Ortio, a 24-year-old impending RFA, and a potentially promising prospect for a position the team really doesn’t have anybody else in?

Officially recalling Ortio would place the Flames in a three-goalie situation again, but it wouldn’t be as bad as the start of the season. Every team has something to play for at the start of the season – the Flames have basically nothing nowadays. (Besides, Backstrom is a veteran Finnish goalie; maybe he could take Ortio under his wing.)

Are there three other players on the Heat you feel should get a chance with the Flames before Ortio? Keeping in mind that somebody will have to sit as extra forwards and defencemen get brought up – not an ideal situation, particularly when you’re limited in just who you can bring up and when.

For now, it’s not an issue. But a decision could have to be made very, very fast.

  • flamesburn89

    Is it possible for the Flames to simply demote one of Backstrom/Hiller to the AHL and keep Ortio with the big club even though he’s up on emergency basis?

    • Ari Yanover

      They could demote Hiller/Backstrom, but even so, they’d still have to use an official recall on Ortio. It’s like Hathaway’s recall – the Flames don’t have enough forwards without him, but that’s because they traded somebody, i.e. it was their own doing.

      Demoting a non-Ortio goalie would be the same case: they’d be short a goalie, but only because they made it that way, not because of anything out of their control (i.e. injury, trading for a player who can’t make it there in time). They’d still have to officially recall Ortio in that case.

        • Ari Yanover

          To add to what piscera.infada said – by the time his conditioning stint was up (maximum two weeks), if they wanted to keep Ortio up, they’d have to use an official recall then.

          • Parallex

            Yeah… but it would buy us a few weeks to jam in enough games that we could either pass the threshold to get him out of Group 6 or get us close enough that Hiller could stub his toe at the end of the year and we could “emergency” recall him to get the remainder.

    • piscera.infada

      I imagine what you’ll probably see is Ortio recalled as a paper transaction (burning the second of their recalls–Hathaway was the first). You might see Backstrom sent down for “conditioning”, and then when he’s back, Hiller will be sent down (or more likely just sent home). In short, the Flames really have no incentive not to keep Ortio up with the big club. They have an incentive to play Backstrom (because apparently that was the only way he’d waive his NMC, making the Jones deal possible). The organization doesn’t, however, have any incentive to play Hiller.

      Wotherspoon will likely go down, and be told to be prepared to come to camp and earn a spot next year.

      They’ll probably save their two remaining recalls for the two older RFAs at season’s end (Agostino and Shore), and then we’ll see a couple of “injuries” requiring emergency recalls for anyone else who deserves a shot.

  • beloch

    Given that the playoffs are out of reach, the Flames should prioritize player development. Only one of their healthy goalies has any developing to do.

    Ortio has struggled with consistency in both the AHL and NHL this season. It’s certainly possible a stretch of starts in the AHL could teach him something, but this is also the perfect time to give him NHL experience. Next season, wins will matter again.

    Bottom line, play Ortio where he will learn the most. If that means burning a recall, you do it.

    In an ideal world, Backstrom would come in ready to mentor Ortio. Sending Hiller to the AHL would allow Ortio to learn from a new (and very experienced) teacher while getting some starts to put theory to the test. Ortio will likely continue to be inconsistent this season, and Backstrom will likely be very bad. The losses truly don’t matter though.

  • kittensandcookies

    I dunno. I’m thinking everybody keeps saying that Backstrom will play because to say otherwise is getting awfully close to cap circumvention.

    If the Flames traded for Backstrom and then put him on IR, then the trade might be nullified. The Flames don’t want any more trouble with the NHL head office these days.

    • KH44

      Apparently he only agreed to waive his NTC because he was promised some playing time. Don’t think it is a union issue if they don’t use him, but it would be a crappy thing to do and give the Flames a bit of a bad name.

    • wot96

      Yes, but how do you think he is going to do on the open market right now?

      We started with a three headed monster and we may end with a three headed monster (though I doubt it).

  • Primo

    I was most critical of BT at his initial draft year and results. I do acknowledge the pressure from within (Burke) to make the team heavier/bigger hence the selections of Hunter Smith and Keenan Kanzig. Regardless I have been very impressed at his performance since particularly at last years draft and this years trade deadline. This guy is really impressive and as a fan I really think the Flames organization is in good hands today and in the future (post Burke retirement years).

    With regards to Wotherspoon I was disappointed in his demotion but I defer to BT. I acknowledge the importance of player development and management of assets. Unless Wotherspoon is offered a one way deal this summer I see him moving on to another organization which would be a loss to the Flames. So be it…BT is building depth and a great future for the Flames!

    • piscera.infada

      With regards to Wotherspoon I was disappointed in his demotion but I defer to BT.

      He didn’t have a choice in the matter. Wotherspoon was an emergency recall, now that no one’s injured (or Kevin is on the roster) he has to go back.

      • Primo

        He had plenty of choices on the matter…IMO how about putting Wideman on waivers and risk
        losing an asset like that for absolutely no return. As a fan I would support that in view of his recent actions. I’ll leave it at that.

        • Ari Yanover

          That wouldn’t have done anything for the immediate situation, though. Wideman is a non-factor until his suspension is up.

          You’re right that Treliving had plenty of choices on what to do, but what he chose was, ultimately, probably the right call. Nakladal is officially done in the AHL; he won’t even be eligible to return to Stockton for the playoffs once Calgary’s season is over.

          Wotherspoon, however, still has that option. The Flames sent him down so he could have that – and then brought him back up because without him, they’d only have five defencemen for that night’s game.

          When Jokipakka was able to physically join the team, Wotherspoon had to go. It was that or burn a regular recall on him, which is something Treliving could have done: but it may not have paid off. He could keep him on the NHL roster, but that isn’t a guarantee that Hartley will actually play him; to get around that, Treliving would either have to directly impose on the coach’s territory, or force him into it by demoting, say, Engelland.

          But then we run into the same problem when Wideman comes back – either demote Wideman, watch Wotherspoon be sat, or send Wotherspoon back down.

          The only way Wotherspoon likely would have been able to stay up would have been to park more than $8 million in salary, still on contract for another year, in the minors. Literally no GM is going to do that.

          • Primo

            Your absolutely correct so no disagreement here.

            My response was based more on emotion rather than anything else. My view on Wideman is that he attacked and injured an innocent official for no reason or remorse other than after the fact. He should have been disciplined more severely and as a Flames fan I want no part of this guy representing my team or city.

            Of course that is my opinion and many would disagree….

          • BlueMoonNigel

            I too have been thinking about what to do with Wideman once his suspension is over. One option I that he is slotted into the lineup and it’s business as usual. Another is that he is a healthy scratch for the remainder of the season.

            Beyond his eligibility to return, what about next season? I really think that Tre has to move him over the summer even if it means the Flames retain salary and/or get a less than exciting return. The player and team would both benefit from a fresh start. Besides, Wideman, you’d think, has no future with the Flames after his contract ends. Don’t see the Flames trying to resign him nor should they.

            By not moving Wideman stock when it peaked last year, Tre has already hung onto to Wideman too long which has caused him to start to look a bit like Jimmy Benning.

        • piscera.infada

          The problem is (as I understand it, as the CBA is a little vague on the subject), when you make an “emergency recall” the player that is recalled is actually tagged as the “emergency recall”. Nakladal came up as a normal recall for Wideman when he was suspended. When Russell was “injured” Wotherspoon was an “emergency recall” to replace him. Russell no longer on the team, and a body coming in to replace him? No longer an “emergency”.

          I don’t disagree with any of your thoughts on Wideman necessarily, and I completely agree with your thoughts on someone else going down in theory. I also agree with Ari’s read of the situation. This, however, is a matter with the rules of the CBA.

  • freethe flames

    So Hathaway is the first of our recalls, leaving us with 3 more for the regular season unless people get hurt. Send Backstrom down for 2 weeks of playing the AHL(conditioning stint) and give Ortio all the games here until that is over. Play Backstrom in the AHL and see if he can handle the job. When the two weeks are over Ortio should be close to the number we need for him to have and we will know if Backstrom can handle playing. Flip them over and let the season finish. Use the other 3 recalls to audition Agostino and whoever else is deemed worthy.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Why would you even consider playing the 38-year-old Backstrom in Calgary except in an emergency?

      I only want to see Ortio and Poulin for the rest of the year.

      • Tomas Oppolzer

        You play him because Treliving told Backstrom he would get playing time. Going back on that would reflect poorly on the organization and the season is lost anyway. Imagine being a UFA approached by Calgary right after they went back on there word to play a player, that promise of playing time being the reason the player (Backstrom) waived their NMC.

  • HartAttack

    I feel like the demotion of Wotherspoon is because the coaches like Nakladal better… And I would agree. Nakladal had his first NHL goal last night, and plays a physical brand of hockey as well. I rarely see him out of position, and doesn’t make bad pinch decisions. Wotherspoon, however… is kind of the opposite for me at this point in his career.

    • Primo

      I agree with your comments and to me it’s obvious there is no future for Wotherspoon in the Flames organization. Many others have passed him and guys like Kulak are highly regarded. Given there is a shortage of good D prospects I do however find that difficult to say.