FN Mailbag – March 21, 2016


As the season winds down, Flames fans continue prepare ourselves for the challenges of next year

Draft simulators, RFA cap hits and expansion drafts dominate the discussion in the latest mailbag. Oh and let’s talk a bit about Jon Gillies and Joe Coborne…

Usually this is a tough question to answer, but I think things are pretty clear in the Flames situation. It will depend somewhat on the finer details (what happens with players with NMC’s? What rookies/prospects are eligible to be included in the expansion draft? etc.). For now, we’ll assume that players with no trade and no move clauses are eligible and that prospects with two or less years under a pro contract are exempt.

Here’s who I would protect:

  • 7 Forwards: Gaudreau, Monahan, Bennett (if he’s considered a 3rd year pro), Frolik, Backlund, Ferland, Colborne or Jooris (easier if Bennett is ineligible).
  • 3 Defensemen: Giordano, Brodie, Hamilton
  • 1 Goalie: Ortio (there’s literally no other option to protect in goal)
  • Things may change between now and the actual expansion draft of course, but how things stand currently this would be my protection list. The only tough decision is between Jooris and Colborne: I like Jooris a bit more as an overall player, but Colborne is much more likely to be plucked vs Jooris thanks to his size and counting stats. Default to protecting Colborne for now.

    Subban is an elite defender, but I don’t think he’s enough of an upgrade over Brodie for the Flames to sacrifice TJ’s beneficial contract. Brodie is an incredible asset in part because he’s gloriously underpaid relative to his contributions. Add in moving the only established top-6 RWer depth on the team and the club’s pressing cap concerns? Flames say no.

    As for the second question, there are a couple of teams who may have issues with puckstoppers at the expansion draft. Here’s a list off the top of my head: 

  • Anaheim Ducks – Freddy Andersen and John Gibson
  • Tampa Bay Lightning – Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy (may or may not be eligible)
  • Boston Bruins – Tuuka Rask and Malcolm Subban
  • Detroit Red Wings – Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek
  • Dallas Stars – Antii Niemi and Kari Lehtonen
  • Pittsburgh Penguins – MA Fleury and Matt Murray
  • So there’s going to be a few nervous teams. I imagine the Red Wings will willfully expose Howard because his getting claimed could solve a problem for them, but none of the other clubs are going to want to part with either of their goalies for nothing. I imagine the Ducks, Lightning, Bruins and Penguins might investigate the market for players like Andersen, Bishop, Subban and Murray. 

    All decent targets for the Flames, naturally 😉

    Yes and yes are the probable answers here. Monahan has strong enough results to push for a long-term, big money deal and the Flames organization loves the player. That said, he’s unlikely to get the same payday as Gaudreau because Johnny has established himself as one of the truly elite offensive players in the league.

    Treliving’s priorities this summer are, in order:

    1. Sign Gaudreau
    2. Sign Monahan
    3. Make a cap move or two
    4. Find a starting goalie

    Once the team has the two kids under wraps, Treliving can determine where the organization is cap wise and what has to be done to manage the roster budget moving forward. After that he can determine what extreme measures, if he, he has to take to get the Flames cap flexibility and then he can look into finding a #1 puckstopper.

    Having a big dog in an apartment is a bad idea. So, neither.

    No, but a hotdog is.

    Of the guys on the parent roster right now, there are three other RFA’s aside from Gaudreau and Monahan: Joe Colborne, Josh Jooris and Freddie Hamilton. Colborne is the only guy who will be looking at a modest raise, from $1.275M to around the $2M range. I assume the team keeps them all, with Hamilton more in the “AHL depth player” role than anything. 

    On the farm there is: Derek Grant, Tyler Wotherspoon, Kenny Agostino, Bryce Van Brabant, Bill Arnold, Turner Elson and Kevin Poulin. The only guy I don’t see them re-signing in Van Brabant. He’s a 24-year old undrafted grinder who has 13 points this year in the AHL. No need to commit an NHL contract slot to a guy with that kind of limited upside (I don’t know why they signed him in the first place, honestly).

    Gillies is the Flames best goalie prospect in recent memory, but it’s hard to get a read on his timeline thanks to his completely wiped out season this year. I’d say the team would like to see at least one above average year in the AHL from Gillies before moving him up the ladder, so we’re at least a season away from seeing him regularly on the parent squad, at best.

    Gillies upside is that of a quality NHL starter. His college career was outstanding and he has the requisite size (6’6″) to become a top notch starter. 

    I’ve liked Joe Colborne a lot more in the latter half of this season than I have previously, which is why he shows up in my protected players list for the expansion draft above. He seems to advanced from “mostly detrimental” to “capable passenger” whatever line he’s on. That sounds like backhanded compliment, but it’s a hurdle a lot of young guys never get over and I had my doubts Colborne would ultimately clear it.

    Big & Local is never going to be a shut down centre or legitimate scoring winger, but he has enough offense and other skills (face-offs and shootout) that he can be useful in a bottom-6 role.

    Like most players on the team, he has definitely benefited from playing with Backlund and Frolik. Altogether, the trio sports a 52% CF, which is impressive given the club’s overall possession rate 47%. Away from them, Colborne plunges down to the team average (46.8%). 

    In addition, his SH% has run incredibly hot this season, especially in the latter half (a career high 18.3%). He’s been more of a 12% shooter during his career, so we should expect that number to regress moving forward. That means, take his career high in goals (15) and points (31) this year with a pinch of salt. 

    Colborne will always be a frustrating player to some degree: he’s big guy with relatively soft hands who will occasionally tease you with a noteworthy play or shift. He’s also a guy who can, for long periods of time, look awkward and indecisive on the ice, killing more plays than he makes. He’s a clear tier above guys like Bollig, Bouma and Stajan, but a contending team likely doesn’t have Colborne in their regular top-6 rotation. 

    Okposo would be a great target for the Flames, but there’s a solid chance the club won’t be able to afford him given their cap constraints and pressing need for a goaltender. We’ll know way more by the end of June, at which point Treliving will have re-signed the kids and the NHL will have firmly announced next year’s cap ceiling.

    • smatic10

      Treliving needs to be very very careful when dealing with re-signing Colborne. Over the last three years, inconsistency has been his middle name. Anything over 2M would be a mistake and would further aid the cap stresses of the future. With immovable contracts like Stajan, Raymond, and Engelland on the books, we can’t afford anymore anchoring contracts. His play of late has been great, but I really hope management does not get fooled it.

    • Scary Gary

      These are fun to read, thanks Kent.

      I don’t entirely share your view of Colborne though. IMO there’s absolutely no way we should ever be paying Colborne $2M or protecting him. We definitely don’t need to be overpaying him because he’s been put in the most favourable of situations (ala Bouma last year). If he signs for 1.3M then super, if not move along; there are enough prospects in the system that would love a shot at the bottom six. I’d argue that if he left it may be addition by subtraction as you could have someone else playing his top six minutes or PP time, basically saving Hartley from himself.

      Not to mention the fact that I think he would take a discount to stay in Calgary.

    • McRib

      Great piece Kent! Interesting take on the goaltending situation going into a potential expansion draft (all this talk about expansion drafts makes me want to go back and look how previous ones went down).

      On a similar note who would be your ideal candidate to land via Free Agency this summer between the pipes? James Reimer? Furthermore how premature do you think it is to go all in on a top notch Free Agent goaltender this summer? Considering you know we are headed for a Bottom. 10 finish this season. Does a good goaltender and a couple depth moves via Free Agency get us even close to the playoffs next year.

      • piscera.infada

        On a similar note who would be your ideal candidate to land via Free Agency this summer between the pipes? James Reimer? Furthermore how premature do you think it is to go all in on a top notch Free Agent goaltender this summer?

        Because James Reimer is the top notch free agent goaltender this summer, I guess the question comes down to “do you go all-in for James Reimer?” I don’t see why anyone would be champing at the bit to say “yes”.

        • JKG

          Agreed. Personally I think they should address goaltending last as you generally overpay for legit goalies anyway… Ride ortio and a cheap experienced back up for another year or two until we reach the magic “contending window of opportunity” and then go all in on a real #1 goalie if Gilles or ortio aren’t panning out. That said, if someone knocks your socks off in the meantime and you can get him on a long term deal then maybe you pull the trigger.

    • Petzl

      I honestly wouldn’t be happy about Colborne at anything over his current salary. Even at his current salary he’s overpaid.

      With Hartley coaching the best solution would be to get rid of him, because while he’s here Hartley’s going to overplay the shit out of him.

    • Stu Cazz

      Kent as usual this is a great read as your depth of knowledge is outstanding…WRT the goaltending like most fans my #1 target would be Andersen but undoubtedly the Ducks would want our #1 pick. After last years draft I don’t believe the Flames can afford to give up another #1. Unless the Dallas pick becomes available I would not do this trade. Matt Murray would be my other top target and I would not be afraid to trade for Reimer as he could excel under the proper environment….however his term and contract demands may be unreasonable…..

      • piscera.infada

        I’ve stated numerous times that I’m not sure an Andersen or Bishop deal really works for the Flames–too expensive both in terms of the acquisition price, and their next contracts in term and dollars. Matt Murray is an interesting target, but I can’t see the Pens giving him away, and also, what has he really proven at the NHL level.

        For me, the most sensical option from all available angles is Brian Elliott–$2.7 million for one more year, probably won’t command a ton of term if you want to resign him, only 30 years old, seems like a true pro (doesn’t get affected by a time share, should someone emerge), probably won’t cost an arm and a leg to acquire, and is a very solid goalie. He’s the ideal stop-gap.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Kid could be a 20 goal man this season. Under $2M for a veteran 20 goal scorer. Are you nuts? What penny-pinching, tightwad, cheapskate, Scrooge-like planet are you from?

        Great way to attract talent to Calgary by playing small town cheap with your producers.

          • BlueMoonNigel

            Another one tonight with another period still to play. Inching ever nearer to 20 goals.

            If a guy gets 20 goals, I don’t care how he gets them. He’s a 20-goal scorer. Real simple, brainatic.

            • piscera.infada

              If a guy gets 20 goals, I don’t care how he gets them. He’s a 20-goal scorer. Real simple, brainatic.

              That’s the exact thought process that led to David Clarkson.

            • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

              We’re talking about signing Joe for 2 x$2m or so, not 7 x 5+ like Clarkson was. You might have been closer if you referenced Lance Bouma who will never again get anywhere close to 20 but was awarded 2,2M after a 16 goal season.

              Wow, talk about being over dramatic. ;-\

            • piscera.infada

              Missing the point. I’m talking about the logic of “if a guy gets 20 goals, I don’t care how he gets them. He’s a 20 goal scorer”. I didn’t say “Colborne is David Clarkson”.

              The argument was made prior to and after the Clarkson signing that “he [Clarkson] is a 30 goal scorer”. He scores 30 once, and then put up 15 in the lock-out year (his contract year)–which pro-rates to 30 goals over 82. Since then, his numbers fell back to his career average.

              Just because a player scores 30 (or 20 in Colborne’s case), does not make them “a consistent 30 (or 20) goal scorer”–and they should not be paid as such.

              I didn’t chime in on Colborne himself, because I frankly don’t really care either way–provided he isn’t signed for more than 2 million, and no longer than 2 years. I think he gets a bit of a rough ride around here, because of “his toolbox” and “not using that toolbox”, but even though he gets a rough ride, the criticism is entirely valid. Now Colborne is big and local, he looks–at least prima facie–to have improved in the second half of the season, but let’s call a spade a spade here: is that really a sign of improvement, or is it a hot stretch (when his career numbers seem to indicate different)?

              So sure, sign him for 2 million, but know that if he doesn’t become “the improved Joe Colborne”, he’s just taking away yet another spot in the bottom-six from an NHL-hungry prospect in an organization that already has a log-jam there. If “the improved Joe Colborne” becomes the norm, then you’ve ended up with a somewhat effective bottom-six forward, who isn’t as cost-controlled as you might like in that spot given the already overpaid members of that group.

            • Parallex

              Pretty much. Colborne does get a rough ride around here, but the rough ride is a deserved rough ride. The criticism he receives is not undue.

              Here’s the thing with Joe Colborne. On the whole he’s a detriment to the team if he’s not used correctly and Bob Hartley frequently uses him incorrectly. So in my mind it comes down to this, are the Flames going to fire Bob Hartley? If the answer is yes then by all means resign Colborne to a fair contract, if the answer is no then Joe gotta go.

            • The Last Big Bear

              Joe Colborne is a 20 goal scorer in the same way that Taylor Hall is a 30 goal scorer.

              Which is to say, he isn’t, because he hasn’t, and it’s questionable that he ever will.

    • PrairieStew

      Colborne at $2m is a pretty good deal. Based on production at 2.04 pts/60 he is 124th in the league among forwards with at least 300 minutes. Not only does this make him a top 6 forward in terms of production (I know, this seems unreasonable) , he has shown progress in his 3 years as a Flame. In 13-14 he was at 1.47 p/60 and last year at 1.70.

      Contrast that improvement to Yakupov in Edmonton who has gone from 1.60 to 1.58 to 1.44 pts/60 in the last 3 years – and his salary is over $2m.

    • Nick24

      Kent, a hot dog is most definitely not a sandwich. At this point there is a clear seperation between the two! Next you’re going to argue that ketchup is jam!

    • Colin.S

      Joe Colbourne is an entirely reasonable depth forward and can be used as such, if he gets paid like a depth forward and played like one I’m fine with giving him an extension. The problem becomes when he’s given any sort of top 6 time. Kent said it himself, he’s a “Capable Passenger”, the problem is he himself doesn’t drive the play.

      I still think that Colbourne’s biggest problems is the PP and shots generated.

      He is 5th on the Flames in PP TOI but has only 3 Power Play points. And that isn’t an outlier, Colbourne is terrible on the PP, he has 12 PP points in his entire career. Sean Monohan has more than triple the points in about the same number of games. Yes Monohan gets a lot more time, but at the start of the season Hartely was giving Colbourne as much time as Monohan and Gaudreau on the PP and he still did nothing with it.

      And then there’s the problem with generating shots consistently. Last year he ended up with around the same amount of shots generated as Bollig, that’s a problem. He’s generating them at a pace slightly better than last year, but still well behind the pace that the rest of the top forwards are generating. If it wasn’t for a stupid high S% the shots generated would look a lot worse than it does. And that S% isn’t going to stick around.

      Colbourne is setting some career marks for himself this year and is likely to try to cash in for the season he’s having. If the Flames can sign him to a Lance Bouma type deal, fine, he’s a player who can be moved through the lineup and has shown some growth. But more than that takes away cap space for the actually players who are going to move the team forward as well as maybe getting a competent NHL goalie.

      I still think, much like last offseason that Colbourne is now the best trade bait on the Flames and could be used to find upgrades as part of a nice package deal of some sort.

    • The Last Big Bear

      $2m is a good price point for Colborne.

      He’s probably the “tools-iest” forward on the roster, but he never puts it together for more than about a period at a time, once every few weeks.

      Glad to have him on the roster, because he can take over a game, plus has mad shootout skills, but his consistency issues mean he can’t be relied upon to be anything more than a 3rd liner, and needs to be paid accordingly.