FN Mailbag – April 11, 2016

So that’s all she wrote. The Flames ended the 2015-16 season better than they began it, but the team’s decision makers will be on the hunt for some answers this offseason nevertheless.

Despite the disappointing year, the org has some nice things to build on, from the Gaudreau and Monahan duo to the dynamic backend featuring Giordano, Brodie and Hamilton. The club’s holes are still significant, but obvious – the way forward includes a legitimate starting goaltender, at least one more top-6 winger and (maybe) a new coach.

Even under ideal circumstances, the Flames may face at least one more year of desert wandering thanks to the restrictive cap situation Brad Treliving finds himself in. After next year, things open up significantly with the end of a lot of undesirable contracts (Mason Raymond, Brandon Bollig, Ladislav Smid, Deryk Engelland, Denni Wideman). So while the goal this summer will be to take another step forward, the Flames executive team may be forced to institute a holding pattern for 2017-18, when they will have legitimate budget flexibility.

It will depend on what Colborne asks for as an RFA as well as what the club’s cap situation looks like this summer. If Colborne is looking for $3M+ and the kids get $13M+ with their new deals, it may become a challenge to fit him under the cap. If so, the club may need to investigate trade options. Perhaps for a goalie? Looking at you Anaheim and Tampa Bay…

Jankowski, obviously. I assume he’ll wear 25 when he makes the team and becomes the #1 C next year.

Like the question of Joe Colborne, the Flames’ involvement in the UFA market will depend heavily on their cap situation. There’s a chance the Flames won’t have the flexibility to make any real moves in July, meaning they’ll be limited to periphery moves. 

That said, if Calgary can’t get a net minder via trade, they are going to be forced to find one via free agency. The best options currently are James Reimer, Antti Raanta and Jhonas Enroth.

In the event the Flames do somehow have money to spend on skaters, the primary consideration is going to be top six wingers, particularly on the right side if possible. Guys to consider include Loui Eriksson, Kyle Okposo, Milan Lucic, Teddy Purcell, David Perron, PA Parenteau and Troy Brouwer. 

Of course! The Canucks are an absolute mess from top to bottom. Their organization is where the Flames were a few years ago – being pitched head first into a rebuild after years of battling the inevitable. The Sedins will hang around and regress such that they won’t be worth much via trade, but the team will have no one to which they can pass the torch.

More worrying for Canucks fans is the fact that their executive team, from Linden to Benning, sounds like some of the most clueless decision makers in the league, with the possible exception of the Roy and Sakic in Colorado. In most recent soundbites and interviews I’ve heard involving Benning and company I’ve come away with the strong impression they don’t even know what questions they should be asking, let alone what the potential answers might be.

There might be a lot of quality bench bosses available this summer. There’s already the prevailing assumption that Claude Julien won’t survive the Bruins’ disappointing season. In addition, there’s a chance that one of (or both) Dave Tippett and Ken Hitchcock will be looking for work in the off-season.

All three guys have long histories of driving above average possession from their rosters. Or, in Tippett’s case recently, better than could be expected given the talent available.

That said, I don’t expect Hartley to get the axe right away. My sense is Treliving will give him another shot to get the club over the hump before moving on.

This question is partially answered above, but this gives me a chance to expand. I think Hartley’s leash will definitely be shorter than it ever has been during the Treliving era. For example, if the Flames open next season like they did this one, Hartley won’t make it past November, 2016. The organization is moving a cheap roster with lots of kids and lowered expectations. If there’s no clear indications of a viable step forward almost immediately in 2016-17, Hartley is gone.

In terms of Wideman and Stajan, I don’t think a 2nd rounder will be enticing enough for another team to eat those deals. Maybe if the Flames also retain some salary? As for Bouma, there’s a chance the Flames could find a buyer for his deal without having to sweeten the pot. His money isn’t outrageous ($2.2M for two more years), he’s young (26) and has the sort of scouting report a lot of old school guys still love (big, hits, blocks shots, etc.). His down year can be plausibly laid at the feet of injury as well.

If there’s an appetite to move Bouma this summer, I think the club will find a willing partner.

We can’t really speculate on this without having seen the draft lottery. That said, moving up in the first round can be pretty difficult, especially if we’re talking inside the top 10. I doubt the club has the assets to do something like that.

As for moving into the bottom-end of the first round, that’s more doable. A guy I would personally target in the 20-30 range is Alex Debrincat of the Erie Otters. He’s tiny at 5’7″ and 160 pounds, but he’s put together back-to-back 100+ point seasons in the OHL, which is incredibly impressive (the only guys to outscore Debrincat on his team both years were Dylan Strome and Connor McDavid).

Going into who to pick in the top-10 is a bit outside the purview of this particular column, so we’ll go with the second half of the question for now (watch for in-depth previews of Flames targets once we get closer to the draft).
It’s possible the Flames’ first rounder will be in play if they drop down below fifth overall, but the return would have to be awfully impressive to make it worth their while. I’m not sure what that could be – an established, top quality goaltender, maybe? (See: Cory Schneider to the Devils.)

Nobody.

I’ve liked Shinkaruk so far, but we can’t really say for certain if he’ll even be on the team next year, let alone a top six forward. It’s possible he’ll get a chance if the Flames have to go the cheap route, but right now he can only be considered a plan B on that front at best. Not because he’s a bad prospect, but because pinning those sorts of hopes on a 22-year-old with handful of NHL games is a bad gamble.

Absolutely. Grant’s season in the AHL was so dominant that it would be hard not to bring him back, at least on a two-way deal. At worst, he’ll be a leader for the farm team and a capable injury recall option.

This depends very heavily on who the new goalie is, who they pick and who the new coach is. Assuming they get the best possible option for all three, then sure.

Hard to say. MacKinnon’s best season was his rookie year from a scoring perspective and the Avs are known for playing hardball with their players. In addition, management doesn’t seem terribly enamoured with any of their players right now given their disappointing season.

That said, the Flames also have reason to try to ratchet down Monahan’s salary, at least for this season given their cap problems.

In the end, both guys should get contracts that are very similar, but we’ll see how each organization handles their negotiations this summer.

  • knappsacked

    In regards to moving up in the draft outside of the top ten, the obvious target should be julien gauthier. Massive, sttong, right shot, and scores a hell of a lot of goals. I see him being better than nick ritchie. Debrincat and bean are also great pickups.

    • Parallex

      I’m really suspicious of guys with such a lopsided G/A ratio’s. Particularly when it comes from a big guy like Gauthier. If the team is looking for a big forward in the mid to late 1st to trade up to get I’d be far more comfortable with a Max Jones or a Logan Brown.

  • Denscafon

    I’m all on the replace Hartley train. Other than last year where we way overachieved (even though it was great to watch), Hartley and his staff has not shown he can coach this team to be a contender. If Dave Tippett, Claude Julian, and maybe Kent Hitchcock are indeed available in the off season, I’d hope Treliving jumps at the opportunity to get “his guy” instead of keeping the coach he inherited from the previous regime.

    • deantheraven

      The three alternatives you mentioned are not exactly known for being offensively minded which is the brand of hockey played with the players we have. I’m not sure how well Tippett’s clog-the-middle- kind of trap style would fit here. Plus, it’s boring as hell to watch.

      Say what you want about Hartley, but the way he has the defense playing a big part in the offense makes for a much more entertaining brand o’ hockey, IMHO.

      • piscera.infada

        The same thing you stated re: Tippett was said countless times about Trotz’s move to Washington. Simple fact is, a good coach (like Tippett) sometimes has to coach with what he has (or, what he’s given–which in his case hasn’t been much). The thing about Tippett is he’s always been able to get a good amount out of very little. Imagine, if he had something to work with.

        Calgary needs structure in their game in the defensive and neutral zones–the offense will flow from that. If this young core truly is “offensively minded” then you shouldn’t have to create an entire system based around “creating offense” (ie. Hartley’s seemingly unbridled desire to create 99% of the team’s offense off the rush).

        • Parallex

          Yes. This is my thought as well.

          If Tippett becomes available and they don’t hire him then frankly the Flames are fools. I wouldn’t say he’s a top 5 coach in the league but he’s close.

    • deantheraven

      The three alternatives you mentioned are not exactly known for being offensively minded which is the brand of hockey played with the players we have. I’m not sure how well Tippett’s clog-the-middle- kind of trap style would fit here. Plus, it’s boring as hell to watch.

      Say what you want about Hartley, but the way he has the defense playing a big part in the offense makes for a much more entertaining brand o’ hockey, IMHO.

  • Kevin R

    Agreed, Hartley gets to run this team out of the gate next year. Right thing to do. Get him a friggin goalie & if we see the same start as this year…well..he had a fair shot at it.

    Bouma, we have to give him another year as well. Lots of injuries & we obviously didn’t get the Bouma we all grew to admire because of the injuries. We see the same next year & we may have to move on.

    Kent, Smid isn’t going to hurt our cap once he goes on LTIR. He may be useful to a team wanting to get to the cap floor, so Smid & a 5th rounder for a 6th rounder to a team like Arizona might work. Otherwise, Smid is here for 1 more year. Wideman & Raymond…ugh….
    So Kent… would you trade Wideman & Raymond for a salary dump & target a goalie back? Or pay the price we can’t really afford for one?

  • Denscafon

    Well now that Dave Maloney is fired, I would assume ownership in Arizona is going to push to get Austin Matthews if they don’t win the lottery. If the flames were to win the 1st overall pick, would you consider trading it if OEL was part of the package coming back?

    Probably gonna get flamed for this, but if the package was Gio/1st overall for OEL/Max Domi/their first rounder, I’d be tempted. OEL at 5.5mill till 2019 sounds more appealing than Gio at 6.75 till 2022…

    While Domi and whoever we pick might not be better than Matthews, it’s still not bad knowing that our backend will have 3 young all star potential Dmen for years to come.

  • kid presentable

    the problem with giving hartley another shot again is that if/when his no possession, stretch passing system fails again, will coaches as good as julien be available?

    • al rain

      Yup, this is the thing. A bit of musical chairs planning has to happen, but the most important thing is grabbing your guy rather than getting rid of your guy.

  • Greg

    I still don’t get the talk of trying to move Stajan or Bouma right now. Are they overpaid? Sure. But (assuming the league approves expansion this year), they are going to need those contracts to try to get to the minimum 25% of salary exposed in an expansion draft. Everyone else comes off the books next year, so if they don’t have those, and add about $11M more, they are going to be left having to expose core players on good contracts to meet that.

      • Greg

        They are doing something different: requiring teams expose at least 25% of their cap hits. For the flames, that’ll be rough $18M.

        Take a look at our 2016-2017 contracts. At the moment, it’s all core-players, plus Stajan and Bouma. So right now, they can’t even protect their core guys because it would leave only Stajan and Bouma exposed at ~$6M. Say you sign Colbourne and Jooris at $2M and $1M for 2 years, exposing them too leaves you are only half way there.

        With their cap situation this offseason, they are going to have a tough time adding enough big contracts that carry past next season to hit that. Right now, I’d wager that having to expose Gio’s contract is a non-trivial threat. Unless I’m wrong and expiring co tracts like Wideman could still count towards that requirement?

        Anyway, I’d say that’s one of the most interesting, and definitely most overlooked, part of this offseason’s strategy planning. I’m sure BT is aware and on it though. But I’d argue Stajan and Bouma aren’t going anywhere because of it.

        • cberg

          From what we currently understand, and still to be confirmed, we have zero issues on meeting the 25% threshold:

          Stajan, Bollig, Wideman, Smid, Engelland and Raymond = $18.24mm

          If you trade some of those guys, we also have an additional 14 contracts with more than two years pro experience (assuming RFA/UFA re-signings):

          Bouma, Colborne, Jooris, Ferland, Grant, Jokipakka, Ortio, Wotherspoon, Van Brabant, Shore, Arnold, Agostino, Poulin and Elson = ~$14.3mm

          Our problem is going to be deciding on who to protect and who to expose, especially if we trade for or develop a very strong 4D that requires us to protect 4D and 8 skaters overall.

          Lots of things still in flux, with some details confirmed this June re the expansion draft. It should be a very, very busy June, July and August.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    I think Hartley is great at motivating players. You can see it in all the 3rd period comeback wins last year, and the good ol’ amount of try that they have shown. But I don’t think he’s any better than average when it comes to tactics and player usage.

  • Burnward

    My wish list in range:

    1. PLD
    2. Nylander
    3. Juolevi
    4. McLeod
    5. Gauthier

    The younger Nylander might be flying under the radar a bit methinks. Seems like a silent badass from what I’ve seen. Overshadowed by big bro.

    • cberg

      I think I would add in Chykrun and Sergachev into your mix before any of Juolevi, McLeod or Gauthier. Actually I don’t like Gauthier so he would drop down considerably.

  • brodiegio4life

    there’s no way Hartley should be kept around if julien and hitchcock are available. He shouldn’t be kept around regardless cause his awful systems are never going to work.

  • McRib

    “Tweet: With all the picks Tre has collected could the Flames be moving up at the draft? To get who?”

    Kent provided a great response with Alex Debrincat, but in terms other guys who may fall down outside of the Top. 20 where we could trade up with a couple second rounders I would throw in Adam Mascherin in Kitchener as well 1.25 PPG. One of best shotsin the draft, square core really makes him strong on his skates for someone his size.

    • Parallex

      Frankly… I don’t think the Flames would take Debrincat or Mascherin. Much to my chagrin this is still a team that has Brian Burke in a position of influence.

      • Baalzamon

        Right! If the selection of Andrew Mangiapane taught us anything, it’s that the Flames would never take a 5’10 C/LW with great results from the OHL. Never ever. Ever.

        • McRib

          I think Johnny Gaudreau has taught our current management regime how valuable skill is in today’s NHL. If Gaudreau wasn’t lighting it up in the NHL do the Flames take Mangiapane last year? Then Mangiapane goes and rips it up in the OHL this year. I don’t think this team is going to turn its back on undersized skilled talent from here on out. Last years draft had Brad Treliving’s name all over it, in past years we took safe mostly stay-at-home defenders or players with size in second-third rounders Wotherspoon, Sieloff, Smith, Kanzig *shutters*, etc. Then last year we took skilled Andersson and Kylington. In fact the only pick that had Brian Burkes name written all over it was Riley Bruce in the 7th Round, which is a really minor pick. From here on out Treliving should just let Burke take some truculent stuff in the 7th Round and just to shut him up for Rounds 1-6.

          • RickT

            Honestly, I liked the philosophy behind Feaster’s drafting, in that you go for hockey IQ, skill, and character before everything else.

            Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t do a great job in putting it into practice (all the time), but the fundamentals are solid.

          • jakethesnail

            “From here on out Treliving should just let Burke take some truculent stuff in the 7th Round and just to shut him up for Rounds 1-6.”

            LOL…Keegan Kanzig and Hunter Smith in the 7th round makes more sense than where they were drafted…

          • everton fc

            Riley Bruce may turn out to be a surprise. You never know.

            Can you imagine dumping Burke and having Maloney and Treliving running things?

            People like Julien and Hitchcock over Tippet. I’d take Tippet over Hitchcock. What I like about Julien is he stayed 10 years. Loyalty.

      • McRib

        If we have to take size in the late first round or second round, I’d be alright with Logan Brown from Windsor with 1.25 PPG.

        I would also look at a major sleeper in the second round by the name of Cameron Morrison out of Youngstown in the USHL with 1.10 PPG. If we can land him in the second round, I would be ecstatic. He is an August 27, 1998 birthday has a great frame with outstanding flow and most importantly he is skilled not just big. He finished 2nd in the USHL in scoring as a first time eligible. The most impressive stat off all is he had 16 more points than his next closes teammate. You want a sleeper to hope for he is the guy.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Dave Maloney got a raw deal. No one gives Dave Maloney a raw deal!

    The guy has been nothing short of brilliant managing the desert dogs amidst all the chaos that continually surrounds that franchise. Huge mistake by the Coyotes to let him go. Flames would do well to bring him onboard. He is the kind of GM I would fire Tre and hire in his stead. Maloney is a very bright guy who did wonders in Arizona. Can’t think he would be that much better working with an established franchise with solid ownership and a large, loyal fan base. Flames should act fast to get the real Maloney because you know Vancouver is going to be hot on his heels and in Vancouver, Maloney is going to bring misery upon misery to the Flames and their followers. Yes, he is that good.

    • cberg

      Actually the Flames are fine, but perhaps the Oilers should dump Chiarelli, who has negligently ignored their biggest need and somehow managed to do even worse than his predecessor, even after the additions of Nurse and of course, the ‘exceptional’ McDavid. Who would have thought that was even possible?

  • smatic10

    I’m grateful for what Hartley has brought to the team since he has been here. He’s brought a positive attitude, instilled a good work ethic, and for the most part allowed young players to play important NHL minutes. His sound bites with the media are pretty entertaining too.

    With that being said, it is definitely time for him to go. Constantly trying to get offense off the rush, easily being shut down by the neutral zone trap, having a HORRENDOUS penalty kill, having a mostly ineffectual powerplay, constantly using the stretch pass, and having an inability to adjust his coaching techniques are all reasons that stick out in my mind.

    Sure, if he had a proper goalie to work with this year, we may have been in playoff contention but all the other problems I listed would still be there. We need a coach that can provide structure. I would gladly take Julien, Tippet, or Hitchcock.

    • JKG

      You just sold me on letting him go. Wouldnt be the end of the world if he stayed another year either, but I think you gotta have talks with all three as a matter of due diligence at the very least.

  • Scary Gary

    An entire column could be written picking apart Hartleys coaching tactics. I believe a coach like Hartley has a shelf life and I think we’ve reached it.

    Like others I’m 100% on board with upgrading to a Julien (1a) Hitchcock (1b) if they’re available.

  • BitGeek

    I’m not so sure that Hartley gets a short leash or that he will be around at all next season.

    Quality coaches just don’t fall out of the sky when you need them. If Treliving already knows that Hartley is not the guy to take the team to a Stanley Cup, then I’m sure Brad’s ready to jump on the phone and try for one of Julien, Tippet, or Hitchcock should they become available.

    The only reason to keep Hartley around (if you don’t think he’s your long term guy) is if you’re not sure you can land a better coach to replace him.

  • Stu Cazz

    One of your tweeters suggested Flames perhaps give a bunch of 2nd rounders to get rid of some bad contracts….I shutter when I think of giving away draft choices when it has been very clear the best means of building a team (especially Canadian teams) is through patience in player development and the draft. To even suggest Flames give away high end draft choices when they have been bottom feeders in the standings astounds me…that “Darryl Sutter” strategy got the Flames no where in the past….

  • ssamze

    Kent (or anyone who wants to answer this),

    Our old friend Kris Russell is having a strong (or better than he used to) possession number in Dallas. Is this something that he is doing different? Is the system that allows such? or is it just a SSS anomaly?

    (don’t have twitter, but would like your take)

    • jakethesnail

      …And I hope that whatever is driving Kris Russell’s possession numbers in Dallas helps the Stars to reach the Conference Final!

      Would anyone here re-sign Kris Russell here as a free agent if Dallas doesn’t offer an extension, if the flames dumped Wideman’s contract??

      • EhPierre

        Nope Nope and…Nope. We all know how he plays. Regardless of how his possession numbers are in Dallas (if it is an increase it’s most likely how Dallas is structured as Jokkipakka had stronger numbers in Dallas before coming here too) I would much rather have one of our guys in the AHL (Nakladal) be in our lineup and use the savings from Wideman to go after a goalie or a RW.

        • jakethesnail

          …that does make sense, but the Flames pooh-bahs really,really liked Russell and wanted Russell to sign an extension before hitting free agency.

          Would you be disappointed if the Oilers signed Russell in free agency?

          • EhPierre

            Disappointed wouldn’t be the right word. I’d be more..apathetic? Oilers definitely need help on the D which they most likely will address at the draft this year (hopefully for their sake). Russell would help the Oilers but Russell on the Oilers will help us too because there’s nothing better than to see Russell do his thing and flop on the ice while JG does his magic and score

  • BlueMoonNigel

    With Maloney out in Arizona and the Leafs potentially picking first overall in the draft, that sets up the possibility as even more likely that the Leafs will trade the 1st overall pick to the Coyotes for that son of the Leaf legend Max Domi.

  • cberg

    No way we should be targeting DeBrincat. We already have an identical player, in Mangiapanne, and of course Gaudreau is another tiny, highly skilled Forward. Much better to target a guy like Max Jones, big, physical, offensive prowess and a bunch of nasty. That is exactly what the Flames need.