Could the Flames expose Troy Brouwer in the expansion draft?

After a season spent outside of the playoffs, the Calgary Flames made a big splash on July 1 when they signed Troy Brouwer. His deal was hefty in a few key ways: it was for four years, a $4.5 million cap hit annually, and contained a no-trade clause. In other words, the Flames bet big on Brouwer.

At the time, we at FlamesNation were a tad skeptical. In retrospect, our skepticism seems warranted. So far, Brouwer hasn’t been amazing for the Flames. He’s basically been a third liner, albeit with significant power play and penalty kill time added on. His underlying numbers haven’t been good. Even when you ignore his injury and focus on points per game, he’s eighth on the team in scoring (and seventh among forwards). Thus far, the Brouwer bet doesn’t look great.

With Brouwer holding his shiny no-trade deal, could the Flames attempt to wriggle free of his lengthy contract by exposing him in this summer’s expansion draft? To put it concisely: they could, but I’m not certain that they will.

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What the Flames do (or don’t) regarding Brouwer rests on their stance on a few simple questions. They are:

  1. Did they made a mistake signing Brouwer to the deal that they offered him?
  2. Are they willing to admit that mistake in a fairly prominent, public manner?
  3. Are they willing to deal with the uncertainty involved in exposing Brouwer to Vegas in the expansion draft? There are consequences in both outcomes.

Did they make a mistake?

Based on the results so far, yes. That’s not to say that Brouwer is a bad player, or has no value to the Flames. That’s patently false. He’s good at several things. But is he worth the money and term that they signed him for right now, and does it appear probable that his play will dictate that compensation for the following three seasons?

Back in July we took a look at the likelihood that Brouwer could play his physical brand of hockey for four seasons without it falling off (or him falling apart).

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But here’s the dilemma facing Brouwer, and the thing that makes his
signing risky as heck (for both sides): if he’s going to last four
seasons without his play falling off a cliff, he’s going to need to ease
off the physicality somewhat. But the entire reason he’s been effective
in the NHL so far (and the thing that made him attractive to the
Flames) is his physicality. So he’s damned if he does and he’s damned if he doesn’t.

So far in Calgary, his physicality has been less apparent and he hasn’t been scoring. In that lens, the signing already doesn’t look great and it’ll probably look worse in subsequent seasons as guys like Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk need new deals. And that’s ignoring the high probability that his play may further fall off as he ages during the duration of the contract.

(This frame of analysis assumes that the club evaluates signings in the same way we do, which is probably not the case.)

Will they admit a mistake?

The game of hockey, from a managerial perspective, is fundamentally a game of poker involving human beings. Most general managers have good poker faces, and it’s rare that they admit mistakes publicly with mea culpas in the media.

That said, it’s not like Brad Treliving has painted himself as an infallible manager. A lot of his free agent signings haven’t been amazing during his tenure, but moves like buying out Mason Raymond or burying Brandon Bollig in the American Hockey League suggest that he has a good idea of the lay of the land. His moves tend to have an underlying logic behind them and when they don’t pan out, he’s been smart enough to cut bait. 

Granted, perhaps he shouldn’t have made those moves in the first place (or perhaps he should have cut bait earlier than he did) but these moves show he’s willing to tacitly admit fault. Treliving has shown a willingness to ignore sunk cost on assets and try to at least get some value out of them (see the Sven Baertschi, Curtis Glencross, Jiri Hudler and Kris Russell trades as examples), even if that “value” is having them off the NHL roster.

The challenge is that the Brouwer signing was Calgary’s big swing this summer and it’s extremely rare for any manager to bail out of such a prominent decision right away. It would be akin to Treliving giving Glen Gulutzan the axe after the team’s dismal October. It’s extremely rare for teams to cut bait on big acquisitions so quickly after signing them, but the expansion draft is a unique (and rare) circumstance and gives the Flames the opportunity to do so if they wish.

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Are they prepared for any fallout?

Here’s the rub: if the Flames expose Brouwer to Vegas in the draft, it’s a very public pronouncement that they feel they’re better off without him. Hockey players are highly-paid professionals but they’re also people, and being told that you’re not wanted is a gut punch to the ego. In other words: if they expose him, they better be damn sure he’s going to get claimed because otherwise the relationship could be in shambles from that point forward.

Considering that there are likely to be a lot of bad contracts available to the Golden Knights, most likely the Flames would have to negotiate some kind of sweetener in order to get Vegas to nab Brouwer. That means an additional asset – probably a pick or a prospect – would be headed to Nevada. Are the Flames prepared to commit fully to bailing themselves out of the Brouwer deal? 

If they’re not, the fallout could be really unpleasant, and to a certain degree it speaks to the dangers of signing a player for things like “playoff experience” and “leadership.” When a player is brought in to do something tangible – create or suppress offense, for example – it creates obvious parameters for evaluating him both internally and externally. If Brouwer is exposed in the draft, will the Flames explain that he wasn’t using his playoff experience or leadership effectively enough?

In other words?

I don’t think the Flames are going to expose Brouwer. I don’t think they have a desire to move on from him after a single season, nor do I think they’d be willing to cough up the assets to the Golden Knights necessary to ensure that he’d be claimed if exposed in the expansion draft.

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Short of Brouwer getting tired of Calgary and waiving his no trade clause to get a change of scenery, he’s likely here for the duration of his deal.

  • Scary Gary

    This is a business, I understand there are dressing room implications of exposing him but ultimately if you make the team better guys will understand. I’d expose him and if chosen, I’d use his cap on a 3/4 D man. Brouwer offense is replaceable, especially if you give his PP time to someone else but a top four D man could really move the needle (especially if they develop chemistry with Brodie).

    Of course, none of this will happen but you can dare to dream.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      You hit the nail on the head when you said it was a business. With the salary cap, the business of pro hockey has become even more business-like.

      If Brouwer were to take his being exposed in the draft personally, he is hardly the character guy so many were led to believe he was.

      I’d expose him in a heartbeat. Hated the signing at the time and still do.

  • Parallex

    Yeah, that conclusion was foregone from the get go.

    Really you can boil it down to this… Troy Brouwer has Troy Brouwer’d for the Calgary Flames. Which is to say that the Troy Brouwer the Flames have gotten is the only Troy Brouwer they could have reasonably expected to get. Scoring? On his usual pace. Underlying numbers? Mediocre… as per usual. Physicality? Standard Brouwer fair.

    For the Flames to expose him it would involve management effectively declaring that they were wrong to sign him in the first place. Not that Brouwer under-performed as an asset (ala Raymond) but that they (management) under-performed as asset evaluaters. That the qualities they valued in him are were fact valued incorrectly.

    It’s one thing to cut bait on a guy when he doesn’t perform as you expected and quite another to cut bait on a guy when he does.

  • Arminius

    All the hate for Brouwer. Poor Troy. He made what 3.3 last year? Or 3.8? Now he makes 4.5? what he’s overpaid by a mill? Oooh that’s gonna break the bank one of the years. I don’t see the problem and I’m with BT on this one. If he couldn’t have afforded the free agent overpay he wouldn’t have done it.
    He plays with some size and physicality and stands well over 6 feet. I’m not sure if the hate stems from height disadvantaged FN members or what but I don’t sweat the Brouwer signing like this.
    The Gio deal will become more of an anchor than this one I’m thinking

    • ChinookArchYYC

      No hate whatsoever for Brouwer (and I’ll say boldly for most Flames fans), it’s just a question of money and term. I’d love Brouwer at $2.2M over 2 seasons, I like him much less for the double-double he’s contracted for.

      • Parallex

        Yeah, basically. Troy Brouwer has Troy Brouwer’d, the only question is how much is Troy Brouwer optimally worth? The answer (on my end) is significantly less then he get’s paid.

        I mean… P.A. Parenteau. Same position, same age range, same scoring (roughly), much better underlying stats… less then a 3rd of the price.

    • Derzie

      Gio is the best defenseman we have and our captain. I spend most of my posts bitching about the coach but calling out Gio when he is as essential as he is, is just cold and dumb.

    • Derzie

      Gio is the best defenseman we have and our captain. I spend most of my posts complaining about the coach but calling out Gio when he is as essential as he is, is just cold and dumb.

  • Deef

    Lots of Brouwer haters on Flamesnation all because of the salary and term. Fair enough – hes not getting any younger or better – but don’t ignore the facts that he’s a vicious playoff performer, a locker room guy, and has A LOT of playoff experience to teach the kids!

  • supra steve

    So we have to make this decision NOW? I was hoping to see what he is able to provide to the Flames in the late season playoff push and God willing, the playoffs. Isn`t that why he was signed? But if we have to make the decision right NOW, yeah expose him.

    • Kevin R

      Yeah this is a ridiculous thread. FFS, Brouwer was brought in primarily to play a heavier role in our top 9, which is geared more from a playoff point of view. I don’t think Flames Management were short sighted to sign him for 4 years knowing this year has 3 ugly contracts coming off, uncertainty in the net & a future young core that just may be not ready yet to be in that contender/playoff conversation yet. Guys like Brouwer & Ferland will play much bigger roles if we were to be fortunate enough to make the playoffs. Brouwer is NHL proven, he cost zero assets & I can list many many other contracts that are by far worse than his on most NHL teams.

      With the thinking on this thread, heck, Monahan has been horrible & we just signed him to 7 years, maybe we better expose him too so we get rid of his contract. My Lord, sometimes the problem when you only look at this game of hockey from Analytics tinted glasses, you over analyze stuff & make the wrong decision. Then I guess you can call it low PDO & bad puck luck.

      • Scary Gary

        Monahan is 22 and Brouwer is 31 with likely his best years behind him, I wouldn’t call that a fair comparable.

        I’m not sure I agree that Brouwer is able to elevate his game and is thus an above average playoff performer. With the exception of last year, which he cashed in on, he’s been pretty pedestrian. Our own Kris Versteeg has a better PPG average at 0.49 in the playoffs than Brouwer’s 0.33 PPG. If you take away Brouwer’s 2015/16 playoff totals his PPG sink even further to 0.24. Wideman has a better PPG average than Brouwer at a respectable 0.58; Frolik 0.47 PPG. Even Stajan has a 0.28 PPG average in the payoffs and he doesn’t get PP time.

  • Derzie

    If he was brought in for intangibles, one of the big ones is playoff performer. If this team had a decent coach, the playoffs would be a possibility. Since playoffs are not realistic, exposing him would not be a bad thing. I’d rather expose the coach though. That was BT’s biggest blunder.

    • supra steve

      Ever heard of Brian Skrudland? It was a different time (no salary cap), but he was exposed and lost to the Panthers in expansion in 1993. Similar type of player, but again, salary/term were not really factors back then, so referencing him may no longer be relevant.

  • reidja

    I’m just going to throw this out there… this isn’t the first time this website (and fans in general) have undervalued a player with high intangibles.

    • They’re one component of the aggregate that is Troy Brouwer. Putting heavy stock in how he is in the locker room versus his on ice results is a gross misunderstanding.

      Like I get it, folks still want to doubt shot metrics and other ways to measure ON ICE performance. That said if his “intangibles” – a component that every player has to “varying levels” – were a difference maker do you think it would show up in his results or positively impact his teammates?

      Everything he brings that is of value can be provided by cheaper contracts. Versteeg, Parenteau, Gagner, Marchessault, etc. they all provide significantly more value relative to Brouwer-esque contracts.

      To Arminius’ point about Giordano’s contract, he’s kinda right. As much as we love Giordano you still need to factor in the diminishing returns that will come with the age curve. Maybe he staves it off longer than some, but at some point if the Flames have that contract on the books still then it can be a problem.

      It’s just semi-short term vs long term risk.

      • Kevin R

        So are you saying Gio would have zero value on the trade market right now? If the answer is yes then expose away. The goal isn’t to have the prettiest Cap in the NHL it’s to use your assets to build the best team.

        Are you telling me that it’s Brouwers fault that Monahan is playing awful or Gaudreau has regressed big time 5V5? Or is it Brouwers fault that Brodie is playing like a turnover machine & horrible decisions? Or Gio was a pilon on that big Buff goal? Or that Bennett has regressed in what is technically his sophomore year? Need to put things in perspective. Careful what assets you expose.

      • reidja

        I’m going to take the liberty of correcting your first paragraph… Putting heavy stock in intangibles is impossible due to a lack of data.

        Hence, fans are left to make assumptions about the subjectively assessed portion of a player’s value to their team (i.e. Intangibles). They affect play both on and off the ice, in poorly defined ways and are better left for judgement at the end of the season. Subjective elements of performance exist without question. We are talking about humans here after all, not corporate bottom lines.

        I appreciate your prediction that the Flames will but shouldn’t protect TB, I will wait until we have a full season of on ice data and a sense of where this team is going before making a conclusion. I can say that three more years at $4.5MM for a veteran middle six forward is not a franchise crippling contract.

  • The flames are stupid if they dont’ expose brouwer.
    This is a business and business is cut throat.

    You expose brouwer in favour of protecting a younger player who still has time on their hands. You sell it as we believe in this player and their value was too high to risk.

    If brouwer gets claimed by vegas you simply say: “it was a tough decision but one we had to make for the best of the team. With Brouwer not having his best year here we had the hopes that Vegas would over look him during the expansion draft. We fully expected and believed in Brouwer coming back to our team next year and having a bounce back year. However, things didnt work out as we planned, and it came down to a decision between a younger guy we have a lot of faith in, and Brouwer, and we decided to go with the younger option. We wish brouwer the best of luck in Vegas.” PR isn’t hard. Who cares if media thrashes you for the contract at the very best you’re out of a bad contract and the worst you pray like hell that brouwer does have a bounce back year. These guys are pros they understand.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      My feeling is that Brouwer is protected because there is no one else that is on the bubble that is more valuable. If we expose him then it could impact our chance to get UFAs to sign in Calgary….which is never easy.

      • Guest

        Brouwer has no net value. He might be worth 2-4mm and he is being paid 4.5. The question is can the 4.5mm be used to improve the team more than Brouwer is now. That answer is probably yes.

        If he gets claimed great. If he doesn’t then fine, we protect another guy. No lose.

  • King Quong

    I agree Brouwer has been meh, but I honestly dont think he was brought in for the regular season Brouwer is known as a playoff performer. Secondly my only worry with exposing Brouwer is what if you expose him and he doesn’t get claimed.. You go from one extreme of here have a letter on your jersey to we don’t like you enough to protect you that’s going to cause him as well as other players to lose a bit of faith in management. In the grand scheme of it humans are fickle and will play worse because of smaller things in their lives.

      • supra steve

        I highly doubt that. If Flame’s offer is the best or among the best, and a player is willing to play in Calgary, they won’t care who was exposed in the 2017 expansion draft.

        • King Quong

          Doesn’t have to be specifically an expansion draft exposure. I’m talking about signing a multi year contract with someone giving them the “security/stability” of a no trade clause a leadership role on the team. Making the player feel comfortable enough that he builds a home in your city (yes Brouwer was building it before he signed here) and then not honouring that contract in any form despite all the promises of security. It doesn’t have to be an expansion draft it could be a special buyout the league offers after the next cba is signed or who knows what else it could be maybe they have some clause in the contract that they use legalese to get out of the contract. Doesn’t matter how I’m just talking about saying to someone come here build a home we wont move you, and then moving you within a year basically.

  • Guest

    I’d say this is pretty easy since no one is going to say this is a value contract (i.e. Backlund/Frolik/Brodie). Its unequivocal that he has little to no surplus value – meaning you can’t get anything valuable back in a trade.

    By exposing him the Flames get:

    1. To protect another undervalued asset (Kulak/Ferland), that you can get some surplus value in a trade for. This happens regardless.
    2. Free up 4.5mm of cap space for three years or keep him since its at best 50/50 Vegas will want an older, highly paid winger.

    Unless the Flames are utterly confident they cannot deploy that 4.5mm in a better way, then you benefit no matter what by exposing him. Easy.

    • oilersuck

      1. wont be able to protect Kulak unless they go 8 skaters. I figured Ferland is already going to be protected with or without Brouwer.

      Defence: Brodie, Hamilton and Giordano
      Forward: Gaudreau, Monahan, Bennett, Backlund, Frolik, Ferland and Brouwer

      Who do you protect?

      • Guest

        My initial preference would be to extend Versteeg for 2×1.5 and protect him. Then you are into your AHL list of forwards. Though I could see Calgary extending Chaisson cheaply and extending him as well (size and age and they clearly love him).

  • oilersuck

    So if they expose Brouwer they get to protect who instead? Bouma, Shinkaruk, Poirier? Brouwer maybe overpaid but he’s a useful NHL player. Unless they can swing a trade to pick up a better player for that last protection spot they need to protect their best players.

  • King Quong

    And for everyone who doubts intangibles mattering just look at Rene Bourque, Dustin Penner, or Bobby Ryan. Guys with tons of skill and potential who just don’t care enough, they’ve made their money made the show and seem to just float by. These guys are so frustrating because occasionally you see what they could be if they put max effort in and were more motivated.

    • I think that’s a presumptuous statement to make, that the missing factor in those players is intangibles. I feel like it’s missing the forest for the trees and emphasizing one element of a player versus the entire picture.

      This is the point I have been making for some time: You have a player with varying levels of skill across individual elements that are necessary to playing hockey. This fundamentally includes ‘heart’, ‘grit’, ‘tenacity’, ‘hockey iq’, and so on; a lot of sports related jargon.

      Then you have external factors and environmental factors that add into the whole equation too. Things like line chemistry, coaching, systems, scheduling, travel, life/work balance, etc., etc.

      But at the end of the day, all of the factors, be it individual or external come together at measurable outputs: shot metrics, goal metrics, expected goal models/predictive models, things that can be counted for.

      So in Brouwer’s case if we have a forward at a certain pay grade producing x amount of points (average-ish), seeing a substantial drop in shots for, seeing an increase in shots against, and struggling to be consistent relative to his peers/pay grade, and etc. then why is being given a pass because of leadership and other factors that are part of his overall output?

      It just doesn’t make any sense that you would want to protect or covet this asset. Especially when the desired outcome is to outscore your opponent and win. That’s the end goal and maximizing your roster in a substantial or incremental fashion to achieve that goal should be a focal point.

      Brouwer, from what measurable outputs we have as a community and in many predictive models that folks have ran doesn’t appear to provide a noticeable boost in achieving that desired outcome; especially for what he’s being paid.

      • King Quong

        That’s a fair argument, I just honestly think that there’s a fine line between stats and the un measurable human part of “intangibles” that needs to be found to have a great winning team. I’m personally studying sports law and statistics right now in university and hope to take my masters degree in hockey management a program actually co founded by brian burke and is partnered with the NHL if your not familiar with it and I hope to find that fine line and eventually be able to work for a hockey teams front office one day be it whl NHL hockey Canada or another league and help build a winner using both anyways I appreciate your feedback and opinion.

  • Lucky 13

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t we have until June 17 to submit our protected players for expansion?

    1 defence, 2 forwards and 1 goalie must be exposed from each team to meet the requirements of expansion. And from those Vegas must select at least one from each team?

    I’m not certain even if we exposed Brouwer that he would necessarily be taken, given his contract and years. I think there will be better options for Vegas. Maybe I’m wrong… wouldn’t be the 1st time

    Lots of hockey left for Brouwer to play this season, barring you don’t put him with Versteeg 🙂

    Bit early for me to pass judgment, but I really don’t see Treliving exposing him at this point….

  • Stan

    So all you people calling Troy Brouwer a “proven playoff performer” know that you’re completely wrong, right? Brouwers numbers are substantially worse in the playoffs compared to the regular season…

    Career regular season PPG = 0.48
    Career playoff PPG = 0.33

    He is not a proven playoff performer. He had ONE good playoffs last year, scoring at a 0.65 PPG rate. Remove that outlier, and his playoff numbers are even worse (0.24).

    Try to trade him at the deadline, and failing that, expose him in the expansion draft.

  • SmellOfVictory

    I don’t think exposing him is necessarily a statement that he’s unwanted; it’s a statement that there are other players who are considered a better organizational fit. I think selling it as “we’re still a young team and players X and Y are a better fit in terms of their career arc” is a pretty reasonable way to go. I mean, I’m not a GM and maybe that’s dumb, but that’s how I see it. It wouldn’t be wrong, either.

  • KiLLKiND

    Here is where you are wrong “Here’s the rub: if the Flames expose Brouwer to Vegas in the draft, it’s a very public pronouncement that they feel they’re better off without him.”

    That sentence is wrong because it is saying they feel they are better off without him. If that was how they actually felt they would waive him. Exposing him in the expansion draft shows that there are other players who they feel they cannot risk losing for nothing. You can only protect so many players and those who don’t get protected will understand that. Everyone was so hard on BT for losing Byron for nothing, but are willing to lose one of Ferland, Shinkaruk, or Poirer who all have been showing potential. I would even rather protect Stajan here as his cap hit is far more manageable and so are his results so far this season. Stajan has been far more useful than Brouwer, so far this season and has been our 2nd best center in terms of play so far this season. Yes, he has outplayed both Monahan and Bennett, but they are young and hopefully continue developing.

    You somehow feel that it would be a slap in the face to not protect Brouwer, instead of someone useful. I do not understand this notion as quite clearly there is a limit on how many you can protect and it’s not like the Flames feel they are better off without everybody they expose. The expansion draft was set up so that Vegas can get good players and be ready to compete. Many better players will be exposed, and that’s how it was supposed to be. If Brouwer who would have got exposed had he stayed in St. Louis takes it as a slight against his play then maybe he is right, but it’s not managements fault the expansion draft is a thing or that he has failed to live up to expectations.