FN Mailbag – February 6, 2017

The end of January seems have brought about the end of the Flames’ perilous dry spell. Since returning to work from the all-star break, Calgary has scored nine goals in two games. That’s more than they managed in the previous four losses combined. 

That’s good news because the club needs to make hay this month if they are to have any chance at a playoff berth. The race in the West is starting to tighten up with St. Louis, Winnipeg, Los Angeles, Nashville, and Calgary all battling for a handful spots. The Flames (57 points) currently own the wildcard position ahead of the Blues (55 points) and the Jets (54 points), though St. Louis has three games in hand.

So now would be an ideal time to get hot. Reel off a string of wins in February and Brad Treliving can look to add at the deadline and hopefully pull away from at least two of the competitors listed above. 

In this edition of the mailbag, we focus on the Flames’ potential for wheeling and dealing as the trade deadline rapidly approaches.

It’s hard to tell from this far out. The Flames’ deadline activity will depend on their position in the standings and the nature of the trade market that emerges. The market will be moderated by who’s selling what and at what prices, which we can only kind of speculate on right now. 

As noted, the Flames don’t have a lot to put on the auction block if they are out of it by March 1. Maybe Deryk Engelland or Lance Bouma gets you something nominal from a team looking to bolster their grit heading into the postseason.

According to recent Elliotte Friedman interview, Treliving is actively looking for a new partner for T.J. Brodie, which should come as no surprise. If the Flames are in contention by the end of the month, look for them to target the players we mentioned in the recent WWYD

Dennis Wideman getting top four minutes, despite his obvious failings, comes down to the fact that the coaching staff doesn’t think they have any other options. Jyrki Jokipakka and Engelland can’t play against top six opposition for any length of time and Brett Kulak is young and relatively untested. 

The temptation is to slide Kulak up the rotation, but coaches are often hesitant to do that with kids who have no prior history of taking on heavy lifting at the NHL level. For good reason – for every Brodie who stepped into a top four role and flourished at a young age, there are 10 guys who immediately drown.

The other option would be to move Kulak up to play with Hamilton so Brodie can switch back to the right side with Mark Giordano. The Brodie-Gio duo could be given the toughest matchups and defensive zone draws while Hamilton-Kulak could see more offensive deployment. This gets Brodie back to the right side where he seems most effective and it gives Kulak a chance to prove his worth in the top four, albeit in a position to succeed with a partner who can likely do most of the heavy lifting. 

Of course, that would also mean breaking up Gio-Hamilton, who have been stellar since being united early in the season. Of course, the other, minor concern here is if Kulak flourishes, then he becomes a prime target for Las Vegas in the expansion draft. Of course, at this point that would be a good problem for the Flames to have. 

No. Engelland’s reputation far outstrips his on-ice utility. Over the last couple of seasons, the Flames have been outshot by 238 attempts with Engelland on the ice (CF% 46.03) and their expected goal ratio was less than 45% with his at 5on5. Even though he mostly faces off against third and fourth liners.

If we look at how he compares to the rest of the league in terms of shot suppression and total shot impact, we can see he’s likely below replacement level:

Story 1-31

The stuff to pay attention to here is on the right side: shots generated, shots conceded and shot impact. As you can see, Engelland is in the first, third and, uh, 0 percentile league-wide by these various measures. 

On top of all that, Engelland will be 35 years old in April. 

Maybe, but the question is “would the Flames want either guy?”

Marc-Andre Fleury will turn 33 in November, is coming off a mediocre season and has a price tag of $5.75M for the next two seasons, meaning that is a bet that can go south in a big hurry.

Bishop is a couple of years younger but is a pending free agent. Although his relatively poor season might suppress his asking price somewhat, there’s a chance he either flees in free agency or demands what is still likely to be an expensive, long-term contract.  

If Brian Elliott or Chad Johnson both fail to make an impact in February, maybe Treliving looks at renting Bishop. Of course, if that happens it means the Flames are probably out of the playoff picture anyway.

There are a couple of teams the Flames could target. Aside from the Ducks, the most vulnerable team up front is the Lightning.

Tampa Bay must protect Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan, and Valtteri Filppula. That leaves them with four spots for Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin, and Alex Killorn. 

Of those guys, Killorn is the most likely to be considered expendable. Though not a big name, he’s a decent middle rotation guy who can play wing or center. The issue with Killorn is he is signed to a long-term deal that pays him $4.45M for the next six seasons. He’s 27 years old so it’s not an awful bet, but that is a lot of years and dollars to commit to a guy who will likely be a third line forward over the majority of his deal. 

Aside from the cost of acquisition, there are a few other complications when it comes to Landeskog.

1.) He’s a left-shooting LW, which is the least of the Flames’ needs up front. Maybe adding him moves Matthew Tkachuk to the RW or maybe Landeskog can switch sides, but it’s still less than ideal.

2.) Landeskog is pretty good at everything, but not outstanding at anything. He’s certainly an upgrade on many of the Flames’ current options, but he’s not going to come in and be a dominant presence. Something to keep in mind when considering the asking price. 

3.) Landeskog’s contract is $5.5M for the next four seasons. It’s not an outrageous number, but it’s big enough to make Brad Treliving’s life complicated. After adding his deal, Calgary would enter the offseason with about $17M in cap space to sign four defensemen, two goaltenders and three forwards (including RFAs Sam Bennett and Micheal Ferland), which comes out to a budget of only $1.89M per player.

So either Treliving would have to find a way to get rid of another moderately substantial deal like Lance Bouma or Troy Brouwer, or he’d have to find a lot of quality filler to round out the roster.  

I don’t see any need to move on from Mark Giordano right now. Though his contract might become problematic down the road, he remains the Flames’ best all around defender, despite his slower scoring pace this season. Losing him would create a huge gap in the Flames’ top pairing and the club doesn’t have any clear options to fill that gap at this time.

Let’s pretend for a moment the club did want to get rid of Gio for whatever reason. In that case, the right move is to trade him for a substantial return, not risk losing him in the expansion draft for nothing. Even with his big deal, I’m certain Giordano would demand a package of quality assets in return. 

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    • cjc

      I’m not sold on Oshie, but maybe having a familiar face like Brouwer might bring him to Calgary. That’s still a minimum 4 x 5 million deal, more if they want to avoid an NMC/NTC. Oshie is 30 and despite good production recently there is threat of a decline

      If we’re going to make a big deal, I’d rather spend the money on Shattenkirk. Look at our back end, D is a bigger hole than scoring right now (and our scoring might improve if the D could be ironed out). Biggest drawback is that Shattenkirk will be expensive, and there is a line where it becomes not worth it.

      Stone has the worst possession numbers of any Coyotes blueliner. Last year was a blip in production, he’s a replacement level defender.

  • Stu Cazz

    I’m amazed at the suggested tweet that we trade a first rounder and our top defensive prospects for an overpaid LW that we don’t need….building through the draft remains the most effective strategy in becoming a competitive team quickly.

  • Kevin R

    Kent, I think renting Bishop for a 30 game tryout whether we are playoff bound or not would be pretty prudent if the verdict is Elliott or Johnson are not the #1 goalie of the future. We came pretty darn close to acquiring him last draft, what has really changed since then? Obviously the ask on the extension was a deal breaker, but I have no idea what the price would have been if we were able to come to an agreement with him. Yes, Bishop is having a sub par year for his ability but make no mistake, this guy is a bonafide #1 goalie capable of playing 60+ games. His year & probable frustration with his situation in Tampa may get him to take a shorter term new deal. So we get him at 6.0 mill per for a 3-4 year deal & bring in a young cheap & up & coming goalie to back him up. It’s going to take at least 2-3 years for us to reap the benefits of a Gilles or Parsons at the NHL level. I think are forwards & D will be ready to compete in playoffs well before then.

    30 games to get intel on a potential #1 goalie signing is worth a few periphery assets. No brainer for me, give them Elliott & a conditional pick, a 1st if we resign Bishop or a 3rd if we don’t. Throw in a B level D prospect if need be. JMO.

  • PrairieStew

    Bishop’s 5 year numbers are no better than Elliot’s. He certainly not worth twice the money. A $6M goalie is going to put a crimp in the budget elsewhere.

    Again – on Shattenkirk – he plays behind Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko; and the Blues, this year are not very good defensively. Are you sure you want to commit long term big money to a guy that is mid career and not improving; only to find he struggles in a top 4 role. Didn’t that just happen with Wideman over the last 5 years ? If you can get Shattenkirk on a one year $4m deal – then maybe.

    You overpay on July 1. You can sell high on March 1. At this point I don’t think the Flames are much less competitive with Engelland and Wideman removed and replaced by farm help. Both have to be shopped regardless of team position. The Flames should also listen to offers on Stajan. There will be teams not willing to pay Arizona’s price on Hanzal. If Bennett is staying a centre, Stajan’s cap hit is too much for #4c.

  • redwhiteblack

    The Heat continue to struggle on offence which is not boding so well for next season.

    However Janko has been fairly consistent. He could get a few games up and make a case for himself into next year. Everyone else still needs time.

    Gilles looking more consistent of late also.

  • Scary Gary

    “four defensemen, two goaltenders and three forwards (including RFAs Sam Bennett and Micheal Ferland)”.

    Sam Bennett’s next contract could be a whole discussion of its own.

    This is never a good idea but here goes:

    D Kulak $800,000, Franson $3,500,000, Jokipakka $800,000, promote D from Stockton (Andersson or Kylington).

    F Bennett $2,700,000, Ferland $1,200,000, Versteeg $1,500,000, trade Bouma, trade for Niederreiter $3,800,000, Brouwer gets claimed, sign Eaves $2,000,000

    G Johnson $2,000,000, trade for Halak $3,000,000 (NYI retain $1,500,000)
    This Halak: https://www.nhl.com/islanders/news/jaroslav-halak-team-europe-world-cup/c-282181234

    This leaves you with $2.5M after the $17M available and the $2.2M from Bouma and $4.5M from Brouwer.

    Gaudreau Monahan Niederreiter
    Tkachuk Backlund Frolik
    Versteeg Bennett Eaves
    Ferland Stajan Hamilton

    Giordano Hamilton
    Brodie Franson
    Kulak Andersson
    Jokipakka

    Halak Johnson

    • PrairieStew

      Are you saying Bouma for Halak ? What do you think you’d have to give up to get Niedereter ? You probably have to make that deal before the expansion draft – that means you are probably exposing one of Ferland or Versteeg. Brouwer’s not getting claimed – unless Vegas get 7 defencemen elsewhere – and then I’m thinking they’d prefer Stajan anyway.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        While watching Tom Brady do it again yesterday, it got me thinking how Bennett compares to Brady. Obviously, Brady was still playing NCAA at the same age Bennett is playing pro. However, whatever has made Brady a stud all these many years, is that something Sam also has and will it eventually come to the surface? Brady makes those he plays with better. Will Sam be able to do that too? I am not saying Sam has to be or will be the best player in the league, but will he be a guy who wants to win at all cost and actually have the ability to be a winner and make winners out of his teammates?