38Curtis Lazar Profile
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

What is the plan for Curtis Lazar?

Many of us expected a quiet trade deadline. The Flames didn’t have assets worth buying, they didn’t have any immediate needs, and they didn’t really a reason to start mortgaging the future. Things were on the upswing, why change things?

But then, in the final seconds before the deadline passed, the Flames acquired Curtis Lazar. The first rounder turned fourth liner had fallen out of favour in Ottawa, and with one point in 33 games, it was easy to see why Ottawa was selling him.

What was – and still is – difficult to understand is why the Flames bought him. Sure, they got rid of Jyrki Jokipakka, but he had already cleared waivers the day before. The Flames sent away a second round pick for Lazar even though he didn’t fill an immediate need.

A month after deadline, it’s still confusing. Lazar has factored into four (4) games with the club, two (2) of them being of actual consequence. During the winning streak it was understandable why Gulutzan wasn’t placing him into the lineup, but now that things have settled down, he still can’t factor in. Troy Brouwer was visibly the worst player on ice for the Flames for a period, and Lazar still couldn’t get in.

This all raises the question of why bother? Why did the Flames give up a potentially high value pick (before someone says that it’s “only a second,” look at the past two drafts) for a guy who has barely played, even when he can’t be any worse that some of the players the Flames have now? What is the plan here?

The short term

As we’ve seen since the deadline, there’s probably no way that Lazar comes in for the short term. Especially considering the “short term” is now the playoffs.

Although Ari suggested it in her post game embers, and even though he has three points in four games as a Flame, I would be wary of him as a playoff player. He’s really only had one good game, and he was playing between Matthew Tkachuk and Michael Frolik. Otherwise, he’s been a fourth liner.

They aren’t pushing out Brouwer, especially with the expansion draft looming. Lance Bouma is an option for exclusion, but is Lazar an upgrade? Corsi wise, not really. Bouma is a -5.21CFrel%, while Lazar is -9.94CFrel% in his short stint with Calgary (he was a -9.86CFrel% in Ottawa, so it’s probably not a sample size issue).

You can barely argue that Lazar is an upgrade over Freddie Hamilton at this point. The Flames probably aren’t going to use him in a high stakes situation, they barely used him in low stakes situations. His short term use is eating popcorn.

The long term

Here’s the interesting part.

Lazar is a high value asset, either through natural or artificial means. You have to think that if the Flames were willing to pay a second rounder for him, someone else was also willing to pay a similar price. Ottawa was not going to expose him on waivers because they know someone was going to pick him up.  The flip side is that the Flames were stupid enough to pay such a high price for him that it would be foolish and embarrassing to give him up.

There’s no way they’re going to expose him in the expansion draft. They’re going to re-sign him in the offseason. Even if he has finished the season with five points in 37 games, there’s a lot to like about Lazar. He’s young and right handed, two things the Flames need. Despite early returns, he appears to be a kid who can break out and be a useful bottom sixer if he puts it all together.

First, he’s going to have to unseat someone. Either Alex Chiasson (likely) or Brouwer (hopefully) will be claimed in the expansion draft. That opens up a RW spot. Easy peasy. The tougher thing is to hold back the dogs. The Flames have plenty of talents in the AHL who are looking for a similar forward spot. Lazar is in their age group, and will have the advantage due to his waiver status.

I speculated a while back about the Flames either acquiring (Lazar) or kicking tires on players aged 21-24, perhaps suggesting that the team feels there is a weakness in that age group from non-NHLers. Either younger players aren’t coming along as fast as they once thought they were and they need to buy time, or they’re readying to move on from some prospects.

That would make Lazar a stopgap: a player who holds a place not because of himself, but because he is simply a better option than the next player up. He’s there until someone better comes along. Unless he significantly improves, I can’t see Lazar staying past his next contract. Lazar being a stopgap makes the most sense: there’s a lot of prospect depth that isn’t here yet, and he is young, cheap, and with a bit more upside than your usual stopgap.

Final thoughts

But why are the Flames still tying themselves down to stopgaps? That made sense two years ago when the team had a bunch of spots and no young depth. This year should be the last of the rebuilding era, and the Flames still made a playoff spot. They could possibly get a huge leg up on the competition this offseason, why tie yourself down to two years of a player who is trending poorly?

The same thing that makes the most sense about Lazar also makes the least sense. Why do they need a stopgap? The Flames found Alex Chiasson for practically free last offseason. He stepped in, didn’t hurt the corsi, and scored a few goals along the way, then he’ll (likely, but not hopefully) leave. That’s what the Flames should be looking for if they need someone to fill that bottom six hole while they’re waiting for prospects.

  • Legend of Weevil

    He had one point in 33 games with Ottawa, he has 3 points in 4 games with the Flames.

    He looked fantastic over those 3 games as well. You probably still play Matt Stajan over him in the playoffs because Stajan has a lot more experience. But Lazar already looked like more of a difference maker than Stajan

    • Greg

      He’ll get his chance next year. Still quite surprising they traded an asset they can’t use yet but doesn’t need to be protected (the 2nd) for an asset that does need to be protected but also can’t be used yet (Lazar).

      But hey, if it gives them an excuse to expose Brouwer…

    • Oyo

      and in the games he played, that may be true. However, I am sure that if Lazar was the incumbent and Stajan was the one to spell him off, he would look like a dramatic improvement as well. Lazar’s mindset was I’m sure, to go all out for every game because he knew it could be his “shot”. Over the course of the season is where we as fans, begin to pick up on bad habits or inconsistencies in a players skill set. To praise Lazar is all well and good but we are not comparing apples to apples. Stajan’s results exceed Lazar’s overall and that is what I care about more moving forward. Even if he is currently (much) more expensive.

      • DKramer

        Lazar’s reputation in his draft year and beyond has been he’s got a fantastic work ethic and is easily coachable. Lots of character. So bad habits I don’t think will be an issue. At the very least his work ethic will push guys competing for his spot next year to work that much harder for the spot. I liked the move. Maybe a little high on the giving price but he’s still young and Ottawa stunned his development I think by rushing him into the NHL to only give him 4th line minutes. Seems like a good kid. Stajan won’t be here forever

        • Dr.Wahooka

          Totally agree with your assessment DKramer’s. Plus watching him in those few games he looked excited to be there. If he pans out or not it’s hard not to see that kid out there and not cheer for him.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        I hope management feels Janko has out grown the AHL in one season….has won almost every award at this level. Will be a finalist for Rookie of the year. If anyone deserves the 3rd or 4th line Center spot it is Janko.

  • redwhiteblack

    The Lazar trade is confusing. Maybe it pans out maybe not. I was upset when they put Byron on waivers and even more so now he has done so well. Moves like these create doubt in management’s ability.

  • Greg

    I highly doubt the flames gave up a 2nd because they see Lazar as a stop gap. He might end up being only that, but they paid that price hoping he’d become more than that.

    Stopgaps are more like the Versteeg and Stempniak type players that are ~30 and acquired for free or a mid round pick that hold a spot until someone younger pushes them out. If Lazar isn’t here beyond his next contract, it’ll be because he flamed out and isn’t a prospect of note anymore (which could have happened with that 2nd rounder too).

  • Kevin R

    Seriously, you contradict yourself in this writeup. If he is such a meh, notch above stop gap player, why in the world would you be so worried & so sure Vegas would take him???? I don’t understand this thinking. Especially when Vegas needs established NHL players. Vegas is going to get a boat load of extra draft picks in a record breaking amount of side deals with other teams prior to the expansion draft that Vegas is going to kid lots of young players to develop. Vegas will need bonafide players like Stajan or Bouma or Brouwer if Flames chose to expose him. Or am I missing something here?

    • I’m not sure what you’re talking about here. I said Vegas would likely take Chiasson, not Lazar. I really don’t care if they expose Lazar (because Lazar isn’t that great), I just think it would be a stupid, stupid waste of a second round pick to expose Lazar and then lose him. That’s probably the franchise’s thinking too.

    • Brent G.

      I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. That being said, I think they will still protect the player. The fact they gave up a 2nd rounder means they obviously want to keep the player. Not protecting him runs the risk of accomplishing that.

      I honestly think the flames should trade something to Vegas so they will take him. No idea what that market is but if they could make it happen for a 3rd rounder, would be worth it.

  • Cheeky

    Play him! He looks hungry and thats exactly what we need against Anaheim. Put him on 3rd line with Bennett and Versteeg, move Chiasson down with Stajan and Brouwer. Bouma on popcorn duty with Wideman…

  • Yahoo

    I am really disappointed how this has played out so far. I get the “we are on a roll, so change nothing” when he arrived. But I really believe this kid has a ton of upside potential and his grit would wear well on a 3rd line of him at center, with Bennett and Brower on the wings. I read an article in the Ottawa Sun the day he got traded and the columnist (who had been around the kid for a couple years) said he was the future captain of the team in Ottawa …. even if he was only scoring 15 goals a year. This is a columnist who knew the situation in Ottawa and knew the kid. I would love it if folks would give the kid a chance ….. way too early to give up on this kid …… be a tremendous 3rd line center and gritty leader for years to come …. I hope.

  • Newbietwo

    He is not a stop gap and acquiring him for that reason makes no sense given his price.. what the flames are is they have Brouwer- no thank you and likely needs to be moved to Vegas or traded with retained salary off-season or year after and if not Brouwer will stay the most expensive fourth liner in the NHL.

    Then you have Versteeg who has been good to ok- Maybe re sign or if price is too high walk away. Evause he is older and injury prone and plays without grit

    Then you have Chiason who is a good third line winger-Re sign him for a fair price

    Then beyond that management are looking at the forward group and saying alright Bouma needs to go and won’t be on this team next year in any circumstance so he will be gone or bolliged, You have Stajan with one more year if he isn’t taking by Vegas..

    So the flames are looking at this and saying hey beyond next season we have a ton of spots open and at the very least Lazar and be developed and play on the third line even if need to because nothing is worse than Bouma offensively.. don’t be shocked folks if next year we have no Stajan or Bouma and with Chucky on the first line with Monohan and Johnny and then have Bennett on LW with Backlund

    • It should also be noted that one of those points was an assist on an empty net goal, another a secondary assist in a 4-1 game, and the third a goal in game 82 when he was on a line with two of Calgary’s best possession drivers. Perhaps it is all meaningless noise in a small sample size.

      The real truth of Lazar is that he has been underwhelming since he broke into the league. I do agree with most that Calgary will be a better system for him, but people are buying in too much on a player that, as of right now, has not proven that he is worth much more than a fifth round pick. The article’s point was not to slam Lazar, but to try and examine the context and determine what plan (if any) exists for the player. We all want him to succeed, but it’s kind of hard to succeed when the team doesn’t appear to have any roadmap for him

      • Newbietwo

        To assume they don’t have a system or plan for him is what you are saying doesn’t make sense.. it’s not overly complicated to understand all you need to do is listen to Treviling after having acquired him where they clearly said the plan for him isn’t a short term one nor is it one specific to this season.

        Is Lazar complaining about it? No because he knows his chance is next season

        • Many guys have chances next season. There’s a bunch of kids in the AHL in contract years next season and they’ll also be fighting it out for that exact same spot. Again, if there was a plan (especially given that they need to re-sign this guy and properly evaluate him relative to the rest of the team/organization), I think it would include more than giving him four low leverage games.

          • Treliving did mention that the plan was more long term than the short term. He probably will not get into the playoffs unless there are any injuries . It will be interesting once contracts come off the books this year to see where current guys in the organization slot in. Bennett has been playing better lately but maybe he is better suiting for a second line winger than third line center.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        It really doesn’t matter if we buy into his sudden and fortunate production…. What matters is that Lazar believes he is scoring at almost a point a game. There are things to like, he could have had another goal last game but he rattled a lazer off the post. GG used Lazar in different scenarios, while the Ottawa coaching staff never did.

      • T&A4Flames

        The plan was stated when he was acquired. They wanted the rebuild his confidence. If getting points in 3 of 4 games is just garbage to you, it doesn’t mean it’s not helping a young kid start to believe in himself again.
        A plan was stated. Maybe don’t resort to the impatient Flames fan stereotype and give the kid and the organization a chance to follow through on what may be long term and not the instant result needs you’re displaying.

      • al rain

        The team doesn’t appear to have any roadmap for him? Why, because Brad Treliving hasn’t called to explain it to you?

        I agree that he’s underwhelmed since he entered the league, that he’s a project and that he’s probably a bit of a risky acquisition for a 2nd rounder. But to say that there’s no plan for him because you can’t see it is just bad logic.

        I contend that keeping him out of the lineup during a playoff push and when his confidence was probably rock bottom is evidence that there is a long term plan for him.

        Lay off, give the whole thing some time. Let him absorb the team’s systems from practice and from the dressing room and from the video sessions and from sitting in the pressbox with Conroy or whatever he’s doing. It sounds like a smart plan to let him get hungry and know that expectations are no longer what they were in Ottawa. He’s a warm body in the short term and let’s revisit this thing again after the preseason.

  • kid presentable

    i’m not too caught up on his stats this year either way (in ottawa or calgary). i didn’t like the trade but i’m hoping for the best. i thought it was encouraging that he could at least play with tkachuk and frolik and wouldn’t drag them all the way down a player like brouwer would, for instance. i also don’t think the flames would spend a 2nd rounder of a stopgap. if that is honestly their plan then that would be truly unfortunate. i hope he grows into a valuable role here.

  • Burning Ring of Fire

    I do not get the feeling that Tre doles out 2nd round draft picks without a lot of thought. He has a plan for Lazar and whether it’s short- or long term we should know by the start of next season.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    Here is a fundamental flaw with every hockey advanced stat out there…they cant measure something like potential. I think the Flames made a savvy pull getting Lazar. I think they intend to give him a shot at top 6 for the long-term. Just a hunch I guess, ive heard everyone directly involved (Tre,GG, Lazar) mention “a plan” , before ducking any real answer to the questions about his future with the Flames. I dunno, i think there might be more to this kid than youll find in some stat table. Time will tell.

  • oddclod

    Brouw daddy should sit if he’s still going to saunter by graveyards. At least Lazar will throw his body around and be mentored well with Stajan. More radical would see him with Bennett and Versteeg. The kid is hungry and wants to eat. Brouwer is like fattened up.

  • The GREAT WW

    The writers on this site seem to have no issue with trading a second round pick for Hunter Smith or Mason MacDonald…….but Lazar…..”say it ain’t so!!!!?”

    In the last 20 years only ONE Flames second round pick has played 40 or more games for the Flames (and we traded him for Hunter Shinkurak). I have a feeling that Lazar will play more than 40 games for the Flames…..

    WW

  • tannsteve

    Although he may have been a bust, I think that Lazar still has a lot of upside. He’s still young and did prove that at the junior level he could be effective. Personally I think a lot of it may have been that he didn’t quite fit into Ottawa’s system. I honestly believe he still has potential to be a solid 3rd liner at least (I would say top 6 but no way in hell should the flames break up 3M, obviously). He could be just a late bloomer, so I think it was a solid move – especially if Vegas picks up Chaisson, which wouldn’t be the worse loss we could take.

  • BringtheFire

    No no no, It’s very simple: it’s a weak draft that’s coming up. A second round pick in said or an equivalent in Lazar-who does have nhl and world junior experience-are just as likely to pan out. And sample size is too small. Wait until next season.

    Also, if he does do well, I have dibbs on Curtis Lazarus!!!

  • RKD

    I think a change of scenery will help this kid, he always has a smile on his face. I think he wanted to do well in Ottawa but it just didn’t pan out there. If he can play well consistently he can have a regular spot in the lineup as far as I am concerned. He’s part of the solution not the problem and he’s still very young and cheap not like an overpaid vet who floats out there and there are more than a few on this team.

  • Garry T

    The sun is going to come up in Arizona and Calgary after the Vegas pick one get two free for not taking this or that player draft. Out of the 30 team
    Donation list , Vegas will do just fine. We lose a player, we get a bunch of money for him out of the $ 550,000,000.00 entry fee. We need to fill a lot of holes. Let’s concentrate on that rather than wringing our hands in despair about who we do or do not lose.