This period of the offseason is usually pretty busy for NHL organizations, but this particular June should prove to be especially hectic. The expansion draft is a whole new, unique wrinkle that should influence everything from trades to UFA market.
Calgary is a club with a lot of irons in the fire at this point. They need a starting goalie, have a forward expansion slot open (assuming they’re willing to expose Curtis Lazar) and boast just one pick in the top 60 for the entry draft. As a result, it’s possible the Flames will be one of the busiest teams in the league between now and the start of free agency in July.
@Kent_Wilson if flames can pick up goalie so he's not exposed by current team, who do u prefer out of neuvirth, grubauer, raanta?
— Blake McCullough (@McCullough_747) June 2, 2017
Let’s take Neuvirth out of the equation because he’s been middling for awhile.
Philipp Grubauer versus Antti Raanta is tougher. Grubauer is the younger player with less experience and a smaller sample size, but some really encouraging results so far. Raanta is a bit more proven, but also a 28-year-old who has never been a starter in the league.
Here’s how each guy’s 2016-17 compares via Dispelling Voodoo:
As you can see, both guys were well above average in backup roles, though Grubauer’s save rates are marginally superior (albeit in fewer games).
As a result, it would come down to asking price for me. Whatever guy is more affordable from a trade asset standpoint is the guy I’d go with.
Do you anticipate the Flames will make any trades prior to June 18th? (Before the protection lists are submitted).
— ScottyB (@sheepdogsaints) June 2, 2017
Calgary will want to trade for a goalie before the expansion lists are due. The team is able to protect at least one puck stopper in the draft (though I’m not sure they have to) and June 17 is the pinch point for the various clubs with too many goaltenders on the roster.
The Flames may also be in the market for a winger, but I expect the netminder deal to take precedent.
Are you still feeling like the best play is to nab a forward that might otherwise be exposed? Like Niederreiter from Min? Cost 1st+?
— Nikolas Morianos (@NikolasMorianos) June 2, 2017
If Niederreiter really is available then the Flames should be pushing hard for him. As discussed previously, he ticks all the boxes for Calgary in terms of a top six winger. As an above average scorer and well above average possession player, Niederreiter is a rare commodity that won’t become available very often.
For the price, I’d be willing to pay Calgary’s 16th overall and a noteworthy defensive prospect to start. That would clear a roster and budget space for Minnesota and give them two quality future assets.
Which of the prospects that our ranked in and around our #16, looks the best with fancy stats and NHLE?
— Travis Lentz (@LentzTravis) June 2, 2017
There’s a handful of guys who stand out in terms of NHL equivalence. Using Christian Roatis’ NHLe calculator, we can see which guys have the superior numbers.
- Nick Suzuki: 37 NHLe
- Kailer Yamamoto: 36 NHLe
- Kole Lind: 30 NHLe
Two other noteworthy guys are Elias Pettersson (27 NHLe) and Lias Andersson (21 NHLe). They don’t stand out in terms of NHLe because both guys played in Swedish pro leagues last year (Pettersson in the Allsvenskan and Andersson in SweHL or Swedish Elite League). As a rule, teens who appear regularly in pro leagues tend to be above average prospects, especially any guy who puts up any kind of offensive results. Their scoring is suppressed because they usually play support roles in tougher leagues.
To put Pettersson’s 40 points in 43 games in perspective, Filip Forsberg scored 17 points in 43 games (12 NHLe) in his draft season in the same league. He jumped up to 33 points in 38 games in his draft+1. As for Andersson, his output compares favourably to recent SEL graduates like Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Mika Zibanejad, and Marcus Johansson.
There are also a few high scoring defenders who might be around at 16. Here are some of the top blueliners:
- Juuso Valimaki: 24 NHLe
- Nicolas Hague: 18 NHLe
- Cal Foote: 16 NHLe
Draft at #16, or trade back to pick up picks that you lost at the deadline?
— Marty Borotsik (@Mobile_Marty) June 2, 2017
If Calgary’s first rounder isn’t cashed in for a starting goaltender or top six winger, my guess is the Flames will wait to see how the first round progresses before deciding on a trade. If they really like a guy who falls to 16, I assume they keep the pick. If they think they can trade down and still get a guy they like, then they make that move.
Personally, I’d definitely keep the pick for Suzuki, Pettersson or Andersson (though I might consider some of the high-end defenders as well). Otherwise, I’d look at moving down.
Klim Kostin a reasonable target?
— Cameron Hilton (@cameron_hilton) June 3, 2017
Klim Kostin makes me nervous. He bounced around the various Russian pro leagues last season (VHL, MHL and KHL), only appearing in 18 regular season games total (scoring just two points). Kostin also saw 13 games with various U18 and U20 teams, managing 12 points.
Which is to say, there’s very little quality information to go off of when it comes to this player. This reminds me of Valeri Nichuskin’s draft year, where he scored six points in 18 KHL games. Scouts seemed to go off of the player’s package of skills (big, smooth skating, etc.), but that’s a dangerous game when you are only looking at a handful of games.
I wouldn’t personally gamble on Kostin given the other options available.
assuming Kulak is not taken by Las Vegas, is he good enough to play the 6th defenseman on the this Flames team?
— Irreverent (@ChinookArchYYC) June 2, 2017
We can’t really say for sure if Brett Kulak is good enough to be an NHLer or not, but that’s the leap of faith teams and coaches have to take with all but the very best prospects. Kulak’s results in the NHL to date are certainly encouraging, with better than even possession rates in a sheltered role through 30 NHL appearances.
Another reason to pencil him in as the sixth defender is timing. Kulak is now 23 years old and five years removed from his draft season. At this point, the organization needs to know what they have in Kulak so they can continue to develop him or move on. If a player isn’t an NHL regular by 23, there’s a good chance he’s never going to be.
And finally, Kulak would likely be preferable to Matt Bartkowski, the other candidate for third pairing LD. Unlike the younger guy, we definitely know what Bartkowski is – a replacement-level NHL defender, at best.
Assuming Brouwer ISN'T claimed by Vegas and we're stuck with him, how can the coaching staff best utilize/shelter him going forward?
— Geoff Rhino (@iginlafire) June 2, 2017
Taking a regular shift in the AHL?
We know that’s not going to happen, so at most it has to be a fourth line role at even strength for Brouwer. All of his stats from last year – shot generation, shot suppression, personal shot rates, scoring rates – were fourth line quality (or worse).
As you can see, the first big change that should happen is a drastic reduction in ice time. The second is a drop in the quality of opposition the player faces. Although Brouwer’s role gradually decreased as the season progressed, he still saw time against good players, even near the end of the season.
This was in part because Glen Gulutzan had a strange tendency to start periods with Brouwer’s line (I still haven’t figured out the thinking behind this tactic) and in part because the coach couldn’t always decide who to throw out against good competition when the 3M line was on the bench.
If Sam Bennett takes any sort of step forward this year and/or if the Gaudreau line gets a top six RWer, then GG should have all the options he needs for top six or even top nine matchups. As a result, Brouwer should be limited to just facing bottom rotation players.
As for special teams, I’d also take Brouwer off of the PK given the Flames’ other options, although he can probably act as a stand in now and then. Brouwer can also take some shifts on the PP, although that again will depend on who else the coach has at his disposal come October.
So, shorter version: limited minutes, lesser competition, spot duty on PP and PK if needed.
Do you have an ideal candidate in place for each of the 3 holes, top 6 RW/FWD, #1 Goalie, and #4 d-man? Who are they and what's the cost (1)
— Colin Ayles (@colinayles11) June 2, 2017
I have a couple of scenarios in mind, depending on availability and cost of acquisition for various players. Let’s assume Niederreiter and Raanta are available for now:
Trade 1: Niederreiter for 16th overall, Oliver Kylington and a 2018 3rd round pick, sign Niederreiter for $5.25M/year.
Trade 2: Raanta for Jon Gillies, Daniel Pribyl, and future considerations.
Signing: Cody Franson, $2.85 M/year for three years.
- Gaudreau – Monahan – Niederreiter
- Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
- Ferland – Bennett – X (Versteeg?)
- Bouma – Jankowski/Stajan – Brouwer (sorry Janko)
- Giordano – Hamilton
- Brodie – Franson
- Kulak – Andersson/X (Stone?)
- Rittich/X (Johnson?)