48

FN Mailbag – June 5, 2017

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Roster:

  • Gaudreau – Monahan – Niederreiter
  • Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
  • Ferland – Bennett – X (Versteeg?)
  • Bouma – Jankowski/Stajan – Brouwer (sorry Janko)
  • Giordano – Hamilton
  • Brodie – Franson
  • Kulak – Andersson/X (Stone?)
  • Raanta
  • Rittich/X (Johnson?)
  • herringchoker

    Let me just say, I hope the flames stay away from your Neiderriter trade. I think Ferland has done a great job in that #1RW role. Why waste assets until we know for sure. It makes zero sense. Putting Janko in a 4th line role is again poor asset management. He’s proving with each season to get better and better. He needs to be in a position to have a chance. Same as Lazar. I see a Third line of Janko, Bennett and Lazar. Let Versteek walk. We have a 10 million dollar forth line who will all still be there next season. Develop from within…..preserve your cash. Our forward group is pretty decent, young and will get better. The money needs to go to our D and a goalie. Our issues are scoring goals, our issue is getting overwhelmed in our own end and not having a goalie who will consistently steal games. You have got to get someone good for Brodie. Having a high end top four instantly makes our goalies better. Use the 5/6 spots to develop Kulak (if he’s still here) or Anderson. As far as goalies go after Raanta, bring up the remaining AHL guy as backup. Then fire our goalie coach and bring in some new blood.

      • herringchoker

        I’m actually really excited by a Janko, Bennett, Lazar line. If you move Bennett to a wing and Janko to centre, its a perfect line. Janko is a big two way centre who protects the puck with vision and smarts. Bennett and Lazar have everything to prove. Bennett is a battle horse designed more for the wing. With a bit more strength in the off season he will come back with fire in his eyes. Lazar is also a battle horse, with a great attitude and a strong desire to prove the world wrong. Fancy stats cannot quantify the heart and desire of a young player. Just like Versteek. Destined for Europe…..a desire to prove he could still play in the NHL. A comfortable new contract changes that. How many veterans have a big season before signing a comfortable new contract and then fall off the face of the earth. Players like Stepniack and Cammalarie come to mind.

    • Craig

      The window for competing is coming on very quickly, by acquiring an actually proven #1RW we have a better chance at succeeding. Yes Ferland was pretty good there last year, but he’s still very unproven, and can be a very effective third line.
      Same thing with Jankowski, he needs to prove he can handle the NHL before he gets thrown on the third line, look at Bennett’s development, it’s not an easy job.
      In my opinion, this is looking at things with rose coloured glasses, we need to give up assets to make the team better, no matter the emotional connection.

    • Backburner

      Ferland on the top line is a bit of a stretch. I’ll admit he’s done great with them at times, and even better with Backlund and Frolik. But bottom line is there is a gaping hole on the top line RW position, who as Kent said ticks all the boxes and fits in Calgary’s age group. Right now that looks like Nino.

      D was getting overwhelmed, but a large part of that was due to boat anchors Wideman and Engelland. If the Flames sign Stone and Franson, with maybe Andersson or Kulak stepping up they should be fine.

      • Jessemadnote

        Ferland did not even outperform Bouma from two years ago.

        -Bouma had a 15.4 sh% and Ferland had a 14.2.
        -Bouma had 34 points and Ferland had 25.
        -Bouma had 34.6% zone starts and Ferland had 50.2%.
        – Bouma had a -2.5% FF relative and Ferland had a -2.7% FF relative.

    • deantheraven

      I could see firing the goalie coach but I really believe Johnson could 1A/1B with Rittich to start next season. Could also see Janko between Bennett and Versteeg or Lazar.

  • FlamesFanOtherCity

    I don’t mind the trade targets. I would not give up Kylington as part of the Nino deal though. Hickey instead. And Raanta for Gillies is an overpay. Find something else they want or talk to Washington.

    Ferland-Bennett-Lazar would be fine, as well as Versteeg-Janko-Brouwer, assuming Stajan is traded or goes to LV. Bouma needs to spend his last year in the AHL.

      • Jessemadnote

        Actually Fletcher stated he’ll protect 7-3-1 which would make neiderreiter easy to protect. The real issue is the cap space. They think they’ll have to get rid of either him or granlund. The only reason I brought forward this idea is because this is the one that Wild fans are putting out there. Bennett could be signed for 2.5 million, Neiderreiter needs 5. Both are extremely high picks.

  • DKramer

    I understand the argument to leave Nino and keep ferland at the top. But the contending teams always have players who should be higher on the depth chart but aren’t because of the skill even higher. Acquiring Nino or a player of his calibre helps the whole team. Bennett could get a boost because he plays with a guy like ferland over Brouwer now. Or if ferland out performs Nino then Nino players with Bennett and the top 9 looks extremely balanced.

  • PrairieStew

    I’m going to assume that Minnesota is protecting only 4 forwards because they have 5 defensemen worthy of protection. On D I would guess they protect Suter (NMC), Spurgeon, Dumba and Brodin. That leaves Marco Scandella available on D. Up front the Wild have to protect Parise, Koivu and Pominville and then it is either Zucker, Niedereter or Coyle that gets the 4th spot. If they do nothing – they lose one. forward. If they make a trade, they lose 2 of them, so while futures might sound good, I think they would want something that could play now as well. If you add Chiasson to that package then it reduces Minnesota’s losses up front.

      • PrairieStew

        Right – I didn’t scroll down the list on CapFriendly’s expansion tool – don’t know why he was at the bottom. Tough decisions for Minnesota. If they switch to seven forwards they can keep Zucker, Nido and Coyle but would have to give up Dumba or Brodin in expansion.

        • everton fc

          I think they’ll try and trade Pominville, but perhaps hold 7 forwards. Remember Eric Staal has a “modified NTC”, as well. They have no choice, really. So Niederreiter won’t be available, in my scenario.

          But they can’t protect all their defencemen. Trade for one of Dumba/Brodin/Scandella. Pair one of them w/Brodie. Stay the course w/Ferland patrolling RW with Gaudreau and Monahan. Save money. Keep our pick at #16. Find a goalie, use Rittich as our #2. (Alex Tuch would be a nice addition here, if the Wild would move him. They are very deep on the farm, and w/Greenway coming down the road. Of course, w/Kunin already scoring at the AHL level late last season… Perhaps there is a chance for the Flames to poach a player up front. They`ll probably do their best to move Staal, whose cap hit is 3.5mill through 2018-19. A line of Bennett/Staal/Versteeg would be a good one. His contract’s a nice one, for the production he gives…

          Just thinking out loud here.

          Patience is needed. We lose Stajan and Bouma’s cap hits next season, as well as Bartkowski’s.

  • Parallex

    “Gaudreau – Monahan – Niederreiter
    Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
    Ferland – Bennett – X (Versteeg?)
    Bouma – Jankowski/Stajan – Brouwer (sorry Janko)”

    Yet another example of why trading for Lazar was so pointless. We gave up a flexible asset (2nd round pick) for a guy that folk don’t even pencil in for fourth line duty. 2nd round pick for a 14th/15th forward…. wheee!

  • everton fc

    If we can get Niederreiter as our 1st line RW, I’m sold, even though I think Ferland could/will score 20+ goals if left there next season. The talk of letting Versteeg walk is madness. Here’s my feelings about the roster, if Niederreiter’s signed (I don’t see this happening, by the way) AND if we can punt Brouwer to Vegas for Fluery;

    Roster:

    Gaudreau – Monahan – Niederreiter
    Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
    Ferland – Bennett – Versteeg
    Lazar – Jankowski/Stajan – Chiasson
    (Freddie and Hathaway or Lomberg are the extra forwards)

    Giordano – Hamilton
    Brodie – Kulak/Andersson (Gudas!!)
    Stone – Kulak/Andersson (Note I am not thinking about left or right-handed shots as I type)
    (Wotherspoon’s the extra defender)

    Fluery
    Rittich

    • Kevin R

      Not sure I understand why Vegas would waste a pick on Fleury & then dump him for Brouwer when they can have Brouwer for free?

      I want Schneider, but that’s just me. Nino would really be a huge acquisition. I would ask consider moving Tkachuk with Bennett & then slot Janko with Backlund & Frolik & let those guys bring another one of our high hopeful 1st rounders up to speed on that 200′ game. If we get lucky & Vegas plucks Stajan & somehow Tre can move Brouwer, that clears the path for Versteeg & Chaisson.

        • Kevin R

          Rutherford feels his pockets are too shallow for spare change. I kind of let go of the Fleury possibility after the Montreal reporter/that was confirmed said Fleury’s wife was checking out homes & schools I’m Vegas. I think Pitt already has a deal in place for Fleury & sounds like McPhee really likes Fleury.
          Otherwise, I would throw an asset to have Brouwer go to Pitt for Fleury. Fleury having a good playoff run gave them more options than I would have liked.

  • Derzie

    The teams in the final have a high proportion of Canadian players. Any prospects with decent NHLe that are Canadian? As long as the NHL and the refs don’t call the rulebook, Euro-style skill will be devalued.

    • DKramer

      Untouchable is a scary word. I think anyone can be expendable if it’s the right deal. I would I agree with you in saying the three of them have to much value to be a part of that trade though

  • flamesburn89

    If I’m BT, I’d be very interested in going after Chris Tanev. IIRC, the expansion Draft takes place June 18-20, which leaves the Flames a little under a week to get a deal with Benning done. They can negotiate beforehand, but the by waiting till after the expansion draft is done to actually make the trade, the Flames wouldn’t need to protect Tanev. Tanev would fit in really nicely with Brodie, and his cap hit is pretty much the same at around $4.5M per.

    Only thing is that the price on Tanev is really high. Right-handed defenseman are sought after commodities (look what Larsson fetched NJ) and VAN probably wouldn’t be thrilled about dealing their best one in-division to a rival. Still, I wonder whether they would be interested in a potential 16th + Kylington + Dube type deal. A lot to give up, but Tanev ticks a lot of boxes for the Flames and would really help shore up the #4 spot.

        • everton fc

          Dube’s going to be a good player in this league. We shouldn’t be moving too many prospects.
          I’d trade down at #16 to get a player like Maxime Comtois, though. Kulak, Andersson… Maybe Kylington… And maybe even Wotherspoon… We have at least three decent prospects on the backend in that “quad” of players. I think we need to keep cap room for guys like Backlund, Tkachuk, Bennett, Ferland, and eventually Brodie. Build a core and keep them together.

      • flamesburn89

        In fairness, I would be willing to give up a lot for Tanev because:

        1) I have always really liked the player and think he could help the team tremendously

        2) I don’t want the Flames going after Karl Alzner in FA or going into another year without a bonafide top 3 guy

  • Kevin R

    OK WTF!!! What is this Russian report of Flames have offer on table of Bennett, Kylington & 2 first round picks for Ovechkin??? Is this Ownership because Tre can’t be that stupid. :-<