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FN Mailbag – June 12, 2017

We’re less than a week away from “protection day” when all teams must have their protected lists submitted to the NHL, but all is silent on the trade front. Part of the issue is likely the recently completed Stanley Cup Final, but the other is the weird complexity of the expansion draft itself.

By all accounts, Vegas is charging hard to leverage their position and collect as many assets as possible. That makes life difficult for the NHL clubs lining up to convince the Knights to either ignore one of their valued exposed players, or to take one of their lousy contracts. No doubt there’s a market shaping up on either side of the aisle and a lot of the action will occur closer to the 11th hour (as is the case with the trade deadline).

As for the Flames – they are still looking for a netminder. They don’t absolutely have to land someone before the expansion lists are submitted, but prices on the trade market are more likely to go up after the draft.

It’s hard to predict anything when it comes to the expansion draft since it’s relatively unprecedented. I get the sense that Vegas is trying to become a kind of middle man in a lot of deals where they are able to take and flip players that are of interest to other clubs.

If McPhee is able to conjure an active “flipper” market, we may see as much action after the expansion draft as before it.

Either way, I think Brad Treliving will be interested, although Calgary’s lack of picks in this draft may tie his hands a bit. Prior to the draft, I expect he will prioritize a goalie before anything else. If Vegas becomes a clearing house for other positions, I’m hoping he looks at a top six winger and top four defender if possible as well.

It’s pretty slim pickings this year. If Calgary can’t entice Cody Franson or Justin Williams to move west, the list of possible quality additions gets short very quickly.

As always, free agency is about the mistakes you avoid as much as it is about the big names you land. Look no further than Troy Brouwer’s now regrettable deal as proof. As a result, I am just as interested in what landmines Treliving can avoid this summer – re-signing Deryk Engelland, or inking Karl Alzner long term for instance.

Unfortunately, we don’t know Vegas’ level of interest in the player so it’s hard to guess what they’d want in exchange. If I was the Knights’ GM you’d have to start with 16th overall for me to even consider it. However, George McPhee has a history of valuing Brouwer and may be convinced that last year was just an “off-year” for the player.

If so, then it might take a relatively low-value sweetener to make the deal. Maybe a mid-level prospect or middle tier 2018 pick?

A lot of “President of Hockey Operation” types around the league seem to be mostly figureheads: long-time, well-respected “hockey men” who are kept around for their Rolodex, high-level recommendations, and to imbue their org with gravitas.

I suspect that’s true of Burke in Calgary as well. When he was brought in a few years ago, the Flames were… not a joke, exactly, but had certainly suffered a series of embarrassing setbacks. Burke came in to stabilize the club’s reputation and is now around in a role that is partially advisory, but probably more symbolic than anything.

None of the Flames kids who are going unprotected would break my heart. Of the guys available (Hunter Shinkaruk, Brett Kulak, Emile Poirier), Kulak would be the biggest loss. He seems at least poised to become an everyday NHLer, albeit as a third pairing defender.

I’ll be fairly disappointed if the Flames can’t leverage the current goalie market to grab a younger guy with upside, honestly. Mike Smith and Marc-Andre Fleury both had pretty good seasons and seem like they could provide at least competent netminding, but their ages and price tags give me pause. All that’s needed is a modest step back for the Flames to be thrust back into the position of “looking for a starter”, except they’d also be saddled with an aging, expensive anchor in the crease.

I’m guessing  they’d be willing to do with this either Troy Brouwer or Lance Bouma. Both guys seriously underperformed their deals last season and aren’t good bets to suddenly turn things around. If Treliving can find a partner who will take either guy at high price, it may be a good option. I can’t imagine the club is eager to enter the season with a $10M fourth line.

It’s got to be Sam Bennett doesn’t it? The highest pick in franchise history, Bennett was said to have first overall upside in his draft season.

Unfortunately,  he has more or less run in place during his first two seasons in the league. He wasn’t gifted the best linemates or circumstances last year, but the lack of apparent development is also on the player – at some point, he needs to figure out how to translate his offense at this level.

Bennett becoming an impact player completely changes things for the Flames up front. It would give Glen Gulutzan three quality forward units and a wealth of matchup and deployment options.

Coyle is definitely an above average scorer, although he doesn’t have nearly the shot impact that Niederreiter does. I wouldn’t say no to Coyle given his cap friendly deal ($3.5M), but I wouldn’t pay the same premium for him as I would for Nino.

That said, I also don’t think the Wild will choose to move Coyle given his relatively low cap hit.

Evander Kane is a great goal scorer but not much else, so he’s a guy who has to be managed a bit on the ice in order for him to succeed.

If his past is any indication, Kane also has to be managed off the ice. His time in Winnipeg was tumultuous including numerous healthy scratches for flouting team rules and disagreements with his teammates, ending in him being shuttled out of town.

In Buffalo, he was involved in a bar scuffle where he allegedly assaulted a pair of women and a bouncer. He was also investigated in an alleged sexual assault incident.

So… let’s just stay away from Kane.

  • Alkali

    I think the Flames are stuck with Brouwer. Based on Tre’s comments that VGK will need centres more than any other position, i can see the Flames losing Stajan. interesting times…

  • Backburner

    Never thought of the addition of Brian Burke in that context before, but the Flames definitely needed a face lift after Feaster was GM.
    I can’t wait for the next couple of weeks to see what Tre does.. I think it will be a good test to see what he can do with this team. I really see this as a huge opportunity for the Flames right now, not only to get rid of Brouwer, but add some really good depth pieces, this could be the Flames take the next step.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I agree. The good news is Tre is in his wheel house more so than other GMs. I get the feeling that he is well liked and respected by other organizations. He seems genuine but very business savvy.

      If I was a betting man. I would say that VGK takes Fleury as its starter and Grubauer as its back up and heir apparent. This leaves Tre to work a deal for Raanta or Pickard. He may save his prospects and sign Mason. My biggest concern is that if we don’t bring in a bonafide number one goaltender then we likely can’t use Rittich or Gillies as our back up and feel comfortable going into the season.

  • Puckhead

    Although Burke has a hot temper with a short fuse and is occasionally prone to saying things without thinking twice, he is also a smart cookie with a legal degree who has a lot of experience, knowledge and insight. Just be thankful that he doesn’t post things onTwitter at 3 AM like some people.

    • nikkomsgb

      About the only thing you want of him at this point is the media attention and brand power he brings. He is fantastic in the community as well and really raises the bar in terms of philanthropic endeavors.

      That said, while he is smart and has experience, you could say that of a lot people within the industry….who at the same time have far more relevant ideological and philosophical opinions on the game. I really worry that he keeps banging on and on about size and toughness in a league that is dominated by speed and skill.

      • Greg

        Although, the Brouwer for Niemi option might still be on the table. Only upside is Niemi (or Lehtonen) has only 1 year left. But I don’t know that Dallas would even do that given the three years left on Brouwer’s deal.

        I think we’re hoping McPhee wants a veteran assistant captain he knows (and honestly, Brouwer wouldn’t be terrible in that role for them), or we’ve got a year of $10M fourth line ahead of us.

  • Skylardog

    My guess is that Fleury is waiving his trade with the knowledge that there is already a deal done. He won’t be going to Vegas in the long run. He had a lot of control given how badly Pitt did not want to lose Murray in the ED.
    Given the strength of his position, my guess is that they won’t get a great deal of value for Fleury if he is traded directly to another team, with where he is going to end up being the key to him waiving his NMC. Pitt was really just limiting the damage. If no deal is announced in the next few days, then I think we would see him moving to Vegas in the ED and then getting flipped to another team shortly after the draft. That makes sense in that Pitt would limit their loss to only MAF.

    I really do hope that Calgary is not the destination. Age and the size of the contract should make him a no-go here. Raanta, Buffalo’s Nilsson and Grubauer are better choices.

  • freethe flames

    After listening to a Seattle reporter talk about the arena proposals in that city the more I’m on Nenshi’s side. There are several proposals for spending @$600m to either renovate the old arena or build a brand new one. All with private funding; no public dollars.

    • MontanaMan

      You mean like Safeco field in Seattle?

      On October 14, 1995, a special session of the state legislature authorized a different funding package for a new stadium that included a food and beverage tax in King County restaurants and bars, car rental surcharge in King County, a ballpark admissions tax, a credit against the state sales tax, and sale of a special stadium license plate. Nine days later, the King County Council approved the funding package and established the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District to own the ballpark and oversee design and construction.

  • Locker Room Talk

    What would people think if Calgary had a deal in place with Vegas where the Knights take one of Grubauer or Raanta in the expansion, and then trades us the goalie for our first round pick on the condition they also took Brouwer in the expansion draft? We shed our worst contract and get a goalie for the price of a first. Is that worth it for us? Is it worth it for Vegas? Is it just a dumb idea in general?

    • Backburner

      That’s a great idea. I think the other option would be to deal the first and Gillies to NYR for Raanta and Hayes, then send Vegas a prospect and a mid 2018 pick to take Brouwer. Lots of options.

    • freethe flames

      I suspect the idea of LV being a broker for one of these goalies has already been discussed. It depends on what the original trading partner is asking for. If NYR are asking for a kings ransom for Raanta then LV might be a better option. We will know soon enough. Things will now begin to heat up. Just don’t overpay.

  • Slowmo

    Please stop looking for a Goalie we have 2 ready to play and will fair better than what is out there seems we are always willing to give away the farm and what do we end up with? well I think Eliott pretty much says it all so we made the first round big fooy out in the very first round gave up a second for El a third for Stone and now BT will have to scramble to get back those picks or go with out which of course every one says no biggy. I disagree we have a 1/4 full cupboard in the A’s probably out of all those down there possibly 1 Janks makes the bigs maybe the sweds on the back end and our 2 Goalies in Rittich and Gillies. I know there not ready well guess what we are snake bitten when it comes to trading for a good goalie so play with what we got if it fails great we don’t give up the farm trying to make the playoffs and perhaps we get some real talent which we sorely need in the minors.