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FlamesNation Mailbag: Fresh wounds on the right wing

It’s been almost four years running now that the Flames have had right wing problems.

Just as the Flames had been trying to find a long-term goaltending solution since Miikka Kipprusoff’s retirement (arguably, this process is still ongoing, although certainly less grim than Leland Irving and Danny Taylor), they really haven’t had a bonafide first line right winger since Jarome Iginla, despite repeated attempts at filling that void (at least the one in the roster sheet, you can never fill the one in the heart).

Since the day he was traded, the Flames have brought in a murderer’s row of players to fill that RW gap. Jiri Hudler had one great year, but fell off the wagon quickly. David Jones was here for a little while, never really doing much, but did nab the Flames Matthew Phillips (who happens to be a RW. Hmmm). Lee Stempniak was useful yet unspectacular, as always. We have fond memories of Josh Jooris, though he was never going to be much beyond the third line.

Today’s situation is just slightly above grim. Michael Frolik is injured, out for the next month and change. Some are counting down the days before Troy Brouwer’s contract runs out. The next best right-handed shot is Garnet Hathaway, who has been above expectations since being recalled, but has also dried up offensively as of late (five points in his first eight, two in his next eight). If Micheal Ferland hadn’t taken everything to the next level, there’s the chance we would all be looking forward to next year by now.

The next biggest problem is Jaromir Jagr, who is almost certainly on his way out. Nagging injuries have pretty much forced both him and the team to shut it down. He was useful, he was fun, but Father Time remains undefeated. It seemed like a good bet that the guy who had stymied aging nearly 10 years longer than when most guys called it quits could do it for one more year, but it just didn’t work out. Happens.

So we’re back at square one: no right wing options, what to do?

It’s hard to read the tea leaves from an outside position, but here’s probably the best explanation from what we publicly know:

Jagr wants to play hockey. That’s why he’s still 45 and playing hockey. It helps that he was still able to keep his head above water at such an age, but there’s been a few guys who did not wait for grey hairs to stop playing the game, despite being still fully capable. The mental fortitude and love of the game is admirable on his part.

The problem is that Jagr’s body does not want to play hockey. That has been painfully obvious. The guy is slow, which we knew from the start of the season, but recurring (and likely compounding) injuries to his groin and knee have made that more pronounced. Despite Jagr wanting to keep playing, it’s unlikely that he can be effective given the shape he’s in. He’ll probably need a longer stint on the IR rather than just a few games.

Neither party appears to want to wait it out. The Flames fear the blade swinging over their necks: they need their roster at 100% or it’s not going to work. You see why this conflicts with Jagr, who is not 100% but wants to play hockey. Both parties understood that it wasn’t just for the novelty: if Jagr’s playing, Jagr’s 100%. This is why he kept getting playing time earlier in the season when he was healthy and effective, but lost it later.

The feeling is mutual. Perhaps not a negative feeling, but mutual. Jagr’s not going to get the ice time he wants here (or anywhere: it’s hard to see any team that could give him that given his injury status right now) and the Flames aren’t going to give it to him if he can’t play like he was earlier in the season.

People want to write this off to mismanagement, but the truth is just that Jagr is old and broken. He played well, but if he can’t play, what else is the team supposed to do?

Anthony Duclair is certainly a player I would look at. He’s young, can play the RW (left shot though), and looking to be back on the up-and-up after a sophomore slump last year. I also like him because his perceived value is very low. The guy is rocking a 0.984 PDO right now on a crummy team, which is likely going to drive down whatever he’ll cost.

What will it cost? Well, Arizona’s not stupid. They’ve been able to con GMs out of plenty for few (Jason Demers for Jamie McGinn, a first and a second for Martin Hanzal). John Chayka knows Duclair wants out, but he also knows what Duclair is and is probably aiming to sell as high as possible. He’s still an RFA, so there’s not exactly a time constraint.

For the Flames, this is a bit of a problem because they’ve set the market. By giving a second rounder for Curtis Lazar, often a healthy scratch, they pretty much have to up the ante for a winger from the same draft who, despite his struggles, is doing much, much better than Lazar. I imagine this will cost a higher grade, close to the NHL prospect, such as Dillon Dube, Morgan Klimchuk, Oliver Kylington, or Rasmus Andersson in addition to a pick.

Do the Flames pay that? Probably not.

I’m going to guess that Mike Smith has to have an absolute stinker for Glen Gulutzan not to play him. In the past 30 days, he’s had one game (vs. San Jose, Dec. 14) that stands out as particularly bad. Otherwise, he’s been everything you could ask for. David Rittich has certainly earned some trust, but a lot of coaches love riding the hot hand. I have a gut feeling he could be in next game just because, but I’d think we’ll be waiting a while until we see more of him.

It’s hard to predict what exactly the rental market will look like, but I don’t think the Flames will get involved for reasons stated above. They’ve already given up a lot of assets this season, no need to give up more just to chase a long shot.

Besides, their roster is more or less full. Sure, they can send a couple players down worry free, but they aren’t going to do that. They’re happy with the team they have. If they make a move, it’s for a Duclair type player that can viably be a member of the team four years in the future, not just for three months.

I’ve been pushing this idea for a while, but the World Juniors make this even more apparent. Juuso Valimaki and Adam Fox just look amazing, and even if they aren’t 100% ready, you have Kylington and Andersson waiting in Stockton. There’s a strong case that there could be two prospect defenders on the team next year.

So yes, they are probably going to have to move someone. Michael Stone seems like an obvious answer, as he’s the most digestible contract and is probably still young enough to attract a few suitors looking for a bottom four defenceman at a cut rate price. Travis Hamonic could also go, but I feel the Flames would only part if they could get a package back that is at least 50% of what they paid, which is not happening in the summer of 2018.

On the left side, there’s some interesting choices to make. Brett Kulak is kind of everything you want in a third pairing defenceman, and he’s probably also going to come cheap, but he’s also probably expendable. I don’t think there’s much of a trade market for him though, as most teams already have a third pairing defenceman who could immediately fill that role. T.J. Brodie could be an interesting candidate for a big trade, but I feel the team doesn’t want to pull the trigger right now on a loyal soldier.

It’s an offseason move for sure, because there’s just so much to consider right now. We’ll see how the defence holds up for the second half of the season.

If the Flames are smart, they try to get this extension done July 1, 2018, the earliest they can.

Matthew Tkachuk’s taken some serious steps forward, as nearly every on-ice and individual metric is up from last year. I say nearly because his scoring rates are actually down. His 5v5 on-ice shooting percentage has completely fell apart, slouching down nearly 3%. Tkachuk could realistically be seeing jumps into the 0.7-0.8 ppg range, which would make him just a bit more expensive. PDO is a blessing sometimes. If this holds true, I could see him getting Frolik money: five years, $4.5M per. Not bad for a second contract.

That’s a long bet though. If Tkachuk’s agent is worth any money (he has the same agent as Troy Brouwer, so perhaps the guy really knows how to get the max), he’ll wait until the contract has actually run up. If Tkachuk somehow gets better next season, he could easily wind up making about the same as Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, or Mark Giordano. It’s a long ways away, but I think that he could be six years, $6.25M per year.

I think nothing will happen.

If you look at the long list of Brad Treliving’s moves as GMs, nothing stands out as panicky. Sure, he’s had his bad bets, but there’s been no moves made that seem to be made under duress.

This management seems to emphasize patience and the willingness to stick to it more than past regimes, which is both a blessing and a curse depending on how you look at it. Could a coaching change turn the team into a top three Pacific team? Maybe. It could also crash the team further. The most likely option is that it doesn’t do anything. The Treliving regime must have studied the mistakes of the Feaster regime pretty well: bold statements and bold moves can really blow up in your face if they don’t reap immediate awards.

The Oilers are rivals, but the Ducks are villains.

  • Puckhead

    If the team is playoff bound I can’t see how trading a player like Stone would make sense. He plays a simple game and likes to throw his weight around. Defence has to man up in the playoffs and he fills a ‘truculent’ void on our back end. He Is also a serviceable 2nd pairing D man if someone gets injured.

    • Longshot1977

      This is certainly a legitimate viewpoint. From a GM’s standpoint, I think I might consider whether I believe my Flames to be well within their contention window for a championship.

      This season so far has not yet provided ample evidence that the Flames are a top tier contender. They are close, certainly, but need to figure a few pieces out. With that in mind, and knowing that there are no less than 4 blue chip defensive prospects in the system, I might be tempted to make room for at least one of them.

      Gio, Hamilton, and Brodie are all keepers. It would be tough selling the team on trading the captain, and Hamilton is the team’s best defender. Brodie makes more sense, but as mentioned, he’s kind of a “loyal soldier”, and it’s not like the Flames don’t get value from him. Kulak is just coming into his own as a 3rd and maybe 2nd pair young defender. Bartkowski is just there to sit in the press box.

      That leaves Hamonic and Stone.

      A GM would have to ask, “Can I realistically see one of Andersson/Kylington/Valimaki/Fox on the Flames roster as at least a 3rd pairing guy in 2018-2019, and does that make our defence better?”. If the answer is yes, you have to trade either Hamonic or Stone. Stone probably gets more of his value back, so he’s the guy.

        • Flint

          Agreed. And Brodie is trending down and GG isn’t the only coach who prefers guys to play on their “side”. If we had Babcock here (I wish) it’d be the same deal. So, Brodie should go, cause Gio won’t and Kulak is serviceable, developing and cheap. I also think that maybe not today today, but with some NHL games Valimaki is the better than Brodie today.

          On the right side, Stone should be the first to go to make room for Fox or Andersson. The term and dollars are basically the same for Stone and Hamonic and Hamonic can play 2R, and maybe could be a 3R shortly when Fox/Andersson step up.

          Thing is, both Fox and Valimaki are on par with Kylington and Andersson on the depth chart IMHO and have higher ceilings. Especially if they play in the olympics, and play well. Kylington could end up being solid trade bait – he looks like an NHL’r… but Valimaki is a stud.

      • KKisTHEproblem

        I don’t think that’s the only question. You also have to ask “and does whoever I get back make us a better team?” If D goes down slightly (I don’t think that’s the case tho, I think several of our young prospects are going to be very good) but the forwards get better in a bigger way, do you still do a deal? I think the answer is yes

      • BalzacFlames

        Long time reader..first time poster! I would really like to see the Flames move Hamilton or Brodie. Niether are being utilized very well by the current coaching regime. Yes, Brodie leads the team with ice ti.e which is laughable to me this year, he is not playing very well, in part the system, part he is not the stud some made him out to be and also Travois Hamonic is not the answer to be his partner. Brodie was better playing on his off side with Gio. Hamilton has struggled with tje system and should be used on the PP to utilize his much needed right hand shot. I would look into moving one or the other to see who the flamea could get in return..maybe somebody this coaching staff will utilize properly.

  • Off the wall

    It’s amazing what a 3 game winning streak has done.
    We are now tied with Minnesota in playoff percentage.

    SJ is 69.8%
    Dallas 67.3%
    Colorado 54.1%
    Chicago 44.7%
    Minnesota 37.2%
    Calgary 37.2%
    Anaheim 30.7%
    Edmonton 1.9%

    We play Minnesota on Tuesday as our first opposition on our 4 game road trip. I really like the way the Flames are playing lately.

    If we can maintain this level of play, I think we may even surprise ourselves and have a shot at being 3rd in the Pacific.

    • Skylardog

      Keep posting this info OTW.

      The scary part is how important those wins were. We are still within reach, and have narrowed the gaps, but despite the win streak we are still 12th and did not move up at all.

    • KKisTHEproblem

      OTW, where do you get your percentages? I look at sportsclubstats.com and the percentages are a little different (flames and minny 29%, Anaheim 32%, Chicago 50%, Colorado and Dallas the same as yours, SJ 71%). And does anyone else find it weird that the flames and Chicago are both 5 games over 500 (in nhl terms) but have such different chances? Especially since it more likely the flames would catch SJ than Chicago to pass all those Central teams and catch 3rd in that division (bottom central team 13 games over 500 vs SJ 8 games over 500. I don’t get it…..

      • Skylardog

        Chicago is one that we can catch if we can’t get to 3rd in the Pacific. They appear to be struggling and will have trouble getting 5th in their division (only Colorado “appears” to be weaker). I also think Minny is a step below last season and a potential miss as far as the playoffs go. Dallas is the real concern, which means we must catch either Anaheim or SJ.

        • KKisTHEproblem

          I agree, I think Dallas is going to be very hard to catch. Colorado is getting hot but can they keep it up? McKinnon finally seems to be reaching the potential everyone thought he would be when taken 1st overall and Rantanan seems to be for real, they’ve got some good young depth (maybe Joe is smarter than people gave him credit for?). So, I agree, we need to catch SJ and pull away from Anaheim. Maybe we can get last wild card but I think 3rd Pacific is the more likely way to make it.

  • Flint

    Duclair doesn’t interest me. His stats look too propped up by high shooting %… 19%! He looks like an avg sized guy, who’ll just further muddy the waters of the collection of 2nd and 4th line RW’s we have. 30-35 pointer… meh. And if it’s true he has personal/work ethic issues… not worth the risk. We need more size up front on good contracts – Not stupid size, but guys who can play size. Like the Jagr we all hoped for…. minus 3-4 years and without all the injuries, but much preferrably someone young.

    • Lets Get Something Clear

      I doubt it. The internal cap remains Gio’s 6.75 mil. If BT could g et Gaudreau under that, he’ll do the same with Tkackhuk. The question is the term (it’ll be 5-6 years probably).

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Remember what message Keith drilled into his lads when they first got serious about pursuing pro hockey careers? “All owners are lying bastards!” Keith was always prepared to take the owners to hell and back in order to get a fair contract. You can be sure that Matty will do the same, so he will take a dim view Of Edwards’ crocodile tears about the sinking pound and how he had to flee Canada to save his wealth. No hometown discounts either. Keith never gave one and Matty isn’t likely to either.

    • Puckhead

      I get that the salary cap is going up but MT is 3rd in points behind Gaudreau and Mony, and slightly ahead of Ferly and Backs. There is no way Tre gives him $7M, unless you’re proposing that he gets paid for his potential (which won’t happen)

      • BlueMoonNigel

        If Gaudreau and Monahan are not generating offence, they are as useless as teats on a boar. Witness their very quiet December. Matty, on the other hand, contributes every night. Even when he is slumping offensively, his being a super pest and a right pain in the arse to his opponents never gets cold. He is much more of a team guy along the lines of Gio than is Jonny or Sean. Finally, Matty trends as a future captain. I keep thinking of Matty as being a bigger and more talented but just as fierce and nasty as Doug Risebrough.

      • HOCKEY83

        I agree that Tkachuk nor any player should get such long term big money contracts for their first after their ELC’s . because he’s younger. Tkachuk isn’t where money was after 2 years. He’ll get a shorter show me more contract before he gets the big dollar.

        • WillyWonka

          Hey, I learned something fro you…
          i knew there was such a thing as “Show me” contracts…
          Now i know there are “Show me more” contracts… interesting! 😀

    • Skylardog

      Not sure we want a bridge deal here. If we are all right about his high potential and ceiling, then a 2 – 3 year at $6.0 becomes an 8 year at $10 to $12 million 4 years from now. Lock him up at $7.5×8 years this summer.

  • Just.Visiting

    Miscellaneous observations.

    I believe that the young players are going to get better as the season progresses. The Janko line is often dominant in the offensive zone. They are not going to drop back from that level. Kulak is improving, Mangi looks impressive so far (certainly showing far more than I’ve ever seen from Lazar) and seems likely to get better if put in positions to succeed (i.e., I’d find him some Backlund time to see how he does).

    I think that the PP will get better. GG/Cameron will either make player usage and set up adjustments on their own or they will be ordered to make adjustments. The drop back to JG and expecting him to carry the puck past the blue line and the perimeter passing with only one gun out there is not working and isn’t going to work. The shift of Gio to the first unit and the addition of Byng were a good first step.

    While I initially liked the idea of moving Byng to the first line, I’ve been persuaded by the continued scrum concern that he shouldn’t be there. To use his offensive skills more fully, to mitigate the RW problem and to create a second scoring line, GG should take the plunge and move Byng to the right side of Janko and Bennett. I’d then try Mangi and Hathaway with Backlund as an experiment.

    Try out Hrivik as the C on the 4th line with Brouwer on LW and Lazar on RW and see how Hrivik looks. Stajan seems like a great guy, but we’re not going far if Stajan is playing regularly in the playoffs in the absence of an injury that needs to be covered with experience.

    I still don’t see the Brodie-Hamonic pairing. Stone seems more natural based on their play last year, and he has a bomb that complements Brodie’s passing skills much better. Sorry-BT-Given the D pipeline, I never understood the Hamonic trade if you knew that Stone was returning.

    I like Dougie too, but I think we need to look at the defensive side of his game objectively. It has problems, and that’s why he is infrequently used on the PK (and his propensity to take bad penalties too, but I digress). I think Gio is still the best D, although I would certainly have Dougie and Gio on first unit (and Brodie and Stone on the second).

    Give Rittich some more games so that Smith isn’t burnt out by March.

  • aye

    Would there be an appetite for trading Fox to bring back one of the local boys, either Bean or Makar? Makar is also in NCAA, but I don’t think there would be any fear of him not signing, although Colorado would never do that swap.

  • everton fc

    The only way we get a RW of substance is a trade. To me, the best “chip” to get a RW like Duclair, based on our over-abundance of d-men, is Kylington. Not saying I’d make a Kylington-Duclair swap. And it’d probably take an extra piece to get this deal done. Again, Duclair’s been called out by two coaches down there for not “giving”, floating, and so on. If he’s a challenge in this respect, I’d rather bring up one of the kids and see if they can fit in. Ferland is now, obviously, a #1 centre. He’ll clear 25 goals this season, the way he’s going. Frolik is a good RW in a 3rd line role, as he ages. That 2nd line RW could be Tkachuk’s, if a LW in the prospect pool can step up. We shall see.

  • hulkingloooooob

    Does anyone think there could be a doable trade with the leafs? They have a desperate need for right hand D and I’d be comfortable with shipping out hamonic or stone plus a D prospect (Kyl maybe?) for a young winger with scoring touch?

    • Atomic Clown

      Unless we’re getting Nylander or Marner, it’s a no. And Hamilton is out of question. Hamonic, Fox and a pick. Toronto doesn’t need AHL bodies, or 6/7 dmen. They already have a player of Kylingtons ilk in the form of Liljegren, so they probably don’t want him either. Hamonic solidifies their top 4, and Fox gives them flexibility to offload Gardiner or Rielly when Matthews gets his max contract

      • cberg

        Can’t believe that trade proposal. Guys, Hamonic is an excellent D and Fox a probably even better D prospect…. PLUS a pick? Marner and Nylander look like great young wingers, but they are just that, wingers. Wingers are the easiest to find. There is no way that is even close to being a fair trade.

    • Rockmorton65

      I don’t know if T.O. would go for it, but I’d totally do something like Hamonic & Klimchuk/Poirier for Marner. I would at the very least start the conversation.

  • buts

    With all these young D close or ready to jump to the bigs it seems to me the flames should be able to trade a Lazar for Duclair and maybe throw in Bart as it’s a swap of 2 underachieving wingers plus the yotes would get a depth defenseman. The flames should be able to get a first round pick for Hamilton at the draft and try to get Brady Tkachuk. I know Jagr has an injury problem but I believe it does come down to mismanagement as if he was signed sooner then he could have had a full training camp with time to train especially if he was signed in august. You throw in GG’s “I don’t know how to use a player” usage and you get an unhappy former superstar looking for a exit.

      • buts

        I’d trade the soft as a marshmallow, take bad penalties, doesn’t give a crap, over rated, disappear in tough games Hamilton in a heart beat…..where was he when Smith got run over? He’s 6’6″, 230 lbs….what’s Bennett’s size? and he fought Manson who’s way bigger. All you Dougie lovers….guess what? we will never win big tough, playoff games with him in the lineup.

        • supra steve

          All you Dougie haters, guess what…all players have imperfections. Legit top pairing D-men are super hard to obtain, and super valuable. Dougie is not being shopped.

          It’s not about loving or hating Dougie, it’s about reality.

        • Flint

          That’s insane. We are a team of small defenseman. So people look at Dougie like he’s a failure because he’s not toughness first. If we had the Jets D and Hamilton was on the PP like he should be, no one would say squat. You can build a D core around Dougie… need toughness, bring in toughness, but he has mad skills. Who else can you say that about on our backend? Gio in past tense… or maybe today, but tomorrow and beyond? Gio is the present, Dougie is the future. The rest?… they’re no tougher than Dougie… maybe Hamonic.

          • Jobu

            And scores game winning goals with 16 seconds left against division rivals we are chasing in the standings. Dougie isn’t a bruiser… hes a scorer. Get over it.

          • buts

            He’s not here to win he is here to collect a cheque. He disappears in big games, doesn’t stick up for his goalie or smaller team mates, he was invisible last year when we played the kings and ducks in big games at the end of the year…..the guy played scared and will never be a part of a winner. You get chicken soup with chicken $hit.

  • RKD

    I don’t know it takes the Flames organization to address key positions, it took until 2017 for the Flames to find a bonafide #1 goaltender in Mike Smith and they got him via trade. Some of the younger prospects didn’t pan out but there were always better options via trade and they didn’t address it. Same thing now on RW, it’s been 4 years since they traded Iggy and they still haven’t found a bonafide #1RW again maybe not enough quality prospects but don’t tell me like Smith they couldn’t have found a solid RW via a trade. If they want to take the next step they need to have quality and depth in all positions. No gaps.

  • Greg

    Lazar and a 3rd for Duclair. If the price is higher than that, we don’t have the picks, and I wouldn’t give up a top prospect unless it’s an Evander-Kane-level upgrade on offence.

    • everton fc

      Two coaches in Phoeniz have called our Duclair for being less-than-willing to “give” each and every game/practice/shift. That’s the stigma. Probably why the Rangers moved him. Must be careful w/a kid like this…

      You can;t move Stone there, and try to extrapolate more from the Coyotes. Duclair is not worth as much as the Coyotes think. I’d play hardball w/them and see if they budge.