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FlamesNation Mailbag: Trade deadlines and contract extensions oh my

The trade deadline is coming up, Rasmus Andersson is still in the AHL, the Flames could use another winger, their powerplay is only just now finding its legs, Mikael Backlund got a contract extension, the Olympics are on, and Christian is out of town so I did this week’s mailbag. Let’s get to it!

This is a pretty common theme that’s come up, and it’s easy to see why. Andersson is absolutely crushing the AHL with 30 points in 42 games, tied for sixth in AHL defencemen scoring. He’s only 21, but it sure doesn’t feel like there’s any justification for him to still be in the minors; unfortunately, the Flames effectively blocked him when they traded for Travis Hamonic and re-signed Michael Stone in the offseason.

Now that defence doesn’t look as good as was once hoped, and Stone’s $3.5 million cap hit while playing on the third pairing is unideal. But does that mean the Flames will be ready to take the plunge to actually commit to a prospect, in the midst of the stretch drive for a playoff spot no less? That seems unlikely.

For one thing, the Flames seem to only turn to prospects when they’re backed into a corner. (I don’t think this is exactly unique to them.) It took eight games to get Brett Kulak in over Matt Bartkowski. Mark Jankowski only got the chance to prove he couldn’t be sent back down when someone else got injured, and that’s with everyone knowing he should have been in the NHL from the start of the season. It’s really hard to see this team suddenly committing to giving Andersson a regular shift, even if it’s only 10 minutes a night, in place of a veteran.

Would Andersson be an upgrade on Stone? … Yeah, probably. Stone has a 48.17% 5v5 CF this season, 128th out of 177 defencemen with a minimum of 500 5v5 minutes played. The next worst defenceman on the Flames is T.J. Brodie, 94th with a 49.57% CF – a sizeable gap. Some of that likely comes from playing with Bartkowski, but still, if you’re looking to get Andersson in, he’s the weakest link. (And if Andersson were to be traded in his stead… that would probably end poorly.)

But the same reasons other teams might desire Stone could very well be exactly why the Flames would want to keep him. It’s difficult to see Stone alone bringing the Flames an upgrade on forward. And as the Flames are still uncertain to make the playoffs, it’s just easier to see them sticking to the status quo.

As for 11 forwards and seven defencemen, I just don’t see it happening. If Andersson’s going to get in, it has to be as a regular.

Rick Nash and Thomas Vanek are firmly rentals – older players with just one year left on their deals – which the Flames are not in a position to add, let alone spend assets on. Derick Brassard is almost in that group, but he still has a year left on his deal. Jean-Gabriel Pageau seems like the next most likely bet – he’s 25 years old, signed for two seasons beyond this, and put up a 40-point season not too long ago – but his -2.98% relative CF (albeit with 39.41% offensive zone starts) should give pause. It’s also unclear if he’ll be able to get back up to his previous level of scoring; he’s on pace for 28 points this season.

Of course, it’s all going to come down to how much it costs to acquire one of these guys. Max Pacioretty is only signed for one more season, and he’ll be 30 then, but he’s one to watch: he’s an option with great numbers across the board, save an underwhelming shooting percentage this season.

There’s a lot to be said for the middle six line combinations. If the Flames, say, got Mike Hoffman, I’d be interested in seeing him with Backlund and Michael Frolik, and see if Matthew Tkachuk can boost Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski, two players closer to him in age with unrealized potential (especially on Bennett’s part). Injury aside, it does appear, however, that Frolik looks a step behind his normal linemates, so seeing him slot down to the third line would be interesting as well: he is a very reliable veteran presence who shoots a lot, while Tkachuk and Backlund could get someone who’s a bit closer to their level in scoring.

Either way, though, the Flames definitely need another top nine winger in order to make this work. Having only Troy Brouwer or Garnet Hathaway as options for middle line mixing and matching is severely limiting; neither is good enough to elevate the forward group.

I don’t think, at this stage, a forward prospect is the answer, either. No forward is as clear cut “should be in the NHL” as Andersson is, not with Jankowski having made it.

I think, the way they’re set up, their window should be open for a few good years yet. They have the relatively young Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Dougie Hamilton signed to excellent cap hits and performing at high levels. Matthew Tkachuk is in that conversation as well (just without a long-term cap hit yet), and locking up a shutdown centre in Mikael Backlund – who is a little older, but hardly ancient – keeps that window open.

They absolutely need at least another solid scorer, though. They’ve lucked out in Micheal Ferland being everything they’d hoped he’d be, but that’s partially nullified by Bennett’s lack of progress. There’s no telling just what Jankowski’s actual ceiling is yet, either.

Mark Giordano is a big question for how long the window will stay open – he’s great, but also on the older side – but that’s offset with the stable of high end defensive prospects the Flames have waiting in their wings. Goaltending is a question, however; without a young, surefire starter, that’s just how it is.

In short, they’re looking pretty well set up for the next couple of seasons, and don’t even need long shot bets to stay that way – but they need a little more to get over the hump.

It’s on the coaches, I think. Gaudreau is one of the top scorers in the NHL this season and Monahan is a goal-scoring leader. Did they suddenly forget how to put the puck in the net when up a man? We’re already seeing massive improvements with Dougie Hamilton on the powerplay – and it’s just plain stupid that it took this long to get him up there.

Remember that the first unit was incredibly reliant on Kris Versteeg, the only half-decent right shot the team had at their disposal, and when he went down, the powerplay went down with him. It’s not any player’s fault it took the coaches two months to figure out that Hamilton is also a pretty good right shot.

The first unit should be left alone for now. They’re the best players on the team, and they’re scoring. Hopefully Versteeg will be healthy soon enough to actually be able to join the second unit and make a positive impact there. There isn’t much else that can be done to address this at this point in the season: either the Flames’ best players will take things into their own hands, or they’ll continue to languish.

This is interesting, and I’d never thought of Mike Fisher as a comparable. Backlund took a little longer to start putting up solid scoring numbers, and while he’s not on pace at this time for another 50-point season, he’s still tracked to hit the high 40s.

From ages 28-33, though, Fisher was a sub-50% 5v5 CF player, and has only been a positive relative player twice in the past 10 years: +0.46 in 2007-08, and +0.94 in 2013. Backlund has consistently been a 50%+ guy, the 2014-15 season aside, and has always been a positive relative player; his worst relative corsi was +2.07% in 2014-15.

I understand the hesitation in signing a player Backlund’s age to a six-year deal, but he doesn’t rely on physicality to be successful: he relies on his smarts. Those aren’t going to go away. A drop off is absolutely going to happen at some point, but he’s a very strong player in his own right, and it’s easy to see him still being effective later in his deal, maybe just not to as dominant an extent as he has been on this current contract.

I think he gets it back. Why cause unnecessary drama? Though Backlund should have been awarded an A years ago, and he should definitely have one full time by now. But I think having an A is more semantic than anything else; Backlund is one of the elder statesmen in the Flames’ locker room and a letter on his chest isn’t going to give him any more or less authority.

I’m enjoying Rene Bourque again! And though I’ve really only watched the Canadian team in spurts, the Czechs seem to be doing well with themselves, and Roman Cervenka, Roman Horak, and Jakub Nakladal’s names all keep coming up. Good for them.

Oh hell yes.

Gaudreau is a skills guy, so he goes with aerials or big air. Tkachuk is kind of in that same level, but I see him as more of a slopestyle or halfpipe guy.

Monahan strikes me as a curling guy; his high shooting percentage speaks to that (though he’ll have to up it to make his shots). Ferland, too, he’d probably be great at takeouts. I don’t know who rounds out their team, though. Bennett and Jankowski, perhaps?

Backlund plays big minutes and apparently won the Flames’ accuracy competition, so I’m giving him biathlon.

Mark Giordano gets the biggest minutes, so he’s my cross country guy.

Hamilton skates like a deer and Brodie’s best asset is his skating, so they’re my ice dance pair. Or maybe they’re both solo contenders, I dunno, but I bet Hamilton could lift Brodie.

Bartkowski won the Flames’ fastest skater competition, so I’m putting him in long track. I’m not sure he’s shifty enough for short track; he’d probably be the guy constantly taking everyone out and getting penalized. Maybe that’s Kulak’s area?

The big guys are going on bobsleigh: Troy Brouwer, Michael Stone, Garnet Hathaway, and Curtis Lazar.

I’m not sure what to do with Frolik, Travis Hamonic, Matt Stajan, or Versteeg. Alpine? Ski jumping? Luge? Skeleton? In that order? Sure, why not.

Although hockey is an Olympic event, too, so…

 

  • Kzak

    Saw this in a Larry Fisher article today:
    To Arizona Coyotes = Max Pacioretty and Jon Gillies

    To Calgary Flames = Max Domi and Tobias Rieder

    To Montreal Canadiens = Mark Jankowski, Laurent Dauphin, Rasmus Andersson, Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Arizona’s 2019 first-round pick (lottery protected or deferred to 2020), Minnesota’s 2018 second-round pick (via Arizona) and Calgary’s conditional 2019 third-round pick (via Arizona)

    ANALYSIS: Yes, a rare three-way deal. Arizona gets Pacioretty to pair with Derek Stepan for next season and Gillies becomes the Coyotes’ goalie of the near future — an upgrade on Scott Wedgewood, Adin Hill, Hunter Miska and Marek Langhamer. Calgary gets Domi and Rieder to play with Sam Bennett on a third scoring line, acquiring two players that Brad Treliving would be familiar with from his time in Arizona. Montreal gets two much-needed centres with debatable upside, two higher-end defence prospects, and three good darts for the draft — that Calgary third turns into a second if the Flames make the playoffs this year. That may seem like more quantity than quality for the Canadiens, but it’s seven assets for one — quite similar to what Colorado fetched for Matt Duchene.

      • Kevin R

        Insanity is the best word for that & wishful thinking on Larry Fisher’s part for Montreal. They want a Duchene return when the rest of the GM’s have seen how well that trade faired for Ottawa. Gilles, Andersson & Janko???? For Domi????Tobias Rieder has done what lately???? They can go pound. I think Arizona would take Gilles for Domi straight up at this point.

    • ThisBigMouthIsRight

      I’m Sorry but WTF does this do to improve the Flames? = Nothing~! No! Not a Chance in H#!! would BT Make a foolish move like this! Trade away the good and take back Nothing but reclamation projects???? Baaa Haaa Haaa~! “Larry” must be Drunk?

      • Stu Cazz

        Relax everyone..Larry Fischer has thrown out the Jankowski deal to Montreal in the past! After all who would not want a 23 year old skilled 6’2″ soon to be 220lb CENTRE???

        Wishful thinking!

    • Cheeky

      So hold on, we would give up a top defensive prospect, a big centre alreading putting up 10 plus goals in first yr with huge potential, a big goalie that could be a starter (not a sure thing but goalies take a bit) and a 3rd rounder and we get Domi (having a bad yr Bennett 2.0) and Reider? If BT were to do this he should not only be fired but hung from his toes over the Weir…

      • Puckhead

        Kylington has been putting up some good numbers and it sounded like they won the other night because of his offensive prowess. I know his bane gets bandied about in trade packages but I don’t think I want to move him yet. Offensive talent like his doesn’t come every day.

      • cberg

        Both Dube and Kylington going to be long-term effective players for the Flames. The trade might be beneficial for this year and next but beyond its a clear loss.

    • McRib

      Glad I don’t know who Larry Fisher is, this deal is even more insane because I follow other teams draft prospects closely, Pierre-Olivier Joseph is a potential Top. 3 defenseman (like Rasmus Andersson). If either team was giving up this kind of caliber of prospects that would be it (they wouldn’t), a first rounder, second rounder and third rounder plus Jankowski and Dauphin is pure insanity on top of it. Even half of this trade haul is not believable in the slightest.

  • The Beej

    As a fan I want to see Anderson too. But to bring him up to play marginal minutes is not ideal. Keep him playing 25 min a night in the minor and developing those skills so that when an injury or opportunity happens he will have his motor fully going.

    Look at what the oilers are doing with Puljujarvi. 9 min a night in a situation he cant possibly succeed in. I feel this will stunt his development significantly. He should be in the AHL improving his game for next year.

    Lets just do the opposite of what the oilers do.

    Regarding trading Stone to make room. Not a bad idea but better left for the off season. If we make that move and then one of the Hams go down with injury we would be in a very difficult position.

    What we need to do is trade Stone in the off season but also acquire another RHD that can play in the AHL but also do spot duty if there is an injury. If we do it this way then transitioning Andersson will be a success.

    • Flames fan since 83

      Beeg, I agree with keeping Anderson playing high minutes for the rest of the season.
      But I am now in the camp of seeing what we can get for TJ at the Draft. (not TDL). Keep the team together, or at most, small tweeks at the TDL. These guys are playing well 5 on 5. Penalty killing is strong (IMO) and PP is improving.
      Rasmus will be ready much like Jankowski was this year. Rasmus is also a good call up in case of injury.

    • oilersuck

      I think Goloubef is that RHD that plays in the AHL but can also do spot duty. Trade Stone in the offseason bring up Anderson and have Fox and Goloubef in the AHL next year. That’s sufficient depth on the right side.

      • oilersuck

        This would also mean signing Goloubef to a NHL contract. From what I’ve heard he had a couple offers but intentionally took a AHL only deal so he could play in the Olympics this year.

      • McRib

        Maybe playing on a crap team year after year had something to do with it? The dumbest thing Arizona did was trade away all of their veteran leadership, all those young players have zero guidance.

        • Peter Loubardias

          I would totally agree with you, however there is no statistic directly correlated to leadership. And thus, leadership in no way could teach a young man about overcoming struggle in a professional manner. Therefore rendering itself an irrational expenditure. Corsi Corsi Fenwick Chayka stat Jesus

  • Honkydonk

    1. Backlund extension has a no trade clause for first three years and that tells you everything the flames think about this signing which is Jankowski Bennet and Dube to be ready to fully replace by then. I see Backs leaving town at age 31 or 32.

    2. The flames will not trade away a defender if they hope to make playoffs you need an Anderson to step in for an injury along

    3. Kinda trade you can expect is a Chiason or similar and nothing crazy on deadline day

    • McRib

      I don’t know if Dube and Bennett end up as centres at the NHL level. Dube is a great skater that usually uses plus speed to the outside in the WHL. That said if they do I like the Backlund contract for that reason. I’ve said it before though, I don’t think Backlund blocks Jankowski as Backlund can always be played in a defensive centre role, while if Jankowski shows deserving he will start to get more of the lions share of PP time. Backlund and Jankowski could serve as a 2A, 2B centre duo and co-exist together.

  • Pizzaman

    Was in Ottawa this weekend and watched the Sens play Rangers matinee live (tickets are discounted severely on ticket sites – duh). Focused on Zack Smith given the rumours – meh. Hoffman should be the target. Karlsson looked indifferent – he’s traded given Crazy Melnyk. But Rangers – what a dumpster fire. They must think they are all being traded.
    Anyways Flames want a top 6 forward – get Hoffman.

  • Pizzaman

    Also in Ottawa the discussion on Dave “Stick to the System” Cameron was he should be fired by the Flames as history on special teams is repeating here.

  • Cheeky

    What the Flames should do is nothing. Unless you can offload a player not in long term plans (Stajan, Stone, Shinkaruk, etc..), wait until draft/summer. I still think Brodie for a young scoring RW…

  • Stu Cazz

    Flames are not on the verge of winning the cup in the next couple of years. That coupled with the high draft choices lost in the Hamonic deal means we should stay the course and maintain our prospects and continue to build from within. Make no mistake changes need to be made but not until the off season!

  • Puckhead

    It must be difficult trying to manage a bubble team near the trade deadline. Most available players are overpriced, overrated, struggling, or older. I can only assume that Tre feels like a kid in a candy store with empty pockets. I’m not expecting any major move but maybe some shuffling of struggling prospects.

    It also doesn’t make any sense to do anything major until the season has played itself out. Either things click and GG is a mad genius or new coaches are brought in next season.

  • Just.Visiting

    Given what we gave up in the Hamonic trade, some moves that need to be made in the offseason and the inconsistent way the team plays under GG, I would caution against going all in for what could be a very short playoff run.

    Looking at things from a relative value perspective, I think from a small sample size that should actually much bigger that moving Byng to the right side with Janko and Bennett would shift them to a 2B line with a much bigger gain than the cost of moving him from the 3M line.

    Use Hathaway, Lazar, Klimchuk or Brouwer on the left side until Versteeg is back.

    Moving Byng is as obvious to many of us as moving Hamilton with Gio on the first PP unit. It was actually poor player usage not to have road tested this on Saturday after things went downhill against Florida. This was particularly the case after seeing the chemistry on the Janko goal the other night.

    Overall, I think that the Byng move, Versteeg’s return (but not on first PP) and next year’s arrival of Dube, Ras and possibly Mangi offers much more of an uplift than anything the Flames are likely to achieve through a trad now.

      • Kevin R

        Yup! Byng should be moved over to Janko/Bennett line, it’s so obvious, thats what frustrates me with GG, but GG should be given the whole year.
        Man, sure can’t help but think what kind of return Brodie could maybe get us at the TDL. Some teams like the Leafs & Jets or Tampa sure would love to add a Brodie with 2 more years left at a good cap hit. I know us Flame fans are frustrated with him but I think we could get a young RW prospect like Kapanen, a 1st & maybe a conditional 2nd depending how they do in the playoffs. Jets have some interesting pieces & willingness to trade their 1st too. Granted they would be late 1st rounders. Non rentals will bring so much more at the TDL these days.Even the Oilers would be in on him & they are sellers.Roll the dice baby, do what no one would expect you to do. You leave trading Brodie until the draft & he will get lost in the OEL, Doughty & Karlsson frenzy I see happening at the draft. Now’s the time to move Brodie if Tre has the balls the size of Byong(? don’t ask)

        • Stu Cazz

          Moving Byng to play with Janko/Bennett is not as obvious as you think. Young players have enough pressure of performing in the NHL at a high level now you are asking Tkachuk to play RW. His success has been as a LW…suggest next pre-season you might want to experiment…not now in the middle of a play-off run.

          • Kevin R

            He’s looked good in the minutes I have seen him. I hear you. & yes, I know there is no way Tre ever trades Brodie in the next week & I know there is no way GG breaks up that 3M line. Just saying for fun, but… losses to Bruins & Vegas could change the TDL outlook a bit.

  • Trevy

    I agree the TDL is the wrong time to make any significant changes, especially considering the inconsistency of this team. Hoffman is a good player but at this time of year, his price tag is going to be to rich. As Stu mentioned, we’re not going to win the cup this year so why mortgage more prospects and/or picks. They should maybe add a smaller piece like a Leivo, plus they’ll be getting Versteeg back soon. See how the season finishes out then access, starting with the defense. Surely that didn’t live up to expectations to start the year and clearly needs to be revamped and who knows, maybe we’ll end up with a new coaching staff as well

  • oilersuck

    Tkachuk would obviously win the short track. He would use every dirty trick in the book and it would be amazing. Also short track needs to be an event at the allstar skills comp.

    • oilcanboyd

      They need to introduce roller derby style into long track speed skating! Would be more interesting than just seeing the two skaters cross over in changing lanes. No doubt that Byng would do well in that sport!

  • oddclod

    Flames ain’t s#%* unless they play like elite managers and bury buy out the Brouwers and stajans of the world and get away from the Technocratic coaching styles. Be Elite. Be Man United, and Yankees of old, use your billions and play constructor like an elite franchise, mitigate the small disasters with decisions that take gonads. Until then we’ll have these elite top end players dragged down year after year. Fire Ken King.

  • Franko J

    Minor deals are the only thing BT will be able to do. The upper management doesn’t want him doing anymore damage than what is done. I would make more moves at the draft. Just like free agency the trade deadline is not advantageous to teams.