So the coach was fired, but the Flames still have plenty of work to do.
One area that may see some changes is the defence. Not only did what was originally such a highly touted group massively underperform, but there are a number of prospects who will likely be pushing for a spot come training camp. Something is going to have to give – and in all likelihood, it could be that one of the Flames’ starting six gets traded.
On most nights, the Flames ran with the following group, with very few exceptions when all were healthy:
|Mark Giordano||Dougie Hamilton|
|TJ Brodie||Travis Hamonic|
|Brett Kulak||Michael Stone|
Of the six, Kulak is the only one whose contract is up; he’ll be a restricted free agent and can likely be retained for a relatively cheap sum. Everyone else costs $3.5 million or more, with the middle three all having another two years on their deals, Hamilton with three more years, and Giordano, four.
Some are more likely to be on the trading block than others, but for the sake of argument, let’s run through the pros and cons of trading all of them.
Pros: He’ll be 35 to start next season, which, in professional sports, is pretty old. Trading Giordano now would be selling high on him, which means the Flames could get that much greater a return to upgrade other areas of their roster. Also, he’s a left shot, and Juuso Valimaki, also a left shot, is like, right there.
Cons: Giordano is still the Flames’ number one defenceman for a reason: age be damned, he is still very, very good at his job. He scored 38 points over 82 games last season, including 13 goals, all the while playing number one minutes in all situations and maintaining a 57.67% 5v5 CF. He also seems to at worst be a stabilizing force, and at best elevate whoever he’s partnered with. Maybe he’ll fall off at some point, but in the meantime, all signs are that this is still an excellent player, and the Flames will be worse off without him.
Pros: He’s big, he’s a right shot, he scores a lot, and he’s signed to a pretty good deal for all of that. What that means is, should he be traded, the Flames should get a great return for him. Also, Rasmus Andersson is also, like, right there.
Cons: The Flames’ biggest problem heading into this offseason is their lack of scoring. I’m having a really difficult time figuring out how trading away their best offensive defenceman – 17 goals, 44 points, led the team with 270 shots – solves that. Maybe, instead of giving up on a 24-year-old (will be 25 to start next season) defenceman who already has a 50-point campaign under his belt, just, like, play him on the first powerplay unit the entire year or something.
Pros: He has been really not great the past couple of seasons (i.e. since being split from Giordano). But if he still holds some value around the league, then it may be time to cash in now rather than later. The Flames can probably still get a solid return for him, and open up space for, say, Valimaki.
Cons: Brodie was also really, really good not too long ago. He can still pick up points. He’s still an excellent skater. Maybe playing on the left side instead of the right really did mess him up that badly. Who knows what caused this sudden, massive drop off – but if it can be fixed, would you really want to give up on the player?
Pros: Maybe the Flames can get a first and two second rounders for him or something. Also, something something Andersson.
Cons: This is the one that’s most difficult to see happening, since the Flames just paid a pretty penny to get him, he’s on a good contract, and he may not score a lot but there really isn’t much fault to find in his game. And they probably wouldn’t be able to get a first and two second rounders for him; if anything, trading Hamonic would likely yield a lesser return and have cost the Flames a handful of high quality assets for one non-playoff season.
Pros: He isn’t that vital to the Flames’ defensive group, so they wouldn’t be losing too much by trading him. And Valimaki is probably better.
Cons: The Flames are unlikely to get a worthwhile return for Kulak. He doesn’t play a big role, but he’s also a pretty solid presence on the backend. And, at 24 years of age and with only one full NHL season under his belt, it’s entirely possible Kulak has more to offer. Getting a late round pick probably isn’t worth losing out on that potential upside. Worst case, he’s a very trustworthy seventh defenceman.
Pros: The cap hit doesn’t match the play or responsibilities, and if the rest of the NHL sees value in him, then you’ve gotta pounce on that. Really, since the Flames traded for Hamonic, Stone’s presence on the roster has made very little sense, and the boasted defensive depth he provided went absolutely nowhere. And Andersson is probably better.
Cons: Do you manage to get a late round pick for Stone, or do you have to give up a little extra to get someone else to take on his contract?
So… what would you do? Would you trade any of the Flames’ main six defencemen? Who, and why? Or would you leave the group intact, and see what another coach can do with a set that was so highly touted 10 months ago?