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FlamesNation Mailbag: Keep or toss?

Having built up depth with a bunch of new faces this offseason, the Flames have a few tough decisions to make regarding some of their old faces. There’s a few that have become expendable given what’s been added to the team. There’s no room for complacency anymore. Who might stay, and who might go?

Remember that you can email the FlamesNation mailbag at flamesnationmailbag@gmail.com!

Jon Gillies’ waiver exemption doesn’t actually expire until he’s 27, so the Flames can afford to be patient. He’s 24 right now and has been better year after year. If he can get to the NHL this season that’s pretty good, but if he doesn’t, that’s alright, too. The discard point is probably if (or when) Tyler Parsons passes him in development. If Gillies hasn’t made a mark on the NHL by the time Parsons is ready to be a starter in the AHL, the project is probably worth abandoning.

Greg writes:

Since there’s nothing left on the UFA market, which teams have excess goaltending depth that might make sense as a trade target?

There’s not a lot of goaltending depth league-wide. Most teams have a starter, a backup, 50 feet of crap, and then AHL journeymen and developing prospects. Most of them are dime a dozen goalies, but here’s a few who I feel might be available and worth the risk:

  • Jack Campbell: a cheap goalie with some strong AHL performances and a great NHL stint albeit in a small sample size. Los Angeles has two waiver-eligible goalies on the roster already, but might not want to trade in the division.
  • Ville Husso: solid AHL performances with some strong pro performances in Finland and is behind two waiver-eligible goalies, but is waivers exempt himself and may not be an immediate solution.
  • James Reimer: Florida has three pro goalies, given that Michael Hutchinson just signed there. Reimer is a capable backup option, but the Panthers appear to believe that Hutchinson can sneak through waivers (highly probable), so he might be hard to get. He’s also got one more year on his contract.
  • Anton Forsberg: might be okay, but he also might be a goalie you can make a waiver claim for.
  • Anders Nilsson: could be a solid backup, stats deflated by playing on a lousy Canucks team. Is UFA in one year, and with Thatcher Demko coming up, he could be expendable. Vancouver is in the division though, so there might be a premium to pay.
  • Michal Neuvirth: depending on how Philly’s goalie situation breaks down he could be available, but the Flyers could also keep him regardless.
  • Calvin Pickard: low value despite good backup seasons in the past, but he’s probably available on waivers with Toronto having two goalies who need it. A few teams with waiver priority might grab him before the Flames do, so the team needs to trade for him before that happens.

Greg writes:

If Curtis Lazar cleared 200 games played, does that mean he skews draft “success” stats higher than they should be? Seems we need a better proxy for successful draft selections than games played…

Two hundred games is the measure for draft success, largely because waiver exemption usually goes away after about 200 professional North American games. If a player can stick around in the NHL for 200 games, a team feels that they are valuable enough to have a committed roster spot over a minor league replacement player. We use 200 games as a handy measuring stick to determine if a GM has deemed this player worthy enough of a safe roster spot. If the player crosses that line, they’re a draft success.

But: GMs can be stupid; we learn this year-in, year-out. Just because a player reaches 200 games does not necessarily mean that they were above replacement level, just that the GM thought they were. In Lazar’s case, it’s likely his status as a first round pick kept him in the league when it was clear that he wasn’t of league quality. Lazar is pretty replaceable by NHL standards: his offensive game is non existent and his defensive game is borderline okay. Not really that worthy of a roster spot, but because the Senators and the Flames deemed him a worthy project, he is technically a draft success.

This happens. There are players that don’t really deserve 200 NHL games that get them regardless. As a thought experiment, ask yourself: if Emile Poirier, Hunter Shinkaruk, or Morgan Klimchuk got those 200 games Lazar did, would there be any major impact, positive or negative, on your team’s performance over those 200 games? The answer would likely be “no.” All of them are AHLers who might be at or around replacement-level NHLers. It’s just a matter of who gets the call. Sometimes, it might just be luck that one gets 200 games while the others don’t. Outliers happen.

If your concern is draft metrics, than perhaps Lazar might prove worrisome, but there’s other metrics to measure whether or not he was worth the first round pick. Draft analytics have advanced to the point that we can more or less identify bad value picks versus high value ones. We can never be sure whether a prospect breaks out, but we can at least assure ourselves of the probability one makes it over the other. If a player’s junior performance lines up with the performances of others who successfully jumped from juniors to the NHL, we can be more sure of their success. In Lazar’s case, there were likely higher value picks who, without hindsight, should’ve been selected in that spot. Despite Lazar clocking in at a success by games played, there were always signs that he shouldn’t have been that candidate based on his performances and others in that draft class.

If Sam Bennett turns out to be handy depth, I think the Flames might just accept (if they haven’t already) that he was not the guy they thought they were selecting in 2014. A cheap 30-point scorer might fetch anywhere between $2-3M as an RFA, so they might just keep him around until he’s a UFA and then moving.

If he suddenly breaks out though, he probably would get a raise, but nothing that breaks the bank. It’s one great season versus three bad ones. He’ll get a slightly pricier contract, but one that won’t last long, likely only taking him to his UFA years. It’ll be an expensive “show me” deal, but if he actually does break out during his next deal, that’ll be livable. He’ll be a good player on a cheaper contract than what he deserves during the Flames’ contention years. They might have to wrestle with cap space after that next hypothetical contract expires, but they should still be fine.

Michael Stone probably sticks around for now. Their RHD depth is Travis Hamonic, Stone, Rasmus Andersson, and Dalton Prout. If one goes down, they’re in trouble. They should park Stone in the pressbox, however. He’s unlikely to fetch a decent return on the trade market, and if Andersson is too good for the AHL (he is), he should be playing now. They took an obvious risk signing him for too much for too long with a prospect likely snapping at his heels before that contract came close to expiring, but that’s the reality they live with now. Pricey, but nothing worth fretting over.

We already mentioned Stone, but Michael Frolik is probably not a player you should trade. He had a terrible year where he got injured and saw his shooting percentage collapse, but he is still very good defensively and a smart bet to be a bounceback player.

Stone has Andersson ready to take his job, but who does Frolik have? Lazar? Garnet Hathaway? Perhaps Austin Czarnik, but he’ll have a roster spot regardless (and is also not much of a sure thing). Spencer Foo is also a stretch, as he’s had one okay AHL season, and is likely an offensive option if anything. You aren’t going to be able to replace Frolik just like that. I wouldn’t be against the notion of trading him, provided you get a solid return back, but selling low to move a less sure thing up is a very bad idea.

Pick your poison:

CF% CFrel% OZS% CA/60
Troy Brouwer 50.80% -3.70% 41.56% 58.1
Curtis Lazar 51.61% -3.39% 50.72% 55.72
Garnet Hathaway 53.53% -0.56% 54.20% 55

Brouwer and Lazar have about the same relative impact, although Lazar is more sheltered. Hathaway fares the best possession-wise, but also had the high ground much more often. If defence is your fourth line focus, you probably want the guy who doesn’t allow the most shots against.

I might go with Hathaway. He’s had some pretty good success on the PK and seems to be at least competent in the possession game. He has limited offence, but in a fourth line role, you can’t expect much. In an ideal world, however, neither would be the choice.

In the ideal world, yes. I feel the Flames don’t do it though. It’s easy to want to buy a player out when it’s not our money to play with. Although this is the best year from a financial standpoint to buy him out (they would pay him $6M this year if they bought him out, $7.5M if they bought him out next year, and $9M if they stuck with the contract), Treliving probably doesn’t want to keep the deadweight on for an additional two years. They should buy him out (they probably know this) but they probably won’t.

Dougie Hamil-oh.

If the offence doesn’t come back, there’s really no other options. You could try Noah Hanifin on Mark Giordano’s right, but who knows if he can play the right side. That also means that Brodie-Hamonic is back together, which kind of nullifies the entire reason for making that trade. Brett Kulak and Stone likely aren’t going to do it either.

Andersson might be worth a shot, but he’s still a rookie and is probably not going to touch the first pairing for a while.

  • everton fc

    As forth plays w/Gio if Brodie doesn’t cut it…

    I remember at camp, a few years ago, Kulak looking quite comfortable w/Gio. Not saying Kulak is a #2 d-man; just saying they seemed a competent, comfortable pair, if my memory serves me.

  • Off the wall

    Well done Mr. Tibs.
    I think we have to accept that we’re going with either Rittich or Gillies as backup.
    No point in looking for a backup when we really should be testing our own.

    As far as Brodie is concerned, I am confident he’ll be much better with Giordano.

    If our biggest complaint is our 4th line, then Treliving has done his job well!

    Is it October yet…

    • buts

      I believe Gillies proved convincingly that he is not of nhl caliber last year. Rittich looked like he was capable then when Smith got injured he dropped the ball. Acquiring a solid backup has to be #1 in BT’s eyes.

    • MDG1600

      Heres an idea – lets have a training camp and some pre-season games and see how Rittich and Gillies perform. Goalies are a bit odd in the way the develop. It seems like they suddenly wake up one morning and “get-it” and then they are good. For that reason I wouldn’t be too quick to discount Gillies or Rittich.

    • Korcan

      Re. Brodie bouncing back playing alongside Gio, this is my no.1 concern entering next season, followed closely by the fragile goaltending situation. I really hope Brodie finds his game again, but my fear is he peaked early in his career (similar to Redden and Phaneuf) and that he won’t be able to reestablish himself as a top pairing D. My hope is Gio will be able to work his magic on him, as he seams to do with whomever he is partnered with, but I can’t say I feel confident.

  • Burnward

    My theory on back-up goalies: get the biggest bastard you can find and throw him in there. Nilsson is a good bet. I also think he’s got some high-end in him.

    He’d be an awesome pick.

    • Brian McGrattan's Salute

      I think Nilsson is a good bet. But I do wonder if this season is earmarked for the development (or at least uncovering) of Rittich and/or Gillies. Like OTW said, I think we’re going with the same goaltending situation we had. Its a big risk, but at some point you gotta just give your prospects a chance, or don’t bother.

      • Jessemadnote

        I don’t know Nilson is 28 years old and has a career .907 save percentage in 105 games. Rittich is 25 and has a .904 save percentage in 22 games. I think it’s much more likely that Nilsson is what he is at this point and Rittich has room to grow. May as well stick with your own guys.

        You look through the months of Rittich’s season it’s November .923, December .924, Jan .938, Feb .879 and March .921. There were basically 3 poor games in February for Rittich this season that dragged all of his numbers down. I really believe he’s worth another shot.

      • HOCKEY83

        Hellebuyck was taken round 5 #130 overall 2012 NHL Entry Draft
        Gillies round 3 #75 overall 2012 NHL Entry Draft
        Hellebuyck has been in the league 3 full seasons and has already earned himself 6mil per X 6. Both Gillies and Rittich have been underdeveloped by this point. Hopefully Parsons doesn’t go the same way.

        • Jessemadnote

          Ya Hellebuyck forced managements hand with consistent .920 save percentages in the AHL. I think Gillies can do it this year but he has to show what he’s capable of.

  • Discosis

    Flamesnation repeat after me:

    Brouwer is NOT being bought out
    Brouwer is NOT being bought out
    Brouwer is NOT being bought out…

    Let’s talk about something else!

  • brodiegio4life

    Here’s hoping when/if Rasmus outplays Stone in training camp/preseason and earns a spot in the lineup he is actually given one. I have a feeling he could be back in the AHL or watching from the pressbox, mainly because Stone is the “veteren guy” with the big contract. We’ll see.

    As for trading Frolik, I see this brought up a lot. It literally makes no sense. We don’t need the cap space, and if we did it would make more sense to move out Stone or buyout Browuer. Frolik is still a very effective middle 6 winger. We’ve finally got some depth on the right side, so why trade one of our top 3 RW’s and lose some of that depth? Makes no sense.

    • JoelOttosJock

      I disagree. Frolik’s time has passed with this team. Time to move on and infuse this group with a couple of prospects. Or make room for Janko in the top 9.

      • brodiegio4life

        Moving out Frolik who doesn’t even play the same position as Jankowski has nothing to do with Janko getting into the top 9. Adding young guys to the lineup for the sake of adding young guys is a terrible idea.

        • JoelOttosJock

          Janko will be playing wing if he plays top 9. Otherwise where does he slot In? He is not over taking backlund, Ryan or lindholm or Monahan. That’s 4 ahead of him. I heard a couple guys talking about moving Monahan off ofcenter and playing him on the wing with lindholm at center and Johnny. Not a horrible idea as Monahan is weak in his own zone.

  • Rudy27

    “If your concern is draft metrics, than perhaps Lazar might prove worrisome, but there’s other metrics to measure whether or not he was worth the first round pick.”
    I thought Lazar was traded for a second round pick? Which at the time I thought a reclamation project of a first rounder was worth a second rounder.

  • Garry T

    Brouwer can’t do faceoffs, Brouwer can’t skate. Brouwer has had two years to show us why we should keep him. Buy him out out out out ! He retired as soon as he signed his contract.

  • redwhiteblack

    “They should buy him out (they probably know this) but they probably won’t.” That kind of dismissal of plain logic troubles me about the Organization. With the options we have now, cut the our losses and save the 3 mil. Brouwer is not going to help this (or any) team.

    • Brian McGrattan's Salute

      This “logic” is why it worries me to have Brouwer and Stone around, because I’m not sure I can trust this organization to play players where the should be played — I.e. Brouwer as 4RW at times, but mostly eating popcorn; Stone sitting mostly and being a great 7d.

      It worries me that Prout seemingly has been inked in for 7-where does Stone or Andersson go? And I’ve just been too traumatised by the overuse of Brouwer to trust he’ll sit

      • Baalzamon

        We saw it last year with Jankowski: He unequivocally made the team, but got sent down because waivers. They were saved from their mistake by an early call-up due to injuries, but they absolutely can’t make that mistake again.

        But I know they will.

  • Baalzamon

    According to Mike Kelly, Lindholm gets 4.85 per for six years.

    Considering Hertl got 5.6 per over just four years for the same production, I’ll call that a win for the Flames.

    • everton fc

      Good deal, indeed. Or so it seems…

      As for goalies, the one I’d look at acquiring would be Pickard. And I’ll still see Stone moving – does having Andersson in the “A” one more year make sense, in terms of his being exposed/not exposed, for the next expansion draft??

  • Jobu

    The nation seems to be hammering on Hathaway, a lot. Personally I’d like to see a fourth line of Mangiapane, Jankowsi, and Hathaway. That experiment was there for a few games last year, but would be much more effective in limited minutes against plugger lines.

  • canadian1967

    “But: GMs can be stupid; we learn this year-in, year-out. Just because a player reaches 200 games does not necessarily mean that they were above replacement level, just that the GM thought they were.”

    And just what exactly makes you so smart that you know more than someone who has spent their life working in Hockey to reach the position of GM in the NHL?
    Christian, that one remark shows everything that anyone needs to know about you.

    Especially when talking about someone like Treliving who HAS worked his way up to the position. You haven’t got the right to make comments like that, he’s not someone like Garth Snow who was just handed his job.

    You wouldn’t make that comment to their face. Would you?

    • 1. It’s one comment directed at no one in particular. Not something to work yourself into a huff over.
      2. Authority does not grant infallibility.
      3. My name is on this article. If I wouldn’t be comfortable with someone holding me to account for my words, I wouldn’t post it.
      4. Just browsing our comment log, and your most recent comment before this one was ” If Cheveldaeof was dumb enough to do it, I would trade Johnny for Scheifele any day of the week.” Guess your opinion on lightly insulting powerful hockey people changed sometime in the last two days. People in glass houses, etc

  • cjc

    I feel that the goalie situation has been pooched for some time. Treliving is not entirely to blame here – sometimes goalies don’t develop, and you can’t force GMs to trade with you. It’s hard to see any of the listed options (except Reimer) being an upgrade. Hopefully Peters will manage Smith’s minutes better early in the season, that way when Smith is inevitably injured he won’t just be throwing Rittich/Gillies to the wolves.

  • With new coaches on staff this off-season, Treliving has the explanation (excuse) that he’s giving Peters and Huska a chance to work with Brouwer to try elevating his play. If he’s back on the power play then I suppose Ward will work with him too.

  • everton fc

    I think it would be foolish to move Frolik, unless you get a better player in return. Which you won’t.

    Moving Frolik to make move for Czarnik is a fools move.

  • The Doctor

    If the Flames are indeed a better team up front this year, I’d be shocked in Bennett doesn’t score at least 40 points. He will finally have two linemates who can score, as opposed to having one or zero, which is what he has had up to this point.

      • Brian McGrattan's Salute

        I just hope Jankowski is no less than 3C. I feel like a broken record here, but that kid needs a push, and a vote of confidence.

        These are crucial decisions in player development. He can be a 20-30 goal scorer, 65 pt type player, but not if we park him on the fourth line behind some 30 year old guy who’s good at faceoffs and can put up 30-40 pts (no disrespect to Ryan).