Sometimes, things don’t change from the preseason to the regular season. What are we worried about? Goaltending. What are we excited about? Rookies. Let’s dive in.
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Who would the Flames have to trade to acquire Nylander and how could the team create cap space for his contract (assuming BT gives him the 8MM he is rumoured to be seeking).
Well Toronto is immediately going to be down their young, top line right winger. That means Calgary is probably going to have to send their young, top line right winger back. So buh-bye, Elias Lindholm. William Nylander is younger and has a better track record than Lindholm thus far (two 60-point seasons versus zero), so you have to probably throw in a sweetener too. Toronto needs young defensive help, so sending them Rasmus Andersson or Juuso Valimaki is a starting point.
That’s not enough cap cleared to make the deal work though. If Nylander wants $8M (irrelevant if the Flames think they can talk him down below the Giordano cap, but probably not happening), you need about $1.8M more freed up. That’s one Sam Bennett cap hit. Throw in a few more picks, and that seems like a plausible deal to me.
But you have to wonder if Nylander would be that much of an upgrade on Lindholm, and whether it would be a good look to essentially trade your first line RW (who was partially acquired through trading your previous #1 RHD, your previous #1 RW, and a potential blue chip RHD), a blue chip defenceman, your highest overall draft pick, and picks to maybe get a few goals better? Lindholm also has more of a defensive game than Nylander, so perhaps the entire thing becomes a very expensive wash.
There’s also the issue of needing to pay Matthew Tkachuk next season, and a lot of the cap taken up by Nylander in this hypothetical would be less to allocate to Tkachuk. If you’re paying Nylander $8M, you probably have to pay Tkachuk the same number. That’s definitely not digestible.
Tl;dr, too expensive, not happening.
Is it too soon to hit the panic button with Mike Smith this year? At his age goalies fall off significantly & besides the 3rd period of the home opener he's looked horrendous in goal. Should the Flames try to trade for a goalie (Bobrovsky, Riemer) if Smith continues to struggle?
— Daniel Tiller (@tiller_daniel) October 7, 2018
I think it’s too late to hit the panic button. The Flames knew Mike Smith was old and had injury issues before acquiring him. It shouldn’t be any surprise to them that he is playing like an old goalie with injury issues.
Even with a pretty good sample of him playing poorly post-injury, they decided to press forward with him as the starter and one of Jon Gillies or David Rittich as the backup, even though both were sketchy in the role and certainly don’t have the experience or talent to take over the starting gig this year. They took the bet that he would return to form and so far have been let down. If they were going to press the panic button, it would’ve been in the offseason. They gave him a vote of confidence instead.
Obviously, these first two games aren’t 100% indicative of what’s going to happen with Smith this year. He’s not going to be an .800 goalie for the rest of the season. But don’t count on him bouncing back to being a .920 goalie anytime soon, because he will probably just be a .910 goalie. The Flames certainly could use an upgrade.
But the known quality goalie market has dried up, if it ever existed in the first place. Teams that have goalies that can be quality starters for the majority of the season tend to keep those goalies, and those with the potential to be starters are also difficult to pry out. Their most affordable option might be to sign Steve Mason, honestly. They missed the boat on finding a proven, quality starter.
Will mike smith be good enough for the flames to make the playoffs ? Can he be a consistent starter for 60+ games ?
— The Sauce Show (@The_Sauce_Show) October 7, 2018
I can’t predict the future, but I’m going to say maybe to the first question and definitely not to the second.
If the Flames can outscore their opposition every night, maybe Smith just needs to be average for them to get into a playoff spot. The team is certainly built to give him more cushion in case he has an off game (case in point, the home opener) and if he creeps back up to maybe .910, that might be enough to keep the Flames afloat.
Consistent starter is iffy. Smith has been plagued with inconsistency throughout his career so you’re probably not going to be able to guess what goalie you get on most nights. If the Flames have faith in Rittich/Gillies, they should certainly steal starts. Smith’s injury history has also limited to under 60 in his past three seasons, so don’t count on him to hit that number this season.
When are the flames going to actually address the goaltending? Every year since Kipper, we've been banking on a resurgence of a goalie after an off year or a former great cheating age or an untested backup.
— HockeyAccount (@HockeyAccount2) October 7, 2018
They are addressing it, not through taking a major swing, but through their own, slow process.
The Flames have been trying a tricky balancing act between bright-futured goalies and proven NHL puck stoppers under the current management. The logic being that you’ll develop a goalie into being your starter without rushing him while also keeping things steady in the NHL. It’s clear that the Flames have yet to master this, or even see results. Bad luck or bad decisions, it’s a process that has worked out poorly.
Let’s look to the Karri Ramo/Jonas Hiller years. The thinking was that at least one of them would be good enough to stick around while the other would be easily cut loose. Whichever one went, Joni Ortio would ascend to their spot (oof). That ended in the three-headed monster debacle that was partially responsible for Paul Byron’s departure. Neither goalie is in the league now.
Then it was Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson. One would be given a chance to establish himself as the starter, the other would be a fine backup, and they would reassess at the end of the year. With Gillies returning from injury and a surprising new addition in Rittich, the Flames looked like they would finally pull it off.
Spoilers: they didn’t. Elliott was too inconsistent to stick with and Johnson was only good for about one month. Gillies didn’t rebound well from his injury, and there wasn’t enough info on Rittich to proceed further.
And so now we are in the third cycle of this process under Brad Treliving. They have promising young players in Tyler Parsons and Gillies, but it’s hard to gauge just how far away they are, which is a problem when Smith’s deal ends this year. They’re basically banking on Gillies being close enough by next season (hence his deal, which is two-way this year and one-way next year). If not they have to hope Parsons is close enough to the NHL to actually be worth at least 20 games.
But if this iteration of this process fails, they have to take a major swing at the goalie market (they tried with Ben Bishop a few times, to be fair to them). There’s just too much talent on the team to be consistently let down through the same old nonsense.
What’s fair market value for Sam Bennett, and what position would Treliving want to target as a return if trading him?
— Ethan Browne (@EthanBr59748527) October 7, 2018
Bennett is unfortunately heading towards a Nail Yakupov return territory right now if he were to be traded. Yakupov received an ECHLer (Zach Pochiro) and a conditional third (would’ve been a second if Yak scored 15+ goals that season. He didn’t). Not great.
Yakupov was rocking a 0.44 PPG before being traded to the Blues. Bennett currently has a 0.36 PPG. Factor in the disappointing results versus draft position hype, the gradual demotion from top six to fourth line, and being passed over and becoming a non-factor on the roster, and the parallels couldn’t be more similar. If you’re convinced that this is Bennett’s destiny, Yakupov was traded in his age 22 season despite having signed a two-year, $2.5M AAV deal the year before. This is Bennett’s age 22 season, and he signed a two-year $1.95M AAV deal the year before. If the Flames trade him, a third is probably a fair price.
I think if Treliving wants to use Bennett to address a need, he’s going to have a rough time. The major need is, of course, goaltending. How many good goalies can you get for a player who is worth around a third? Probably none.
which #Flames prospect do you feel has the potential to be the next Dube/Valimaki and jump into the NHL out of their first camp?
— Ryan Pike (@RyanNPike) October 7, 2018
I would lean towards “no one” because the Flames don’t have any high end picks left in their system, but I think the player with the best odds is Dmitry Zavgorodniy. He’s been dynamite for Rimouski so far and is still relatively young, having turned 18 just in August. With maybe two more years of seasoning, he could immediately factor in on the wings. He scored three goals and picked up an assist while I was writing this. He’s good.
What are your thoughts on Valimaki and Dube After the first couple games? Do you think either/both get more than 9 games?
— Khalid Keshavjee (@KMKeshavjee) October 7, 2018
Juuso Valimaki has certainly had his moments, good and bad. The first game wasn’t his best showing, but he was strong in the home opener, mostly because he was stapled to the dynamite MMA line. He had the tough task of carrying Dalton Prout (81.82 CF% together, Prout had a 11.11 CF% apart) around but generally looked fine. If this is just a taste, you can’t help be excited for what he’s like in five years.
For the nine games, it’s going to be a tough call. Since they traded Brett Kulak, there’s no reliable, tried-and-true option for that third LHD spot. I doubt they would demote Valimaki for being inexperienced when the next man up, Oliver Kylington, is also inexperienced (more pro-seasoned, but less NHL action). I think they’ve handcuffed themselves to Valimaki for better or worse.
Dillon Dube is showing well despite the weird scenario he finds himself in. He’s been a spark plug who has come oh so close to scoring at least twice and has generally been fine in every scenario he’s been put in, but Dube’s been held back by his linemates, which isn’t really their fault either. His entire line has just finished playing their first two games in a Flames sweater, so there’s kind of no chemistry yet. While every other line has some sort of consistency on it (Monahan-Gaudreau, Tkachuk-Backlund, Bennett-Jankowski), these are all guys who have just met each other.
Given that plus Peters’ faith in them (matching them up against the Elias Pettersson line was bold), we could see Dube explode with the rest of that line in quick order. Dube is a speedy, strong two-way player with a clinical finisher in James Neal and an effective 3C in Derek Ryan. There seems to be some frustration after two games (which, seriously?), but it should come together shortly.
As for the nine games, it’s irrelevant to Dube because his contract is running regardless. He’s already proven that he’s too good for the AHL, so sending him down is probably a waste of everyone’s time.