Looking at AHL moves, contingency plans, and potential blockbusters in this week’s edition of the mailbag.
If Mike Smith finds his game again, do the flames sign him for another year?
— Khalid Keshavjee (@KMKeshavjee) December 1, 2018
I could see a case for yes and a case for no.
Let’s start with “yes.” If Mike Smith can work in tandem with David Rittich as an effective 1A/1B punch for the rest of the season, that’s a way better alternative than naming Rittich as the starter and hoping that Jon Gillies or a cheap free agent can get the job done. The Flames have been unable to start a new goaltending legacy since Miikka Kiprusoff retired, so maybe sticking with the same duo for the third straight year may be appealing to Flames management. After all, why mess with a good thing?
The “no” side is much more likely to happen, however. The Flames bet on Smith to begin the season and were rewarded with some pretty lousy performances, mostly due to him being old and having injury history. Last I checked, he is still on pace to be older next season and his injury history still has not gone away. Are they willing to take that risk and potentially (likely) get burned again? He’s also making $5.67M this year (some of it paid by Arizona) which is pretty pricey. Will he be argued down to a discount? Hard to say. Do the Flames need the cap space more than his production over ~40 games? Absolutely.
I can’t imagine a realistic situation where Smith comes back. The Flames have addressed defensive and offensive needs over the past three-ish offseasons. They know they need to address goalies now. If they re-sign the 37-year-old because they had no other plans, that’s a major failure.
What's the likelihood that the Flames try and revamp the goalie depth in the organization assuming Mason MacDonald and Mike Smith leave as free agents?
— Daniel Tiller (@tiller_daniel) December 3, 2018
It’s almost 100%. I think they’re long overdue to draft some at least a goalie and with picks actually in the top 100 (for now) they will probably target that position. For immediate NHL moves, they probably bring in a journeyman to fill in the backup spot or provide organizational depth should Gillies win the spot in the NHL. I’m not sure “revamp” is the right word, so tinkering and restocking is probably what happens.
Has Hathaway proved his value? Do the flames resign him or is he a piece they would be willing to let walk this summer to let young players come up?
— SomeGuyOrSomethingIGuess (@MattBeaups) December 1, 2018
They should certainly let him walk. Garnet Hathaway is a pretty okay energy guy and penalty killer, but that’s pretty much all he is. Should you try out higher ceiling guys like Austin Czarnik instead? Yes. Why not figure out if you have a potential diamond in the rough rather than going with ol’ reliable 15 points per season? The Flames should absolutely be looking to open up spots for players like Andrew Mangiapane now, and players like Dillon Dube and Matthew Phillips in the near future. You can’t do that if you’re going to commit a roster spot to grinder. Right now, I don’t think Hathaway is hurting the team by playing less than 10 minutes a night. But you can’t ignore the potential of the team being so much better if someone else was in that spot.
If they re-sign him, he’s an emergency backup at best. I can’t see them committing more money to him given the fun of the Lance Bouma experience.
The way how nhl clubs have to commit to long term deals for aging goalies is making super hard to give young goalies chances. Does NHL need to reconsider goalie contracts?
— Ramil (@ramil600) December 2, 2018
I think NHL clubs have to reconsider how they spend money in general. There are always players on every roster who haven’t proven that they’re really worthy of a roster spot, but teams will keep trying them out due to sunk costs, veteran status, loyalty, or what have you. GMs will always overpay someone and then try to make it work when it obviously doesn’t.
Of course, we can’t ignore that the issue is magnified with goalies, given that there’s only two spots for them on an NHL roster, but I don’t think it’s the fault of the contracts. There isn’t anything that makes teams commit to long-term deals other than they decided it was a smart idea. Why wouldn’t the Canadiens want Carey Price for eight more years (answer: he gets older and injured a lot)?
I think that in order to solve this issue, teams should probably invest more heavily into understanding goalie aging curves.
Why does BP hate Big Save Dave and Czarnik so much?
— B.O.X (@BillXu3) December 2, 2018
I’m fine with Big Save Dave getting his rest in from time to time, as long as Bill Peters doesn’t believe that Rittich was just a stop gap until Smith bounced back. If he commits to the 1A/1B split that seems to be working so far, then we’re good.
For Czarnik, I have no clue what’s going on. Czarnik had a bonkers preseason, which was more of a curse than a blessing, because now he can’t live up to those lofty expectations. As I have already said, he deserves more of a shot than some of the other bottom sixers on the roster (I can’t see why you need both Hathaway and Ryan Lomberg in the lineup at the same time. One is fine, the other is redundant) and it’s confusing why Peters continues to sit him.
Will the flames protect Giordano for the Seattle expansion draft?
— Ayoon (@Ayoon35233086) December 3, 2018
It’s a few years away, but I think they would. Given that he’s not at all slowing down (he appears to be getting better as he ages) and that he’s the heart of the team, I can’t imagine the Flames wanting to get rid of that contract. The narrative after he signed that contract was that the Flames could probably look at ditching it as he got older and theoretically worse. Since that hasn’t happened yet, no need to move on.
Why did the flames send Dube down? What does he need to do in Stockton to get called back up? How long does it take for him to come back?
— Khalid Keshavjee (@KMKeshavjee) December 1, 2018
Dube, like Czarnik, is a kid who had a great preseason and has seen the shine wear off since. The major difference is that he’s waiver eligible. I think the Flames are in a spot where they don’t need him right now, and he certainly hasn’t done much to convince them that he’s worth keeping. If he’s getting fewer than 10 minutes a game, there’s not really a point in him being here when he could be getting top line minutes elsewhere.
To get called back up, I think he has to blow the doors down and hope that a pretty important spot opens up. That’s pretty much every AHL prospect’s hope, but I can’t see the club calling him up again if there’s just a fourth line spot open. There’s no point in sending him down to get minutes just to bring him back up to play in a scenario that doesn’t set him up for success.
Kylington has looked good so far with the big club. How long does he take to get regular time here? What do the flames do if he makes serious push to stay up?
— Khalid Keshavjee (@KMKeshavjee) December 1, 2018
The Flames have some flexibility with Oliver Kylington, but it’s all going to come down to Juuso Valimaki. It’s four games, but I think Kylington has at least been around the same, if not a little better, than what Juuso has done so far. When Juuso heals up, it could be a tough choice. I could certainly imagine the team sending Valimaki down to learn some of the finer points about professional hockey while keeping a more experienced pro player in Kylington around.
That’s the short-term solution, though. Long term?
How do they solve the logjam on D?
— Калина (@kalinah) December 1, 2018
I think the easy and obvious answer is a trade, it’s just a matter of who. With Tkachuk getting more expensive by the minute, the Flames have to move out some salary. You feel Giordano is out of the question immediately, and so is Noah Hanifin as they only recently acquired him. You also feel that they don’t move out the youth, as there’s probably little they could actually get for them, plus they don’t really alleviate salary issues.
So that leaves TJ Brodie, Travis Hamonic, and Michael Stone. Stone’s recent health issues takes him off the trade market for potentially the rest of the season, so no go there. Hamonic and Brodie are the two big dangle pieces, and both are conveniently having great bounce back seasons. With both hitting 30 by the time their contracts expire, the Flames are probably mulling over the idea of trading at least one of them.
Hamonic might be my bet for most likely trade asset. He’s very attractive for other trading partners, coming in at under $4M with a full toolkit of talents. He also doesn’t have a NTC, which opens up the options. But the Flames paid top dollar for him, and it would be poor optics for the team (who have had a lot of big deals go awry recently) to get a depreciated return for him.
There could be another option….
Does Brodie's good play ironically make him MORE tradeable? Flames gotta shoehorn in Tkachuk somehow (Nylander is now the floor). Bennett is also gonna need a small raise (maybe he's tradeable too?)
— kingcambie (@kingcambie) December 1, 2018
I mean, yes. Teams are generally very interested in trading for known good players rather than once good players who may bounce back. Given that Brodie has bounced back into being a good player, teams could be interested in him.
While Hamonic may be more likely, I think Brodie is the higher value trade piece. He does have a modified NTC, but if he’s playing like a #1 defenceman, you can probably get a grab bag of picks and/or prospects for TJ. You can clear salary, add some talented pieces to your organization, and still have a pretty stout defence. If you believe Giordano playing Norris-level hockey is behind Brodie’s success (very likely), why not try Hamonic/Hanifin up with Giordano? The Flames traded their #1 RHD this past offseason and have managed to survive, hell, even thrive. They might just take that gamble again.
But on the other hand, why break something you just fixed? The Flames made one of the most shocking moves of the offseason partially because they wanted to get Brodie going again – why trade Brodie now? They can certainly find the money for their pricey offseason if they move other, less consequential contracts.