FlamesNation mailbag: the Milanbag

It’s a trade. No one (at least on this side of Red Deer) asked for it, and no one particularly wants it (especially on this side of Red Deer), but it’s something that happened after three weeks of nothing happening.

No, we shouldn’t consider that, mostly because this trade has no impact on the Flames’ expansion draft plans.

Let’s time travel back to Thursday when Lucic wasn’t in the Flames’ plans and Neal still was. We’re going to assume extensions happen for some RFAs, and we’re going to ignore goalies since they really don’t factor into the arithmetic. Here’s the list of players who are signed until 2021 that the Flames can protect, with some notes and caveats in the brackets:

Forwards: Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, Elias Lindholm, Neal (still part of the team in this hypothetical), Matthew Tkachuk (presumably signed past 2021), Derek Ryan (2021 UFA), Dillon Dube (2021 RFA), Andrew Mangiapane (presumably signed past 2021), Sam Bennett (maybe signed past 2021, depending on if he gets traded this season), Mark Jankowski (who knows  if he’s still with the team, but still RFA at the end of 2020 so it is possible), Matthew Phillips (2021 RFA), maybe at least one NHL vet they add between now and 2021

Defence: Mark Giordano, Noah Hanifin, Juuso Valimaki (RFA 2021), Rasmus Andersson (presumably extended beyond 2021), Oliver Kylington (presumably extended beyond 2021)

So let’s say the Flames go 7F-3D-1G. They’ll at least protect Gaudreau, Monahan, Lindholm, and Tkachuk, with the added luxury of protecting three other forwards. The issue is obviously in the defence, where they face exposing at least one, and maybe even two of their U25 defencemen. Even if they go bold and expose Giordano to protect as many youngsters as possible, they still have one exposed. They would lose a good defender in that scenario.

Let’s look at the alternate expansion draft scheme where they protect eight skaters and one goalie. This allows them to protect at least four of their defenders while leaving another exposed, so the problem is only half solved, kind of. But they’ll also expose way more forwards under the 8-1 format, as they can only protect Gaudreau, Monahan, Lindholm, and Tkachuk, running the risk of exposing and losing one of Dube, Mangiapane, or any of their other forwards.

Simply put, the Flames were bound to run into expansion draft issues with or without Lucic. No matter which protection option they choose, they’ll be exposing some big names for Seattle. I don’t want to project thoughts onto Flames management, but they likely also did these calculations, found out they were screwed anyways, and decided that they were comfortable adding Lucic’s NMC to an already messy future problem if it meant solving a more immediate problem.

That’s the ideal Lucic exit strategy: play him for a year, and then try and ship him off elsewhere. That’ll be tough, but it is still doable.

I wouldn’t look at Vancouver. The rumour was that they were interested in pawning off Loui Eriksson, another man with a buyout proof contract, for Lucic. Eriksson’s contract is slightly more expensive than Lucic’s right now ($6M versus $5.25M), but ends one year earlier and has an NTC instead of an NMC. The Flames still don’t gain anything from buying him out, but they can expose him to the expansion draft without his permission and it’s less painful to see his contract through to the end.

Ideally, you shed him completely without taking back bad money. The trade destination next offseason for that will be the Ottawa Senators. As of this writing, they have $26.9M committed to the cap for the 2020-21 season. They’ll need a lot of cap hits to even hit the cap floor, and they can’t send away Bobby Ryan to do so. If the Flames did what Edmonton did and waited until Lucic’s signing bonuses get paid, they’ll send Ottawa $5.25M in cap hits over the next three seasons, but with only $10M in actual money that needs to be paid during that time frame. It’s a trade that serves the purposes of both teams.

The kicker is Lucic’s NMC. He did waive it to help Edmonton out, but that was when the options included either heading to a Stanley Cup contender, or heading home to Vancouver. I don’t know if he’ll feel equally as generous to waive his only leverage if the destination is Ottawa.

Lucic is probably going to start on the fourth line. Not because they have nowhere else they can play him, but because he has actually been helpful as a fourth liner for Edmonton.

With the Oilers, Lucic put up a respectable 50.72% 5v5 CF% (+3.51% rel) with 44.78 OZS%. He was buried and made the most of it. Don’t take the numbers to mean that he’s a fancy stats diamond in the rough who will break out in Calgary, but just that he was a decent player on a below-average team. He was one of Edmonton’s better defensive forwards, finishing third in CA/60 among all forwards who played more than 200 5v5 minutes with 53.11 CA/60.

That 53.11 CA/60 would be ninth among Flames forwards, so don’t get too excited, but with managed minutes and better linemates (Derek Ryan > Kyle Brodziak), Lucic can probably be a reliable defensive option. Not a Selke contender, but a guy who just keeps things quiet in his own end. He likely won’t score points, but he’ll play defence, and that’s more than what Neal could do in those circumstances.

On that note, I really wouldn’t try Lucic on the power play or with any offensive roles. While his defensive metrics have remained positive, his offence has completely cratered. His most valuable offensive skill is being big, which was Troy Brouwer’s role on the infamous BrouwerPlay. The Flames can do better than him.

Well, you’re sacrificing Neal’s unrealized offensive potential for Lucic’s ability to play defence. Who knows if Neal would’ve scored 20 goals next season had he remained with the Flames, but management bet he couldn’t, and went for Lucic who could at least contribute positively in one area of the ice. In that sense, it improves the team somewhat, cutting losses at one particular facet and shoring up another one that was deficient.

It’s also at the margins of the team that it doesn’t really matter. Who really cares who the overpaid fourth line winger is? Here are some questions that the Flames need to answer that will be more meaningful to them next season: can they find a top six winger upgrade for when Michael Frolik inevitably gets traded? Will they upgrade their centre position? How will they handle the presumed departure of TJ Brodie? Will Andrew Mangiapane and Dillon Dube take those next steps? Will Cam Talbot be a suitable backup?

Although the names are big, the reality is that the Flames replaced one bottom six winger with another one. The only reason this trade is big is because of the money involved, and money doesn’t matter to the on-ice product.

I don’t think this is a standard trade where you can declare teams winners or losers based on value of players exchanged, mostly because nothing of value was exchanged. The teams essentially swapped bottom six wingers with different contract structures. Neither team was looking to fleece their opponents, they were looking to pass on their problems.

The Oilers shed the Lucic contract. In their perspective, they’ve already won regardless of what happens in the future. Neal could score 100 goals or three goals over the remainder of his contract and it wouldn’t matter because they moved out the albatross contract that they had extreme difficulty moving in the past. With Neal, they have a more tradeable contract with the additional bonus that they can actually buy this one out if it gets to that point. Anything else that happens after this trade is just gravy to them.

For the Flames, they were able to move their expensive headache without needing to sweeten the pot with an attractive future asset or take on additional cap hits. The thing that prevents it from being an immediate win on Calgary’s side is that they’ve taken back another expensive headache that may require sweetening the pot with an attractive future asset or taking on additional cap hits to move. Lucic may thrive in the roles that Neal couldn’t with the Flames, but he still has that awful contract that will gunk up the Flames’ cap situation until 2023. Until the Flames can move on from it, it’s not a great trade for the team.

If Flames get rid of Lucic next off-season scot free, they’ll have found an out from two of the NHL’s worst contracts without sacrificing much of consequence. If they can do that, it’s a win. If they’re forced to stick with the contract for a few more years, they’re losers.


Dreaming of a weekend vacay? It’s your chance to Wine Down in the Okanagan! Visit the Showhome Village in Chappelle Gardens in the month of June for your chance to win a relaxing weekend getaway for four! Directions to showhomes here.

  • Young n Fresh

    CapFriendly.com Armchair-GM User-Generated Roster

    Tkachuk, Matthew 7 $7,000,000
    Bennett, Sam 2 $2,400,000
    Mangiapane, Andrew 2 $900,000
    Rittich, David 3 $3,300,000

    To CGY:
    2020 4th round pick (BOS)
    2021 2nd round pick (NJD)
    To NJD:
    Bennett, Sam

    FORWARDS (12)
    Right wing: Elias Lindholm ($4,850,000) – Michael Frolík ($4,300,000) – Dillon Dubé ($778,333) – Austin Czarnik ($1,250,000)
    Centre: Sean Monahan ($6,375,000) – Mikael Backlund ($5,350,000) – Derek Ryan ($3,125,000) – Mark Jankowski ($1,675,000)
    Left wing: Johnny Gaudreau ($6,750,000) – Matthew Tkachuk ($7,000,000) – Milan Lucic ($5,250,000) – Andrew Mangiapane ($900,000)

    DEFENSE (7)
    Right: Rasmus Andersson ($755,833) – Travis Hamonic ($3,857,143) – TJ Brodie ($4,650,400)
    Left: Mark Giordano ($6,750,000) – Noah Hanifin ($4,950,000) – Juuso Välimäki ($894,166)
    7th: Oliver Kylington ($730,833)

    David Rittich ($3,300,000) – Cam Talbot ($2,750,000)

    BUYOUTS (2)
    Troy Brouwer ($1,500,000) – Michael Stone ($1,166,667)

    Roster Size: 21
    Salary Cap: $81,500,000
    Cap Hit: $78,908,375
    Cap Space: $2,591,625

    • Baceda

      There’s absolutely zero good reasons to trade Bennett for a couple magic beans, he’s much more valuable to us than a couple mediocre draft picks. Sure we need cap space but selling Bennett is not worth it just to clear his presumed 2.5 million$ contract.
      For some reason you still have Frolik and Brodie on the roster even though it’s common belief that they will be moved to clear quite a bit of the space that we need.
      So in short, don’t trade Bennett for that very bad return, he’s valuable to us.
      (Also I think if you did trade Bennett he’d fetch much more than a 2nd and a fourth)

      • LannyMac

        @Baceda if you think the projected returns for Bennett are bad what until you see what Tre will have to give up to unload Frolik and next to nothing back to get rid of Brodie. It’s obvious there is nothing of significance has been presented to Gardiner. Gardiner and Brodie are similar dmen and nobody wants to offer up much in a trade or money for a defenceman that can be a real problem defensively. At this pt it is obvious Gardiner is looking at one to two years making far less than he made last year or he would have signed by now. Frolik will be offered an olive branch to come back and be given an honest crack at second line RW. Why because Tre will have to offer up a significant draft pick for a team to take him. Tre may be able to get something back for Brodie but the pick or player will be absolutely insignificant with little chance of ever making an impact now or in the future. I’m guessing Stone buyout and Brodie as 6th defenceman. Hope I’m wrong but all signs are pointing in that direction.

        • HOCKEY83

          Brodie as 6th Dman…That’s the most laughable thing I’ve read here. Not one of the other D on the team proved or even came close to proving they are better than Brodie in the top 2 spot. If brodie doesn’t get traded he will be right back up top with GIO. More than any other tandem in the league they get scored on the least. 108 points between them +68 between them. Ya if brodie is still here he should be dropped to 6th Dman….funny

          • LannyMac

            Quick question Hockey 83. Can you tell me why Brodie was dropped to last pairing. Let me answer first. Because Raz is 100% ready to be a top defenceman? Kid looks good and held his own but could use some more time on third pairing to mature a little more. Cause Brodie was nursing injury? Possible but not that anyone mentioned. No 83 he was a third pairing dman more and more as the season went on because he regularly made absolute bonehead plays to a point where they had no choice but to try Raz up there and hope they could get by. A first pairing dman at 4.6 would get snapped up in a NY minute. And if he was all that the Flames would not be shopping him. Players become available for a reason.

          • HOCKEY83

            Ya in normal years Brodie would get snapped up but cap space is limiting most teams right now and brodie does have a NTC which would allow him to make a list of teams he does not want to go to which I’m sure are the teams that have cap space because they don’t have a good team.The flames are shopping him because he has a substantial amount of cap space that would be saved. It’s also been stated that Hamonic is getting shopped just as much. Both players would not be able to be resigned next season for what they would be looking for anyway. At least one has to go no matter what. If you think the flames are shopping Brodie because they think he’s washed up then you absolutely have no clue at all.

        • Porcupine at a balloon party

          You realize we had a trade for Kadri on table for Bennett? Say what you will about him, but he is legit second line centre on most teams. That’s value

        • Baceda

          I’m fine with the return for Brodie and Frolik being mediocre, I think we need their cap space more than we need them as players.
          And I strongly disagree that we’re going to have to pay a team draft picks to take Frolik, he’s still a good player on a reasonable contract for only one more year, he could slide into many teams 2nd or 3rd lines and contribute. So he’s far from being a toxic contract that we will have to pay to get rid of.
          Obviously no ones banging down our door with big offers for him, but he’s worth a 3rd or 4th round pick to some teams, and I’d be fine with that return. I’d also fine to keep him and clear cap space elsewhere.

          • LannyMac

            Of course I have no proof but I’m guessing Tre has already offered up Frolik and retain a significant amount of his pay and there are no takers. There is no money out there and nobody is taking a 3rd in my opinion 4th line winger on a good team for 4.3. Not a chance. There is no money out there and so if one of the few teams out there is going to help Tre with his money crunch that team will be doing Calgary a favour. So you tell me who is in a better position during that phone call. More players out there dangling than money to cut them down. Not an economist but it doesn’t take genius to figure out supply and demand.

          • HOCKEY83

            Regardless of what the flames get back for any trade they make right now the new norm in the NHL with all the cap strapped teams is that they will have to give up players for less than what they are worth. It was obvious to anyone who understands cap and player salaries getting higher that this was coming. It’s only going to get worse over the next few years so much so that teams will be happy to be able to have a reason to get rid of a contract for nothing come X draft time.

    • Honkydonk

      Brodie and Frolik will not be with the flames at the start of trading camp guaranteed it ain’t happening.

      Brodie I would say is 95 percent leaving and Frolik with us trading Neal goes down to a 80 percent chance but I still feel it happens.

      Just a matter of time.

    • moodyblue2

      Matty wants 9.5, matty will be traded! No way has he proven his implied worth! Bridge contract, and show me what you got. ie. disappearing in many games and making a presence in the playoff! Should be worth Eberle type of money!

        • CowboyBob

          Whoops, anyways, when I think of MT’s salary I just can’t get Lindholm out of my mind. Is MT twice as good as Lindholm, no. Is he 50% better, no. Lindholm is a better skater, better forechecker, much better defensively, can play centre, can kill penalties. Lindholm has almost the same amount of points and is only 3 years older. It would be generous to say MT is 15% better, so based on Lindholm’s contract MT should come in around $5.5 million for 4 years.

          • HOCKEY83

            Lindholm got paid before he did what he did…thankfully or he’d be getting considerably more as well. If he was RFA this summer there’s no way they’d be signing both

    • Garth

      A cousins friend, told my friend, who is kind of my cousin, and knows Keith well who is a friend of my girlfriend and is looking for a relationship told me Matty is going to sign with the Flames…….

    • Speed Kills

      Sure, lol… truth be told I chatted with some Richmond Hill folks (Friends of the Mcdavid’s family) who say Conner is Done in EDM, Unhappy, Board, Depressed and wants to go closer to home or at least out East by Next year. Much like Puljujärvi right now… Although It is well known that Nurse wants a “Trouba” type deal 6-8 years @ 8+… LOL, Well at least with 97 Gone, EDM will have the $$$ to make it happen.

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Trade Tre to oil country in exchange for Holland. Tre has made 2 huge mistakes, Brouwer and Neil, has put us in this mess, swapping 2 bad contracts, Chiarelli got canned.

    • Albertabeef

      Don’t forget the Mason Raymond buyout as well. And we never should have traded for Hamilton. We way overpaid for Hamonic, a trade that should not have happened. Ever since Tre arrived we have gone through 11 goalies in 5 seasons. We have lacked right handed shots and Tre has done little to address this issue. Ryan and Lindholm and that’s pretty much it, Czar is kind of iffy. Lets talk coaches. Tre never even had a list each time he needed a new coach, just a single name and never interviewed anyone else. Both hires had basically zero playoff experience as a head coach. Now that we’ve added Talbot and Lucic I basically have zero faith in Tre. Worst Flames GM since Button(I was gonna say Risebrough though lol). Tre makes Dutter look like a freaking genius and we all know how dopey Dutter looks lol.

      • HOCKEY83

        Who cares. everything you mention resulted in best in the west and second best team in the NHL. I personally am thankful Tre didn’t go out and overpay a ligit starter goalie. The flames would not be able to sign Tkachuk no matter what moves they could make other than dismantling the team to get it done if they’d signed a 6 to 10 mil goalie. It could be soooo much worse we could all be oiler fans watching the best player in the league since Crosby play the first 10 years of his career with a team that never makes the playoffs and then move on once he becomes UFA

    • The Iggy complex

      Tre has turned the team into tops in the West and a contending team. What a terrible gm I guess? Made great RFA signings so far. Many good trades including the Lindholm trade. But oh now he made a couple bad ufa signings…. Like every other gm in the history of the nhl

      • Albertabeef

        Before the All-Star break I thought we were contenders. Since that time I have serious questions. Also we have failed to make the playoff in back to back seasons. Until that happens we’re not even close to there yet. One good acquisition(Lindholm) in 5 years is not something to be happy about. ALL our other decent to good acquisitions came through draft.