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Mistakes the Flames have made when trading stars

Friends, there’s a non-zero chance that the Calgary Flames could make a significant trade this off-season. For hockey reasons, for salary cap reasons, and for team composition reasons, the Flames could make a big move involving a big name player.

Historically, that hasn’t gone too well. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

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Big trades that went well

At the risk of being overly negative or alarmist, let’s talk briefly bout the big trades that the Flames handed fairly well.

  • Trading Kent Nilsson (and a third round pick) to Minnesota for two second round picks.
  • Trading Mike Vernon to Detroit for Steve Chiasson.
  • Trading Al MacInnis (and a fourth round pick) to St. Louis for Phil Housley and two second round picks.
  • Trading Joe Nieuwendyk to Dallas for Corey Millen and Jarome Iginla.
  • Trading Theoren Fleury (and Chris Dingman) to Colorado for Rene Corbet, Wade Belak, Robyn Regehr and a second round pick.
  • Trading Dougie Hamilton (and Micheal Ferland and Adam Fox) to Carolina for Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm.

In these trades, the Flames moved a big, big piece of their team, but they got value back and everything turned out fairly well.

Panic trades

Here are a handful of situations when a Flames GM went “Oh no!” and made a knee-jerk trade that (a) turned out poorly for Calgary and (b) were among the last moves they made as Flames GM.

  • Trading Doug Gilmour (and Ric Nattress, Jamie Macoun, Kent Manderville and Rick Wamsley) to Toronto for Gary Leeman, Michel Petit, Alexander Godynyuk, Craig Berube and Jeff Reese.
  • Trading Marc Savard to Atlanta for Ruslan Zainullin.
  • Trading Olli Jokinen (and Brandon Prust) to the NY Rangers for Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik.
  • Trading Dion Phaneuf (and Keith Aulie and Frederik Sjostrom) to Toronto for Matt Stajan, Ian White, Jamal Mayer and Niklas Hagman.

The Savard trade in particular was a frustrating move, as Savard was feuding with head coach Greg Gilbert and the trade for Zainullin – who never, ever came over from Europe – was followed two weeks later by Gilbert being fired by then-GM Craig Button. (So what was the damn point of trading Savard for pennies on the dollar?)

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The Jokinen trade was the second time in less than 11 months that Darryl Sutter had traded Prust. This was during the same period of time when Sutter traded his own son.

Cashing out in weird ways

These trades weren’t quite panic moves, but they were swaps involving players with term left that left everyone asking themselves “Why would you bother making that trade?” The returns were underwhelming, but not quite Zainullin Bad.

  • Trading Robyn Regehr (and Ales Kotalik and a second round pick) to Buffalo for Paul Byron and Chris Butler.
  • Trading Jay Bouwmeester to St. Louis for Reto Berra, Mark Cundari and a first round pick.

The Regehr one was pretty bonkers because they cashed out on him with term left so they could re-up Alex Tanguay – they needed the cap space so they could re-sign him prior to July 1 – but including Kotalik’s awful contract resulted in them adding a second round pick sweetener, which led them to trade down in 2012 when they selected Mark Jankowski (so they could replace the lost pick).

Holding on too long

Trading the best player they ever had was undoubtedly a white flag and a sign that the team wasn’t planning on being competitive for awhile – they won a playoff round two years later, because life is chaos – but the return was lessened because of Iginla’s age, contract status, and a no-move clause which limited the number of suitors.

  • Trading Jarome Iginla to Pittsburgh for Kenny Agostino, Ben Hanowski and a first round pick.

Probably the overriding lesson from this walk down memory lane is: figure out the price for your star players, stick to it, and don’t move them just to move them. There’s a reason that 20 years after the fact everybody in Calgary hockey still snickers about Zainullin – he’s a punchline emblematic of a rough time in Flames hockey history and a time where the club tried to be way too clever and ended up looking incredibly silly.

To avoid looking silly, just don’t make awful trades.

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