A Calgary Flames trade for Martin Necas would be repeating the mistakes of 2015

Photo credit:James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
20 days ago
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In hockey, as it is in life, it can be easy to come up with a plan… but sometimes it’s difficult to stick to it. When it comes to building a team from a bottom-dweller into a perennial powerhouse, the challenge can be correctly gauging precisely how the team is progressing and determining what to add to move into the next stage of team-building.
In the case of the Calgary Flames, with the rumours circulating that Carolina Hurricanes forward Martin Necas may be available via trade, let’s talk about the lessons that the Flames should be learning from their previous team-building exercise between 2013 and 2019. More specifically, let’s talk about the mistakes they made in 2015.
The Flames began their last retool/rebuild in the spring of 2013, with the white flag waved on their contention window when they traded Jarome Iginla to Pittsburgh. The Flames drafted sixth overall in 2013 and fourth overall in 2014, reflections of their regular season performances, but the team had a run of strong puck luck in 2014-15 that got them into the playoffs – Sportsnet’s Derek Wills dubbed them the “Find A Way Flames” for their string of improbable late-game comebacks.
The 2014-15 Flames were an imperfect, if lovably plucky team. On an expected goals per 60 basis, they were 27th offensively and 25th defensively, but they got into playoffs because they were second in five-on-five shooting percentage and 18th in save percentage. Simply put: they were playing over their skis and basically every place that compiled advanced stats said so – they were one of the most possession-challenged teams to make the playoffs in the Analytics Era.
With the Flames unlikely to go on a lengthy playoff run – again, they weren’t quite there yet in their development – the prudent thing to do would’ve been to ride the wave of the playoff run to its natural conclusion, a second-round loss to Anaheim, and then use the additional draft selections that general manager Brad Treliving had acquired to continue to bolster the club’s development system.
Instead, Treliving seemed to misjudge where his team was in its progression and used three early draft choices to swing for the fences, sending a first-round pick and two second-rounders to Boston for restricted free agent Dougie Hamilton.
It’s easier to say now with this with the benefit of a decade of hindsight, but Hamilton wasn’t what the Flames needed at that point. He was a really impressive offensive blueliner who had three 40-plus point season with the Flames. But when you trade three picks in the first two rounds to acquire a player, and then sign him to a deal worth north of $30 million, you hope that he can be a foundational player for the team you’re trying to build.
And all due respect to Hamilton, but he just wasn’t that for the Flames. He was the type of player that can put an already good team over the top, though. Take a team that has a deep, talented blueline and a potent power play and add Hamilton? That would be a great team. But that wasn’t what the Flames had, and adding Hamilton didn’t move them that far forward as a group.
So let’s turn our attentions to Martin Necas. He’s a 25-year-old pending restricted free agent (with salary arbitration rights).
Moreover, he’s had back-to-back 20 goal seasons on his now-expiring two year bridge deal: 28 goals (and 71 points) in 2022-23 and 24 goals (and 53 points) in 2023-24. History suggests that he’s gonna get paid.
If you want Necas to play for your hockey club, you’ll likely need to pay a hefty acquisition cost – you’re probably starting the conversation with a first-round pick – and then you have to hammer out what’s likely to be a hefty contract. If you’re paying that price to have him on your team, he has to fit a specific need on your team.
And I don’t think Necas does that for the Flames right now.
Over his career, Necas has scored a 0.67 points-per-game pace – 55 points over an 82-game season. Over the past two seasons, he’s upped that to 0.78 points-per-game – 64 points over an 82-game season. He’s been scoring at a slightly higher rate than Yegor Sharangovich. And like Sharangovich, while Necas has taken face-offs and can play centre, he’s primarily an offence-oriented winger. He’s a winger than takes two to four face-offs per game, and has a career 41.5% winning percentage at the face-off dot.
Necas is a really smart offensive winger. But he’s not a centre. And he’s not a 200-foot player. He’s not a complete player, but he’s quite good at the things he’s good at. But for the acquisition cost it’ll take to get him, you really need to think he’s your future winger ace… and you’ve got to be convinced that your team is adding Necas away from taking a big step.
As the saying goes, a good general manager has to take cues from his team, and be clear-eyed about what his team is and where they are in terms of their progression. And while Necas is a talented player, in the first real year of their retooling process, the Flames aren’t there yet in terms of where adding Necas would make sense.

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