Calgary Flames trade target analysis: Tarasenko, Barbashev, JVR, and Domi
Photo credit:Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
The NHL’s trade deadline is just over a month away. You can bet the Calgary Flames will be active leading up to March 3.
Back on January 26, Cam Lewis from OilersNation wrote a piece about DFO insider Frank Seravalli mentioning potential trade targets for the Flames.
It was a good piece to let the fans know the rumours existed, but as readers of the site know I much prefer to analyze. So instead of just assuming I know what these players are all about, let’s dive into how they have been doing this season and see if they could be a structural fit for Calgary that would actually help on a playoff run.
Let’s meet the players with some introductory RAPM (Regularly Adjusted Plus-Minus) Charts via the twins at Evolving-Hockey.com.
The first impression is that there appears to be a front runner for all-around positive impact. I read RAPM charts as follows:
- GF/60 – the player’s actual ability to get tangible goal production. The only way to get into the blue here is to constantly find ways to put pucks in the net. Anytime this bar is higher/lower than xGF/60 regression can be expected to some extent.
- xGF/60 – it’s about chance creation. Typically the higher the bar into the blue the better quality of chances the player is getting. High CF rates can skew this, so it’s good to work in conjunction with CF/60 to see if things balance out.
- CF/60 – how many shot attempts are going in the right direction while you are on the ice. This does not discriminate between blocked, deflected, saved or scored shots it counts them all. The higher in the blue you get the more your chance differential is – sometimes a sign of high puck possession.
- xGA/60 – are you giving up quality chances at a higher rate than the rest of the league. Being in the blue here means you are good at suppressing quality shots, being in the red means the opposition is getting shots off from the high-danger area in front of the net.
- CA/60 – How many shot attempts are you seeing coming back your way. Follows the same classification system as CF/60 for determining what to count – being in the red can be a result of playing on a bad team too.
Now that you have that explanation you can see why James van Riemsdyk, playing under a defence-obsessed coach in John Tortorella would have good CA and xGA numbers, but the ability to find offence in that system marks him as the initial standout.
But first …
Can the cap work?
Yes – because of the Flames not spending into LTIR and accruing cap space all of these players can be added to the roster without actually subtracting any contracts. Without the need to retain salary or use a third-party broker to do that Calgary can keep acquisition costs low.
Now they just need to get to a spot in the standings where their GM can feel comfortable spending the assets needed to reward them – as of the All-Star break that is not the case.
Next, let’s dissect this further on a more individual basis:
Contract: 1 year left at 7.5M in cap hit – 2.96M left to be paid this year
Stat Line: 37 GP – 10 G – 19 A – 29 PTS
Info: RW – Shoots left – 6′ – 225 lbs.
Quick explanation for these fantastic HockeyViz.com heatmaps – red means lots of shots and blue means a lack of shots. Red on the defensive (or bottom) rink is bad while blue is good. Red on the top rink is good while blue is bad.
These are also isolated impacts based on the model HockeyViz uses – so the individual’s contribution to what is happening without factoring in teammates like we sometimes do.
It is worth noting his major injuries that semi-wipe the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons off the boards as he played less than 50% of his team games each of those seasons. The last two seasons have shown Tarasenko struggles to help with the defence in his own end while seeing a heavy decrease to what his shot rate totals used to be in the offensive zone.
The defensive coverage hasn’t been a slight decrease either – while Tarasenko is on the ice the opposition tends to get some really good looks on goal from the middle of the ice.
The name still carries a lot of merit to it, though. Looking back on his career from 2012 till 2019 when he became a Stanley Cup champion one can see why. Tarasenko was constantly getting to the middle of the ice and using his dangerous (above-average) shot to get goals. Since his injury, that just has not been the case.
I still believe Tarasenko has that great shot, and he still shows the ability to come out of the right corner and use it or his above-average passing ability to get good looks, but he’s being hindered by a St. Louis team that continues to perform worse every single season (Maybe Pietrangelo should have been a higher priority than Binnington or Faulk). Coming to a well-structured Calgary team with a strong defensive core could help ease the load off of him and improve his overall play.
My Take: I think he’d be a fine addition to Calgary on the offensive front, but questions about whether he can bring his defensive game back to an acceptable level remain. This theoretical “fit” we are examining is beside Kadri-Huberdeau as the other top 9 lines seem to have somewhat solidified themselves.
I’m not against it – but I’m not all-in on the idea. The main worry is paying too much for what the name used to bring vs. what you are getting today.
Contract: 1 year left at 2.25M in cap hit – 888K left to be paid this year
Stat Line: 50 GP – 9 G – 15 A -23 PTS
Info: C/LW/RW – Shoots left – 6′ – 187 lbs.
My favorite part about having two players from the same team here is looking for similar trends that have developed over time for both players. One thing noticeably different in this year’s defensive impact is Barbashev protects the middle of the ice better. That should be the case because of his knowledge of playing center, but it’s still well below where you would want to see it.
Barbashev still brings that “Stanley Cup Champion” box the Flames tend to like. You could add his ring to Lewis, Lucic, Kadri, Toffoli, and Coleman; then again, the same could be said for Tarasenko.
I would not view Barbashev’s random spike into offensive impact relevance as concrete. Looking at his history he’s tended to have a negative impact on both offence and defence. He did manage to get 60 points last season but that was driven more by a high rate of finishing rather than strong play creating a bunch of chances — a rate of finishing he has been unable to ever replicate, both before that season and now after.
My Take: The Flames should absolutely avoid Barbashev unless the acquisition cost is minimal. I mean a 3rd round pick in this draft is too much to pay for a rental with a performance history like this. Sutter may be able to fix any player’s defensive deficiencies over time, but being we are looking at rentals we want players we can plug and play. The last thing they need to be doing is spending assets again like they did on Ryan Carpenter only to sit him in the press box.
That’s a hard no from my perspective on Barbashev.
James van Riemsdyk
Contract: 1 year left at a cap hit of 7M – 2.7M left to be paid this year
Stat Line: 31 GP – 8 G – 13 A – 21 PTS
Info: LW/RW – Shoots left – 6’3″ – 217 lbs.
JVR scored at a 20-goal pace in 12 of his 13 NHL seasons prior to this one, only failing to reach that level as a 20-year-old rookie. He constantly gets his offence from around the crease area using his big body to create havoc. He’s above average at getting tip goals and visually appears to be able to track rebounds quite well.
He does indeed check all the boxes of net-front goal scorer the Flames lost when they traded Matthew Tkachuk to Florida. He also leaves out a very important aspect the Flames tend to have missing from their roster – footspeed.
JVR also thrives defensively where all the others on this list fail fairly miserably metrics-wise. He’s shown an ability to be able to do that across the years, for different coaches and with different teammates. He’s about as plug-and-play an option as you will find on the market for a scoring middle-six winger.
My Take: I said on the FlamesNation Radio Podcast (episode 69) I wanted a crease crasher for Huberdeau and Kadri but needed to look around first instead of just picking one. If Calgary is in a solid position to buy (which would involve giving up prospects or draft picks) I would be happy with a JVR addition. He fits the bill for what the Flames should be looking for and is someone with a statistical profile worth paying a decent asset for.
That being, said ninth in the Western Conference isn’t exactly screaming “load up.”
Contract: 1 year left at 3M cap hit – 1.18M left to be paid this year
Stat Line: 48 gp – 14 g – 21 a – 35 pts
Info: C/LW – shoots: left – 5’10” – 192 lbs
Max Domi does have the best offensive totals of players on this list, but it is very clearly because he’s one of about three or four forwards on the Blackhawks that actually could belong in an NHL top six. Based on his defensive history Domi would probably project better used as an offence-only 3rd line piece and I can see his late career trajectory mirroring that of former Oiler Sam Gagner.
No matter what team he plays for Domi is a massive defensive liability constantly giving up chances in his defensive zone to try and cheat for offence. That works great for counting totals on a team desperate for Connor Bedard but if he ever wants to play for a team that can contend in the playoffs he’ll need to readjust his game.
The trade to the Hurricanes at last year’s deadline was the first instance of him on a competitive roster – he was able to largely fit into what they wanted to do but even in limited time his tendency to not defend close to his crease dribbled through.
My Take: I have faith in Domi’s ability to score, but the history of being a defensive liability is too much to bank on for being a rental. It’s so prevalently negative it’s just a risk I would not want to spend quality assets to take. Similar to Barbashev I think a lot of time with Sutter could help him find some reclamation, but that’s not what you want to add if you’re trying to be a serious contender.
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