Wednesday, February 24, 2016

NHL Trade Deadline 2016: Handicapping the Flames Top Eight Trade Candidates

One, two, three, four... I have no idea how many cell phone chargers Brad Treliving churns through in a month but you get the sense he's one of those guys that is hard on them.

With the February 29 trade deadline quickly approaching, aspirations of the Flames making the playoffs have flatlined. With 23 games to go, Calgary is 15 points back of a playoff spot in the Pacific and 13 back in the wild card chase with four teams to pass. They haven't been pronounced dead but the medical examiner is en route.

Not that his focus was any different two, four or eight weeks ago anyway, but it’s come time for Treliving to roll up his sleeves, start calling all those NHL general managers he has on speed dial and help his hockey club for next year and beyond. It's time to unload players not part of the future and bring in young players or assets that could be.

Last season, Curtis Glencross and Sven Baertschi were dealt for draft picks that ended up being the “currency" needed for the Flames GM to be able to acquire defencemen Dougie Hamilton and Rasmus Andersson. Think about it. Those two players, who both could be top-four fixtures for this club for many years, were the result of Treliving’s handiwork at last year's trade deadline.

Treliving got his wheeling and dealing started on Monday, picking up 2013 first round pick Hunter Shinkaruk from Vancouver in exchange for Markus Granlund. Call that the appetizer if you will as you can bet the main entree is still coming.

Below in a special edition of Eight From 80 Feet, I present eight other Flames that could be with a different NHL organization by next week.

1. D Kris Russell

Age - 28
Status - Pending UFA. Final season of 2Y/$5.2M deal.
Trade Possibility - 90%

Why Coveted - While the advanced stats folks have never been a big fan, there's still plenty to like about this defenceman. He wears a letter, is always willing to throw any part of his body in front of slapshots, is mobile, can log 25 minutes per night of ice time and can play both penalty kill and power play.

Why Expendable - Starting next season, the Flames wlll have over $17 million tied up in Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie and Dougie Hamilton. With speculation that Russell is seeking a deal in the range of $4 to $5 million, that's surely outside the price range for the Flames, who this summer owe big raises to Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan and still have other holes to fill including goaltender.

2. RW Jiri Hudler

Age - 32
Status - Pending UFA. Final season of 4Y/$16M deal.
Trade Possibility - 75%

Why Coveted - Just a year ago, he lead the NHL in even-strength points. After a slow start, he's been playing much better lately, suggesting early-season issues were injury-related -- maybe the groin that sidelined him for a couple of games. He's a veteran that could comfortably slot in on the right or left side in the top-six of a contender looking to load up for a long playoff run.

Why Expendable - He is a pending UFA that will command more money than the Flames likely will be willing to pay. Also, his age simply doesn't line up with the team's young core and when Calgary will be ready to win. If he was 27, that's a different story, but he's not.

3. RW David Jones

Age - 31
Status - Pending UFA. Last season of 4Y/$16M deal.
Trade Possibility - 60%

Why Coveted - Brings size, experience and can be an effective bottom-six winger on a good team. He played well in the post-season last year with five points in 11 games. He's a poor man's power forward, who can be a force at times and he's been better since he's been able to stay healthy. He's an honest veteran player that could bolster the forward depth of any contending team.

Why Expendable - I view Jones as being in a similar place to where Curtis Glencross was a year ago. What is his future in a league that keeps getting younger? While the possibility of bringing him back but on a much cheaper contract does exist, Calgary would be better off going with younger and cheaper options in their bottom-six.

4. C Joe Colborne

Age - 26
Status - Pending RFA. Final season of 2Y/$2.55M deal.
Trade Possibility - 25%

Why Coveted - As a first round pick, who has good size at 6-foot-5, decent hands and can play center or wing, those are all attributes that will intrigue a GM that feels he can play a bigger role and have a bigger impact than he has in Calgary.

Why Expendable - Spending time as a healthy scratch lately suggests he's not a roster lock. Was a key in shootouts but not many games go to shootouts any more. As a pending RFA, he's in line for another raise and with an excess of bottom-six forwards, the Flames may wish to go another direction and open a spot for a younger prospect on a cheaper, entry-level deal.

5. RW Josh Jooris

Age -  25
Status - Pending RFA. On a 1Y/$975K deal.
Trade Possibility - 20%

Why Coveted - While regular playing time has been elusive, Jooris has shown he can be a versatile bottom-six player, who can play wing or centre, kill penalties and can be an effective energy guy. He's at his best when he gets in fast on the forecheck, is physical and plays with an edge. He also has good speed that often can lead to scoring chances.

Why Expendable - The frequency he's been in and out of the line-up suggests he's not on great terms with the coach. Plus he's due for a new contract and last year's was a lengthy negotiation. That said, with so few right shots on this team and with Granlund departed opening up a spot at centre, a deal is probably unlikely.

6. D Tyler Wotherspoon

Age - 22 (turns 23 on March 12)
Status - Pending RFA. Final season of his 3Y entry-level contract.
Trade Possibility - 15%

Why Coveted - As a second round pick that has put in plenty of time in the AHL, he could be an affordable third pairing/depth defenceman for a team up against the cap. Plus, he's still got upside being only 22 years old. A fresh start in a new organization might be the tonic necessary to rejuvenate a once-promising career.

Why Expendable - Not long ago, it seemed as if he had been passed on the Flames depth chart. Brett Kulak beat him out to open the season in Calgary and Jakub Nakladal was the first D called up after the Dennis Wideman suspension. With more young D coming in Rasmus Andersson, Brandon Hickey and Oliver Kylington, the blue-line has become an organizational strength and Wotherspoon could be leveraged to help the team address a different need.

7. LW Brandon Bollig

Age -  29
Status - In second year of 3Y/$3.75M deal.
Trade Possibility - 10%

Why Coveted - He is not an everyday player but he does play his best hockey against big, playoff-like teams. One of those 'good in the room' types, he could be a useful depth guy for a Western Conference team looking to increase its size and bring in a veteran presence at forward. Also attractive is his playoff experience from both last year and his time in Chicago. One year left on his deal could be viewed as attractive although that might also be a deterrent.

Why Expendable - He has been a frequent scratch this season. Micheal Ferland, who is six years younger, has the potential to play that same physical role but also while contributing way more skill. He won't be around when Calgary is ready to be a playoff contender so moving on from him makes sense if the Flames can find a taker -- even if it means retaining some salary if necessary. I'm just skeptical there will be any offers.

8. C Mikael Backlund

Age - 26
Status - In first year of a 3Y/$10.7M deal
Trade Possibility - 5%

Why Coveted - He's a dependable centre currently playing some of the best hockey of his career. While very good in a defensive role, his offensive abilities are underappreciated. Always a darling of the advanced stats crowd for the positive impact he has on possession, that hasn't often translated into goals as he scored just five times in the first 50 games. But with six in his last nine games, now everyone is seeing and appreciating Backlund's two-way game.

Why Expendable - With holes elsewhere in the line-up, can the Flames afford to have Backlund at centre when they already have Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett, now that he's moved there. Remembering that you have to give up something to get something, Backlund might be that player Calgary needs to reluctantly part with in order to help land that bona fide No. 1 goalie or top line right winger. However, should such a trade happen, this is one that would likely occur in the off-season.

  • Jonas Hiller - If you could get a late a pick from a team looking for veteran goalie insurance, you do it and call up Kevin Poulin. 
  • Deryk Engelland - His salary will scare teams off but if a team is willing to absorb that final year, he would bring veteran leadership, a physical presence and servicable depth to a blueline.
  • Drew Shore - One starts to sense his opportunity in Calgary may not come. Might there be another organization interested in giving him a shot.

Final Word

While we continue to hear Treliving laud how valuable Kris Russell is and how much the he’d like to be able to re-sign him, reading between the lines as he also mentions the real life constraints of the salary cap, you sure get the sense the team’s alternate captain is as good as gone.

Look how they’re handling his injury, for example.  Russell is a warrior, who has and will play through almost anything. He skated with the team yesterday and in normal circumstances, I bet he plays last night. The extra caution the Flames are taking with Russell reeks of a team committed to protecting an important trade chip.

Add in how sought after defencemen typically are at the trade deadline, I would be shocked if Russell is not moved by Monday’s deadline.

As for Jiri Hudler, I think it’s still likely he goes although he’s less of a slam dunk for me because I’m not sure where his value is at and whether a team will pay Treliving’s asking price – and just settling for whatever if you’re the Flames GM sets a bad precedent.

There might be others, potentially some surprises mixed in, we’ll see. If Tyler Wotherspoon was still in Stockton today, I would have had the odds of him being traded as higher but I've been impressed with his first three games and all the reasons he would be sought after are the same reasons Calgary should keep him.

I am also curious if when some trades shake down, if it’s draft picks that come back or prospects that are further along in their development.

One thing for sure, this year sets up to be one of the busier trade deadlines in Flames history if not in quality, then at least in quantity.

It should be fun.

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  1. Which would you take on the number of Flames moving out being 5? The over or the under?

    1. Under. Granlund, Russell, Hudler and maybe one more. Talking about trading guys is easy, executing is more challenging as so many variables. You have other teams waiting until the last minute as they're pursuing someone else. Sometimes guys that are seemingly obvious to get dealt end up not being dealt. That could happen with Hudler, to be honest. But I'll go with four, just to pick a number.