Could we see a big deal involving Jiri Hudler? The Flames are not going to budge unless it blows them away.
Hudler is coming off the best season of his NHL career where he scored 31 goals and 76 points in 78 games. Hudler led the Flames in goals, assists and points, ranked 8th in league scoring and remarkably led the entire NHL in even strength scoring with 60 points at 5 on 5.
He had a terrific year and with that terrific year, comes the ability to trade him for something good. The Flames, if they were to trade Jiri Hudler would need to get back something ridiculous or something that blows them away. Package deal for Milan Lucic? Could Hudler be sent to St.Louis? Washington?
Hudler has tremendous chemistry with the Flames top young players Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau and the trio proved to be one of the most proficient scoring lines in the league by the end of the season. Monahan broke out with a 31 goal, 31 assist season and Gaudreau was one of the league’s best rookies with 24 goals and 64 points.
Then why, oh why would the Flames even consider tearing apart one of the best lines in the league and deal Hudler in the first place if he has such a good thing going with the young stars?
Well, first of all, Hudler is extremely unlikely to repeat his impressive performance next season. His career high in points before this season was 57, set while he was with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008-09. Hudler had the second highest shooting percentage in the league at 19.7%, which suggests he got a few more lucky bounces than the average player and it will be difficult to shoot with that precision once again.
Hudler’s shooting percentage has been high throughout his career, so I’m not suggesting his goal total drops to 15 next season, but it very likely falls under the 30 goal mark which he reached for the first time in his career.
At 31 years of age, the timing of Hudler’s career season surely looks like it will be a one year aberration and not a breakout performance that predicts he will do the same in the future. Again, it’s not entirely impossible that Hudler puts up similar numbers next year and I don’t think he will be awful, but he will likely be a 25 goal, 55-60 point player next season.
Hudler is also entering the final season of a four year $16 million dollar contract that he signed with the Flames in 2012 when he left Detroit. He has more than lived up to that $4 million dollar cap hit during his tenure with the Flames, but will be looking for a significant pay raise if the Flames are to re-sign him to an extension.
With new contracts for Monahan, Gaudreau, Mark Giordano and Sam Bennett due in the next two years, do the Flames have the cap space to pay Hudler $6 million per year?
It would be wise for the Flames to dangle their top winger out there as trade bait after he had such a tremendous season. It would be a classic sell high type of trade, where the Flames get a maximum return on a player whose value will never be higher.
With the NHL Draft coming up in less than two weeks, it will be interesting to see what kind of offers the Flames will get for the native of Olomouc, Czech Republic. If a team desperate for scoring like the Montreal Canadiens offer a late first round pick, the Flames would have a tough decision to make.
What if the Washington Capitals, who claimed they were looking for a right winger to play with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom offer the 22nd selection for Hudler? Would adding a late first round pick be enough to move Hudler? Would it be enough to really make it worth the Flames while, like Friedman quoted the Flames management as telling other teams.