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Calgary Flames; Trade Rumors; Backes, Grabner, Talbot

The Flames hold the No. 15 pick in next weeks draft, four in the first two rounds and six in the first three rounds. Flames GM Brad Treliving:

“Obviously we’ve become popular in the sense we’ve got picks,” Treliving said. “When you look at this year’s draft, it’s unique in the sense you have six teams without a first-round pick. That’s a lot of teams without a first-round pick. Subsequently, you have a number of teams without a second. When you come in with three seconds, you become a little bit more popular.

“When you’re talking specifically on draft, you talk about different scenarios. We’re at 15. What are the teams sitting above us that may want to move down? Vice versa; who’s below us that may want to move up? You frame those so when you get closer you’ve got the work done prior to [the draft]. You’re also looking at those [second-round picks]. To say we’re going to be active and make any deals, it’s tough to predict. We could not make any.”

The Calgary Flames definitely need size up front in their top-six core of forwards. There have been a ton of rumors going around lately revolving around the Calgary Flames.

The Calgary Flames name continues to creep into trade rumours, and Sportsnet Hockey Insider Elliotte Friedman keeps fanning those flames. On Sportsnet 960 Radio in Calgary yesterday, Friedman spoke about the type of player that the Flames are looking to acquire.

“I’m going to throw another name at you and I know this is going to start a lot of stuff. I’m going to say I don’t think necessarily he’s the guy, but I’m saying he’s the type of guy. Depending on what St. Louis decides to do with David Backes, I could see that being the type of player that Calgary might have some interest in. I’m not saying that they’re going to go out and get David Backes, but he’s the type of player they’re looking at.” Friedman said.

Okay, so you get the picture that the Flames are looking to add a top six forward with size. Backes has posted almost identical point totals over the past three full seasons, scoring 26 goals and 32 assists for 58 points last season with the St. Louis Blues. He is 6’3″ and 231 pounds and plays a very solid two way game.

However, Friedman is just painting the picture of the type of player that the Flames would be interested in and not necessarily stating that the Blues will be moving Backes. Surely the Blues who are a great team would not be willing to move Backes anyway. However, Friedman goes on to claim the Blues will be moving a veteran core player.

“One of those Blues veterans is at least going to be going. It’s just a matter of who, and what the offer is.” -Friedman noted.

Well, sounds like the Flames may not just be in on a player similar to Backes, but are in on trying to pry the center out of St. Louis. Backes would be a huge upgrade to the Flames forward ranks and would help give them the big forward they are looking for that can go head to head against the likes of Ryan Getzlaf and handle the physical toll.

Backes is a legit top line two way center who would play in all situations for the Flames, and could have a 30 goal, 30 assist season in Calgary next season. He would unquestionably make the team better next season, but I still don’t think acquiring Backes is the right idea for the Flames.

Backes is 31 years old and though he could very well have another 30 goal season in him, he likely doesn’t have many of them left. His $4.5 million cap hit is very manageable, but he is a UFA next summer who would at best want a hefty raise and at worst would walk away and sign elsewhere. Worst case scenario here would be trading for Backes and then he signs somewhere else a year later after the Flames give up assets for him.

That’s the other downside to acquiring Backes: the cost of doing so. St Louis may be willing to move him, but they definitely aren’t looking to throw him away. Backes was the first line center for the Blues last season, playing on a fantastic two way line with Alex Steen and T.J. Oshie. The Blues are considered a Stanley Cup favourite heading into next year and are in no hurry to move their big center.

So what would it take to acquire Backes? Well, you would have to knock the socks off the Blues, since they are pushing for a Cup next year and could be convinced to move Backes, but certainly don’t have to trade him.

Top six centres with size like Backes and the ability to score 30 goals are rarely traded, especially in the offseason. The closest recent comparable to Backes would be Ryan Kesler who was traded by the Vancouver Canucks to the Anaheim Ducks at last year’s draft. He was 29 years old and coming off a 25 goal season. The Ducks sent Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, a 1st round pick and a 3rd round pick to Vancouver for Kesler.

The Flames would have to build a similar package to get Backes out of St. Louis. I’d love to see Backes in Calgary next year, but would I like to see them give up a good young forward, good young defenseman and a first rounder for him? Would you like to see Mikael Backlund, Tyler Wotherspoon and the 15th overall pick heading to St. Louis next week?

I didn’t think so. It’s fun to see the Flames are in the middle of all of these trade talks and rumours, but this team needs to be patient right now. It may not be in Brian Burke’s DNA to sit back and wait for the young players to develop, but that is exactly what this team needs to do.

A solid young core of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett makes this an enticing team of the future, but they will need more players their age to develop around them to make this a great team. Dealing off some of that future promise for a 31 year old center who will be a UFA in one year just makes no sense for the Calgary Flames right now.

Burke probably doesn’t see that, but I think Brad Treliving is smart enough to see that this team needs patience more than it needs a top six player on the wrong side of 30 that will force you to mortgage your future to acquire.

The Flames best forwards are currently still in their entry level deals, as Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau proved they are the present and the future of this franchise with breakout seasons. Monahan scored 31 goals and 62 points and Gaudreau is up for rookie of the year after scoring 24 goals and 64 points.

With Monahan just 19 years old and Gaudreau set to turn 22 this summer and last year’s fourth overall pick Sam Bennett still a teenager as well, the team has to build slowly around this group. Trading away your first round pick for a 31 year old Backes just doesn’t fit that philosophy. This team needs to be patient, and bring in players who don’t cost a big part of the team’s future to acquire.

One such player, who wouldn’t cost a lot, but could provide a big reward is New York Islanders right winger Michael Grabner. If you look at the Flames lineup, the biggest need right now is a second line right winger and Grabner would come on the cheap and also fill that role.

Arthur Staple, who covers the Islanders, wrote that Grabner, as well as Kyle Okposo are on the trade block. Though Okposo is a much bigger name, again, he would cost too much of the future to acquire. Grabner on the other hand wouldn’t cost a lot and would be a perfect fit on a patient Flames organization.

Grabner’s biggest asset is definitely his blazing speed. He is quite possibly the fastest player in the NHL and uses it well to create scoring chances. He is also a good penalty killer for the Islanders, and a team can never have too many players who make the opposition uncomfortable when they have a man advantage.

There isn’t an official stat for it, but if the league kept track of a number of breakaways a player has, Grabner would certainly be among the league leaders every season. He uses his tremendous speed to cause turnovers at his defensive blue line and one he gets half a step on a defenseman, there is no one in the league that can catch him.

The Islanders have done a terrific job developing young prospects over the past few years and are looking to make a roster spot or two for Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome to be regulars on the top three lines. Due to this, the Islanders are willing to deal Grabner before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Based on the little it would cost to acquire him, and my best guess is the most the Islanders will get for Grabner is a third round pick, him being a UFA in one year is actually a positive for the team acquiring him. While you would hate to lose a player after one year that you gave up a first round pick to get, not being locked into a long contract on a player you are rolling the dice on is a good thing.

Grabner has just one year left on his contract at three million dollars, meaning his contract is not going to affect the Flames ability to stay under the cap in the future. While trading for Lucic who is making six million next season and needs a new contract next summer could make it difficult to keep him and the young core, if Grabner performs well, he will still easily fit in under the cap.

Grabner is a former first round pick, taken 14th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2006 NHL Draft. The Canucks traded him to the Florida Panthers who ended up losing him on waivers to the Islanders in 2010. Grabner made the Panthers look ridiculous when he scored 34 goals in his first season on Long Island, but he hasn’t matched that offensive output since.

Grabner scored 20 in 2011-12, and then had an impressive 16 goals in just 45 games in the lockout shortened 2013 campaign. As the Islanders got deeper with talent, Grabner took on a more defensive role and his offence sagged in the past two seasons. The wing scored 12 goals and 26 points in 64 games two years ago and followed that up with an injury plagued year in which he scored eight goals and 13 points in 34 games.

Though he won’t lead the Flames in scoring next season, at the age of 27 and put in a more offensive role again, Grabner could easily bounce back and score 20-25 goals next season on the Flames second line with Mikael Backlund and Sam Bennett. Even though he was hurt most of last year, his eight goals in 34 games is a 19 goal pace over a full season.

A lot of Grabner’s value comes in things he does other than scoring goals. He would be a huge help to the Flames shorthanded unit next season, and would make Calgary tougher to play against, not because of his physicality but because he is just so fast that it keeps the other team off balance when he is on the ice.

I’m not saying Grabner is as good as Backes or Lucic, but I am saying his age, contract and the cost to acquire him make Grabner a much better fit for the Flames next season. His name isn’t as big and intriguing as others that have been tossed around this summer, but he would make the most sense for the Calgary Flames right now.

Coleton MacDonald
The Founder of Weliveforhockey.com
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