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Can the Flames afford to keep Hudler?

Could we see a big deal involving Jiri Hudler? The Flames might have to end up moving him. With the contracts of the future (Monahan, Gaudreau, Bennett) coming up, and the signing of Mark Giordano and Hamilton, the Flames might not be able to afford Jiri Hudler. Although the 31 year old is not likely to repeat again, as we have seen so far this season with 26 GP, 17 points. The trade that would make most sense to me would be a package deal to get a legitimate starting goaltender.

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 someone like David Backes maybe? Could Hudler be sent to St.Louis? Washington? The Flames need more big centres and depth is never a bad thing. Either that, or trade for a legitimate starting goalie.

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. As we have already seen this 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, and Sam Bennett due in the next two years, do the Flames have the cap space to pay Hudler $6 million per year?

I think they should package him to find a legitimate, proven starting goalie. The Flames have such a great team when it comes to forwards and defence, but don’t have a starting goalie.

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.

A team that needs scoring could be of use of Hudler. Just seeing as the Flames might not be able to afford him, they should put him out on the market and make sure people know he’s available.

Coleton MacDonald
The Founder of Weliveforhockey.com
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