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Rumor Mill; Calgary Flames looking to make deals

Via, Yahoo Sports;

[Breaking down the plausibility of the week’s biggest rumor.]

The Rumor

The Calgary Flames, sitting eight points out of a playoff spot in the Pacific after Tuesday night’s games, are almost certainly not going to make the postseason this year. They join the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers as the only two teams in the West that are well and truly out of it barring some sort of miracle late-season run. As a result, and like those other teams, people are now starting to think about what Calgary GM Brad Treliving will reasonably have to do with the crop of pending UFAs the team has on the roster.

On Insider Trading this week, Bob McKenzie reported that the Flames are starting to get calls from other clubs about the availability of Jiri Hudler, who’s in a down year, just turned 32, and will be looking for a new contract from somebody this summer.

Likewise, on Sportsnet 960 Monday morning, Elliotte Friedman imparted that he imagines other teams would kick the tires on trading for Hudler or defenseman Kris Russell.

It’s worth noting that other pending UFAs for the Flames include David Jones, who is not very good, and both of their current goalies: Jonas Hiller and Kari Ramo. The question is whether Treliving and the Flames organization value having these players around long-term — in that if you keep them past the deadline you damn sure better re-sign them — more than they value the pieces they would get back by selling them off.

Who’s Going Where?

These trades, if they happen, would likely come closer to the deadline, because Friedman, in the same interview, said only really sees the Jets as a team that could sell in the more immediate future. The deadline is still more than a month away, but no one on earth thinks the Jets pull it together and make a push for a Central Division playoff slot; they’re eight points out of the Wild Card, albeit with two games in hand on Colorado, and would have to leapfrog the Nashville Predators and hard-charging Anaheim Ducks.

Which probably won’t happen no matter how well Connor Hellebuyck plays (and he’s at a fantastic .927 in 22 appearances, a number which has singlehandedly gotten the Jets two extra points in the standings relative to the league average, but still only 12-9-1).

So if the Jets are looking to move players — and the current rumors have them perhaps shopping Andrew Ladd instead of Dustin Byfuglien — that would necessarily eat into the market for Hudler, because one team would have a difference-making forward added to the lineup ahead of a Hudler trade. But it might also make the market for Hudler a little livelier in some respects, if offense-starved teams feel as though they missed out on something they desperately need.

Hudler, of course, hasn’t done the Flames any favors with his no-good season, but you’d imagine he’d still be worth a decent prospect or pick (or combination thereof) if Calgary got the urge to sell.

As for Kris Russell, he’s inexplicably viewed as being valuable in Calgary, getting more 5-on-5 ice time per game than Mark Giordano (really!) because of his affinity for blocking shots. Otherwise, the Flames get pounded when he’s on the ice, and it’s another in the long line of ridiculous coaching decisions Bob Hartley has stuck with for the last two seasons despite the fact that they’re getting his team bullied every single night.

As I’ve often said before: Blocking shots is a useful skill to have in much the same way as being able to plug a hole in the hull of a ship. But if you’re only good at plugging the holes because you’re the ones drilling them, that’s a major problem. About two weeks ago, Friedman said other GMs had gotten the message that Calgary was trying to re-sign Russell. So let’s assume he wants a raise from his current cap hit of $2.6 million — a gross overpayment — and wonder if Calgary has the willingness. If they’re still trying to hammer out a deal, it’s tough to see them making any hard and fast decisions on shopping him any time soon.

If they’re smart, though, the Flames trade both without a second thought, and see if someone will take one of the goalies and David Jones off their hands as well. They won’t need any of them where they’re going.

The Implications

A few years ago, the Flames learned the hard way that hoping to re-sign veterans as they approach UFA, and therefore holding onto them past the trade deadline, was not a good idea for a team that had little chance of making the playoffs.

Coleton MacDonald
The Founder of Weliveforhockey.com
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