Darryl Sutter has never been much into the hype of Trade Day. He's known for making all his moves in the post-season and doing a fairly good job of it. On trade deadline days, his past has seen him maybe pick up a depth defenseman, a depth forward, and possibly a back-up goal-tender. He’s said before that the available players are not worth the price teams have to pay. This year, Sutter was quoted as saying that his team will look within (the farm system) for it’s player replacements. The past few games have seen Sutter bring up players like Peters, Lundmark, Van der Gulik, and Greentree to fill in for injured players like Langkow, Bourque, and Giordano. The question Sutter needs to ask himself over the next few days is, “is it working?”
The farm players that have been called up haven’t lasted long; only about one game per player (with Lundmark taking his place on the second line one more than one occasion while Langkow has been out). I certainly will not say that the farm players have been disappointing. Calgary’s Friday night game against Minnesota saw Van der Gulik lead the team in shots. Though the pure skill and talent of Calgary’s farm system is not very deep, it seems that it is still in good hands. But what about this season, this moment in time, right now?
I honestly believe that this could be the year that the Flames make a push to the Cup. Calgary is having a fantastic year and the chemistry has been better than it has in years. Iginla has finally found a perfect line-mate in Cammalleri, former farm players like Moss, Nystrom, and Boyd have stepped up in their roles, and with additions like Bourque and Glencross secondary scoring has not been hard to come by. Yet, with the current injuries that plague the team now, it may be a necessary evil to dip into the trade fiasco of March 4th. Some veteran presence and a solid defensive core could really solidify the Flames’ chance to make is back to the Cup finals… and win?
First off, who and what do the Flames have to offer on Trade Day? Calgary is without a 2nd Rd Pick this year, have a shallow pool of special talent in the farm, have a core group of players that are untouchable, and a chemistry that is really working at this point in the year. Here’re some players or prospects I think Calgary coud dangle come trade-day:
Matthew Lombardi – Lombardi’s name has come up many times over the years, but has remained a Flames staple. Even though his offensive prowess from his Jr days has not fully com to fruition, he’s been hot lately and could cause for some interest from teams. Also, he could possibly be one of the fastest skaters int eh league… if only the puck could keep up with him.
Mikael Backlund – Backlund is by far Calgary’s most promising prospect. His conditioning in the WHL will certainly improve from his time in the Swedish Elite club and get him on a similar game from his World Jr days. With the right team, Backlund could certainly make it to a Top 6 position as early as next year. However, with a back-logged position at Center, Backlund may have to wait a few years to gain Top 6 form or Sutter could use him in a big trade.
Mark Giordano – Giordano is coming into his own and has vastly improved as a top 6 d-man from his time with Moscow Dynamo last year. He’s got some offensive upside and is learning the defensive game. He’s a young-gun and could prove valuable to a re-building team or a cup-run team looking for strong depth on the back end.
Cory Sarich – Sarich a stay-at-home d-man who really played well with Regher in last years’ playoffs. They were an unstoppable defensive pairing and Sutter may want that available to him in this years’ run. However, Sarich has a 3.6 salary hit and may be the only Top 4 d-man Sutter would be willing to part with.
Jim Vandermeer – Jim is a grit d-man that’d prove to be a great stay-at-home d-man who can also play forward. He’d work great for an Eastern team as a defensive defenseman, but he just signed a decently priced, long-term contract so it wouldn’t look good on Sutter to trade him after just signing.
Adrian Aucoin – unfortunately, Aucoin is the odd-man out with Flames fans. He’s vastly improved since landing on the Flames and has his spot on the PP with Dion. He’s a Top-4 guy but makes a few costly blunders. However, he can overcome those and make big plays. The other thing is his No-Trade-Clause which makes him almost untradeable.
Daymond Langkow – when you hear about the “Flames core players”, you hear the names Iginla, Phaneuf, Regher, and Kipprusoff. You seldom hear Langkow’s name in that group yet it’s hard to imagine Sutter trading him after signing a long-term contract worth $4.5/yr. However, Langkow could easily be a 1st Line Center on any team and if Sutter has any hope of re-signing Cammalleri this off-season, Langkow’s contract may have to go. But, he won’t. Langkow’s chemistry with Bert has been great this year and is the 2nd-line staple.
Leland Irving/Matt Keetley/Curtis McElhinny/Kevin Lalande – with Kiprusoff locked up for the next few years, there’s not much room for any Flames goalie prospect to get NHL experience (especially considering how many games Kipper plays per year). So, Sutter has a few decent goaltender backups/prospects to add to a package deal; Irving being the prized of the four.
1st Round Pick – Sutter likes his 1st Round Picks and the only way he’ll get rid of is for an offer he can’t refuse (which seldom happens on Trade-Day) or uses it to trade at the draft to move down the list for another player (see Cammalleri and Tanguay). Yet, I don’t believe the Flames have a 2nd Rd Pick this year, so it’s Sutter’s biggest trade chip.
So, who (if anyone) would/could/should Sutter look into acquiring to make his team stronger? Here’s are my thoughts on some players who could make the Flames a perfect Cup-run team and some players who I think Sutter will go after:
Olli Jokinen – ever since Mike Keenan stepped behind of the bench, there’ve been rumours of Jokinen coming to Calgary. Jokinen played his best hockey under Iron-Mike and that relationship could continue. Certainly, us Flames fans would love to see a Cammalleri-Jokinen-Iginla first-line scoring tandem; it’d be an unstoppable force.
Derek Morris – Morris has really come into his own since leaving the Flames organization in ‘02/ But what kind of return would Phoenix have to get to trade off last season’s acquisition? Although a lot of his offensive prowess has left him since he left the Flames, when Morris is not injured, he is a great defensive d-man who can also contribute on 5-on-5 play. It’s a possibility to see Morris’ numbers increase is he was paired up with offensively-skilled Phaneuf (sicne Giordano is out for a significant amount of time with injury).
To CAL: Derek Morris, Olli Jokinen
To PHO: 1st Rd Pick, Matthew Lombardi, Jim Vandermeer, David Moss, Kevin Lalande
To CAL: Olli Jokinen
To PHO: Matthew Lombardi, Mark Giordano, 2010 2nd Rd Pick
The Skinny: it’s debatable (as it always is) if this would be enough to take both Jokinen & Morris off of Phoenix’s hands. Considering what Phoenix gave for Jokinen last year and that fact that Morris just wants out of Phoenix, my guess is not too much. The real question, of course, is how can Calgary shed enough to take on both of these salaries ($5.25 and $3.9 respectively)? Well, unless they want to give up a player like Langkow (a return to Phoenix?), they can’t and they won’t so let’s not read too much into the Jokinen to Calgary rumours.
Ryan Smyth – this rumour befuddles me. First off, Smyth specifically chose not to sign with Calgary when he was a UFA; he didn’t want to have to be hassled by both Albertan teams (since they play each other 8 times a year) after getting the shaft from Edmonton. Secondly, there’s no way Colorado or Calgary would dare make a rival or inter-divisional trade. Thirdly, Smyth’s salary is far too high for the type of player Calgary needs at this point. Unless Bourque is not returning for the playoffs, the Flames are not in need of a 2nd/3rd line LW. As far as the PP goes, Bertuzzi is the big man we have standing in front of the net to block goalies, deflect shots, and lose teeth. Pass.
Jay Bouwmeester – the only thing better than a Phaneuf/Bouwmeester defensive pairing is a Phaneuf/Weber pairing and since Weber isn’t going anywhere for the next few years, Bouwmeester would have to do. One of the only weaknesses on the Flames team this year has been it’s defensive play so adding a big body like J-Bo could help for a big playoff run. Not only could J-Bo’s big shot help on a struggling power-play, but his down-low presence would help big time. The only thing wrong with J-Bo at the deadline is the price a team will have to pay. That price (said to be a Top 6 Forward, and Top 4 D-man, and a pick or prospect) is far too high a price for Sutter to pay. Despite the Eklund and TSN rumors, Sutter just cannot afford to pick up a big-name player like J-Bou and expect to give him a big, long-term contract in the off-season. But, just for fun…
To CAL: Jay Bouwmeester, Conditional Draft Pick (in case he doesn’t sign)
To FLA: Matthew Lombardi, Cory Sarich, Mikael Backlund
Colby Armstrong - I’ve heard Colby’s name come up a few times with the Flames. I don’t see where Armstrong fits in the Flames lineup and don’t see how he could make the team any better or stronger. However, he does have a lot of heart and could fill a roster/role at an inexpensive price.
Nicklas Havelid – I’ve also heard Havelid’s name come up and seems to be the type of player Sutter would trade for as a veteran, experienced, depth d-man.
To CAL: Nicklas Havelid, Colby Armstrong
To ATL: David Moss, Cory Sarich, Leland Irving, 4th Rd Pick
The Skinny: I doubt Sutter has any use or need for Armstrong as those grit/energy positions are already filled by better players. Havelid, however, is an interesting case and could add some experience to the Blue line.
Doug Weight/Bill Guerin/Mark Recchi/Gary Roberts – all four of these gentlemen have serious experience and playoff ability. I believe that Sutter will pick up a veteran forward whose “been there” to help push some 3rd and 4th line youngsters. Although I’d LOVE to see Guerin play 2nd line with Langkow and Bertuzzi, I think Weight or Roberts are more likely.
So, what do I think Sutter WILL do? Well, not much to put it bluntly. As much as I love to see big names and big contracts move (don’t we all?), Sutter has never been the type of GM to make a big trade-day splash. With the chemistry the Flames have and the way they’re playing, I don’t believe he’ll start now either. However, I believe Sutter will make 3 particular moves:
1) acquire a 2nd Round Pick – since the Flames don’t have a 2nd Rd Pick this year, I believe Sutter will trade a young player or prospect (like a Moss, Chucko, Negrin, etc.) and possibly add a late-Round pick for a 2nd Round Pick
2) acquire blue-line depth – it’s almost customary, but if Sutte makes any big splash on Trade Day, it’ll be for a d-man. As much as I’d love to see a Leopold, Pronger, or Bouwmeester join the Flames, Sutter just doesn’t have the cap space or assets to get one. I believe Sutter will pick up a player like Nicklas Havelid, Derek Morris, or Sean O’Donnell to bolster the blue-line.
3) Veteran/Experienced 2nd/3rd line forward – if Bourque is out of the lineup for as long as we all fear, Sutter needs a scoring winger to help with secondary scoring. As I mentioned before, I’d love to see Guerin fill this role, but I believe you’ll see a player like Doug Weight, Derek Armstrong, or Gary Roberts fill the gap.
There's also the possibility of the Flames picking up a decent backup goaltender. The thing is, there's no one that the Flames can pick up that can take the Flames deep into the playoffs. Kipper is the guy to do so and picking up a highly touted backup goalie like Legace, Tellqvist, or Gerber isn't going to help the Flames' playoff chances any more than Curtis McElhinney is.