In the wake of a wave of unsubstantiated Jarome Iginla speculation, Darryl Sutter decided to distract Flames fans by making another trade to complain about. Ian White and his facial hair as well as Brett Sutter are gone, replaced by Anton Babchuk and Tom Kostopoulos. My immediate knee-jerk biased reaction: it looks to me like an about equal trade in value, but a trade that does not really do anything to serve the Flames’ pressing needs. There’s a cliché here I would use but won’t, since I am sure other cynical Flames fans will have a similar analysis. Most Darryl Sutter trades are horrible in their own way and this one is no exception.
Ian White was one of the Flames’ best, and only, non “core” trade chips. He certified himself as a UFA goner the second Mark Giordano signed his $20M extension, and I had long felt he would be traded at the deadline. Therefore, this trade was surprising to me first of all because of the timing. But what I definitely did not expect – even with the full knowledge that the second-worst GM in the league was still managing the Flames – was for White to be essentially replaced straight-up with a similar defenseman. My knowledge of Anton Babchuk is admittedly small, but I have not heard bad things about the guy. His best season two years ago (16 goals and 35 points in 72 games with a +13 rating) is roughly equivalent to White’s breakout year last year. His stats this year are roughly the same as White’s, with a slightly less awful +/-. So, he should prove an adequate replacement. But was simply replacing White with another defenseman the right choice? Clearly, a decent pick or two, half-decent offensive prospect, or even a top six forward would have been more useful to the Flames. White’s value may well have been exemplified by his abysmal -10 rating, but given that this is a Darryl Sutter trade, I somewhat doubt it. It has now been reported that the trade had been in the works for weeks, and that the Flames began the process of shopping White immediately after Giordano’s extension. We may never know the extent to which Darryl shopped White, but all you have to do to be sceptical on that front is to look at the trade which brought White to Calgary in the first place.
I am almost ignoring the other part of the deal – the Brett Sutter for Tom Kostopoulos swap. I find it funny that the day after George Johnson wrote a reactionary column saying Brett “had to go” (as if removing the lowest level Sutter would fix the team’s nepotism) it actually happened. Bob McKenzie reported that Brett’s Patrick Kane impersonation in Phoenix had nothing to do with him being moved, and that Carolina had requested him prior to the arrest. Just like White-for-Babchuk, this is at best a lateral move. Like Babchuk, I have not heard scathing reviews of Kostopoulos. On the other hand, I have not seen anyone argue the Flames’ bottom six should be a priority, so it’s hard to get excited. I can only wish more Sutters leave for Carolina to join Brett and Brandon, to make an obvious joke.
With White gone, so goes the Flames’ best non-“core” trade chip. If the Flames are in the same bottom-10 state at the deadline, perhaps Alex Tanguay could be rented out (he does have an NTC on his 1-year deal though), or maybe someone will take a chance on Niklas Hagman. Or maybe Robyn Regehr will actually be dealt. Only time will tell if the Flames use these other players to fulfill their actual needs – better top-six forwards, and if not that, high picks and/or decent offensive prospects - that this trade clearly did not.
(Addendum: if anyone is wondering why it took this for me to write again, I have no excuse for my laziness. However, I was planning on addressing the Iginla speculation again, but I do wonder if this trade signifies that that speculation is a lost cause.)