The Flames stomped LA 6-1 tonight. The Flames were able to get away with Jarome Iginla not getting any points tonight, as Daymond Langkow got a hat trick and Matt Lombardi got a goal and assist. With the win and Minnesota's loss to Anaheim, the Flames now lead the Northwest by one point. However, Flames fans shouldn't get used to it, as Calgary doesn't play again until Tuesday against Minnesota, meanwhile Vancouver and Minnesota have two games in between, including one against each other on Monday. Still, it does look nice in the standings to see Calgary in 3rd again.
Trade rumors involving the Flames have rapidly accelerated since the Flames-Wild game on Wednesday, when Montreal assistant GM Pierre Gauthier was spotted scouting the Flames for the second straight game. The current hot trade rumor has Calgary trading Tanguay to Montreal for Michael Ryder. As I said on my previous blog post, this trade makes no sense for Calgary. Many Calgary fans on HB had a negative reaction to the idea of Tanguay being traded. However, I would like to point out once again that regardless of what you think about Tanguay's value to the Flames, that's not the reason he's on the block. The reason lies in his $5.4 million cap hit. Let me explain why his cap hit is unsustainable in a possible scenario I will explain. What I'm about to talk about may be very controversial among other Flames fans. May I emphasize that this is only something that could potentially happen. As most people who frequent this site know, most rumors and predictions don't come true.
Darryl Sutter's highest priority at the moment is re-signing Dion Phaneuf. He hasn't said this, but based on Sutter's relatively quiet GM style, it's not an unreasonable assumption. It is crucial to sign Dion to a long term contract before he becomes an RFA, where it would be very likely that an aggressive GM could make him an unmatchable offer. Calgary's ability to re-sign their defenceman of the future is already shaky as it is. The Flames currently have $38 million committed to next season's payroll. That leaves $12 million to re-sign Phaneuf, Langkow, and Kristian Huselius (and those are just the big names - in all, the Flames have 12 pending free agents. Of course, more than a few of these will not be re-signed.)
So let's break this down. Assuming Phaneuf commands at least a $7 million salary, that's only $5 million left. It's also reasonable to assume Kristian Huselius would want about the same salary as Tanguay - around $5 million. Whoops, the Flames are out of cap space already - unless they trade Tanguay's contract. The Flames could also save this needed $5 million if they trade Rhett Warrener and Craig Conroy (assuming someone wants them, and not factoring in the salaries of whoever replaces them). Either way, there's only $5 million left. Getting rid of Tanguay's contract is the easiest route out. Unfortunately, this is the only reason the dreaded Tanguay-Ryder deal could possibly happen - Ryder makes about $2 million less than Tanguay and has been proven in years past to put up Tanguay's numbers - but he's also a pending UFA and is redefining the word "underachieving" at a Marleauesque level. (Please note: I would absolutely love if the Flames could get Marleau to be their needed top line center. I just needed a way of putting into words how bad a season Ryder's having.) Back on topic, assuming we kept Tanguay, traded Huselius and re-signed Langkow (I don't see him wanting a huge raise, he'd probably take an extension of his current $2.5 million) the Flames would be in about the same situation as they are now - $2.5 million cap space, certainly not enough to remedy the team needs of more speed, a competent powerplay and especially not a top line center.
Back on topic, in short, since both Tanguay and Huselius cost $5 million (theoretically), it is impossible to keep them both. So which one should the Flames keep? Unfortunately, the reality (if you follow my scenario) is that the Flames can't afford either of them. Talking to Flames fans yesterday, it seemed that pretty well all of them favored Tanguay over Huselius, and I suppose with good reason (Huselius has disappeared in the playoffs and is only consistent with Iginla.) But, keep in mind, if you trade Huselius, you're only eliminating a potential $5 million contract, you're not eliminating that contract from the Dion-dominated payroll next year. Calgary would still only have $5 million in cap space. Trading Huselius is still essential, obviously, if we can't re-sign him.
So assuming my scenario happens, what would I do if I were Sutter? I would trade Huselius before the deadline first, and try to get rid of Warrener and Conroy while I was at it. (If nobody wants Conroy, just let his contract expire. Unfortunately, Warrener is still under contract for next year.) I would wait until June to trade Tanguay and sign Dion before he becomes open to offer sheets. Compromise?
A number of factors still exist that would prevent my scenario from happening. First and foremost, there is still a strong probability that Dion, or Huselius, or both will follow the lead of Iginla and Regehr and take a home town discount. Both Iginla and Regehr took much, much less than their market value to stay in Calgary. (For comparison, Iginla makes less than Scott Gomez and Regehr makes the same salary as Adrian Aucoin.) Second is a factor that none of the talking heads have mentioned in talking about cap-centered trades: the actual cap. The salary cap has gone up $6 million each year in the two years following the lockout. There's no reason to assume that it won't do so again this year, especially with the enormous success of the Winter Classic. However, remember that with more cap space comes higher player salaries.
Keep in mind before you comment that I don't want the Flames to have to trade Huselius and Tanguay. I'd prefer if we only had to trade one. It's just that the cap situation as I see it for next year does not favor them being able to return. It's just the way the new NHL is, the way the salary cap system works. Sometimes you have to make tough decisions and dump popular players to afford more vital ones.
Additionally, so other Flames fans don't jump down my throat, I do prefer Tanguay to Huselius. This isn't anything I have against him. Nor do I have anything against Huselius.