My pet self-created rumor for the past three months has caught on the mainstream media. On Sunday, the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson speculated that instead of Mathieu Schneider, the Los Angeles Kings may trade for Adrian Aucoin. Such a trade would give Calgary as much as $4 million in cap space, and give the Kings an experienced, offensive defenceman to aid their young, thin group. As much as Flames fans (including me) like the idea of deleting Aucoin's salary, there are downsides to this potential trade at this point as well. Unless a young defenceman is able to take his spot out of camp and/or the Flames can replace his power play output, it does not accomplish that much to trade Aucoin now. I think he is more ideal as a midseason rental, and the Flames would probably receive the same compensation.
Aucoin is certainly the most overpaid defenceman on the Flames' active roster, but that doesn't mean he's useless. He was fourth on the Flames in power play points last year with 20 (with a total of 35 points, his best in four seasons.) With the Flames' traditionally mediocre power play, his presence may be needed unless Mark Giordano can step it up on the power play after a year's absence. The Flames would also need to replace Aucoin in the 5-6 defenceman spot, so a youngster such as John Negrin, Adam Pardy (whose profile has mysteriously disappeared from HockeysFuture.com, can someone enlighten me?), Matt Pelech, or Keith Aulie would likely have to make the team. If one of these players impresses in training camp, Aucoin's trade probability will increase, and will be justified.
Aucoin's salary is certainly the most cap-crippling as well, but the cap space created by trading him is also overrated by fans. Aucoin has the highest trade potential right now due to only having one year left on his contract, and his proven capability. Theoretically trading Aucoin for a pick (as LA would probably give, as they aren't likely to trade any of their promising young players for an overpaid defenceman in his late 30's with a large contract) would give the Flames $6.35 million in cap space, but remember that we aren't in July anymore. In my opinion, the Flames' only realistic trade chips at this point are Aucoin, Matthew Lombardi and Cory Sarich. Unless the Flames traded one of their top prospects or no. 1 picks, they probably wouldn't have much shot at acquiring, say, a proven top six forward. Besides, if they dealt for such a player midseason, they wouldn't need so much cap space since they would only be on the hook for a fraction of the player's contract.
However, this doesn't mean I'm totally against trading Aucoin. Provided he doesn't get seriously injured, Aucoin is an ideal, relatively low risk deadline pickup. But since I can't see the Flames getting any more or less at the deadline than they'd get now, trading Aucoin now doesn't achieve much. Unless the Flames are really desperate for a 2nd-to-5th round pick, and/or one of the Flames' young defence prospects makes the team out of camp (and they can figure out how to replace Aucoin's power play output), there just isn't that much reason to trade Aucoin now. Unfortunately.
(Addendum: I never thought I'd write a blog defending Aucoin and arguing the Flames should keep him, but here we are. Feels good to be back blogging again, writer's block is frustrating as hell.)