The Cammalleri deal - another Flames brain-cramp?
Popular opinion seems to be that the Flames got the best player, hence they won the deal, and that Habs Gm Gauthier made a hasty, hair-trigger trade (as the Habs can be prone to do) in response to Cammalleri's critical comments, but once the dust settles, I think it will become clearer that it was the Flames who lost their bearings, and are clearly lacking direction. Oldnews? Yes, this deal is a few days old, and I am slow out of the gate, but I am going to go against the armchair GM grain anyway and suggest that the Flames got torched in the Cammalleri deal.
The Flames apparently think they are ready to make a run at the playoffs now, but they are showing no signs of being able to compete with the Canucks, let alone the other 10 teams in front of them. I think you could sum up their current state of mind in a single word; denial.
Making a run might seem more exciting in the present than making changes, and getting worse in order to get better isn't necessarily the course of a genius. But look at the Ottawa Senators - things didn't look so good for them when they started making decisive moves, but they did it in an intelligent way, and you might say that in a short period of time, they have already gone from considerably worse to considerably better than Calgary.
Calgary's plan, on the other hand, is more than a little confusing.
Most people debating this trade seem to be underestimating Rene Bourque - it is almost automatically assumed that Cammalleri is a better player than Bourque, who has had two consecutive 27 goal seasons and with 13 goals this year, is on that same pace. That is no less than you can expect from Cammalleri. In fact, Cammalleri has averaged 27.2 goals a season in his career, and is on pace for a 20 goal season. Bourque adds 23lbs to the Habs up front, whose small forwards have been a big question mark (despite being a goal from dispatching Boston last season). Something else to consider - Bourque put up those numbers while not necessarily being the go-to guy, on a team short of centres.
As flashy as Cammalleri can be, I wouldn't call this trade a steal by any stretch of the imagination, particularly when you factor in the salary cap hit. Bourque, at $3.33 million, is slightly more than half the hit that Cammalleri is. Don't get me wrong - I am not doubting Cammalleri's flash and he definitely has a big game and big goal quality to him - but people seem to be underestimating Bourque, and what you can do with a 2nd round pick and $3 million in cap space. As an example, Mike Gillis converted a 3rd round pick and undrafted free agent Evan Oberg into Chris Higgins, at $1.9 million, who was stellar in the playoffs, does far more than score, and is on the same pace as both Cammalleri and Bourque's average 27 goal season, despite struggling with an infection. That is not to say you can simply replicate deals like the Higgins trade, and it always depends on timing, a good assessment of the player you are getting, and health, but you do have to make the majority of your moves work favorably or winning isn't going to be likely. The timing might have seemed right for Calgary, but was it really?
As with all trades, time will tell, but at this point, the more i look at this, the more it seems that the Habs took the better risk, particularly when you take each team's needs into consideration.
Did the Flames need another winger? Wingers are arguably the strength of the Calgary Flames - where they are weak is at centre, and depth on the blueline - but that didn't stop them from tying up $6 million in another winger. I might have taken Cammalleri off Montreal's hands as well - if the Habs took a comparable contract off of mine, and he fit with my needs better than the player(s) on the way out. Is that the context of this trade for Calgary? I don't think so.
It has been suggested that Cammalleri, aside from the Flames, was the other winner in this deal, managing to get himself out of Montreal. But to be sent to an 11th place team that is further from contending than the Canadiens are; I would tend to look at that as more the case that Montreal was punishing him, sending him to a franchise that is headed... where? Bourque walks into an underachieving Montreal and will be relatively loved for a number of reasons. Cammalleri walks in expected to be the element that pushes the Flames into playoff contention. Good luck with that. Calgary might be a better team than their record reflects, but that is certainly debatable. Whether they improve depends entirely on what they have yet to do - Feaster still has most of the work ahead of him, and as far as I am concerned, he just backed himself into more problems. He has less assets and less cap space to work with. The west is full of teams better than the Flames, with one in their division behind them, their closest rival, who have far more young talent and a brighter future.
But I am glad they can still see blue skies in Calgary. Perspective is everything.
Acquiring Cammalleri would have made more sense if they were consistently trying to improve the club in the present. However, it seems to me they had a fire sale where Robyn Regehr was concerned. Now, despite adding Hannan, they find themselves thin on the back-end - the assets they have to acquire a blueliner were already thin, and now thinner - and the cap space? They had to wiggle around to make room for Cammalleri. Playoff hockey, if they can patchwork their way into the playoffs, despite some major holes at centre, and a thin blue line, tends to result in an injury or two, which Calgary is not prepared to absorb, anywhere in their lineup.
If they had taken a position that they are not stepping backwards in order to move forward, then this move might have made more sense, but the one step backwards, one step forward is leaving them where they were. Some people are figuring that a second round pick is not that big a deal - those are people that are not building a team to win in the future, or the present, as that 2nd round pick could be used to land a quality player from an also-ran at the trade deadline. I have heard Feaster complaining that he has been hamstrung by unmovable contracts and a lack of assets. He just moved another asset, with a pretty favourable contract, and a 2nd round pick, to get a pretty lofty contract in return, and a 5th round pick. Ramo vs Holland is a question that time will tell.
Feaster has received some praise for managing to get rid of a few contracts (through waivers and the questionable trade of Regehr), but then comes the declaration that the Flames are looking to win now. If you are ready to win, perhaps all the blame that has been laid on Daryl Sutter for the situation the Flames are in should be tempered, because if you win anything in the present, you will be winning with pretty much the team Sutter built. But here is the problem - the Flames weren't winning before, and where are all the upgrades? Sorry, but how clearly does Calgary need this spelled out? The Flames may not have gotten worse, they might even have gotten a fraction better, although I would disagree with that. They have some great players, loyal fans, and certainly have the strength of stubborn denial in their corner. They added a player in the area they were strongest - on the wing. Maybe they are ready to make a run now...
Am I missing something?
Some people have been praising Feaster, claiming the Flames have gotten younger. They made a move trading Robyn Regehr (32 yrs old) that I am still scratching my head over, giving up a 2nd round pick in that deal as well, in order to land Byron and Butler. A heavy price to pay to get rid of Kotalik's contract. Feaster then managed his best coup so far as Calgary's GM, bringing in Hannan (32) at a bargain price. So some credit there - he managed to bring in a solid guy - no younger, but at less of a cap hit. They moved Bourque and brought in Cammalleri - who is 6 months younger than Bourque. They waived Hagman and brought in a few others guys they claimed off waivers - these would be the other significant changes to their club and the age of its players. Other than Giordano, Bouwmeester and Glencross, (28,28,29) their other core players are in their 30s - Iggy 34, Jokinen 33, Tanguay 32, Morrison 36, Sarich 33, Kipper 35... Hey, I'm not down on veterans - but the story out of Calgary doesn't add up. True - it is not easy to add quality centres or defensemen - no one is giving them away - but in the absence of filling those needs, you are still the Sutter-era Flames, and in my mind, perhaps have even taken a few steps backwards. If his brother wasn't still in Calgary coaching the Flames, you'd have to wonder whether Daryl isn't watching these developments with a little amusement in the wake of all the criticism he took.
Beyond their top 4 or 5 d-men the Flames have a lot of question marks (and if you ask me, Bouwmeester probably belongs on that list of the most overpaid and over-rated players in the NHL). Calgary has used 11 defensemen, but that does not necessarily indicate that they have depth on the blueline. The Canucks also had to use umpteen defensemen last year, but they stayed in first place the whole time, because they had depth, not just because they could find 11 guys to put jerseys on. So how well have the Flames absorbed the injuries they have suffered? Well enough to be tied for 11th place. Calgary may develop depth, but have it? I can't agree with that, although evidently Feaster thought so, or he wouldn't have dispensed with Regehr. Unless, of course, at that time, he wasn't expecting to win right away, whereas now, they are ready... Bad move in my opinion, even if you were rebuilding -even worse if you are wanting to win now. To get Byron and Butler, a 4th round pick, and relatively small for a d-man at 196 lbs - a very gentle way of putting it would be to say that I am not sure Calgary got much in return for what they gave away in that deal. I'm not claiming the Flames don't have any good young defensemen - it was Feaster who offered that they are thin in depth on defense.
If Feaster keeps it up, other GMs will be moving him up their speed dial list.
At centre, beyond Jokinen and Morrison (again, a combined 69 years old) you have Horak (who has 9 points), Backlund (8 pts and -9), Byron (3 pts in 18 games), while Jones, Bouma, and Nemisz have played a combined 8 games. Not going to strike fear into any of the teams they are chasing. Maybe these guys will be better in the future, but don't look ready for a run at the playoffs.
The Canadiens on the other hand, picked up a solid guy with a French name and a reasonable contract, 2.7 million in cap space, and upgraded from a fifth to a second round pick.
Doug MacLean joked with Feaster on Sportsnet, asking him how he could do that to Gauthier, a friend of his? I 'm not sure Feaster did something "to" Gauthier - I find it more convincing that he did something "for" him.
I'd be willing to bet that Gauthier, sitting in the hot seat in Montreal, considers Feaster more of a friend now than ever - maybe even a true friend, one willing to make a sacrifice when he really needed it. Pardon the sarcasm here, but you gotta hand it to Feaster - he has expressed that he didn't have a lot of cap space, good contracts, or chips and draft picks to work with, and yet he dug deep and found a way to give up a few (more). When he needs him, I'd bet Gauthier will still be happy to make the call.