November 11, 2011
Looking solely at Niklas Hagman's(notes) contributions to his team this season, it's safe to assume that the majority of Calgary Flames fans aren't too upset with the organization's decision to send him to its minor-league affiliate Abbotsford Heat.
With promising prospect Michael Backlund returning from injury, Hagman's iffy production (one goal through the first 15 games), scratchability (he's played eight of those games), and $3 million cap hit made him an expendable asset.
However, if you look a little longer-term, the waiving of Niklas Hagman could rightly be a day that lives in infamy.
Not just Hagman, of course. The full deal on the fateful Sunday morning of Jan. 31, 2010, was as follows: Dion Phaneuf, Keith Aulie(notes) and Fredrik Sjöström to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Matt Stajan(notes), Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers(notes) and Ian White(notes).
Yikes. In terms of bad calls, this might be up there with NBC's decision to renew "Harry's Law."
It may go without saying that the Toronto Maple Leafs won this trade, and while I'd hate to rub salt into Calgary's wounds (what with my proximity to them here in Vancouver), let's play a little game of "Where are they now." First up, the Toronto Maple Leafs:
Fredrik Sjöström has gone to Sweden, where he now plays for Färjestads BK. He played 85 games over two years in Toronto, registering four goals and 10 assists. Needless to say, he wasn't all that impactful.
Neither has Keith Aulie been a major factor, although he's still with the Toronto Maple Leafs, albeit their AHL affiliate Marlies. It's still up in the air whether he's a bona fide NHLer, but the 6-foot-5, 217-pound defenseman still possesses a lot of upside. He played 40 games for the Leafs in 2010-11, so he remains a depth option for the club going forward.
As for Dion Phaneuf, the cornerstone of this trade, he's still in Toronto, and through his first 16 games this year, you'd have to argue that he's also in contention for the Norris Trophy.
He's playing some of the best hockey in his career. He hugs like a boss. He's got 12 points, he's leading a resurgence in a Canadian market that's desperate for some success, and he appears to finally be coming into his own as a franchise defenseman.
Egad. Safe to say the Calgary Flames could really use someone like that, especially since they're paying a guy for similar services. However, not only do they no longer have Dion Phaneuf, who is definitely looking like someone teams wish they had, but they don't have much left over from his trade return either.
As mentioned, Niklas Hagman and his $3 million cap hit are in Abbotsford, likely there to remain, what with Calgary likely not eager to absorb a $1.5 million contract if Hagman were to be claimed on recall waivers.
Jamal Mayers, meanwhile, plays for the Chicago Blackhawks now. He played 27 games in a Flames uniform, registering one goal, six points, and 53 PIM. Not much to write home about. Or email. Who writes letters anymore?
Ian White played 33 games over two seasons in Calgary. When he was healthy, he was effective as a shutdown defender and registered six goals and 18 points, but he failed to make much of a lasting impact and was eventually traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for Tom Kostopoulos(notes) and Anton Babchuk(notes). He plays for the Detroit Red Wings now on the top pairing with Nicklas Lidstrom(notes).
This means that Matt Stajan remains the only player from the Dion Phaneuf trade that the Flames have retained, which is ironic, since he's probably the guy Flames fans would most like to see go. After arriving in Calgary, GM Daryl Sutter handed him a four-year, $14 million contract.
These days, Stajan plies his trade as the Flames' fourth-line center. He's been a healthy scratch twice this season already, and he's averaging 11:29 per game, 18th among the 21 skaters the Flames have dressed to date. Depressingly, according to Kent Wilson, he might have been the one to get waived, if he didn't cost so much:
Hagman and Stajan have spent a few nights as healthy scratches this season and even longer than that in coach Brent Sutter's doghouse. Hagman has been the guy on the outs recently and so is the more likely guy to get the pink slip. Financially, it makes more sense for Hagman to get waived as well: his $3M salary is cheaper than Stajan's ($4.5M) and he only this year left on the deal. Demoting Hagman rather than Stajan means a smaller hit to the owners should he stick with the Heat and slightly higher chance he will be picked up by another team on waivers since his contract is expiring and therefore not much of a commitment.
That deal's such an albatross it could be ridden by "The Rescuers."
According to Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun, this trade is regarded both in Toronto and in Calgary as an absolute fleecing:
Toronto is not the only place where people feel that way. According to esteemed colleague Steve MacFarlane of the Calgary Sun, the Phaneuf deal generally is now considered to be the second-worst trade in Flames history, trailing only the Jan. 2, 1992 doozy in which Doug Gilmour, Jamie Macoun, Ric Nattress, Kent Manderville and goaltender Rick Wamsley were shipped to the Leafs for Gary Leeman, Alexander Godynyuk, Jeff Reese, Michel Petit and Craig Berube.
Did I say yikes already? Egad? OK, well, gadzooks. There's a reason only one of the two GMs involved in this tango is still employed.
There's a lesson to be learned in all this. The Flames should not allowed to trade for four or more players at once, especially if they're dealing with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
If there's a second lesson, it's that Flames fans could probably use a hug.