[Huge If True is our weekly column in which we break down the plausibility of the week's biggest rumor. It runs every Thursday on Puck Daddy, authored by Ryan Lambert.]
The Calgary Flames are playing, rather appropriately, like a garbage fire these days.
They're 1-5-0 and even in that win they gave away a point to a division rival. Moreover, they've allowed 25 goals in just six games, scored only 12, been out-possessed worse than they were last year, and looked completely bereft of answers apart from, “If TJ Brodie were healthy we wouldn't be in this fix!”
(Which isn't true.)
So bereft of answers are the Flames that they've already waived Kari Ramo, holder of a robust .879 save percentage and allower of 11 goals in three appearances. That is, however, about as bad as Jonas Hiller's .867 and 13 conceded in four appearances. Clearly, there are no good options here, but what's worse is that Ramo has never really been an NHL-average goalie, and yet was re-upped for one year and $3.8 million this summer for reasons unknowable.
And so here we are with the Flames at a crossroads not dissimilar to the one Columbus faced. They're the second-worst team in the league right now with none of the future upside of a Carolina or Buffalo, and none of the present reasons to predict a turnaround like Anaheim.
So it stands to reason, then, that rumors were floated yesterday about Brad Treliving thrashing desperately to get literally any kind of deal done. He told Mark Spector, the source of the rumors in question, that he is just trying to improve the team, with little indication if that means for the present or the future.
But the truly explosive part of this rumor is this:
“Treliving is willing to talk about a very big deal if he can find one. We even heard that his conversation with Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman was all about the Lightning’s obvious issues with signing soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Steven Stamkos.
The Flames would be willing to deal a top young player, perhaps Sam Bennett, to acquire Stamkos at this point.”
Well, that would be something. Bennett, for those not aware, is the No. 4 pick from 2014, a slightly undersized (6 feet and just 180 pounds) but immensely skilled center who looks to lead Calgary's 1-2 punch down the middle for the next decade or so with Sean Monahan.
There are other rumors involved here as well — Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell are available, and the Flames might deal Jiri Hudler if they don't think they can re-sign him, which they shouldn't regardless — which we'll revisit in a minute, but Stamkos-for-Bennett-plus seems to be the big one.
That would be a blockbuster.
Who's Going Where?
The deal in question would send Steven Stamkos packing to Calgary, while Sam Bennett and — you'd have to assume just for cap reasons — other pieces would head down to Tampa.
However, Spector cautions that Tampa would not be all that interested in Bennett right this second, preferring instead to try to poach Sean Monahan from the Flames' top line. Monahan, of course, is Calgary's 31-goal, top-line, 21-year-old center who has been absolutely pummeled so far this season (a minus-2.2 CF% on a team this bad is something else), especially given the offensive zone starts approaching 60 percent. He's clearly not alone in playing badly, but there are few Flames that have been worse.
It's interesting and not surprising that Tampa would be so intrigued by Monahan, but we have to keep in mind one rather important thing here: Stamkos has a no-move clause this season. Therefore, if he is traded without a new contract in hand, the Flames might lose him to free agency just as Tampa has to worry about now. And if it's a sign-and-trade, Stamkos would obviously have huge sway over that situation as well, because he could just flat refuse to do it and hit the open market either way.
So clearly it's one of those things where there's an interested party — and make no mistake, Treliving isn't the only one who would like a crack at acquiring a two-time 50-goal scorer — but no clear indication what the player wants. That could obviously hamper any sort of a deal at all.
As to the rest of those guys, a number of teams are looking for defensemen (Chicago, Columbus, Boston, etc.), but the Flames would be selling awful low and would either have to retain salary or take back worse contracts. And I would guess there'd be plenty of teams looking to add Jiri Hudler, but now's not the time to trade him, when the club would be reeking of desperation.
Calgary has done great work to shore up its defense by inking Brodie, Mark Giordano, and Dougie Hamilton long-term, but would still have to extend Stamkos (or accept an expensive contract in a sign-and-trade), Johnny Gaudreau, and Bennett within the next few years, not to mention find a new goalie.
Where does all that money come from?
Say what you want about Monahan — and I will: He's a decent enough percentage-driven player, but has poor underlying and peripheral statistics for his career — but he's going to cost a hell of a lot less than Stamkos, who's likely to get a Jonathan Toews-type contract out of whichever team he ends up with. The $4 million or so in savings you're likely to get from Monahan over Stamkos gives you more flexibility to sign Gaudreau and Bennett for similar contracts to, say, what everyone got in Edmonton a few years ago ($6 million per), and you might even be able to go out and get a goalie if you can't develop one.
Not that Stamkos doesn't help your team more than Monahan, because he absolutely does, but whether he helps more than Monahan-plus-Gaudreau or something like that becomes a little murkier.
The big issue with this potential deal is that it's based on a lot of suppositions:
1) That Calgary, fresh off the summer's 40-foot-putt talk, is ready to push more money into the pot instead of letting the rebuild continue its natural course and potentially also snag them a Auston Matthews- or Jesse Puljujarvi-type player from the draft if things go right-slash-wrong enough for them this year.
2) That Tampa is far enough along in its negotiations with Stamkos to have reached an impasse that would make trading him for a bunch of high-value assets their only available option remaining.
3) That Stamkos would want to go to Calgary of all the places in the world.
4) That the Flames would even be willing to part with Monahan or Bennett.
5) That other teams wouldn't be able to cook up better offers.
6) That Treliving wouldn't explore other options before going nuclear.
Again, Stamkos obviously helps Calgary right away, but to what end, and at what cost?
As for trading the other veterans, well, if they didn't do it this summer, when their values were likely never going to be higher, they shouldn't do it now when those values are clogging the toilet.
This Is So Huge, If True! Is It True?
On a B.S. detector scale of 1-5, with one being the most reasonable and 5 being the least:
For the Stamkos rumor:
As with last week's Bruins rumor, “What will it take to get Steven Stamkos?” is a question every GM should be asking Yzerman at least once a week. You have to kick the tires on this sort of thing, but Bennett is cost-controlled on his ELC for this season and next, while both Gaudreau and Monahan needs a new contract this summer that won't begin to approach what Stamkos will fetch.
Everyone would love to have Stamkos, but we really have no clear indication of what Bennett is yet. There's a better idea with Monahan, but if he's one of the Flames least-tradeable players, then that should be the end of the discussion.
That doesn't even get into the idea that the Flames would probably have to throw in what looks at this point to be a high first-round pick or another good prospect (do you sell as high as possible Mark Jankowski after his fast start this NCAA season?) to sweeten the pot and thereby outbid whatever competitors for Stamkos's services are out there.
This is just due diligence, but the odds of Calgary even coming close to getting Stamkos are basically nil.
But when it comes to trying to trade literally anyone else:
Like I said, now's not the time to do it, but this is a club that should have always been looking to trade a few roster veterans or more. However, doing it to bring in help makes no sense and probably isn't feasible anyway.
Hudler's likelihood of being a 76-point player again is pretty slim, as is Wideman's of hitting 15 goals and 56 points. Kris Russell will never be as good as people in Calgary make him out to be, and so on. This is still a team that's rebuilding (or at least ought to be), so a pump-and-dump on these guys was always advisable.
Bad possession teams that PDO their way into the playoffs typically don't maintain their levels of success or anything close. Calgary isn't as bad as these results, but they're not that much better either. The worse news is that with games coming up against the Red Wings, Rangers, Islanders, Senators, Canadiens, and Oilers before the end of the month, that seems as though it's only going to add to the misery in Calgary.
Stamkos doesn't fix it, and neither does any other player acquired in trade apart from a white-hot goalie. I don't know why you bother getting help now.
(All statistics via War On Ice unless otherwise noted.)
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