Given that Kevin Lowe and the boys didn’t make any moves over the course of the weekend, I think it’s reasonable to look south and see what the Flames accomplished. They effectively traded Alex Tanguay and the 17th pick for Mike Cammalleri and the 25th pick. It’s an awfully interesting move. A few months back, a wise man (albeit one whose Willie McGee Helmet have accumulated some 250 fewer points than my own Pete Munro Doctrine in the Alberta Baseball Confederacy) listed a number of reasons for the Flames to hold off on moving Tanguay this year:
1. His counting numbers (G-A-Pts) sucked this year. He will certainly have some value based on his career numbers and age (potential), and some of the teams that look closer at EV play (and correct for the fact that he “performed” on the #2 PP unit) will be interested. But trading a guy coming off his worst season in years doesn’t exactly maximize return (see post header).
2. They’re limited in what they can seek in return: they almost have to get a quality LW in return. Not sure if you noticed, but the Flames’ depth chart at LW sans Tanguay and Huselius is virtually non-existent. Who would the #1 LW be? The right-shooting Moss, I suppose? He, or some centreman playing out of position.
3. Per 1 and 2, he’s almost a mortal lock to be better next season. Huselius is gone, so he’ll almost certainly be the LW on the #1 PP unit, and his numbers will go up. He just scored essentially 20 points less than his career average, and his shooting % was 5% lower than his career average. These are things that are extremely likely to bounce back.
4. If he is reunited with Iginla on the #1 line — i.e. if the Flames can cobble together a #2 line that doesn’t get torched without Tanguay on it — their performance ceiling is unbelievably high. In 2006/07 (a mere one season ago), those two were the most productive EV players in the entire conference. They really were! Forsaking the possibility of that repeating in order to fish for “depth and energy” (esp. given Sutter’s non-success at doing so to date) seems like a bad bet to me.
Cammalleri is a left winger, so he fits Matt’s second criteria. The reason for moving him can be found in an examination of the Flames payroll for the coming season, helpfully done by Matt at the end of April.
I’ve assembled the numbers for Cammalleri and Tanguay over the past three years. I’ve included the numbers of another guy – Kristian Huselius, Jarome Iginla’s linemate last year. Couple of reasons for including him here: he’s apparently on his way out in Calgary and he looks to be a similar type of offensive player to Cammaleri in that he’s nothing special in terms of ES offence but a dynamo on the PP; Tanguay is kind of the reverse. Cammalleri is on the top, Huselius in the middle and Tanguay on the bottom.
It’s almost eerie how similar Cammalleri and Huselius are at ES. For every ten hours of ice time, Huselius has two extra goals; Cammalleri has an extra assist. According to Desjardins, both are soft minutes types – Cammalleri almost unbelievably so this past year.
Tanguay looks to be in a completely different class – he matches Huselius on the goal front and adds an extra nine assists or so every ten hours that he plays. He also played tough minutes this year, both according to Matt and according to Desjardins.
Cammalleri’s big skill over the past few years has been scoring on the PP. I’d venture a guess that that three year goal rate on the PP is very near the top of the league, if it isn’t the best amongst guys who played significant minutes. He should be a nice fit with Iginla on the PP – each guy can play the off wing. The Flames may well have a pretty explosive first unit on the PP next year.
I don’t see how this trade does anything but make the Flames weaker for next year. If it permits them to bring back Huselius, they’ve still lost a better ES player and one who can handle the tough minutes in Tanguay. Not to mention, either Huselius or Cammalleri would likely lose PP time on the top unit, eating away their ability to contribute in one of their best areas. If they can’t bring back Huselius, they’ve got to find someone who can match Tanguay’s contributions from last year to even run in place and that’s going to be tough to do, particularly given where they are in terms of the cap.
The one thing that this does, I think, is put Calgary into a place where they’re better positioned to compete as time passes. They have their Big 4 signed through 2012-13, with Langkow likely to be in place through 2011-12. If Tanguay wasn’t in their plans beyond 2008-09 and they wanted to keep Langkow, this move is defensible in that they needed the cap space so that they weren’t icing two lines of $450K players in 2008-09. There’s some pain now, in that they’re losing a very good player and adding an inferior one, but after this year, they’re going to be in an excellent position to add elite players to their core as they move forward without losing anyone else. If Sutter plays his cards right and actually adds a respectable bottom end to the team, the Flames could be one of the best teams in the NHL for the last two or three years of the five year Big 4 window.
(Assuming, of course, that Kiprusoff’s ongoing slide is just normal statistical variation. If it isn’t, then his contract is going to be a real problem.)