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Monday, June 8, 2015

Talbot Trade Tinkering: Hudler/Russell for Talbot/Klein/Lindberg/Glass/McIlrath?

   In our previous article, we predicted Cam Talbot & Kevin Klein would be traded by the NY Rangers this summer, largely for salary cap reasons. In today’s article, we’ll analyze a hypothetical trade with the Calgary Flames involving both players. We’ll try to figure if this is a realistic trade or not. 

   NY Rangers acquire:

* = 50% of Cap Hit retained by Calgary

   Calgary Flames acquire:

  • Calgary Flames could be in the market for Talbot. Like any team currently interested in Talbot, they’ll likely make a pitch to Devan Dubnyk, should he hit the open market. Otherwise, the team could logically look to trade for Talbot. In their playoff run, Calgary rotated Jonas Hiller & Karri Ramo in net. If acquiring Talbot, Calgary would have both goalies with expiring contracts next July, making the 2015-16 season a true audition for the big payday. (While prospect goalie Joni Ortio continues to knock at the door, the restricted free agent could very well remain in the AHL for another season until Hiller's contract expires).
  • Much like the Rangers, Calgary has six (multi-million-dollar) defensemen already under contract through the 2015-16 season. So, if packaging Klein into the mix, it is all but essential to have a defenseman coming back on Calgary’s end. Russell is a good defenseman, but quite likely a pure rental, as his contract expires next summer, and Calgary will almost definitely offer Mark Girodano big money for his oncoming extension. In short: the Flames’ chances at re-signing Russell are akin to that of New York’s chances at re-signing Talbot; slim.
  • A large question for Glen Sather & co. is to figure out if Kevin Hayes is the team's optimal 3rd-line center, or should he be reinstated on the natural wing? If the latter, importing Hudler makes sense. Hurdler, much like Russell, will also be an unrestricted free agent next summer, and with the budding plethora of young centers… could a long-term contract offered to the then-33-year-old Hudler be competitive against the market? If both teams determine a “no” answer, it furthers the case for a trade such as this to make amicable sense
  • Calgary would seem to fit the bill on this swap, as they’d have to pay Hudler & Russell a combined $3.3 million against the cap in retaining 50%. Since New York is pressed against the cap, and the Flames enjoyed a 2nd round exit in the postseason despite having oodles of cap space… the element of “small market team retaining salary to accommodate large market team’s payroll” ought to come into play. New York simply cannot afford this trade unless both players’ salaries are 50% retained by Calgary. Even in retaining a couple of salaries in a trade such as this, Calgary is set to have plenty of cap space for offseason maneuvering. The NY Rangers are the exact opposite.
  • Glass & Klein have 2 and 3 years remaining on their contracts respectively. Talbot only has 1, but along with Ramo, he will be given every opportunity to ensure a large contract by July 2016. If Calgary believes Talbot could realistically be worthy of the team's starting goaltender position for the next several years, their prerogative in acquiring Talbot (even with Hiller's cap hit at $4.5 million for one more season) makes sense.
  • Lindberg and McIlrath are restricted free agents (without the right of salary arbitration). They’re guaranteed multi-year value as long as tendered qualifying offers. The salary cap hit figures listed above are roughly their respective minimum qualifying offers.
  • Hudler & Russell are probably rentals. If Stepan, Kreider, Hayes & Yandle are retained in Summer 2016, it seems unlikely Hudler or Russell would be re-signed. Yet, importing a quality center (to join a pair of already-capable centers), along with a big-minute defenseman for half price… well… like the trades that rented Nik Antropov, Ryan Clowe or Martin St. Louis… Sather has shown a propensity to “gamble” or “overpay” on rentals. The “win-now” philosophy embodied in Lundqvist’s age-vs-contract dynamic would certainly qualify a rental trade (perhaps such as this) to be made. I'm not sure if this is "overpayment" or "underpayment", but a trade like this (discount rentals in exchange for quality players with more easily 'guaranteed' or 'likely' future years) is right up Sather's alley.

   Let’s take a look at the NY Rangers salary cap situation should this trade be made:

   What we see in New York packing the team to the brim for 2015-16, and having 9 to 14 contracts expire in July 2016. However, the team would have over 22 million in cap space available to make the big decisions. 

   The Rangers would improve their depth at center; should Stepan, Brassard, Hudler or Moore get injured... NY would have Hayes or Miller as available substitute centermen. While Russell-for-Klein-and-McIlrath is an improvement in the Top-6 defensive reserve... the depth of better 7th & 8th blueliners (ready to step in adequately in case of injury) remains unchanged. The big difference heading into next year in that regard wouldn't be this trade, but rather D Brady Skjei, and what he may have to offer as a 7th man.

   Don't count out soon-to-be Unrestricted Free Agent ex-collegiate defensemen Mike Reilly or Robbie Russo either, as the Rangers are sure to make a pitch at each prospect. While Reilly is considered the better bluechip, it is Russo the righty who would make more sense in signing. Russell, McDonagh, Staal, Yandle & Skjei are all left-handed (and in this hypothetical we are assuming McDonagh or Russell play on the right side).

   We’d also see Calgary renting out a couple of quality skaters whom they’re less likely to re-sign next summer, thus renting them out for a crack at a franchise goalie and contracted years of depth players. Even though the 2015 Unrestricted Free Agent market appears to be underwhelming, the Flames appear to be in position to be shoppers, with or without this hypothetical trade.

   I'm not sure if this is a realistic trade (it would depend  greatly on how Calgary would view the value of Cam Talbot, Kevin Klein & Oscar Lindberg)... but conceptually, it seems a logical place to tinker.

   I won't elaborate upon this aspect, but if Hayes were somehow involved in a Talbot/Hudler/Russell trade... don't ya think Calgary would love to reunite Hayes with Johnny Gaudreau? (They were linemates at Boston College).

   To make this hypothetical more viable, perhaps the Rangers have to replace D Dylan McIlrath with a younger prospect who may actually have potential upside. Or, trade away even more future draft picks to secure in-the-moment NHL talent fruitful towards winning the 2016 Stanley Cup. Perhaps take out McIlrath and insert the rights to unsigned prospects such as Pavel Buchnevich, Brandon Halverson, or Ryan Mantha?

   McIlrath is largely a throw-in. He's purely interchangeable with any other non-roster asset New York could potentially offer. IN the mid-season onslaught of NYR defensemen injuries... Dylan McIlrath, along with Connor Allen, Mike Kostka and Mat Bodie, failed to make the leap from the AHL and establish any competition with Matt Hunwick as the team's 7th D. No, none of those names will make Calgary's top-7 next season (with Tyler Wotherspoon likely ahead of all of them on Calgary's depth chart). Thus... McIlrath may need to be replaced with an asset of far more substance.

   If Calgary is apt to rent out Hudler & Russell on the trade market, New York's offer would have to be competitive with other fielding offers. While giving Calgary the chance at giving Talbot a chance a starting gig is good, and 3 years of moderately-priced Klein is also valuable... this deal may need more spice on New York's end for it to be closer to realistic. How much more? Hard to determine without insight of the two organizations' opinions.

   As for New York's backup goalie if Talbot is traded away? Even though our estimated salary chart only lends $625,000 for a backup goalie to replace Cam... The Rangers will also have upwards of $2.5 million in performance bonuses available to dish out. Signing a veteran back-up to a small cap hit ($625k) but bonus-levied contract is not only an option, but a great way to ensure quality goaltending in case Lundqvist suffers another freak injury, without being burnt for pinching pennies.

   Later this month, I'll tinker with similarly hypothetical Talbot trades involving other suitable candidates for his departure; my shortlist (in addition to Calgary) is Buffalo, Edmonton, Minnesota & San Jose. The secondary Talbot acquisition candidates would be Arizona, Dallas & Toronto. But... who knows? The market breathes in and out with Dubnyk's impending choice where to sign. Talbot's trade value will be much more defined immediately following Dubnyk's summer contract, whenever that may be.

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