Fantasy HockeyJosh Kay

Calgary Flames Feel a “Need For Smid”, Acquire 27-year-old D-Man from Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers made headlines last night, making two moves in an attempt to change their fortunes after a 4-11-2 start to the 2013-2014 NHL season. While these moves don’t mean much in Fantasy Hockey, they set a tone that might pave the way for more “fantasy relevant” moves later in the season.

The first of the two moves was the trade of the defenseman Ladislav Smid and goaltending prospect Olivier Roy to  the Calgary Flames for goaltending prospect Laurent Brossoit and minor-league center Roman Horak. The relevant name to know in this trade is Smid, a defensive-minded defenseman (one of only two that Edmonton has, with Andrew Ference being the other).

At first, I was a proponent of this trade for the Oilers, as they were freeing up$3.5 million dollars in cap space that they could use to sign a better defenseman via free-agency, or better yet, to have enough money to sign a high quality goaltender given the impending free-agency status of all three goaltenders on Edmonton’s current roster. Those goaltenders are Devan Dubnyk, Jason LaBarbera and Richard Bachman. However, Smid was signed to his current 4-year $14 million dollar contract this past off-season. General Manager Craig MacTavish was cited as saying “we made the trade because it freed up some cap room for us”. Well gee Mr. MacTavish, why re-sign Smid in the first place in the off-season to this deal? Apparently this was his plan all along; sign Smid to a deal that would require freed up cap room so that they could then pull the trigger on an exciting opportunity to bring in two marginal prospects (if they can even be called that), and then use half of that money to sign a likely washed-up Ilya Bryzgalov (who is to be untouched in Fantasy for now) to a one-year deal. Yes brilliant tactics sir, you now have four non-tendered goalies on your hands for the 2014-2015 season.

Can Ilya  Bryzgalov resurrect his career in Edmonton? Don't count on it
Can Ilya Bryzgalov resurrect his career in Edmonton? Don’t count on it

So either that was MacTavish’s master plan all along, or he legitimately thought that this roster that he put together before the season was going to be good enough to challenge the Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild for the last couple playoff spots. Both ideas of course, were at the time and clearly are today, delusional.

This is a completely lost season for the Oilers because they missed out on an opportunity to either trade or buy-out Ales Hemsky‘s albatross of a contract (he is making $5.5-million, carrying a $5-million dollar cap hit) in the off-season, as well as deciding that Smid was a part of their future, only to bail on that thought 17 games into the season. The moves show a clear lack of thought process as well as a lack of properly analyzing the teams situation and reasonable playoff chances.

Speaking of clear lack of thought processes, Jay Feaster. We assume of course that Jay Feaster is behind this deal, not the newly crowned President of Hockey Operations, Brian Burke. The problem with this trade for the Flames is that it makes their team better this year. Wait, what? Yes, that is a problem. The Flames are in rebuilding mode. They traded away former captain and face-of-the-franchise Jarome Iginla in a smart trade that saw them receive the Penguins 2013 first round pick, who they turned into Emile Poirier (70 points in 65 games in the QMJHL last year). In that draft, the Flames also added first-round picks Sean Monahan (sixth overall, and who has been excellent so far in his rookie year for the Flames) and Morgan Klimchuk, an 18-year-old that put up 76 points for the Regina Pats (WHL). 

Adding Smid is clearly a knee-jerk reaction to the loss of defenseman Mark Giordano, who is out 6-8 weeks with a broken ankle. Feaster unreasonably felt that there was a “need for Smid” so that the Flames could repair their roster. The problem is that it only serves as a counter to what Calgary’s purpose needs to be: tanking. The Flames have 9-million in cap room, and stood a legitimate chance to land some nice free agents at the end of the season, given the fact that Mike Cammalleri has his $6-million dollar deal coming off the books at the end of the year. However, in reality, what the Flames really need to be doing is either trading away assets like Cammalleri to secure a goalie for the future, or acquire expiring contracts to give them maximum cap room. Acquiring Smid, a 27-year-old defenseman with a career minus-45 rating (albeit on a bad Edmonton team) and less than a shot per game on the first year of his four-year $14-million deal, is exactly what they should NOT be doing.

The Pittsburgh Penguins had some decent marginal support pieces in place when they stunk in classic fashion to land Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and with the Flames already employing Mark Giordano, Dennis Wideman and Jiri Hudler on long-term deals, Calgary was in place to do that. Now, by adding Smid, they get marginally better, at least enough to the point of removing themselves from contention for the number one overall pick.

And if you are still unconvinced that Feaster has no clue what he is doing, the Flames are employing the corpse of Shane O’Brien to play 10 minutes per game for $2-million dollars a year for each of the next two seasons.

The Battle of Alberta theme song ought to be circus music with the direction that these two teams are heading.

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