07 December 2013
Interview with David Johnson of www.hockeyanalysis.com
An analysis of the 31 January 2010 Calgary/Toronto trade
Here's the now-famous deal:
The Calgary Flames receive forwards Jamal Mayers, Niklas Hagman, Matt Stajan, and defenseman Ian White as compensation for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who secured the services of forward Fredrik Sjostrom, defenseman Dion Phaneuf, and prospect defenseman Keith Aulie.
Robin @ Chiller Instinct - We are speaking today with David Johnson of Hockey Analysis - what are your initial impressions on this blockbuster? I mean, we really can call this a blockbuster. Two Canadian markets sent a huge shockwave out and addressed different needs didn't they?
David @ Hockey Analysis - This is definitely a blockbuster. I can't immediately recall a trade since the lockout that included 7 players, 6 of which are current NHL players. This is really a hockey trade on both sides of the equation, as both teams are acquiring assets they wanted/neeeded rather than giving up players they didn't want/need (see the adjacent J.S. Giguere / Jason Blake / Vesa Toskala trade) or a trade involving a pending unrestricted free agent. We don't see many trades like that anymore, especially during the regular season.
On Calgary's side, they have struggled for years getting a center who can play with Jarome Iginla and this season has been no different, especially in recent weeks when the team has struggled and seen itself fall out of a playoff position. Stajan is no first line center but he has some skill and will give them another option to try with Iginla. More importantly though, it gives the Flames a lot more depth up front and I think depth is key come playoff time.
Star players can get you to the playoffs but depth is also needed to take you deep into the playoffs. Also, don't underestimate White. He has arguable been the Leafs best all-round defenseman this season and is capable of playing big minutes in any situation if needed. He doesn't have Phaneuf's top-end talent or physical presence but will fit in nicely in the Flames top four defensemen.
On the Leafs side, they desperately needed top end talent. Before the season began GM Brian Burke added talented winger Phil Kessel and now he has added a top end talent on defense in Phaneuf. Both of these players are young and both are signed for four more seasons and will be the building blocks for the Leaf team of the future. In the short term they will miss the offense Hagman and Stajan provided but both of those guys are relatively easily replaceable either via trade or as free agent acquisitions in the summer while Phaneuf has the opportunity to be a near irreplaceable commodity so when you get a chance to acquire that you have to give up what it takes to get it.Robin @ CI - Yes, I think one could underestimate the value of Sjostrom, White, and for that matter, how good of a prospect Keith Aulie is. With that being said David, you absolutely nailed the comment that Phaneuf brings the Leafs another high-end elite player and that you need to give up some quality players in return.
In the short-term, Calgary improves their chances of going farther into the playoffs this season. The team was stagnant lately and I really like their odds at claiming a playoff spot going forward. Like you said, Stajan gives them another option at centre and I like his desire, I really do. I completely agree that White has been very solid in blue-and-white this season for Toronto and he is a versatile puck-mover.
Toronto is getting a proven, young defenseman that has a lot of upside in Phaneuf and an under-rated penalty-killer in Sjostrom. Defense is looking up on the Leafs - this takes some heat off of young Luke Schenn. I think you'll see him settle down some more and he could flourish outright.
The management teams showed some real savvy getting this done. What are your thoughts on how the finances shake down?
David @ HA - On Calgary's side this trade was not just to help them out this season and most importantly reverse their recent slide in the standings but also to give them some financial versatility going forward. The only player they acquired with a contract beyond this season is Hagman at $3 million per season for two more years.
Both Stajan and Mayers are unrestricted free agents and can be re-signed based on cost and merit and White is a restricted free agent who can be re-signed if the price is right or traded and they should be able to get another solid asset back. The Flames also have Rene Bourque who will be looking for a new contract and a sizable raise. By removing Phaneuf's $6.5 million cap hit for the next several seasons it gives the Flames financial flexibility to build a better team around the remaining core of Iginla, Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr, and Miikka Kiprusoff.
For the Leafs, everyone will point out how much they are now spending on defense and it is true. Phaneuf, Tomas Kaberle, Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin combine to make just over $19 million and then there is Jeff Finger and his $3.5 million contract and Schenn who could make close to $3 million (including bonuses). That is a lot of money, but I think we can all expect that one way or another Finger's salary will be removed from the total and having Phaneuf makes trading Kaberle for help up front easier to do. Besides, it can be argued that the Leafs now have the best defense 1 through 6 as anyone in the NHL.
Robin @ CI - That is an exquisite point about Calgary's financial position in this deal. Bourque has proven he can provide offense as a self-contained unit and this gives them an opportunity to keep the core together for the future. Mikael Backlund has been in the lineup, up from the Abbotsford Heat (American Hockey League). It will be interesting to see whether the Sutters see him as a contributor in the present tense, or that they figure it was an exposure to call him up. I really admire this trade in a number of different aspects.
With Toronto's 'moving' parts on defense as of yet, they have a great opportunity to concentrate of bringing forwards Mikhail Stefanovich and Nazem Kadri along from junior to compliment some others such as Tyler Ruegsegger, Tyler Bozak, Jerry D'Amigo, and Viktor Stalberg that are close.
This was a calculated and precise trade for both clubs wasn't it? It may be a little early, but do you imagine Phaneuf as captain material down the line? I personally think that Burke's intention lies down that path and it could pay off handsomely.
David @ HA - Backlund almost certainly has a bright future in the NHL, whether that future begins now will depend largely on his play. The Backlund callup, the trade with the Leafs and the rumoured trade with the Rangers (if it goes through) has sent a message to the Flames' players that the way they have been playing of late simply isn't good enough and management isn't afraid to make changes to fix it. This is a significant shakeup among the group of forwards and to some extent they are starting almost from scratch and there will likely be a heated battle for jobs and ice time. There are more bodies around and the ice time will go to those that earn it and I think this too factored into the Flames thought process on the trade. Good healthy competition can only make a team better.
Right now the Leafs don't have a captain. I think Burke wants to wait and see how the team develops as he seems to only be interested in giving it to a player that is both a very good player and person as well as someone who will be a long time Leaf. Some options, before this trade, are Kaberle, Komisarek and Beauchemin but they all have their drawbacks.
I believe the guy Burke has his eye on as being captain down the road is Schenn. He has the potential to be very good and he plays a physical game that Burke admires and he has leadership qualities, but at age 19 he certainly isn't ready to be captain yet. Phaneuf probably jumps ahead of Schenn in the queue but I think before he gets the 'C' he'll need to make his presence felt in the lineup. Maybe if he has a great finish to this season he might get consideration for the 'C' starting next season but I don't think Burke is in a big rush to make someone a captain. His priority is to to have the right captain, not have a captain right now.
Robin @ CI - Solid point on the captaincy David. How do you think Sjostrom fits into the lineup, aside from helping the league's worst penalty-killing? Any thoughts on who he could line up with and how much value he has going forward?
David @ HA - Sjostrom is a minor part of this trade but not an insignificant one for the Leafs. The Leafs penalty killing this season has been dreadful, and that is probably being kind. A large part of that has been weak goaltending, but the goaltending can't be completely to blame. Sjostrom has good speed and good size and is a solid defensive player and that can only help the Leafs penalty kill.
As for who he will play with, in this mornings practice I hear he lined up with Rickard Wallin and Nikolai Kulemin and coach Ron Wilson indicated he will see if they can become a quality shutdown line.
Kulemin has definitely improved his defensive play this season and has developed into a nice checking winger who can also score a little so I think from the wingers point Sjostrom and Kulemin can form 2/3rds of a nice checking line. Wallin is more of a question mark for me. He has shown some good qualities but I am not sure he is the answer long term. If Wayne Primeau was a little younger and speedier he might be the better option but we'll see how it all works out. It's going to be interesting monitoring this trade over the next several years.
Robin @ CI - So David, do you think that the Flames could of brought in more talent than what was sent over in return? Darryl Sutter's fate is twisting in the wind here with his drafting record and lack of playoff success (with 2004 the anomaly). Immediate success is imperative and even then...I think that he may have acted too rashly. A lot is riding on some players re-signing.
Also, the Leafs need to address centre ice. How do you think they proceed from here?
David @ HA - I think Sutter got decent return. He got one thing he needed which was depth and additional secondary scoring. I really like White too and I think he can be a solid addition to the Flames well beyond this season. He didn't get anyone of equal talent level to Phaneuf though and maybe that means he lost the trade, especially long term, but short term it will definitely help them. In the new salary cap NHL, a team's prime window of opportunity to win is often just a season or two, so sometime you just have to bite the bullet and go for it.
The Leafs definitely need some help up front both on the wing and at center ice. The Leafs do have some prospects that might not be that far away. Bozak has looked like he might have the skill to be a first or second line center down the road after being called up a couple weeks ago. Stalberg struggled a bit during his stint with the Leafs earlier in the season but is lightning fast with good hands and has played well with the Marlies. Christian Hanson has played well with the Toronto Marlies (AHL) as well and could develop into a nice all round player. All three of those players should get an opportunity to play between now and the end of the season.
Next year the Leafs best prospect, Nazem Kadri, will have an excellent chance to make the team and be on one of the team's top two lines. But Burke isn't done with his overhaul yet and I am sure he is on the lookout for another top line player to acquire via trade or free agency to take some of the pressure off of the younger Leafs, including Kessel, who is only 22 himself.
Robin @ CI - I think that the fans and hockey world in general have been waiting for something so extremely 'over-the-top' like this trade to invigorate it and envigorate the landscape. It goes a long way to enthusing the imaginations of fans and analysts alike.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us about the trade today David.
David @ HA - The trade, and the subsequent trades by the Leafs and Flames certainly made for an interesting couple of days. Lets hope it spurs on some more interesting trades, but I have my doubts that any will be quite as large as the Leafs-Flames trade.
Maybe the Ilya Kovalchuk trade will come close we we are all expecting that one so it won't be quite the same surprise/shock value. Thanks for the interview Robin. Good chatting with you again.
1 February 2010 / Robin Keith Thompson
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