Flames Go Back to Goalie Well Again; Acquire Smith From Arizona

June 17th, 2017 | Posted in Commentary | By: D'Arcy McGrath

The Flames made some news less than two hours before the trade freeze for the first NHL expansion draft in almost 20 years, by acquiring 35 year old goaltender Mike Smith from the Arizona Coyotes.

The Flames gave up unsigned defenseman Brandon Hickey, a third round pick that becomes a second if the Flames make the playoffs next year, and UFA goaltender Chad Johnson.

Johnson was required in the deal so the Coyotes have a goaltender to protect in the expansion draft.

The Flames should make the playoffs, so lets call this Smith with 25% of his salary retained by the Coyotes for a 2nd round pick and Brandon Hickey.

Trade Analysis

The Bad – Giving up two above average assets for an older goaltender is a rough sell. I hate to see hockey teams move 1st or 2nd round draft picks unless Dougie Hamilton is arriving on your door step, so losing a 2nd rounder for the second straight season is a tough pill to swallow. Brandon Hickey isn’t destined for stardom, but it looks like he’s projecting to a solid 3rd pair defenseman, a depth player that will be around for ten years. Smith is 35 and has limited gas left in his tank, add to that his injury woes in recent seasons. It’s a gamble for sure.

The Good – The Flames hinted they were close to signing Brandon Hickey in April, but didn’t suggesting there was a snag. If that’s the case and the team is moving on from a player they know they won’t be able to sign then this trade gets better instantly. Jimmy Vessey, a Hobey Baker winner was moved to Buffalo last summer for a third round pick, so Hickey’s unsigned rights are worth less than that making the deal a 2nd and say a 4th, which looks considerably better as the Flames got that package for an expiring Jiri Hudler 15 months ago. The Coyotes covering 25% of Smith’s salary helps as well as the club saves almost $2M to be used in filling out their blueline and adding a winger to their top nine. Another variable is the fact that bringing back Brian Elliott would have cost the team a third rounder, this avoids that pick going out the door (essentially equal to Hickey).

The verdict – I personally like it.

I was mentioning Smith, M.A. Fleury and Howard as my targets for a goaltender as I liked the two years of term each veteran had on their contracts. If things don’t work out it’s only a two year window, if they do then the asset expenditure was well worth it.

To me it’s a good solution and avoids what could be some larger missteps …

1) Signing a guy like Ben Bishop to a 7 year contract and watching the wheels come off. An albatross contract is the last thing the Flames needed in this emerging window to win. Even if it wasn’t Bishop, goaltenders like Elliott or Mason certainly wouldn’t want to sign for less than 4 years if they could avoid it.

2) Trading a bigger package for a player like Raanta or Grubauer only to find out that the backup goaltender isn’t ready to be a starter. Sure it’s the ideal solution if the Cam Talbot effect happens in Calgary, but that’s quite a gamble.

3) Bringing back Brian Elliott as a settle sending the absolute wrong message to the team and the fan base.

4) Going on the cheap with a Chad Johnson / young goaltender tandem, completely wasting a year or two of the window of winning that I see this team entering.

The Flames have two or three emerging young goaltenders in the system, and Smith’s contract length is ideal for one of the goaltenders to blast from the pack and challenge in 24 months.

The Flames kept their top prospects in check, still have their first rounder, and have crossed the biggest of three items off their to do list for the summer heading into the expansion draft.

This isn’t a Dougie Hamilton level win, but it’s a good move by Brad Treliving.

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