The Calgary Flames are on the brink of going into a transition phase for the franchise. The Columbus Blue Jackets are in a win-now mode after trading for Jeff Carter this offseason. Could the Blue Jackets and Flames pull off a deal that would send Miikka Kiprusoff to Columbus? It would make sense to try.
After the first week of the NHL season, Steve Mason has made it obvious that he will not be the goaltender that leads the Blue Jackets deep into the playoffs. The Blue Jackets have a solid team up front and defensively, but the goaltending situation is holding them back from bigger and better things.
The Flames need to start rebuilding because, frankly, they do not look to be good enough to get into the playoffs. Coach Brent Sutter has already said that back-up Henrik Karlsson will play about 20-25 games this year. I can only imagine what Kiprusoff thinks about this.
So let's delve deeper into this situation.
NOTE: I HAVE SEEN NO RUMORS ABOUT THIS TRADE, IT IS TOTALLY SPECULATIVE.
Both teams have just over $1 million of wiggle room before they hit the maximum salary cap, according to Cap Geek. Kiprusoff's cap hit is $5.33 million and he is under contract for the next three seasons after 2011-12.
In order to complete this trade, the Blue Jackets would have to send players with higher cap hits in order for Columbus to remain under the salary cap. A player such as Kristian Huselius, whose cap hit is $4.5 million and is an unrestricted free agent after this season, could fit the billing.
Since Steve Mason would be a backup goaltender with a cap hit of $2.9 million, he may be in the discussion for trades, too, as Calgary would need a goaltender with experience.
According to Hockey's Future, the Blue Jackets rank fourth for organizational depth (it was last updated on May 31st, so this has changed). They have the fourth best prospect in the NHL in Ryan Johansen, (pictured) according to the same website, and he made his NHL debut on October 7th. Other prospects such as Maksim Mayorov and Matt Calvert could be valuable.
For an organization that is about to enter a rebuilding period, the Flames have a huge problem: The cupboard is bare. They rank 30th in organizational depth, according to Hockey's Future, so when they trade assets, they are looking for prospects to fill the system with.
So while a player with a high cap hit has to come their way, they are mainly looking for either draft picks or prospects.
Miikka Kiprusoff led the Flames to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004 after arriving in Calgary earlier that year from San Jose. Kiprusoff allowed 1.69 goals per game in 2004. His play has declined in recent years (how could you do better than 2004?) and led to some boo birds at the Saddledome last season.
Kiprusoff's attitude has been questioned when playing internationally, but he has shown dedication to his team throughout his tenure with the Flames. He even turned down an invitation to play for Finland in the 2006 Olympics so he would be healthy for the remainder of Calgary's season.
Kiprusoff would make Columbus a very dangerous team with an experienced goaltender and a quality top line, as well as a deep unit defensively.
If Calgary is going to unload players who helped the Flames reach greatness in 2004, they might be weary about trading them within the Western Conference. If they traded them to an Eastern Conference team, they would avoid having Kiprusoff come back to Calgary as often as he would if he played in the Western Conference.
Another problem is the salary cap for both teams, as they would have to make sure everything is sound financially. Kiprusoff does not have a no-trade clause, so he would have no choice if he were traded to Columbus.
Right now, the Blue Jackets are a borderline playoff team. The one part of their team holding them back is the goaltending, which cost them a playoff berth last season and has hurt them in the early part of this season already.
The Blue Jackets are in one of the toughest divisions in hockey. The Blackhawks and Red Wings are shoe-ins for the playoffs and will most likely be battling for home ice in the playoffs. Led by Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber, the Predators are a very good team that will most likely make the playoffs. And the St. Louis Blues are no push-over, either, as Jaroslav Halak can steal a game.
The Blue Jackets are probably the fourth-best team in that division without Kiprusoff. With Kiprusoff, they would be more talented than the Predators and would be a playoff team. Also, for a team that struggles financially and with attendance, this trade could help bolster their popularity in Ohio.
As for the Flames, they would surely have no chance at the playoffs this season but would start the rebuilding process they desperately need.
Barring injuries, the Red Wings, Blackhawks, Kings, Sharks and Canucks are pretty much assured of making the playoffs. All of these teams would still be more talented than Columbus even if they acquired Kiprusoff. I could even make the case that the Predators would be a better bet to make the playoffs than Columbus.
Now if Columbus does acquire Kiprusoff and make the playoffs, they would definitely have more than a fair shot of upsetting a top seed in the first round. Can they make it all the way to the Stanley Cup? I wouldn't bet on it, but with a hot goalie who has proved himself in the playoffs and a great top line, the Jackets could be the Cinderella team of the playoffs.
Like I said, I wouldn't bet on the Jackets making a run, but I'd much rather have Miikka Kiprusoff than Steve Mason in net if I was going to try.
This trade would seem to make sense on both sides. The Flames would be losing a good goaltender, but at this point in time, the Flames would be better off to part ways and gain prospects to develop. On the other side, the Blue Jackets may be one piece away from making some noise in the Western Conference.
Some problems could arise between these two teams if they do seek a deal, mainly about the salary cap and prospects. Personally, I don't see this trade happening, although it would make sense. If the teams could somehow find a way to get this done, it would be a win-win for both teams.
Thanks for the read and feel free to comment.
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