Curtis Glencross: Trade value vs. team value

It’s times like these when we should all be happy we’re not a GM of an NHL team. Sure, we all have ideas on how our favorite team could be run better—and depending on the GM, sometimes we may have a point. But as the trade deadline approaches, some very difficult decisions are made that are bound to draw the ire of fans regardless of which path is traveled.

Nothing exemplifies the point better than interim-GM Jay Feaster’s quandary in Calgary. After starting the season as flag bearers for the Lose for Larsson neighborhood of the NHL, the Flames have caught fire in 2011 and are currently on the bubble for the last playoff spot in the West (nevermind the entire Western Conference is seemingly on the bubble for the playoffs and everyone has games in hand). So what do they do when they have a pending Unrestricted Free Agent who may walk at the end of the year for nothing? It’s no secret Curtis Glencross has shown signs of being a productive NHL player during stretches of time in Calgary. On the flip-side, he’s also shown the knack for falling out of favor with management and ended up sitting next to the walking wounded in the press box as a healthy scratch.

Inconsistencies aside, Glencross is currently sitting with 19 goals and 31 points on the year. His 19 goals are good for 2nd on a team that depends on scoring by committee to get the job done. Not too bad for a guy who went undrafted and signed as a free agent out of Alaska-Anchorage.

Here’s a self-assessment of where he stands:

“In the last two or three years, I’ve wanted to hit 20 goals and 20 assists for 40 points… that’s kind of been my goal. I’ve had injury problems and missed 20 games every year and this is the first year — knock on wood — that I haven’t missed too many games. Right now, I’m going to set myself a new goal and push for 25 or 30.”

Here’s the rub: Do the Flames keep red-hot Glencross on the team as they make a push towards the playoffs? Or do they move him at the deadline for a higher draft pick to prepare for the future? With Chris Kellys of the world fetching 2nd rounders, there are those in Alberta who have visions of 1st rounders dancing through their heads. Make no mistake about it—if a pending UFA who has periodically been a healthy scratch over the last 2 years can get a 1st rounder, you do it and run as fast as you can. But that’s probably not realistic.

While people might want to compare Glencross to guys like Kris Versteeg and Mike Fisher, it’s important to remember that both of those players have years remaining on their contracts. Not only do they help the Flyers and Predators in their drive towards the playoffs, but they’ll be around next year as they compete, as well. There’s long-term value to take into consideration.

Realistically, he’s much more like Chris Kelly on the ice. Like Kelly, the team that requires Glencross is getting a rental player who will be free to walk away for nothing on July 1. Glencross scores more points, Kelly is a better 2-way player who plays the pivot. It’s like comparing apples and oranges; but at the end of the day, they’re both fruit.

This brings us to Jay Feaster. Since the Flames are neither in the Canucks’ penthouse, nor the Oilers’ outhouse, Feaster will have to weigh Glencross’s value to the Flames versus his value on the open market. In this case, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Feaster hold onto his tradable asset past the February 28th deadline. Any player coming back in a trade would have to be able to step in immediately and fill the shoes of the 2nd leading scorer. For a team that is built much more for the present than they are for the future, it’s hard to believe Feaster would trade a player who has become an important part of the team. Unless he’s presented with an outstanding offer beyond his expectations, the Flames will realize he’s more valuable on the ice than he is as an asset.

Burns and Thornton pose nude for ESPN Body Issue, and yes, it’s weird

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Hey, have you ever wanted to see Brent Burns and Joe Thornton essentially line up against each other naked?

Well, ESPN the Magazine interrupted your answer either way, going ahead and doing it for their vaunted Body Issue.

Considering Thornton’s UFA status, there’s at least an outside chance that this will be their final action together as members of the San Jose Sharks.

This is your last chance not to scroll and see Thornton, Burns, beards, tattoos, and not a whole lot else.

/waits

Former teammate Jason Demers captured it on Twitter, making it his background, and generally winning the Internet for the day:

Did anyone else think about Thornton’s line after Tomas Hertl scored four goals? No? OK.

The real highlight might be Burns and Thornton giggling in robes, honestly.

Click here for more on that issue, including information on U.S. women’s ice hockey team members who will also be featured.

Hjalmarsson shocked by Blackhawks trade, but Coyotes could improve soon

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Who could blame Niklas Hjalmarsson for being surprised that the Chicago Blackhawks traded him? The move blindsided … well, just about everyone outside of the Blackhawks organization, after all.

“It’s going to take some time to get used to that thought,” Hjalmarsson said, according to the Arizona Republic. “At the same time, I’m trying to always be a positive guy.”

Indeed, the 30-year-old defenseman did his best to say all the right things about the Arizona Coyotes, praising a roster that includes “a lot of young and promising players.”

MORE on the trade here

Described by some as the NHL’s best pure defensive defenseman, Hjalmarsson also gives the Coyotes good reason to be excited by a blueline that’s suddenly quite competitive. Consider the quartet that GM John Chayka helped assemble:

Hjalmarsson: An often-underrated part of the Blackhawks’ run. Consider some of the praise he received even before this move was made.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson: One of the league’s best-kept secrets, “OEL” ranks as one of the most dangerous scoring defensemen. At 25, he’s still deep in his prime.

Alex Goligoski: When you consider the Dallas Stars’ lost 2016-17 season, don’t dismiss the absence of “Gogo.” He might not be perfect, but the 31-year-old is the sort of puck-mover you need to excel in the modern game.

Jakob Chychrun: At 19, he’s already getting reps at the NHL level. The Coyotes could pair him with a veteran and watch him grow.

***

When you look at those four, in particular, it’s easier to see Hjalmarsson’s excitement as more than just lip service. It probably doesn’t hurt that the Coyotes also added Derek Stepan, another sign that this franchise is taking the next step after absorbing other franchises’ problem contracts in the likes of Dave Bolland and Pavel Datsyuk’s last year.

Granted, it will still be an adjustment, as the Coyotes are likely aiming for “respectable” while anything less that a deep run was unacceptable for the Blackhawks.

Still, Hjalmarsson has plenty of power to make this move more palatable than it may have initially seemed.

And, hey, who would blame him for circling Oct. 21 on his calendar?

Report: Coyotes to talk to Todd Nelson about coaching vacancy

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The Arizona Coyotes had a somewhat unexpected shakeup this past week when the team and long-time head coach Dave Tippett mutually agreed to part ways after nine seasons together.

The search for a replacement began immediately and according to Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal the Coyotes will be speaking to former Oilers coach Todd Nelson about the vacancy.

Nelson spent 51 games behind the Oilers bench during the 2014-15 season replacing Dallas Eakins. Nelson was replaced at the conclusion of that season by former San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan. While his NHL head coaching experience is limited to that brief time in Edmonton, he has an extensive track record in the American Hockey League with the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton’s top farm team) and currently the Grand Rapids Griffins (the Detroit Red Wings’ top farm team).

He has spent the past two seasons in Grand Rapids — replacing Jeff Blashill after he was promoted to the Detroit job — and has had a ton of success, leading the team to the Calder Cup this past season.

Predators won’t trade defense for forward help

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After losing James Neal to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft this past week the Nashville Predators have a pretty glaring hole in their top-six that is going to need to be addressed. Along with that, captain Mike Fisher is an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and is also considering retirement.

Because of those two developments general manager David Poile has made adding a top-six forward a priority for this summer, and he certainly has the salary cap space to get something done.

One thing he is not going to do, however, is trade one of his defensemen to find that help up front.

“We’ve traded enough defensemen in my recent history,” Poile said on Saturday, via the Tennessean. “I think everybody would be pretty much on the same page that our defense drives our team and our corps is as good as any in the league. We will not be touching our defense in the near future here.”

Over the past two years Poile has traded Shea Weber and Seth Jones off of his blue line but has still managed to assemble the NHL’s best defense. The quartet of P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm is so good that Poile made sure to protect all four of them in the expansion draft and leave Neal — a consistent 25-to 30-goal scorer signed for one more year on a pretty good contract — exposed for Vegas to take.

Without dealing one of their top-four defensemen it might be difficult to find an impact winger via the trade route, which might force them to turn to the free agent market.

But even that is going to be difficult because it is such a limited market. Now that T.J. Oshie has re-signed with the Washington Capitals Alexander Radulov would probably be the top winger available, but given his history with Nashville there is virtually no chance of that reunion happening. Justin Williams would be an intriguing veteran option, while Joe Thornton could help fill the void at center if Fisher does not return.

Still, not trading from the defense is the absolute right path for Poile and the Predators to take. Not only is that group the backbone of the Predators’ organization and one of the driving forces behind its success, it is also an extremely young group that is all signed long-term on cap friendly deals.

Even with the loss of Neal Nashville still has a deep group of forwards, while youngsters Pontus Aberg and Kevin Fiala could get an increased role and an opportunity to shine.