Major injuries all over the NHL are becoming a plague, and teams are starting to look around to fill significant roster holes as much as they’re looking to add a missing piece to a would-be winning formula.
With the cap space the Blackhawks currently have, and a full 23-man NHL roster, they could be in position to make a deal to address their needs. Could a phone call to Philadelphia be in the Hawks’ future?
Right now, the Flyers are in need of cutting payroll. They’re sitting roughly $4M over the cap, and have injury issues on their blue line. There is a potentially good fit for a trade between the two teams that would not only save the Flyers money, but could help both teams moving forward.
The trade would involve one forward and one defenseman moving each way as the primary NHL pieces in the deal. There could be prospects and/or draft picks added to offset value from one side to the other, but the numbers we’ll look at indicate that the values on the ice aren’t that far off.
First, let’s examine the two defensemen in the proposed deal. These are their full-season numbers from the 2010-11 season. Player A is from the Flyers, Player B is from the Blackhawks.
For Philadelphia, the defenseman we’re looking at is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and will probably be looking for a raise that would exclude him from the future plans of the Flyers because of their financial concerns moving forward.
Neither of these guys is a big-time goal scorer (four combined goals last year), but the Flyers’ skater was a more important part of the power play in Philadelphia. The hits and blocked shots are fairly even, and the Blackhawks defenseman was a more important part of the penalty kill.
Player A is Matt Carle. Player B is Niklas Hjalmarsson.
We’ll wait to address the overall “why would _____ do this deal?” question until we examine the forwards involved in the proposal, but there is a good reason to think this swap on their blue line might make sense for Philadelphia.
With the recent extension of Braydon Coburn, it appears Carle is not in the future plans of the Flyers. Hjalmarsson is younger, and would effectively replace Carle in the Philadelphia rotation while keeping the cap hit static for two additional years. With Kimmo Timonen’s salary coming off the books in 2013, Hjalmarsson would hit free agency the same summer as Andres Meszaros.
Philadelphia has a good offensive team locked-up for the next few years, so taking a step back in production from Carle to Hjalmarsson wouldn’t necessarily kill the Flyers.
Now, let’s look at the forwards in this deal. Again, we’re looking back at the 2010-11 production for two players, Forward A being a current member of the Flyers and Forward B from the Blackhawks.
So what are we seeing as the significant differences between these two players? While being two years older, the Blackhawks’ forward was credited with more than 50 additional hits, had fewer penalty minutes, and had more goals and assists than the player currently on the Flyers. The time on ice numbers are almost identical.
Both of these players become free agents at the same time, but there is one important difference. The Flyers player will be a restricted free agent, while the Blackhawks player will be unrestricted.
In this deal, the Flyers would cut roughly $1.2M off their cap number for a player that is, at least on paper last year, every bit the equivalent of the player they would be giving up.
Player A is Wayne Simmonds. Player B is Bryan Bickell.
Obviously Simmonds was in Los Angeles last year, and Bickell is presently in the doghouse in Chicago. But how much have their respective roles, and production, changed this season? Here’s a look at how they’re doing to date:
Simmonds has piled up almost four times as many penalty minutes as Bickell, but is logging the fourth-highest power play minutes among Flyers forwards to date. Despite being a healthy scratch a couple times lately, Bickell still has more hits than Simmonds, and the most glaring difference is their plus-minus number.
Now… why would the teams do this deal?
First, from a Philadelphia perspective, the biggest reason to pull the trigger on this deal is to get a younger defenseman under club control for two more years. As we mentioned earlier, the paper given out on the blue line by Paul Holmgren so far this year indicates that the Flyers either can not or will not give Carle a raise… but replacing him for two more years at the same cost might not be out of the question.
There have been whispers that the Canucks have called Philadelphia about Carle in an attempt to dump Keith Ballard’s ugly contract. Hjalmarsson could be a good fit with the Flyers approach to team defense.
The swap of Simmonds for Bickell would be an exchange of bottom-six forwards that saves the Flyers money. It’s pretty simple in this scenario: the saved money is worth it for the Flyers, who could be seriously handicapped this summer if they have to roll as much as $4M over to next season.
Factoring in the savings from the exchange of forwards, Hjalmarsson would effectively cost the Flyers $2.3M next year to fill the role being filled currently by Carle. For what Hjalmarsson brings to the ice as a shot blocker and penalty killer, that isn’t a bad number.
From the Blackhawks perspective, this deal would bring a physical forward into the mix in Simmonds who would give the Blackhawks more options up front. The addition of a player with Simmonds skills would allow Stan Bowman the ability to shop veterans Andrew Brunette and Daniel Carcillo without fear of a fall-off in play; Simmonds has no problem dropping the gloves, and is good around the net.
Carle would be an intriguing play for the Hawks moving forward. With prospects Dylan Olsen, Ryan Stanton, Joe Lavin and Shawn Lalonde developing in Rockford, there will undoubtedly be a time in the next year that the organization wants to see one (or two… or three) of them in Chicago. Adam Clendening and Stephen Johns, both playing college hockey right now, are also in the mix for a job on the blue line in Chicago in the next few years.
By moving Hjalmarsson, the Hawks not only open up a roster spot for one of their top prospects to move up to the NHL level, but also clear up another $3.5M in cap space in each of the next two years. That cap space will be important in the summer of 2013, when Nick Leddy is a restricted free agent.
That is, of course, if the Hawks decided to not off Carle a contract.
Have the Blackhawks talked to Philadelphia? Not that we can confirm. And are the Flyers currently shopping Carle and/or Simmonds? It’s possible, but not likely. And would there need to be other pieces included for a trade like this to go down? Perhaps.
But as both teams move forward with aspirations of sustained excellence on the ice, this might be a good fit for both teams to make a deal. And the savings realized by the Flyers might make a trade like this good enough for Philadelphia to pull the trigger.