For the first time, as part of the new CBA every team that does not qualify for the playoffs will have at least a remote shot at “earning” the first overall draft pick in late June. Still, it pays to really stink if you want to maximize your shot at Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon or Jonathan Drouin.
To that end, the Calgary Flames appear determined to put their stamp on the snails' race to last place in the NHL. They’ve got some stiff competition in Florida, and Edmonton, Columbus, Buffalo, Tampa and Washington might yet have a say in the stink-off. But after dropping a 3-1 decision to the Kings on Monday night in Los Angeles, it’s hard to imagine the Flames being anywhere but firmly entrenched at the bottom of the heap when the sediment settles at the end of the regular season.
The Flames were outscored 13-3 on a three-game West Coast trip that included two miserable stops at the Staples Center, where the Kings illustrated just how far away the Flames are ... from anywhere, really. The Kings have won nine of 11, outscoring opponents 49-29. Remarkably, they are 95-1-10 when leading after two periods in their last 106 games.
The Flames? After Miikka Kiprusoff returned from a knee injury last week and guided the Flames to a 4-1 victory over San Jose at home, one wondered if the Flames would banish the odor of the Ryan O’Reilly offer-sheet debacle with a period of strong play and a subsequent surge into the playoff picture in the Western Conference. One didn’t need to wonder long, as Kiprusoff reverted to his recent disappointing form, giving up 10 goals on 46 shots in two losses and forcing coach Bob Hartley to go with Joey MacDonald on Monday night.
The Flames are officially at the midpoint of their schedule and are in 15th place in the conference, six points out of eighth place. They are cooked. All eyes will be on the Flames and the approaching April 3 trade deadline. At some point, GM Jay Feaster will have to deal with the Jarome Iginla situation as the Flames captain approaches the end of his contract. Why on earth would Iginla stay in Calgary? Why on earth would a team on a collision course with a fourth straight miss of the playoff dance want to do anything but bring in as many valuable young assets as possible? An age-old question, as it turns out. Iginla is an obvious asset who would generate significant interest on the trade market.
But who else could be moved? According to Capgeek.com, 11 players on the Flames' roster have some form of contractual restriction against being moved. How does that happen? Mike Cammalleri has two years left on his deal at $6 million per year against a salary cap that will drop to $64.3 million next season from a prorated $70.2 million this season. Still, Cammalleri has a history of bringing it in the playoffs, so maybe there’s a fit somewhere if he wants to move on.
Kiprusoff has another year at a shade more than $5.83 million. Jay Bouwmeester, who has never played a single playoff game in his NHL career, has another season at $6.68 million. Alex Tanguay remarkably has three more years at $3.5 million left on his bloated deal. In other words, lots of big-ticket underachievers available to GMs willing to overlook salary and production in the hopes of beefing up for the postseason. But even as the Flames’ season spirals out of sight, it’s hard to imagine there’ll be much of a silver lining come April 3.