Calgary Flames Jiri Hudler Getting Interest On Trade Market


The Calgary Flames were eliminated in the second round of the NHL postseason, but they continue to make headlines, even in the middle of the Stanley Cup Final. Elliotte Friedman, a hockey insider for Sportsnet, was on CBC last night during Game 5 between the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning and had a few interesting quotes about the Calgary Flames.

Friedman mentioned, during the Headlines segment between the second and third periods that the Flames are the most aggressive team working the phones right now, which could be a positive or negative depending on how you look at it. However, Friedman also mentioned teams are interested in acquiring Jiri Hudler from the Flames.

“From what I understand, the team’s response (to Hudler trade inquiries) was ‘you’re really going to have to make it worth our while.'” Was Friedman’s exact quote.

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This tells me a few things. One, team’s are very interested in acquiring Hudler and two, the Flames wisely are not going to sell him to the highest bidder, but will wait for a deal that blows them away.

Hudler is coming off the best season of his NHL career where he scored 31 goals and 76 points in 78 games. Hudler led the Flames in goals, assists and points, ranked 8th in league scoring and remarkably led the entire NHL in even strength scoring with 60 points at 5 on 5.

Apr 25, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Hudler has tremendous chemistry with the Flames top young players Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau and the trio proved to be one of the most proficient scoring lines in the league by the end of the season. Monahan broke out with a 31 goal, 31 assist season and Gaudreau was one of the league’s best rookies with 24 goals and 64 points.

Then why, oh why would the Flames even consider tearing apart one of the best lines in the league and deal Hudler in the first place if he has such a good thing going with the young stars?

Well, first of all, Hudler is extremely unlikely to repeat his impressive performance next season. His career high in points before this season was 57, set while he was with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008-09. Hudler had the second highest shooting percentage in the league at 19.7%, which suggests he got a few more lucky bounces than the average player and it will be difficult to shoot with that precision once again.

Hudler’s shooting percentage has been high throughout his career, so I’m not suggesting his goal total drops to 15 next season, but it very likely falls under the 30 goal mark which he reached for the first time in his career.

At 31 years of age, the timing of Hudler’s career season surely looks like it will be a one year aberration and not a breakout performance that predicts he will do the same in the future. Again, it’s not entirely impossible that Hudler puts up similar numbers next year and I don’t think he will be awful, but he will likely be a 25 goal, 55-60 point player next season.

Mar 30, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Calgary Flames left wing Jiri Hudler (24) tries to redirect the puck past Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the first period at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Hudler is also entering the final season of a four year $16 million dollar contract that he signed with the Flames in 2012 when he left Detroit. He has more than lived up to that $4 million dollar cap hit during his tenure with the Flames, but will be looking for a significant pay raise if the Flames are to re-sign him to an extension.

With new contracts for Monahan, Gaudreau, Mark Giordano and Sam Bennett due in the next two years, do the Flames have the cap space to pay Hudler $6 million per year?

It would be wise for the Flames to dangle their top winger out there as trade bait after he had such a tremendous season. It would be a classic sell high type of trade, where the Flames get a maximum return on a player whose value will never be higher.

With the NHL Draft coming up in less than two weeks, it will be interesting to see what kind of offers the Flames will get for the native of Olomouc, Czech Republic. If a team desperate for scoring like the Montreal Canadiens offer a late first round pick, the Flames would have a tough decision to make.

What if the Washington Capitals, who claimed they were looking for a right winger to play with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom offer the 22nd selection for Hudler? Would adding a late first round pick be enough to move Hudler? Would it be enough to really make it worth the Flames while, like Friedman quoted the Flames management as telling other teams.

I believe a 22nd overall pick in the deepest draft since 2003 would be enough to make it worth the Flames while, and I see a fit in Washington for Hudler, where he would have even better linemates and would have the best chance to match his career year. A classic win-win trade that could put the Capitals over the top now, and would make the Flames better in the future when they plan on entering contender status.

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