No, the Flames aren't after Alexander Ovechkin

christian tiberi
June 06 2017 02:27PM

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Has it really been nearly two months since something interesting has happened to the Calgary Flames?

All the usual conversations have burned out due to the rapid and vast nature of online discourse. The lunacy of the expansion draft and the entry draft are two to three weeks away, respectively. Free agency is still another week after that. There’s so little Flames relevant hockey dealings happening, and it’s killing us.

In the void left from all the meaningful things coming to the end of their threads, a saviour arises: a really weird, otherworldly rumour involving the Calgary Flames and superstar Alexander Ovechkin. It’s a discussion point, but even with the possibility of good conversation, it’s something so out there (and in some cases, believed as legitimate) that we should kill it immediately. Here goes.

The lifecycle of an internet hockey rumour

This piece of information comes to us from definitely credible hockey twitter account @RumorBreak.

If you are questioning their insider status, check out a selection of his #BREAKING bombs from the past season:

It’s a classic formulaic approach: hear an inkling of a rumour surrounding a big name, scour Twitter for trade suggestions, and then format it in such a way that, if nothing happens, you cannot be proven wrong. The favourite trick of @RumorBreak is to say something outlandish and claim that it is only an offer “on the table.” In the highly likely case these things don’t happen (blockbusters are about a once a year thing; in @RumorBreak-land, they’re every week), it can never be called bad info because it is not the account owner’s fault that the deal didn’t come to fruition.

@RumorBreak is nothing but easily ignorable Twitter panic BUT this rumour was also picked up by a Russian language Latvian online newspaper, which gave the rumour serious steam. Perhaps news is slow in Latvia, perhaps they don’t know any better (they name @RumorBreak as the sole source), but this little tidbit caused this particular rumour to be regurgitated back into the twittersphere as a “report from Russia,” adding legitimacy.

If it’s from Russia, it’s definitely legitimate. Because Alexander Ovechkin is also Russian, you see.

So that’s it. Someone non-credible puked out a thought onto Twitter; someone working for a legitimate-looking, although still not credible, website translated it into big scary Russian; and then it was a Rumor™.

But what if…

Let’s entertain some fantasies.

A key part of the rumour industrial complex is big names, as already stated. No one really wants the dirty details on third liners being shuffled around. Rumours are silly, harmless fun because it whips up a frenzy of discussion during otherwise dead times of the season. Even if you know that there is not a shred of truth in there, it’s still fun to wonder but what if…

So: what if the Flames and Capitals had mutual interest in a swap for Ovechkin?

1. It makes no sense for either party involved

Let’s knock down the obvious beast. The Caps are in no way going to trade their franchise player. I know that this is a league where Wayne Gretzky can be traded, and P.K. Subban and Taylor Hall can both be traded in the same half-hour, but there are still some limits on what teams will or won’t do.

Despite what the hot take artists keep insisting, Ovechkin is not the problem in Washington as much as he is the one holding that ship together. An unscientific way to prove this is to pretend he’s not on the roster and imagine how many games the remaining jamokes could win. Even in an off season, he scored 33 goals. It seems preposterous to solely blame him for running into – and losing to – one of the only players better than him in the playoffs. Those playoffs, by the way, are designed so that the Penguins and the Capitals bump heads every year. All “trade Ovi!” suggestions are scapegoating the most visible player on a team for some of the elements of the game he is not in control of (you don’t see “trade Tom Wilson” takes for a reason).

Regardless of what columnists or fans think, the Capitals have had a sure bet every year with Ovi in the lineup. They aren’t moving on from him anytime soon.

On the other side, of course Calgary would want to add Ovechkin; anyone would, for that matter. He’s a legitimate superstar who is 31 and still scoring a ludicrous number of goals. But it just doesn’t work.

Again, it is an unscientific method, but there’s probably no way he would fit in the Flames’ dressing room. He’s the leader in Washington, wearing a C and boasting the biggest paycheque. He’ll still boast that big cheque in Calgary, but without any leadership status, and it might be troublesome to strip someone who currently has an A or a C for a newcomer with starpower (think Mark Messier with the Canucks, but perhaps on a less disastrous scale)

Ovi also has a few pals in Washington: namely Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Dmitri Orlov. Calgary doesn’t have a single Russian speaker in their locker room, and haven’t had one since Andrei Zyuzin. Imagine bringing in a superstar (especially one like Ovechkin) into a dressing room where there’s a major language barrier between him and everyone around him. It’s not a good idea.

If you wonder why the Flames keep bringing Czech players in, it’s because they have Czech players here. There’s still that unmeasurable yet important matter of “everyone here has to get along” that is key to hockey teams. In a sport that draws from faraway countries with confusing languages, that is a necessary part of roster construction. Ovechkin doesn’t fit that mold, unfortunately. If Ovi was from Moose Jaw or something, this rumour gets a bit of traction.

2. It doesn’t make sense cap wise

Even if you ignore the inevitable locker room chaos and simply look at this from just an asset standpoint, there are problems.

As it stands, the Flames have $21.8M in cap room according to CapFriendly. Following the rumour, you move Sam Bennett and Oliver Kylington (who both have no impact on that $21.8M, as Bennett’s unsigned and Kylington is in the AHL) plus picks (also no impact, duh) to the Capitals for Ovechkin, who comes in at a cool $9.5M. Simply subtract one number from the other and the Flames have Ovechkin and $12.3M space left.

So what’s the problem?

Nothing big, they just need to fill four forward spots, three defender spots, and two goalie spots with $12.3M in space. That’s an average of $1.3M per player.

And that’s pretty much impossible to do and still ice a competitive team. Remember all the goalie problems the Flames had? Chad Johnson, a career backup acquired on what was regarded as a value contract, was $1.7M. Never mind starting goalies, how many good goalies come in under that number? Anyone who was better and cheaper than Johnson last season is on their way to getting a significant raise, which would fall outside of our prescribed $1.3M. The only one is Antti Raanta, who is suddenly unacquireable because the Flames sent away all their draft capital in that scenario. D’oh.

To answer any other questions: no, Washington is not going to hold back any money. Even if they were dumb enough to trade Ovechkin, they probably aren’t dumb enough to pay him to play for other teams. The whole motivation behind such a silly trade would be to completely get rid of Ovechkin.

Also, there’s no way the Flames are going to send money back. All the big money is invested in players that the Flames are not going to move (your Gaudreaus, Monahans, Giordanos etc), and the one exception is Troy Brouwer, who no one is interested in trading for. Even if they managed to get Brouwer off of the books, that’s an extra spot that needs filling, and the savings from his contract  means you can spend an extra $200,000 per player, about an inch forward (you can repeat this for just about every other hanger-on in the organization. Every player gone is an extra spot that needs filling, and you’ll only free up a few dollars).

So the Flames would have to jettison pretty much everyone to stay under budget. Goodbye, Micheal Ferland, Kris Versteeg, and Alex Chiasson, three very handy players. Curtis Lazar can stay, because he’s still cheapish. The Flames would likely have to fill the bottom half of their roster with AHLers. Even if you are a big Stockton Heat fan, it is a bit of a stretch to fill open spots with guys who haven’t experienced real pro hockey. Seems suboptimal.

Wrapping up now

In no universe does this trade work or is even considered by the front offices of either team. It’s just too dumb.

It’s the silly Dougie Hamilton panic again, but flipped so that the Flames fans can be filled with curiosity instead of dread. Just like Hamilton for Holland, it’s a conversation that is not worth having. A quick 10 minutes of thinking it out will reveal why this rumour came from @RumorBreak. Let’s all agree to bury this and never speak about it again. There are better things to talk about.

Though if you want to take Troy Brouwer, you can. That offer is still on the table.

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A Young Gun in my own right. Follow me on twitter @hashtagswag777 or drop me a line at chris.tiberi at gmail
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