As the trade deadline approaches, Calgary Flames forward Mike Cammalleri continues to be one of the most talked about players that may be on the move before 3 p.m. on March 5. The 31-year-old is in the final year of his contract and is a proven performer in both the regular season and the playoffs, making his appeal as a rental obvious. But as fellow LWOS contributor Adam Scharfe pointed out in his assessment of the Flames deadline situation, there are many that feel that if Brian Burke can’t move Cammalleri for the right price, he’ll attempt to resign him.
Merely typing those words infuriates me.
I like Cammalleri. He’s a skilled hockey player who competes with an edge. But I don’t want him sticking around past the deadline, and certainly not past this season.
When Burke took the reins in Calgary, he was careful to explain why he was removing Jay Feaster and to articulate his plans for the future. In his critique of Jay Feaster’s tenure with the Flames, he alluded to his predecessor’s questionable personnel decisions and poorly executed trades. But now he’s poised to make mistakes of a very similar nature.
Feaster signalled the start of Calgary’s rebuild at last year’s deadline by trading Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester for underwhelming packages of draft picks and prospects, and the collective response from the hockey world was one of exasperation. Quite simply, the Flames missed the boat, stubbornly clutching their star players until their market value was too diminished to properly fuel a rebuild. When Burke took Feaster’s position, he stated that he was doing so with the intention of speeding up the return to success.
And that’s exactly why Cammalleri needs to be traded. The winger, who can also play up the middle of the ice, is by far Calgary’s most enticing asset. The Flames have only five picks in the upcoming draft, while the off-season acquisition of T.J Galiardi also leaves them without a fourth-rounder in the 2015 selection. It’s not an enviable stockpile for a team in Calgary’s position, but it does stand to be significantly bolstered by a trade involving Cammalleri, even one that might see him moved for less than his worth. Burke may not like the situation, but this organization is still recovering from last deadline’s botched trades and many years of decisions counter-productive to a rebuild. At this point, less is better than nothing when it comes to exchanging Calgary’s veterans for youth, and that’s the simple truth.
Even if the return is less than ideal, Cammalleri should still be moved because resigning him simply doesn’t make any sense. Yes, he’s talented; arguably the most talented player on the Flames roster. But he’s also 31. By the time this team is a serious contender, Cammalleri’s best offensive days will almost certainly be behind him and his contributions less critical to the team’s success. The old “veteran presence” argument holds no water here either, even if Cammalleri wears an A for the Flames; team captain Mark Giordano is under contract through the 2015-2016 season while fellow alternate Curtis Glencross is signed until July 2015. With players like Dennis Wideman, Jiri Hudler, Ladislav Smid and Matt Stajan also signed beyond next season, Calgary has more than enough old warriors going forward.
There’s also the issue of Cammalleri’s size. Burke is known for his love of big, physical teams (truculence, anyone?), and he’s already made it clear that he intends to mould the Flames in that image. It’s puzzling, therefore, that the Flames would even consider resigning the five-foot-nine, 190-pound forward. Injuries, too, have been a problem for Cammalleri. His career is littered with multi-game absences for a variety of problems, including a concussion this past January. In 11 seasons, he’s never once played a full 82 games. Spirited though he may be, Cammalleri’s durability will be a question going forward, making him an unnecessary liability to a team that wants to get bigger and meaner.
I should point out that the general expectation is that Cammalleri will indeed be traded. This year features a strong market for scoring wingers for both buyers and sellers, as Thomas Vanek and Matt Moulson are expected to be the big fish that attract teams like the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins. Those teams, along with the New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings and even the Vancouver Canucks have all been suggested as teams that may be interested in Cammalleri. Perhaps the Flames are merely attempting to drive up the asking price by fueling rumours of a contract extension.
I hope that’s the case, because Flames fans were told that Feaster’s removal was carried out for the betterment of Calgary’s rebuild. To resign Cammalleri, or fail to trade him, flies directly in the face of that goal.