DENVER - NOVEMBER 09: Mikael Backlund #11 of the Calgary Flames celebrates his third period goal against goalie Peter Budaj #31 of the Colorado Avalanche to tie the score 2-2 at the Pepsi Center on November 9 2010 in Denver Colorado. The Flames defeated the Avalanche 4-2. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The Dallas Stars are going to be looking to the trade market to make improvements. This series of posts is going to focus on potential Stars targets to identify who, if any, of the big names are good fits in Dallas. If you have any specific requests send a Tweet my way @JoshL1220.
One avenue the Dallas Stars could pursue to improve the roster for the 2013 season is by opening the coffers to take back unpleasant contracts signed by other general managers around the league. Darren Dreger recently reported that the Calgary Flames were willing to discuss Jay Bouwmeester and Mikael Backlund. Backlund definitely doesn't fall into that category, but Bouwmeester does. Both players fill needs here, and if available would almost certainly interest the Stars.
Why would the Flames consider trading either player, how would they fit in with the Stars, and other random speculative thoughts that will more than likely be for naught can be found after the jump.
A Brief Yet Triumphant Introduction
What are Jay Bouwmeester and Mikael Backlund, you may be asking. I'm guessing most people reading this have a vague idea of what Bouwmeester is, but probably not so much with Backlund. Either way an introduction to both seems appropriate.
Bouwmeester left the Florida Panthers for the Calgary Flames after his UFA rights were dealt prior to the start of the 2009/10 free agency period. He signed a five year deal for a total commitment of 33.4 million dollars. 12.6 over the next two seasons is all that remains of the deal.
At the time of the trade he was considered a top notch two way defender. With the Flames his goal production has dried up as his shooting percentage has been cut in half, but the defensive reputation holds up. Last season he pretty much played every tough defensive shift for the Flames. That's only a slight exaggeration. The pairing of Chris Butler and Bouwmeester saw the toughest competition in the league on a nightly basis (slightly edging out Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi). He wasn't great in those minutes, but he was good enough to suggest that he could be a successful second pairing guy, or be successful as part of a checking pair with Stephane Robidas.
Mikael Backlund is the name that should make your ears perk up. Backlund hasn't been a big offensive force since coming to North America, but there are a few things to keep in mind. For one, he's only 23. He only has 138 games under his belt, or about a year and a half, in the NHL. He has also been bitten pretty hard by the luck dragons over that time. His shooting percentage has only been 5.4% in the NHL. When he was on the ice the Flames as a team only shot 5.28% which held his counting stats down significantly.
Backlund hasn't proven to be a world-beater offensively since being drafted, but with a little luck and development on his side it's easy to see a 35-40 point player. From an offense only player that would be a problem, but Backlund is actually very useful defensively. He saw a heavy defensive load last season at even strength for Calgary. He was great on his way to leading the Flames in Corsi.
Kent Wilson of The Nation sums up the situation pretty clearly:
...unless Calgary is planning on landing Suter as a free agent this summer, deleting Bouwmeester from the blueline would create a huge hole that could not be filled internally. On top of all that, he's not even 30 years old yet so likely has a number of effective years left in him
It's common to assert that a Kipper or Iginla trade would signal the begin of a true rebuild,however, I contend moving Bouwmeester for a forward or futures would be a pretty sure step in that direction. He's overpaid and underwhelming offensively to be sure, but is a few miles ahead of other Flames defensive options.
As for Backlund, trading him would delete the lone NHL-ready skater Calgary has in the important 23-28 age range up front (who isn't merely a capable AHLer or bottom-six forward for life). In addition, given his poor shooting luck and rotten counting numbers from last season, dealing Backs now would be a classic case of selling low on an asset that is bound to improve in value. Whats more, Backlund should be pretty cheap to re-sign this summer, so he doesn't have the added baggage of a bad contract like JayBo.
Baseless Unfounded Speculation
Kent sums up exactly why the situation doesn't make much sense at face value. The Flames actually do need both players if they aren't going into a rebuild of any significance. They obviously aren't going into a rebuild if they aren't going to consider moving Jarome Iginla or Miika Kiprusoff. So, what exactly are they doing? A lot of the circumstantial evidence surrounding the circumstantial rumor points to it being bogus, but if both players are in play the Stars might have a buying opportunity on two players who could help in 2013 and beyond.
The Flames are also said to be looking for help at center much like the Stars. The Stars could theoretically trade Mike Ribeiro to the Flames in a deal, but that would just open up another hole. The duo is definitely interesting, but unless the Stars get creative they don't appear to be a match unless the Flames are just looking to dump Bouwmeester's contract for some unforeseen reason.
I think everyone here would be fine if the Flames offloaded a guy like Bouwmeester because, despite the fact that he eats minutes and is generally given a pretty rough go of things matchups-wise, he simply doesn't play the kind of hockey commensurate to his fourth-among-defensemen cap hit. It would be a tough sell to get someone to take his deal, admittedly.
And that, I imagine, is why Backlund has been lumped into the mix. The only thing I can think of for why this team would trade Backlund — which by the way would be the very definition of selling low given he scored four goals thanks to some truly terrible luck and was hurt all season — is that he is intended to lure teams into taking the Bouwmeester contract off Jay Feaster's hands. Don't know how well it will work, obviously, but do know for sure it would be a very shortsighted solution to a two-year problem.