Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Canadiens should have gotten more for Mike Cammalleri

So the Flames just signed Karri Ramo to a contract, after he spent a few seasons in the KHL polishing his game.  They get a 26 year old goalie who is entering the prime of his career in their roster, just as Miikka Kiprusoff is apparently set to retire this summer.  This is of interest to Canadiens' fans in that he was once their property, but was traded away in the Mike Cammalleri trade.

In hindsight, this trade looks more and more uneven.  What could have been a goldmine was instead exchanged for a relative song.

Mr. Ramo had been obtained from the Tampa Bay Lightning, in a swap of minor-league goaltenders that netted them Cédrick Desjardins.  It's now apparent, with Mr. Desjardins seeming to have reached a dead end in Tampa, that the Canadiens got the better of that deal.  Then, unfortunately, abysmal asset management took over, and that advantage was squandered.  

The scuttlebutt was that Karri Ramo would never come over to the NHL, being content to remain in the KHL and earning a decent living.  Why that is is unclear, as Mr. Ramo isn't a Russian citizen happy to be playing at home, but rather a Finn who spent a good part of his career in North America, and apparently preferred the KHL in order to avoid AHL bus rides.

Anyway, then-Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier included Karri Ramo as a throw-in in the Mike Cammalleri trade to Calgary.  The Flames got the malcontent sniper, Mr. Ramo, and a fifth-round pick and sent back their own headache (René Bourque), a longshot prospect in Patrick Holland, and this year's second-round pick.

At the time, some NHL GM's anonymously questioned the deal, explaining that they didn't know Mr. Cammalleri was on the block, and if they'd known, they'd have offered more for his services.  This was frustrating in light of René Bourque's difficult 2012 season in Montréal.  Mr. Bourque struggled and suffered injuries, and was relatively invisible.  He rebounded to have a stronger early season, but again injuries derailed a promising start.  Meanwhile, Mr. Cammalleri provided the offensive touch he's known for in Calgary, netting 13 goals and 32 points in 44 games.

Analyzing the trade now, it seems the big pieces kind of cancel each other out, in that while the Flames got the bigger name, the player with the better reputation, the Canadiens improved their makeup, exchanging a smaller player for a bigger winger of almost equivalent talent at a lower cap hit.  What rankles is that the secondary pieces don't add up.

The Gauthier régime was described, after the fact, as a dour, impulsive and secretive cabal, with poor communication and a climate of fear and mistrust.  It apparently did an equally poor job of keeping tabs on its players, and fostering a positive climate in the ranks.  

In this case, it seems that the Canadiens gave up on Mr. Ramo and undervalued him.  If the team had had more than a skeleton staff in their front office, and had attempted to engage him in dialogue, they could have realized that asset.  Instead, he was seen as an afterthought, a disposable piece, and was tacked on almost recklessly to the package sent to Calgary.

The second round pick the Canadiens received is underwhelming, when considering the demand for offence, for pure goal-scorers in the NHL as the playoffs approach.  Mike Cammalleri had two strong playoff runs in 2010 and 2011, and had all kinds of value, especially as the trade deadline neared, and as indicated by those jilted GM's.  Had there been more of an auction, Mr. Gauthier should have succeeded in squeezing a first-rounder out of his counterpart.  Rental Jaromir Jagr, for example, at 40 years old, netted the Stars a conditional second-rounder that became a first when the Bruins got past the second round of the playoffs.  Jay Feaster, desperate to win now, while he still had his two aces in Miikka Kiprusoff and Jarome Iginla, was ripe for the picking.  Imagine if we'd extorted his first-rounder, and were now sizing up Sean Monahan and Valeri Nichushkin.  The fact that we had to send a fifth-round pick to somehow even this out is galling.

Patrick Holland is a nice player, but also one the prospects Calgary was probably most willing to part with.  A former seventh-round pick, the Flames had little invested in him, and he was hard to project as an NHL player, being a slender winger who is more of a playmaker than a scorer.  As such, he does not add to the mix of Canadiens forward prospect, already rife with slick skaters who have good skills but will not thrive in the Darwinian NHL of Colon Campbell, in which Shea Weber can grab the back of your head to ram your face in the glass, and in which Duncan Keith can take a full swing with his stick at your face, breaking teeth and causing twenty stitches, but in which such behaviour is met with indifference from observers and a grudging one-game suspension by the 'Department of Player Safety.'  Mr. Holland is more of what we already had.  Mr. Gauthier had crowed about how his team had gotten bigger with the addition of René Bourque, but in the same trade took a step back in adding a smaller prospect.

Interestingly, the Flames drafted Patrick Holland in 2010, the same year they picked Michael Ferland two rounds earlier.  Fans who watched this year's Memorial Cup remember him as a force to be reckoned with on the Saskatoon Blades, a big winger who hit with abandon and was always dangerous around the net.  He is also seen as a marginal prospect, needing to work on his skating to have a chance at the NHL, but I couldn't help but wonder how much better he would have looked on the Bulldogs.  This is the kind of prospect that Pierre Gauthier should have sought in the Cammalleri trade, one that augments our skillset, that complements the players presently on the farm, and one that was conceivably available rather than untouchable.

So while the trade was originally questioned by observers on Montréal's part, the latest news that Karri Ramo will be joining the Flames tilts the balance even further in their direction.  And it throws even more dirt on the reputation of Pierre Gauthier as an evaluator of talent, and as a General Manager of a hockey team who is entrusted to manage its personnel and assets.

1 comment:

  1. Good points. However, Calgary 2nd is close to a Pens first or other contenders. Plus the Borque we saw this year makes us a winner on the main players. For sure we do not need anymore small skilled third line players (prospects)