Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Steve Mason To The Stars?

Let me preface this post by saying I have very little knowledge about the direction Ron Hextall is looking to steer the Philadelphia Flyers. I have even less knowledge about what (Googles the Stars' GM) Jim Nill is trying to do with the Dallas Stars.

But here's what I do know: the Stars' goalies stink, the Flyers' goalies stink, and the Stars' goalie coach seems to have a positive impact on Steve Mason when they work together.

So obviously we're going to ship Mason to Dallas, and in return we're going to try to fill the Dynamic Scoring Winger hole that the Flyers have had, quite literally, forever.

Flyers receive: G Antti Niemi, RW Brett Ritchie
Stars receive: G Steve Mason

Here's my rationale from the Flyers standpoint for each of those pieces:

  • Mason - I don't necessarily want him gone, but this exercise doesn't work unless we accept that as a given. Let's wash that $4.1 million cap hit right out of the books, and more importantly let's not sign him to a 5-year, $25 million contract this summer. 
  • Niemi - Despite what you might be thinking about the Stars' goaltending situation, Niemi actually started the season as a decent goalie. Since then, he's fallen off a cliff and he has been especially shaky in the last month or so.  But he can't possibly be much more shaky than Mason has been lately. Niemi would be the goalie that the Flyers exposed to Las Vegas, and obviously he wouldn't be claimed because the Knights are going to sign Ben Bishop obviously. This would allow them to protect Anthony Stolarz without having to commit money to a goalie to stand in his way for 3-4 additional years. Hextall would be free to turn the reigns over to Stolarz at the start of the 2018-19 season. But the real prize of this trade is this next bullet. 
  • Ritchie - He is a 23-year-old former second-round pick. He makes less than $900k per year, and he's a restricted free agent this summer. He also leads the Dallas Stars in 5-on-5 Goals Per Sixty Minutes. In fact, he would have the highest 5v5 Goals/60 of any Flyers winger except Michael Raffl (who is a mere 0.02 ahead of him). This nose for the net - and the 9 goals that have come from it - are in spite of the fact that Ritchie's most common linemates this season are Radek Faksa and Antoine Roussel. There is almost certainly some kind of positive effect from sheltering in play here, but look at the effect Ritchie has on the Stars' shots:

He doesn't get to play with Jamie Benn or Tyler Seguin, but Ritchie certainly does something right in the offensive zone. 

I think all three of those bullets above are defensible for Philly. But does it make sense from the other side of the table? Here's what I can come up with for Dallas:

At first glance, the Stars are going into this summer with a great cap situation. Jamie Benn's contract explodes from $5.25 million to $9.5 million, but they'll offset that and more with the expiration of the over-thirty brigade, made up of Patrick Sharp ($5.9 million), Ales Hemsky ($4 million), Johnny Oduya ($3.75 million), Jiri Hudler ($2 million), Patrick Eaves ($1 million), Lauri Korpikoski ($1 million), and Adam Cracknell ($600k). Ryan Garbutt's $900k that was retained in his trade will also disappear. 

And then if you throw Mason's expiring $4.1 million on top of it all, the Stars would have $19 million to fill out their roster. The only RFA that I believe would be due a significant raise would be Jamie Oleksiak, and so the Stars would essentially have $18 million to spend on a top-six winger, 1-2 depth forwards, a depth defenseman, and a backup goalie. Maybe - and here's a crazy thought - instead of just signing a depth defenseman, they splurge and steal Kevin Shattenkirk from the Blues. 

If - and that is a humongous "if" - Ritchie isn't a critical part of Nill's plan for the Stars, this might make sense for him. If I am wildly undervaluing Ritchie's contributions, then perhaps Michael Del Zotto would find his way into this trade somehow. I'm sure he wouldn't mind playing with his old pal Tyler Seguin for a while. 

But unless the Stars are going to carry Lehtonen and Niemi through the duration of both of their contracts, they're going to have to give away an asset for the right to drop one of them from the books. Ritchie could wind up being that asset, though again let me stress that I don't know anything about anything. 

But if we're connecting the dots, which is really the most important thing when it comes to trade rumors, we have an interesting web. Mason reuniting with his old goalie coach, Del Zotto finally linking up with Seguin, and the Stars trading away a solid young player to dump one of their two overpaid goalies seems like it might all combine to make sense. Philly would get better in the short-term (and maybe the long-term too), and Dallas would also improve, especially if MDZ was thrown into the mix. I'm rambling now. This is never going to happen. 

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