Let me start by saying, that the article below is based on opinion and speculation, not on some random rumor I've heard by talking to a GM's mistress or third cousin in a shared cab or at a pub.
The idea comes from two sources. First, I was listening to the Illegal Curve radio show from this weekend. One of the on-air hosts (I believe it was Richard Pollock) mentioned that Regehr may be the Flames best trade piece for a "rebuild" behind Iginla.
Second, we've actually discussed this topic here on M&G back in the summer. I wrote about potentially trading Regehr as a method for the Flames to get under the cap.
Now before everyone gets their guard up and says Regehr is indispensable, let's take stock of the Flames season so far. The Flames are 14th in the Western Conference and have to compete with teams like LA and San Jose who are also trying to make the leap into a playoff spot.
According to this article in the Toronto Star, 77.5% of teams in a playoff spot by American Thanksgiving make the playoffs. This encompasses every season since 1993 so it's at least taken over a fairly long timeframe.
While the Flames could still make the playoffs, let's be realistic and say that it's unlikely. And unfortunately, they currently have more cap space committed to next season than any other team in the NHL. It's time to start thinking about improving the team for the long term, not for a playoff push. If that's the case, it may be time to move some established veterans for valuable, young, cost-efficient assets.
More after the jump.......
The guys on Illegal Curve specifically mentioned sending Regehr to Washington in return for someone like Eric Fehr. That could have been a potential deal in reality, and one that would benefit both clubs. However, with the Capitals recent acquisition of Scott Hannan for Tomas Fleischmann that opportunity is probably dead.
Potential Trade Partners
Most importantly, this can't be a panic trade like the Jokinen deal last year. Regehr is still a serviceable player and whatever the Flames get in return can't be a long-term handicap for the club. The return needs to be high draft picks or solid NHL-ready prospects.
Back in the summer, the three potential trade partners I recommended for Regehr were Washington, San Jose and LA. At this point, Washington has already satisfied their need and will be unlikely to move another NHL-caliber forward. However, if they could be persuaded to give up a prospect like Evgeny Kuznetsov, then maybe it could work.
LA may or may not want to add a defenseman. They have obviously been discussed at length as a viable trade partner to move Iginla and that could always be a second move to jump start a rebuild, as much as sentimentally I would hate to see it happen.
I still believe that San Jose would be a good destination for Regehr. They are talented enough on the front end to make a playoff push and could use a good shutdown guy like Reggie. Given how tight the Sharks are to the cap though, they wouldn't be able to absorb a contract like Regehr's. If the Sharks were willing to part with Logan Couture, the Flames could also take on Niclas Wallin to make the cap hit work. Wallin will be a UFA this summer, giving the Flames some cap flexibility beyond this season.
The primary benefit for the Flames is a prospect like Couture and the cap relief in the summer. For the Sharks, a top defensive pairing of Dan Boyle and Robyn Regehr would be compelling and gives some relief for players like Vlasic to play second-pairing competition.
Another viable trade partner for the Flames might be the Montreal Canadiens. With the injury to Andrei Markov, they should be looking for a top-4 defenseman if they're serious about making another deep playoff run.
The difficulty in making a deal with Montreal would be cap space again. With only $1m in cap room, the Canadiens would have to give up some salary. Obviously the Flames shouldn't be in position to take on a dead contract value and don't want to tie their hands for the future. One potential asset I see that fits this mold is Andrei Kostitsyn. His cap hit is $3.25m this season and he's an RFA at the end of the year. Kostitsyn is a solid possession player (8.15 Corsi per 60) and does it playing top 6 competition.
Another return from the Canadiens that would fit the bill is Lars Eller but the Canadiens are unlikely to part with him given that he was the key prospect in the deal that sent Halak to the Blues.
Lastly, one last option for the Flames is to find a team with a lot of cap space and give up Regehr for a package of draft picks or possibly just as incentive for that team to also take on a cap-killer contract like Ales Kotalik.
Regehr's Real Value
One reason that it might be time to trade Regehr is that his perceived value may be higher than his actual value at this point. Reggie has built a reputation around the league as a physically tough, shutdown defenseman. For years he lived up to this reputation.
Recently, however, his value seems to be slipping. From a GVT standpoint, Regehr's Def GVT has been steady since 2002-03. He has scored as low as 4.8 and as high as 7.8, which is consistently a win above average despite playing top competition. Where he has slipped however is on the offensive end. His Off GVT has slipped from being slightly positive in years past to -2.6 in 08-09 and -1.3 in 09-10. It appears that this slip is driven by the fact that he isn't the same possession player he once was.
This season marks the first time in the last 4 seasons that Regehr has been a negative possession player (-6.24 Corsi per 60). He is facing the toughest competition of all Flames defensemen, but he has been in that role for years. And while he has been matched up against the other team's best, he still is starting more shifts in the offensive zone than in his own end (53.0% Zone Start).
Obviously the downside to trading Regehr is giving up a defenseman who is currently working well on the top pairing with Jay Bouwmeester. And frankly, they are a great stylistic fit for each other, with no other d-man on the Flames capable of providing the same physical presence that Reggie does, except possibly Corey Sarich.
In the end, savvy GMs move players on their downside for players on their upside. They ensure they have cap flexibility in the future while providing a reasonably competitive team in the short term. If the Flames don't show the ability to surge up the standings soon, it may be time to start looking out to next season and the ones beyond that.