I know there’s going to be quite a few people hurrying into this article and saying “What the f*** are you thinking by trading Rasmus Andersson???”. Let me make my case first, and also point out that this is a purely speculative piece to generate discussion.
The Calgary Flames have a stacked defensive prospect pool, and the player that’s currently leading the way is Rasmus Andersson. Andersson had a strong sophomore season in Stockton and looks very ready to make the jump to the NHL next year.
Behind Andersson on the prospect depth chart in no particular order, you have Juuso Valimaki, Adam Fox, and Oliver Kylington. In Calgary you have an elite pairing in Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton, Brett Kulak, and Travis Hamonic. They also have Mike Stone for time being but I would be surprised if he wasn’t moved this summer.
Then there is T.J. Brodie, who had a very tough season and seemed like a sure-fire candidate to be on the outs in Calgary. At least until the Bill Peters press conference where he not only praised Brodie, but also mentioned that Brodie played his best on the right side. This could allude that the Flames may not only consider keeping Brodie, but might look at playing him on the right side in 2018-19.
Obviously that could just be Peters somewhat following the script that most arriving coaches follow, but what if there’s some serious consideration going on there? Adding Brodie to the mix of Hamilton, Hamonic, Stone, and Andersson would further fill up a very busy right side. It would mean at least one of them would be playing on their off wing next season if at least 1-2 changes aren’t made.
Those changes likely won’t involve Dougie Hamilton or last year’s prized offseason acquisition in Hamonic, which means there is potential for a few changes elsewhere.
Let me present to you another alternative, albeit one that has its risks but could also have massive rewards. Let me also say that I think Rasmus Andersson is a fantastic prospect and I’m not advocating trading him anywhere for anyone, I think this particular prospect could fill a massive hole in the Flames lineup.
Daniel Sprong (RW)
Sprong just finished his rookie season in the AHL where he tallied a whopping 32 goals and 33 assists for 65 points in 65 games, and was named to the AHL All-Star Game, and the AHL All-Rookie Team this year. I don’t care what pro league you’re in, 1.00 points per game is really good in your first year. His 65 points was 5th highest in the AHL, and his points per game of 1.00 was 6th highest of all players with at least 45 games played.
The most recent AHL rookie to exceed a point per game in 45+ games was Mikko Rantanen of the Avalanche who had 84 points this season for Colorado in his second year in the NHL. I know some people have thought Kasperi Kapanen would be an interesting target, but even his rookie numbers are dwarfed by Sprong.
Sprong also skated in eight NHL games this year with Pittsburgh, tallying three points along with two goals in 18 games back in 2015-16.
He’s 21 years old, a right handed shooting right winger, and has top six potential as early as next season. That checks off a lot of boxes for the Calgary Flames.
If you look at the tweet below, you can see that Sprong is one top prospects in the AHL by PNHLe*, coming in 6th while Andersson isn’t far behind at 14th.
*NHL Rank King on PNHLe: a player’s point production at their age, in a specific league, compared to previous NHL players’ rates.
Now that the AHL wrapped up their season last weekend, and the playoffs have begun, here are the top 25 PNHLe players from the regular season:— NHL Rank King (@NHLRankKing) April 21, 2018
It's almost amazing that Chytil is only a week away from being draft eligible in this year's draft! #NYRangers pic.twitter.com/fPUAN2dVx1
Is there a fit?
As I already said, the Flames do have a stacked defensive core, both at their NHL level and in the prospect system. At some point it may make sense to deal from a position of strength to address a position of weakness which is the right wing position with the Flames.
Pittsburgh meanwhile has a stacked forward core but their overall prospect pool isn’t great, ranked 30th back in September by The Hockey Writers. Such is the price of winning multiple Stanley Cups and being a modern day dynasty (I’m sure they aren’t complaining).
Their defensive cupboard is looking particularly barren, so an NHL-ready young dman like Andersson may be exactly what they want.
At the NHL level the Penguins stacked forward core has been a big reason why they’ve won their last two Cups. Even if Sprong makes it in the NHL next year, he may find himself pushed down the lineup due to the caliber of players already there. In talking with the Penguins site, they noted that he doesn’t seem to be a favourite of Mike Sullivan, which means he could be available.
With the Flames, Sprong would likely slot right into that top line spot with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan with the right side being as open as it is. Calgary would potentially have a long term solution to their top line wing spot, and create one of the best young lines for the foreseeable future in the NHL.
Perhaps trading Andersson would also act as incentive for Adam Fox to sign in Calgary next offseason by freeing up a spot on the depth chart.
Andersson would also be a good option for the cap-strapped Penguins as he’ll be on his ELC for the next two seasons which could provide them some savings elsewhere by not spending even $1-2M on a bottom pairing defenceman.
Sprong is an RFA after this season but likely won’t cost anymore than a typically RFA deal for an AHLer, which means Calgary could save both money and term that they may have considered giving to a big-name UFA to fill the same position. He is however waiver eligible next season.
If there was ever a time where two teams would both deal big name prospects and both attempt to fix a weakness by dealing from a position of strength, this would be it. It also doesn’t hurt that both teams play in different conferences so the deal likely wouldn’t haunt either of them on the ice.
Whether or not either side would add more or if it would be a one-for-one deal remains to be seen as I’m unsure of their trade values and how they compare. When I compare everything and the overall value of a top D prospect versus a top wing prospect, perhaps the Penguins add a pick, but they don’t seem too different.
Both teams would get a highly touted prospect in their position of need, and both players could be NHL ready as early as next season. It just seems like a great match.
Again the whole notion of this piece was alleviating some of the potential overloading on the right side. Assuming Stone is dealt and if the Flames also trade Brodie or keep him on the left side, then there should be an opening for Andersson. If a spot does open up for Andersson in Calgary, I’d prefer the Flames keep him and all-in-all I don’t really WANT the Flames to trade him, but this article explores a possibility where it might make more sense to trade him.
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Would you trade Rasmus Andersson for Daniel Sprong?
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