The Calgary Flames haven't had the season that Jay Feaster was hoping for. Feaster made it very clear that he wants this team to make the playoffs, and has been one of the most active general managers through the first half of the season in trying to make that happen. He added a struggling Blake Comeau with a waiver claim in November, a move that didn't cost anything but money with no long-term negative consequences likely because Comeau's contract is up at the end of the year. A few days ago, he traded defender Brendan Mikkelson for Blair Jones, a big 25-year-old winger who's been able to score in the AHL - he had 55 points in 56 games last season - but hasn't been able to translate that success to the NHL. That experiment is in its infancy - and Jones is getting an amazing opportunity, playing almost 17 minutes per night - but safe to say that it was another low-risk move with the potential for big payoff since, like Comeau, Jones is a restricted free agent after the season. His decision to acquire Mike Cammalleri doesn't exactly follow that same pattern.
With Cammalleri spouting off the other day ("We prepare our games like losers. We play like losers. So it's no wonder why we lose."), it was pretty clear that he was on his way out of Montreal, but with a $6M cap hit for this year and each of the next two seasons, moving him might have been easier said than done, especially since Cammalleri hasn't put up exceptional offense during the regular season since coming to Montreal. Given that situation, it didn't seem like the Flames would need to give up a whole lot in order to make the deal work.
And they didn't. The Flames moved a 2nd round pick in 2013, prospect Patrick Holland, and Rene Bourque out, and received a 5th round pick in 2012, goaltender Karri Ramo, and of course, Mike Cammalleri. There are several reasons that I like the deal, and the greatness of Mike Cammalleri is well down the list.
Starting with the big names, I don't think that there's a huge difference between Cammalleri and Bourque today. Neither guy has been a positive driver in the possession metrics over the last season and a half, but both have been seeing decent competition in top nine minutes at even strength, and significant time on the power play, which has helped them to amass some points. The question for me is which guy is a better bet going forward, and I'd be betting on Cammalleri for sure. He has a longer track record of success, his peak years are much better, and even though he makes a bit more now (his $6M cap hit compares to just $3.33M for Bourque), Cammalleri's contract contains less risk because it expires at the end of the 2013-14 season, shortly before his 32nd birthday; Bourque's doesn't expire until after the 2015-16 season, at which point he'll already be 34.
As for the extras, I think the Flames do better here too. The difference between a mid-second rounder and a fifth-rounder is significant, but (a) both picks are still very unlikely to become top players (about 15% for the 2nd and 4% for the 5th), and (b) the Flames get to make their pick one year sooner, which helps to bridge that gap even more. And what little difference there is there is more than made up for in the swap of young players. Granted, Patrick Holland is having a good season in the WHL, but he's also 20. You never know, of course, but I'd be pretty surprised to see him make it to the NHL. Karri Ramo, on the other hand, could be a significant help to the Flames in the long-term.
Ramo has played in the NHL before, and while he wasn't particularly successful (his career save percentage is .895), he was also in his early twenties. Since then, Ramo has gone to the KHL, where he's been excellent in each of the last two seasons. In 2010-11, Ramo had the fifth best save percentage in the league at .925, which was well ahead of backup Alexei Kuznetsov's .911. In 2011-12, Ramo has been even better with a save percentage of .932, which is once again among the league leaders. I've been very underwhelmed by Henrik Karlsson, and would have to think that the Flames would be well-served to bury him in the minors for the last year of his deal to give Ramo a shot. If he plays well, he's an excellent long-term solution for the team's goaltending needs.
All in all, this is a much larger move than Feaster's two previous acquisitions, but like those, I think it's a move that makes good sense for the Flames.