The Flames made a serious of moves yesterday, which not only saved them cap space, but also has the potential to make them a much better team. The moves made yesterday were Matthew Phillips being recalled from the AHL, and Kevin Rooney being placed on waivers.
Why did the Flames make changes to their roster?
Flames fans have been asking for the team to recall Phillips for months. Even last year, when he had 68 points in 65 games. This year, Phillips is the leading goal and point scorer in the entire American Hockey League. Phillips has 15 goals and 30 points in 20 games (1.5 points per game played). For a Flames team that needs to add some skill and finishing ability to the lineup, Phillips checks a lot of boxes. It seemed like a no-brainer right? Well, it took some time, but it finally happened. And, Flames fans on social media are absolutely loving it.
I proposed this idea in late November for a couple reasons. First, as a means of making the team better, and second, saving them a bit of cap space in the process.
Assuming the Flames will send down Rooney if he goes unclaimed today, they will save $1.125M in cap space. Bringing up Phillips and his $750K contract gets added to the books. Exchanging Rooney for Phillips will save the Flames $375K in cap space, which will accrue every day. That is a decent chunk of change just exchanging the two. If Rooney is claimed by another team, his full cap hit of $1.3M for this year and next will go off the books. That would be pretty nice, if we’re being honest.
Rooney hasn’t fit in
Rooney hasn’t fit in with the Flames at all. His speed was a unique asset to add to the fourth line, but other than that, there hasn’t been anything. Rooney has one assist in seventeen games, which is well, less than ideal. For a guy that was signed in the early hours of day one of free agency, Rooney has not impressed.
Per NaturalStatTrick, Rooney has a 48.70 CF%, 49.79 xGF%, 45.12 SCF%, and a 48.76 HDCF%. When comparing to the rest of the Flames team Rooney sits third last in CF% and SCF%, 5th last in HDCF%, and seventh last in xGF%. Not the worst metrics on the team, but he’s close.
Moving over to Rooney’s 5v5 charts, courtesy of HockeyViz.com, the picture becomes pretty clear. The offensive zone becomes a black hole when Rooney is on the ice, compared to when he’s not. The team is getting excess shots from the right defensive position, but not in the middle of the ice. In the defensive zone, Rooney is not far off from the Flames standard, but the opposition is getting more shots from the middle of the ice, which we all know to be the most dangerous area on the ice.
The right moves were made
Matthew Phillips might not be the answer to all the Flames problems, or not even an answer at all. But, given he is the leading goal and point scorer in the AHL, it is certainly worth the risk. He’s more than earned a shot, and I’m glad the Flames are giving him one. The Flames are in need of some youth injection into the lineup. Adding someone with speed and finishing ability is also a plus. Given that Rooney hasn’t fit in with the team, having him claimed or sent down the AHL in favour of Phillips will help to save the team cap space. Given that Treliving is without an extension into next year, he will do whatever is in his power to make this the best team possible.
Giving Treliving the most cap space possible will give him the ability to make moves at the deadline. Will they be good moves like Timo Meier, or bad moves like Josh Anderson? That remains to be seen. But, the team gave themselves a little more flexibility today, and they made themselves better in the process. Even if Phillips isn’t the contributor he was in the AHL, he’s bound to produce more than Rooney’s one assist in seventeen games. Flames management made a lot of people happy yesterday.