UFA Profiles - Eric Nystrom

Pat Steinberg
June 17 2010 09:10AM

UNIONDALE, NY - MARCH 25: Forward Eric Nystrom #23 of the Calgary Flames concentrates on the puck during a face off against the New York Islanders during an NHL game at the Nassau Coliseum on March 25, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

It's come up in both our previous articles on pending Calgary Flames UFA players (done so far: Craig Conroy and Chris Higgins), so I figure he's probably the next logical guy to profile. For the first time in his career, Flames first rounder Eric Nystrom enters free agency, and his return to Calgary is not necessarily guaranteed.

Selected 10th overall in 2002, Nystrom comes off his second full NHL season, posting career highs in goals (11), points (19) and games played (82). So now what? Vikki Hall's article in Wednesday's Calgary Herald seemed to suggest the two sides still had some ground to make up to meet in the middle. Sutter's quote was "I like Eric Nystrom, but fourth-line players on the first of August are $600,000 players. You have to prioritize. If you can get a star by spending that extra $300,000 to $400,000, that's what you do."

Nystrom counted $688,000 against the cap last season with a salary of $750,000 and will turn 28 in Feburary of next year, so I'm not sure necessarily what the logical salary jump is for him. He averaged just over 13 minutes of ice time last season, up over four minutes from his 76 game season in 2008-2009. He played the bulk of his time this past year on the fourth line, finishing the season with Brett Sutter and Jamal Mayers. So, let's analyze whether or not he's ready for increased responsibility on a hypothetical new contract.

The numbers that pop up right away are the career points...39 in about two-and-a-half seasons of NHL work, but obviously his role has increased steadily during that time. But some of the even strength numbers may or may not paint a different picture. Going through Kent's scoring chance numbers from the past season, he was one player severely outchanced 5-on-5, with close to 200 chances against to around 150 for while he was on the ice. That seems to be in line with his -3.89 rating when counting shots towards the net for and against, which was lowest among full-season Flames, and one of only three in the sub-zero range (Jamal Mayers and Jay Bouwmeester being the others).

To balance those numbers, his goals against per 60 was third lowest on the team at 1.95, and he did start from the defensive zone over 51% of the time, so not every number is slanted towards the negative. However, I do think part of the low goals against figure comes down to who he was playing against. Playing largely fourth line minutes, Nystrom wasn't out against top flight competition, which could explain a lack of finish. Fact of the matter is, for me anyway, he's a guy who can be outplayed by middle of the road players. I don't know if there's enough evidence that shows he's ready to play anything more than those type of minutes.

You might think I'm not a fan of Nystrom. It's actually the opposite. I think he has value on any team, particularly this one. When the Head Coach goes out of his way to pinpoint a "casual atmosphere" with his team, it means there is some sort of issue. From what I've heard, Nystrom was one of the guys who probably wouldn't be counted in that. He's a character guy who can play a physical brand of hockey.

I also appreciate that he was one of the few guys that made a concerted effort to take the puck to the front of the net, especially after the Olympic break, where he scored six of his 11 goals. A groin injury suffered on Halloween at home to Detroit set him back for a good three month span. He felt he was starting to come into his own on the team before suffering the injury, and didn't feel fully healed until after the two week February break.

To me, more than any other player, this decision comes down to money. If the Nystrom camp is looking for $3 million over two years, which I've heard rumoured (obviously just rumours), then I don't think I'd do the deal. However, if the Flames and Nystrom can come to an agreement in the $800 thousand to $1 million range, it's not a bad fit. Calgary is the only team Nystrom has known, and maybe he is able to progress the way he felt he was before the injury last season. I think some of his qualities are worth bringing back, but in his brief NHL tenure, I don't think it's in Calgary's best interest to agree to a significant raise.

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Pat Steinberg can be heard daily on the Fan960 in Calgary at can be read at the FAN 960. Born and raised in Calgary, Steinberg considers himself a huge fan of all sports including the CFL, MMA and 13 round bare knuckle boxing matches. Follow Steinberg on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Fan960Steinberg.
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#1 kermitology
June 17 2010, 09:28AM
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Nystrom is as good as gone. He'll be looking for at least $1.3MM and there is someone out there who will pay him that much. I love Nystrom in Calgary, but that's too rich given the lineup that the Flames have to deal with.

But Sutter is being a little unfair in his talent assessment of Nystrom. He's typecasting him as a 4th line bit part to the machine, and that's clearly not what he is. The groin injury likely put Nystrom in a position where he wasn't able to truly show what he was capable of, which is unfortunate.

My personal opinion is that he is capable of being a 3rd line player who plays important minutes and chips in 10-15 goals. Given his "intangibles" he's easily worth 1.4 Million.

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#2 Kent Wilson
June 17 2010, 10:35AM
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The Flames are awash in 3rd liners. Who does Nystrom usurp if you retain him for a million plus? Dawes? Glencross? Hagman?

The team can't afford to keep him given their roster and budget restraints unless he gets paid like a 4th liner. Because that's what he is on this club.

My guess is he goes to NYI where he grew up and where he'll have a chance to bump someone else down the line-up.

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#3 R O
June 17 2010, 11:08AM
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But Sutter is being a little unfair in his talent assessment of Nystrom. He's typecasting him as a 4th line bit part to the machine, and that's clearly not what he is. The groin injury likely put Nystrom in a position where he wasn't able to truly show what he was capable of, which is unfortunate.

Nystrom has shown exactly what he is capable of over 2 seasons as a Flame. Which is not much. He doesn't get owned on the fourth line but that's it.

But hey, who knows, we were wrong about a guy like Primeau. He was such a damn useful player and the team absolutely missed him when he wasn't around to collect his $1.4MM paycheck to do whatever it is he did for the Flames.

Intangibles! Starry eyes!

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#4 Domebeers.com
June 17 2010, 11:11AM
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Listen people:

Nystrom is young, so he can relate to the players of today, has NHL experience, current NHL experience, not from 40 years ago, is good with the media, is connected into the old boys club through his father...

I think we found the mythical Assistant GM! ...

Kent...the Hagman line got me laughing. This team is loaded eh, when we can put a scoring talent like Hagman on our 3rd.

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#5 Graham
June 17 2010, 12:54PM
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The Flames drafted Nystrom 10th overall, and if memory serves well ahead of his projected position. The following four picks were; Keith Ballard, Steve Eminger, Alexander Semin and Chris Higgins....

Eight years later, even the GM labels him a fourth line player. While this may be partly a negotiating ploy, fourth line player isn't that far off. Nystrom has the occasional great game, but to date, I would rate both Glencross and Moss ahead of him. Unless you are willing to move either Glencross or Moss, we simply can not afford to pay him third line money. Higgins is also an UFA, and I would resign him before Nystrom - Higgins has second line potential.

At least Nystrom is playing in the NHL, but here we are again, wasting a 10th overall pick on a plugger. (Well, its better than wasting 6th overall picks on Fata and Tkaczuk)

I'm not saying that Nystrom is a failure, just the pick...

If you have the cap room, resign him in the indicated $800,000 range, otherwise, let him go to NY, and hope he does not suddenly develop into the next great one.

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#6 Nolan
June 17 2010, 01:37PM
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Nystrom has those "intangibles" people talk about. Unfortunately I dont think he'll give the Flames anymore than a courtsey call. He's headed to the Island and one day he may be the Captain. Hmm Flames say they need leadership and within a year let 2 "leaders" go. Phaneuf kinda confirmed that in an interview with the Fan590 last week.

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#7 Aunt Agnes Fan
June 17 2010, 01:38PM
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@Graham

Nystrom was ranked 13th according to this: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/hockey/news/2002/04/25/final_rankings/

Him going at 10th is hardly an outrage.

If you're looking to get upset at Sutter's blindness why not decry Jarret Stoll (36th) or Duncan Keith (54th)? Or, even better: Matt Stajan (57th, but ranked 18th) or Ian White (191st)?

No offence, but I just want to stick with good, credible reasons to hate Sutter. His inabilities as a psychic just aren't on that list for me.

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#8 Marcus
June 17 2010, 02:11PM
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Nice sentiments Pat. Pretty much sums it up. taking the puck to the net has benefited him and the team. I don't disagree with Daz's mentality of refusing to overpay for future potential. That's what oilers management does.

with or without him this team is already better than most Sutter detractors think. I'm more of a Dion and Ollie detractor because they deserve all the hate being spewed at management.

Where do haters go when they feel they have a cause? Any forum or blog they can spit on. It's relentless!

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#9 Graham
June 17 2010, 03:10PM
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@Aunt Agnes Fan

I'm geting old (and forgetful) - I remembered Nystrom being ranked lower than 13th.

While the jury is out on the last two or three years of drafting (simply to soon to tell), the Flames record at the draft is pretty poor, maybe a psychic would help!

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#12 dustin642
June 17 2010, 05:59PM
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Great work as usual Flamesnation. Everyone has already brought up all the real good important points, so I will just say I would rather have Higgins than Nystrom and I would rather have Nystrom than Moss.

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#13 R O
June 17 2010, 06:07PM
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I would rather have Higgins than Nystrom and I would rather have Nystrom than Moss.

Higgins and Moss in the same realm of conversation as Nystrom?

Do you watch this team play games?

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#14 marcus
June 17 2010, 06:22PM
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dustin642 wrote:

Great work as usual Flamesnation. Everyone has already brought up all the real good important points, so I will just say I would rather have Higgins than Nystrom and I would rather have Nystrom than Moss.

Couldn't agree more plus Moss is as enlightening as a gnat in interviews. I want entertainment when I listen to soundbites and that's why we have jbouw.

Don't forget that Roger Millions most impressive.

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#15 Bob
June 17 2010, 06:35PM
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I agree that Nystrom may be on his way out. I like his style, grit and determination but as Sutter pointed out, we need scoring and we're not going to throw money at a 11 goal scorer. Funny that Sutter said that while he's the one just months ago that traded for $3 million Ales Kotalik...oh, well. He was desperate to trade Joker and Kotalik was part of the deal whether he (or us) liked it or not.

As Pat pointed out, the rumour is Eric wants around $1.5 Million a year. The word being tossed around is Darryl was told they were looking for a 2-3 year deal paying $1.2 to $1.5 a year (rumours only, remember).

I think that's just too much for someone who will likely play no higher than 3rd line...and as pointed out by others, we have a lot of other millionaires who are already slotted in for that line. The next 2 weeks will be interesting.

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#16 JF
June 17 2010, 10:29PM
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@Bob

Y'know, I halfway wonder if Sutter did the Jokinen/Kotalik trade just out of spite for Olli not ending up being the the coveted #1 Center that he talked about. I can't rationalize it any other way.

But yeah back to Nystrom... 2-3 year deal paying $1.2 to $1.5 a year... that would be third line money looking at Glencross and Moss as comparisons, I don't think Nystrom is as good as either of those guys in any non-"intangible" way. Term is fine, dollars aren't. I'd give him current dollars +5% to 10% (Call it inflation since the cap is going up roughly that amount). Really, if we want an able defensive forward with questionable hands and lot's of intangibles we can probably just get Ol'Man Conroy back for one more year at a discounted rate (Who even at 39-40 years old I'd rate as being more skilled then Nystrom).

Eric's a fan (and personal) favorite but at this point it's just business baby.

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#17 steve
June 17 2010, 10:34PM
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Aunt Agnes Fan wrote:

Nystrom was ranked 13th according to this: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/hockey/news/2002/04/25/final_rankings/

Him going at 10th is hardly an outrage.

If you're looking to get upset at Sutter's blindness why not decry Jarret Stoll (36th) or Duncan Keith (54th)? Or, even better: Matt Stajan (57th, but ranked 18th) or Ian White (191st)?

No offence, but I just want to stick with good, credible reasons to hate Sutter. His inabilities as a psychic just aren't on that list for me.

Sutter wasn't the GM back in 2002. He didnt draft Nystrom.

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#21 Graham
June 18 2010, 11:40AM
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As it stands now, our forward lines look something like...

Hagman - Stajan - Iggy Bourque - Langkow - Kotalik Glencross - Backlund - Moss Dawes - ? - ? 13th forward (?)

As much as I would like to resign Higgins and or Nystrom, with our current cap issues, arn't we realistically looking at 3 cheap entry level contracts to fill out the fourth line and the spare forward spot. (Conroy might qualify if he is willing to resign at the right price)

If you are looking at resigning Higgins, you push Glencross or Moss out of the lineup. Higgins at $2 million, increases your salaries by $600 - $700,000 vs Glencross / Moss. Thats a full entry level contract on a cap limited team.

If you resign Nystrom you are likely pushing Moss out, similar potential salaries. Moss did not have a great year, but this would be a tough move to make.

I'm thinking that both Higgins and Nystrom are likely gone, White is resigned with the money saved by moving Sarich(?), and any money saved to go towards the backup goalie, then fill in the holes with entry level contracts. (3 frwds, 1 dmen.

Then again, Sutter is likely to retool again!

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#22 Grant F
June 18 2010, 01:31PM
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Here's my thought: does it really matter?

In my view - the fortunes of the Flames do not rest on the shoulders of Eric Nystrom at all. He's the type of guy that can be valuable role player - but those guys are somewhat easy to find.

Don't get me wrong - I think he's a great character player - and I wouldn't mind having him back.

But ultimately I don't think he's a big factor in terms of what happens to the Flames.

I would defend the pick though - it's easy to cherry pick and name a couple guys drafted after him that are better - but that's a below average draft with more busts than usual in the 1st round.

At least the Flames found a player.

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#24 Graham
June 18 2010, 07:44PM
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Maybe our thinking is still old 'NHL'...

Take Nystrom, we draft the guy in the first round, he plays 2 1/2 seasons for the Flames, and becomes a UFA in July.... and we essentially can not afford to resign him.

In the old NHL you became attached to the player, because he was likely to have a long stay with the team. Maybe we should adjust our thinking and look at these guys as disposable pieces. Loose a piece over here, insert another piece over their - and all of a sudden we are inserting roles and positions and not really looking at the name on the back.

Nystrom, whether we call the pick a success or not, is not likely to resign with the team, and maybe it simply does not matter. We have several other pieces that can fill his role, so we loose this piece and find another one.

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#25 CitizenFlame
June 18 2010, 08:28PM
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I think Nystrom's role on the team can be filled by someone cheaper, maybe even Sutter, who looked like he had a good playoff run in Abbotsford. If not there are enough 4th liners in the NHL at or near league minimum. That being said I think that Nystrom might have hit 15 goals if he didn't have the groin injury last year.

If the Flames really wanted Nystrom couldn't they sign him to 3-4 years and back load the contract? Pay him $750,000 for years 1 & 2, then say 1.5 for year 3 for an average cap hit of $1 million. Year 3 would be after some of the teams dead weight contracts have expired i.e. Kotalik, Staios. Just a thought. If we're paying $3 million for Kotalik's potential 20 goals, $1 million for 12-15 goals seems market value.

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#26 RossCreekNation
June 18 2010, 09:30PM
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I know the numbers may not back up the re-signing of Nystrom, but I'm willing to believe that the real Eric Nystrom is the player that played the last 1/4 of the season... when he was healthy; the same player that was surprisingly one of Calgary's better player's in the previous year's playoffs.

Lot's here claim he's 'just a 4th liner'. I say he's capable as a 3rd liner. I love the character & intangibles he brings. I like Curtis Glencross, but prior to signing in Calgary, he was a borderline NHLer with 4th line written all over him. I think Nystron pulls a Glencross and becomes a legitimate 3rd liner after moving on. I'd like to have both those players on my team.

But if I could re-sign an impending UFA (thus retaining an asset) and then move a signed player of similar stature/salary/role/etc for an additional asset, I do it.

Personally, I'd like to see Moss moved.

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#27 RossCreekNation
June 18 2010, 09:44PM
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To take it a step further... I have the same feelings RE: Higgins.

Re-sign the 2 buddies (Higgins & Nystrom) for 3rd line duty, thus enabling you to move other excess 3rd liners to fill other holes (ie: Moss & Glencross - who I think could both hold some decent trade value out there as far as 3rd liners go). Aside from not really liking Moss, I'd have the same feelings if the roles were reversed (I'd re-sign Glencross & Moss and deal Higgins & Nystrom).

In saying this, I only do it if I feel it doesn't make the club worse (which I don't think it would) and because of the lack of prospects (and draft picks) currently within the organization. Oh... and I also like the Higgins/Nystrom friend connection in the dressing room. Without Nystrom, I doubt Higgins even gives Calgary a second thought.

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#28 Austin
June 19 2010, 01:46PM
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@RossCreekNation

This may be pushing it, but I actually think Nystrom (if he played the whole year like he did the last 1/4) could make 20 - 25 goals next year if put on the 2nd or 3rd line. But as we all know, with the Toronto trade, there's just too many 2nd and 3rd line forwards already there that we're paying more money.

I think let Higgins go. He's not really done anything the time we've had him.

And where was Moss this year? He really started to show some colors last year and this year, did he even hit 20 goals???

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#29 Nolan
June 20 2010, 01:49PM
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While i like Nystrom, i dont see him returning. In order to fill some holes the Flames have to give up something, unfortunately i see the only "asset" they would be willing to part to shed salary is Moss. It's not much but it may help. I truely think Darryl is too stubborn to admit any of his signings/trades where mistakes and would rather go down with the ship than, not re-sign White, put Staios in the AHL, ship Kotalik to Russia, etc. That being said, the 2010-11 Flames will look much like the 2009-10 Flames with some different pluggers in. My guess is, not my hope, that by next March management/ownership will realize this wasnt the right course. the only problem i see now is there isn't any proven GM caliber people available now. Stevie Y is gone, Nill is sealed up for 5 more years. Sometimes you have to strike when the iron is hot.

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#30 RossCreekNation
June 20 2010, 11:09PM
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@Nolan

Ron Hextall, Paul Fenton, David McNab, Ken Hitchcock, Les Jackson, John Davidson and *snicker* Mark Messier are some decent names still out there. Never really a shortage of good candidates.

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#31 Greg
June 21 2010, 06:19PM
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I think he's probably gone given what it sounds like he wants and can likely get on the free agent market, and how much Calgary can afford. To me, the biggest loss in that is that he was a draw to help retain Higgins. I think losing both leaves us with an even more "casual" atmosphere than before, and I hope we can keep at least one of them. I could watch those guys try all day.

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#32 Luc
June 21 2010, 06:43PM
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@rosscreek

id take hextall

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