RFA and UFA Roundup

Pat Steinberg
June 16 2011 05:43PM

Before we start profilining the larger name pending free agents on the Calgary Flames, it's important to go through the rest of the organization to look at players that will be in search of new contracts come July 1st.  Seven potential unrestricted free agents still remain on the main roster along with one restricted free agent, but here we'll profile the ten pending free agent players further down the depth chart.

The team will have to be somewhat judicious about who they decide to bring back, as they flirted with the limit of 50 contracts far too often this past season.

Restricted Free Agents

Leland Irving, Goaltender

This one seems like a no brainer for the organization after Irving took a large step in his professional career, appearing in 61 games with the Abbotsford Heat.  Irving's 2009-10 season was a trying one, where he struggled for consistency with the Heat and had to spend time in the ECHL as well, as neither he nor Matt Keetley stepped up as a true number one.  This season was a much different story, as Irving spent his entire season in Abbotsford and was among the league leaders in wins, finishing second.  The challenge for both Irving and Keetley was clear heading into this season: give the organization a reason to make you a part of their future in a big way.  Irving did that in a very impressive way, and in my eyes, deserves a real shot to compete for an NHL backup spot in the coming year.

Matt Pelech, Defence

The 2005 first round pick continues to be a very intriguing case study.  Pelech played in 59 games this past season after playing just 47 combined the past two seasons with different injury issues, putting up five points during that span.  The debate surrounding Pelech surrounds when to cut bait with a guy who has disappointed in his development.  He played tough minutes with Abbotsford this year, finishing -9 overall, but he's also been in the organization since 2005.  Watching him at training camp last year, Pelech showed nothing to say he was ready to take the next step; we'll see if the team gives him another opportunity to do that for training camp this year.

Gord Baldwin, Defence

I'd be very surprised if the Flames don't tender a qualifying offer to Baldwin, who has shown a lot of progression in his three AHL seasons.  Playing 75 games with the Heat this past season, the hulking defenceman has at the very least earned himself another training camp with the team, and another season in Abbotsford.  Outgoing Heat coach Jim Playfair identified him as one guy who has an NHL future, and even if it's not in an impact role, there's a lot of potential with Baldwin.  He stands 6'5 and goes 205 pounds, and Playfair's utilization of Baldwin changed this season, utilizing him in much more important roles.

Josh Meyers, Defence

Playing 49 games with the Heat this season, Meyers finished with 11 points and was relatively solid in his role.  The problem for Meyers surrounds what was said at the very top; the team needs to trim their pro contracts, and there might not be a natural spot for him.  Meyers isn't a Flames pick, taken in the seventh round by the Kings in 2005 and he'll be turning 26 in December.  At this point, he's getting to the "is what he is" stage of his career, and what he is may very well be a serviceable AHL defenceman.

Hugo Carpentier, Forward

Carpentier falls into the same category as Meyers, where it's tough to justify another contract for him.  Spending most of his time this past season with the ECHL's Utah Grizzlies, Carpentier has yet to play a full season in the AHL, and got into only nine games with the Heat this year.  It's tough to see how a guy who hasn't been able to crack the top level of minor league hockey on a regular basis after three seasons playing professionally can justify another contract.

John Armstrong, Forward

The Flames still have hopes for the 2006 third round pick, and at the very least, Armstrong was able to get in a full season this year, appearing in 78 games with the Heat.  He finished with 17 points, but goals and assists aren't really what the Flames are after when talking about this player.  Calgary likes Armstrong's two way play and skating ability, and because I know the organization still likes him quite a bit, I'd be surprised if he wasn't offered another contract.

Unrestricted Free Agents

Matt Keetley, Goaltender

After six years with the organization, I can't see how Keetley's affiliation with the Flames will continue any longer.  He was a somewhat promising prospect for a time, finishing a very successful Western Hockey League career with the Medicine Hat Tigers in 2007.  Keetley has never won more than ten games in an American Hockey League season, with 33 being his season high for appearance during the 2008-09 season.  With Leland Irving and Joni Ortio clearly ahead of him on the organizational chart, Keetley's pro career will probably have to continue elsewhere.

Kris Chucko, Forward

Another former first round pick for the Calgary Flames, another guy I'd be surprised if we saw affilliated with the team going forward.  Chucko went 24th overall in 2004 and has played six pro seasons since with only two NHL regular season games to show.  His last season was unfortunate, getting only two games under his belt before a severe concussion sidelined him for the season.  It's too bad, because it's basically a season lost for Chucko, and he doesn't deserve that.  However, he also hasn't panned out the way a first round pick should, and the Flames have probably poured enough resources into the 25 year old.

Ryan Stone, Forward

The Flames brought Stone in last summer and there was hope he might be able to compete for a bottom three forward role on the big club.  Unfortunately, a pretty serious knee injury sidelined him for a good chunk of the season.  When Stone was able to return to action, he got into 51 AHL games and performed fairly well, with 11 goals and 25 points.  I still think Ryan could find a spot on an NHL team, but the guy has had such a difficult time staying healthy over his career, he's a risky proposition at best.  I think there's a possibility the team offers him another contract, but it seems 50/50 at best.

Cam Cunning , Forward

Here's another guy with parts of six pro seasons under his belt, and while Chucko has two NHL games to his credit, Cunning is still looking to make his NHL debut.  The thing about Cam is that he might not be a terrible candidate for a two way contract, with the organization realizing he'll probably never be anything better than a replacement level player.  That's fine, and you need guys like that in the organization; he'll give you solid contributions at the AHL level and in a pinch can play three or four minutes on the big club.  I like Cunning as that player, but expecations shouldn't be much higher than that.  I wouldn't hate to see him get another contract, but then again, you couldn't really blame the Flames for cutting ties with a guy yet to play an NHL game after eight years in the organization.

Of this group of ten, only three of them are guys the Flames are expected to bring back with only a few more sitting on the bubble.  With players like Ryan Howse and Mitch Wahl expected to take up roles on the Heat next season, the AHL club will need to make a little space for players coming up through the system.  Cutting loose certain guys is something the team needs to do, even if two of them could be former first round picks.

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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 Kent Wilson
June 16 2011, 08:13PM
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I fully expect Feaster to start cutting ties with some of Sutter's failed experiments. Chucko and Pelech might be offered AHL contracts, but that's it. Time to move on I think.

As for Irving, I'm a lot less high on him than others. His win number was relatively impressive, but that's mainly because any goalie worth a damn in the AHL spent time in the NHL this season, winnowing down the number of guys who actually played enough to win 30+. That and Irving's .913 SV% would be "meh" at the NHL level, let alone the minors. He needs to stop pucks a lot more frequently in the AHL in order to be a legit candidate for the big club.

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#2 Emir
June 16 2011, 09:23PM
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I like this article because it shows where some of our guys are and how its time to just move on with the exception of the few. The part I find that is more telling is that draft picks are lotteries and not guarantees I hope somebody cites this article next time somebody says trade iggy and co for draft picks

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#3 Colin
June 16 2011, 10:39PM
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Players I would Offer a SPC to(part of the 50): Irving Pelech Baldwin Chucko

Players I would want to at the least keep on the Heat: Cunning

Keetley, Stone, Carpentier and Armstrong I can see all sending their walking papers or Minor league deals only. Time to get over Armstrong, never really saw the big deal at all. Stone was a fill in again, just like a lot of guys you can pick up as UFAs on July 1st for Min dollars. Keetley's done, Irving will split the season with Ortio this year, and Carpentier was barely good enough on the Utah Grizz never mind going to the Heat.

But are you guys saving Carter Banks for another post, or was he missed, because I'd rather sign him than ANY of these other guys, pretty sure he had the best PPG of any player on the heat last year and if he didn't get injured probably EASILY has the team lead in points as well.

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#4 Justin Azevedo
June 16 2011, 11:00PM
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Chucko just needs to stop playing hockey and get on with his life. Who knows what another concussion could do to the guy.

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#5 SmellOfVictory
June 16 2011, 11:10PM
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Colin wrote:

Players I would Offer a SPC to(part of the 50): Irving Pelech Baldwin Chucko

Players I would want to at the least keep on the Heat: Cunning

Keetley, Stone, Carpentier and Armstrong I can see all sending their walking papers or Minor league deals only. Time to get over Armstrong, never really saw the big deal at all. Stone was a fill in again, just like a lot of guys you can pick up as UFAs on July 1st for Min dollars. Keetley's done, Irving will split the season with Ortio this year, and Carpentier was barely good enough on the Utah Grizz never mind going to the Heat.

But are you guys saving Carter Banks for another post, or was he missed, because I'd rather sign him than ANY of these other guys, pretty sure he had the best PPG of any player on the heat last year and if he didn't get injured probably EASILY has the team lead in points as well.

Disagree on Chucko and Pelech. Chucko isn't even replacement level last I saw, and Pelech is iffy as well.

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#6 Colin
June 16 2011, 11:45PM
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SmellOfVictory wrote:

Disagree on Chucko and Pelech. Chucko isn't even replacement level last I saw, and Pelech is iffy as well.

I think each one gets one last season to show the new management something before they would be cut lose is how I see it. Pelech I think still has something to show. Chucko I'm on the edge about, but to just throw him under the bus because of injury just doesn't sit well with me, give him his last chance under feaster and if shows nothing for the new boss, Feaster first draftees should be moving up to the AHL to take his spot.

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#7 Nolan Moore
June 17 2011, 01:06AM
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I don't think he will cut on some of these past Sutter picks. I think he feels obligated to keep them. As for Irving, one decent season, thats all i have to say about that. Remember, I've been hearing that Karlsson isn't a guarantee to return. Unfortunately, Feaster has said he's not a hockey guy, he proved it in Tampa and he has no "Hockey guys" around him. Just dont think this organization is going anywhere for 2 years when Jim Nill will be available.

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#8 Kent Wilson
June 17 2011, 01:14AM
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@Colin

Kris Chucko was a draft pick in 2004. He turned 25 in March has been a pro for five years. Despite all that, he hasn't come close to making the NHL. His severe concussion from last year is just one good reason amongst many not too bother with him anymore.

If he hadn't been a first round draft pick, I'm guessing he would have been cut loose a few years ago and no one would remember his name.

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#9 Kent Wilson
June 17 2011, 01:17AM
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@Colin

I'm guessing Pat skipped Bancks because he was never actually signed by the Flames to an NHL deal. He was on an AHL only contract last season. As was Jon Rheault.

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#10 FireOnIce
June 17 2011, 02:02AM
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On a side note, what's the deal with Ryan Howse, Max Reinhart, and Roman Horak? Are they actually signed to deals with the Flames yet, or still just draft picks (at least the first two)?

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#11 Colin
June 17 2011, 08:25AM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

I'm guessing Pat skipped Bancks because he was never actually signed by the Flames to an NHL deal. He was on an AHL only contract last season. As was Jon Rheault.

Jon Rheault is a lifer in the AHL as far as I'm concerned, he showed some flash at the end of his first season there which got him some time in the pre-season, but this season didn't show a whole lot.

I'm still big on Bancks and really hope they offer him at the least another minor league or a two way deal. From everything I've about him and heard about him, he plays that Prust/Glenncross/Jackman kinda game and is a really mature guy out of the whl. May never be a first line talent, but I think given another year or two could put up Jackman type numbers on the fourth line.

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#12 Colin
June 17 2011, 08:27AM
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FireOnIce wrote:

On a side note, what's the deal with Ryan Howse, Max Reinhart, and Roman Horak? Are they actually signed to deals with the Flames yet, or still just draft picks (at least the first two)?

http://capgeek.com/charts.php?Team=9

Cap Geek is your friend, under the team chart they keep a list of all the current minor league deals on the team as well.

Howse and Horak are both signed and I expect both will probably be playing in the AHL this season replacing a bunch of guys that can be dumped.

Reinhart will probably be signed before the season starts or sometime this season, there is no way this team lets him go back in the draft or become an UFA.

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#13 everton fc
June 17 2011, 09:59AM
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Of the group highlighted in the article above:

Re-sign: Irving Baldwin Armstrong Cunning

Move down the road: Pelech Carpentier Keetley Chucko Stone(because of the knee)

Bubble: Meyers

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#14 the-wolf
June 17 2011, 10:06AM
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Emir wrote:

I like this article because it shows where some of our guys are and how its time to just move on with the exception of the few. The part I find that is more telling is that draft picks are lotteries and not guarantees I hope somebody cites this article next time somebody says trade iggy and co for draft picks

Another example of confusing a sound strategy with a poor scouting staff/GM.

How about address the problem of fixing the scouting rather than just throwing one's hands up in the air and saying the draft is a crap shoot. That's what the loser teams say while the winning teams are time and again built through the draft.

Besides, the more picks you have the more it mitigates your point. Based on your logic we just go and trade all of our picks. I mean if it's such a crap shoot, why keep the #13 when you can trade it for a serviceable asset?

On another note: please don't bring Chucko back. He's had more than his share of chances and is nowhere close to being an NHL-er. That honor went to his former linemate Zajac who Sutter decided not to take. Ditto for Palech.

Baldwin I like. The rest are fine on AHL contracts.

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#15 Dano0049
June 17 2011, 01:11PM
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Re-sign to AHL or two-way deals:

Leland Irving can't give up on him at this point. Matt Pelech keep him for injury replacement, as long as he isn't injured I guess...

Gord Baldwin, is better than Pelech at this point.

John Armstrong, the organization seems to really like him.

Kris Chucko, need to see if the concussion fixed his head or made it worse, if the latter than he's gone after his 1 year deal is up. That sounds mean but wasn't meant to be. I have had two concussions and they are horrible so I feel for the guy.

Let go: Josh Meyers, Hugo Carpentier, Ryan Stone, Cam Cunning

Sign and send to ECHL: Matt Keetley would like to keep him in the system a little longer. Hopefully Ortio and Irving end up working just fine but if for some reason one of them falters he is a good third option. Plus we don't really have another third option.

There you go, 4 stay and 4 go.

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#16 Domebeers.com
June 17 2011, 03:06PM
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Hugo Carpentier has the best name on the team. Everything must be done to keep this man.

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#17 PrairieStew
June 17 2011, 06:15PM
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Irving stays - and he might get one more year to prove himself at the AHL level once they resign Karlsson.

Pelech and Baldwin on defence and I only keep Armstrong among the forwards of that group. With Howse and Horak coming in this year and likely Reinhart, Holland and Arnold next year, the forward prospects are due for a turnover.

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#18 RossCreekNation
June 17 2011, 06:25PM
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Re-sign Irving.

The End.

Get some breathing room from 50 contracts. Its not like their won't be players looking to in August that could be better options than any of these guys.

Cut Bait, Bring in the New Blood

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#19 RossCreekNation
June 17 2011, 06:32PM
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Feaster needs to get a 7 rounder back for his scouts... see ya, Pelech.

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