On the Loose

Robert Cleave
June 27 2011 10:11PM

              

 

 

This afternoon was the deadline to qualify NHL RFAs, and a few names of note were advised by their teams that they would be set free. I'm going to look at three players in particular, with consideration given to their merits as players and whether it behooves the Flames to examine the possibility of signing them.

First, it seems fairly clear that at least a few of the gents let go today weren't offered QOs because they would have been eligible for arbitration. While a club can decline an arbitration award and render a player an UFA, going through that divisive process isn't for every team and every player. Still, if a team thinks a player is still in their plans, it's likely a wiser path to qualify a player, negotiate while you can, and go to arbitration if need be.

With that established, let's look at the best known of the players that got the heave-ho this afternoon:

 

Niclas Bergfors, Florida:

Bergfors was traded twice in just over a year before Dale Tallon chose not to qualify him on behalf of the Panthers. There's clearly something afoot, and the Panthers intimated to George Richards that they expected him to want too much money. One might think that a team that willingly took on Brian Campbell's unconscionable salary might not be quite so picky about who they paid, but here we are. At any rate, after a 21 goal campaign in 09/10, Bergfors' goal total fell off to 12 last season. Of course, shooting 1.9% in 20 games with Florida likely masks his true level of ability, which is a tweener second/third line forward.

I don't doubt he's a flawed product, but as Cam Charron covered quite thoroughly earlier today, this is a player that a) faced decent comp both in Atlanta and Florida last season, b) outshot it pretty handily, and c) wasn't gifted with particularly easy ZS numbers. He's not an elite player by any means, but he's not J.F. Jacques or Kris Chucko either, and given that he only made 900K last year, he should be the type of player that could be signed by a good team looking to add depth.

If anything, that shooting slump might depress his value, which does make me wonder why the Panthers didn't roll the dice in arbitration. Of course, we are talking about a GM that has had problems even getting those QOs out on time in the past, so maybe we shouldn't be surprised that he might have missed the boat on a nuance.

Bergfors might fit Calgary's payroll if they could get him for the 1.5-1.75M range or less. He's a right shooter, and the Flames do have Bourque, Iginla and Moss on that side, but Bourque is playing his off-wing, so they do have potential flexibility. There are certainly better players available, which means that he shouldn't be a high priority signing, but he's someone Calgary should at least think about as a plan B.

 

Anton Stralman, Columbus:

To be blunt, this is a player that shouldn't have been moved by Calgary. Darryl Sutter opted to keep the untalented Staffan Kronwall over Stralman in the fall of 2009, with Stralman subsequently being dealt to Columbus. He's become an acceptable third pairing defender at EV while also providing a decent right handed shot on the PP since his brief sojourn in Cowtown. Columbus signed him for last season at 1.95M, and the Swede's offensive numbers slid in an injury plagued year wher he shot 1.9% (there's that number again) in 51 games.

I'm not entirely sure why Columbus didn't qualify him, although a valid argument could be made that they simply didn't want to have him accept that offer and then be compelled to pay him another 1.95M this year. The progress of Grant Clitsome also might well have made Stralman surplus to requirements in Columbus' view.

In fairness to Scott Howson, his performance wasn't particularly overwhelming when one reviews his underlying numbers, with Stralman posting the same sort of decent performance against third liners as Chris Butler. His numbers at EV are certainly better than Anton Babchuk's, though, and Stralman had a ZS number of 52.8%, which isn't hard, but again, not in the ballpark with Babchuk's soft treatment.

With Butler, Carson and potentially Brodie on the roster this year, I think Calgary has likely filled enough spots in the bottom part of the defensive roster that they should give him a pass unless he's really, really cheap. If the Flames decide to spend 1.5-2.0M on another bottom pairing defenceman, I guess I'd say better him than Babchuk. Signing neither would probably be best of all at this point, though.

 

Tyler Kennedy, Pittsburgh:

The decision not to qualify Kennedy is an odd one on the surface. He made 725K last year, so his QO would have been around 800k, and the Pens would have retained his rights until an arbitration hearing at the least. Dave Molinari's piece suggests that the two sides are still talking, and if I were to guess, the Pens likely feared that any breakdown in negotiations would simply result in Kennedy filing for arbitration. He might have received a Clarke MacArthur-esque award at worst, and with the Pens pretty much capped already, that sort of salary for him would likely mean they'd have to walk away or unload another good player. 

The fear of a significant salary award is fairly rational in my view, because he'd certainly have a pretty healthy case for an arbiter to chew on. Kennedy had a career year in terms of scoring, with 21 goals, 14 coming at EV, and only shot 9%, so he wasn't the beneficiary of a pile of bounces. The Penguins saw players falling to injury in bunches all season, but through it all Kennedy was the one forward to be productive from start to finish, and given that he did it working largely with players like Matt Cooke and Mark Letestu, it's fair to say he wasn't coat-tail riding.

Beyond the boxcars, though, lies a player with the sort of ability to drive possession against middling competition that any team should covet if the price isn't outrageous. His 10/11 season showed him playing second line opposition with middling ZoneStarts, and kicking the absolute crap out of it. He's a player in the Glencross-Moss mold, someone adept at getting the rock moving in the right direction and keeping it there. Those players, in my view, have serious value. 

It's within the realm of possibility that Kennedy will command a paycheque in the 2.5-3M range if he doesn't take a haircut to stay in Pittsburgh, so the Flames might consider that a bit rich for a player exhibiting his past performance level, and at the very least they would have to be certain that they were going to dispense with Nik Hagman before even considering him. It should also be noted that Kennedy's another right shooter, although he and a resurgent Langkow might be just the players needed to shake Rene Bourque from his funk and create another solid line for Calgary. As an extra bonus, he can also play center, and Calgary will have openings at that very spot after this season.

Kennedy's almost certainly a better player than Bergfors, and to be honest he's probably a better player than a significant number of more famous gents that will be inked this weekend. Again, any team would need to be cautious in not over-paying a player who's ceiling is a second/third liner, but I'd say this much; it's a near-certainty that he'd be highly effective aginst middling comp, and that's a commodity that's rarer than one might think.

I don't doubt that Calgary should be looking for a player that's a natural left winger with top-six pedigree along the lines of Brooks Laich or Simon Gagne, but those players might not be available or interested. Tyler Kennedy isn't a super star, but he is an adept NHL forward at age 24, which isn't something to look down your nose at. I wouldn't say sign him at any cost, but he's a useful young player, and my perusal of their lineup leads me to believe that the Flames could use one or five of those sorts. If he was available for a number that Calgary could manage, he'd make the club better, and I'm fairly sure that's what this exercise is supposed to be all about.

 

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Robert Cleave is a perpetually grumpy Winnipegger.
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#1 Colin
June 27 2011, 10:41PM
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I'm fine with signing anyone of the three, it'd be interesting to see how Stralman would fit in, do you move one of the recently traded for Butler, recently signed Carson, or let both Pardy and Babchuk walk while letting Brodie stay in the AHL for another year of development and let Stralman work the 3rd pairing and play a better but similar role like Babchuk last year.

I would REALLY like Bergfors to be signed, I believe he could be the cheapest to be had and when there are injuries could be a very effective replacement player in a number of roles.

TK is interesting, the Pens have till Friday to sign him or lose him now, had they QO him they could of atleast had some compensation if they traded him to nother team or something else. And I would rather have the time to go and negotiate a new contract rather than have to compete with 29 other teams on July 1st cause after Richards is done, TK is gonna be a very ineresting signing. I would like to sign him, I just think he's gonna command a fairly big size salary come July 1st and I don't see him leaving the Eastern conference.

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#3 Colin
June 27 2011, 11:08PM
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@Robert Cleave

Wait, why didn't STL QO D'Agostini, even just his most basic of numbers looks like a decent player, almost 50 points in a season is nothing to turn your head at. Again the price on him would be something I'd be a little wary of.

Gilroy looks to be a victim of the Erixon deal to me, and is not someone that I'd be to interested in on the surface.

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#4 FireOnIce
June 27 2011, 11:08PM
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@Colin

Hard to just let Pardy/Babchuk walk if they accept the offers they've already been given, but I agree. Hopefully we keep one of the two, bring up Brodie, and get Stralman back on board.

Kennedy and Bergfors would both be good - definitely not top line players, but quality depth additions.

What would our lines look like at that point?

Tanguay/Backlund/Iginla GlenX/Langkow/Bourque Kennedy/Jokinen/Moss Hagman/Stajan/Bergfors

Kosto? Jackman? Ivanans? Sounds like we need to offload Ivanans and Kostopoulos(if possible) should these signings come true. Bury them in the minors, trade them to Edmonton for some Harvey's burgers, etc.

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#5 PrairieStew
June 27 2011, 11:14PM
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A quality 3rd line forward at a cheap rate would be good, since we are not counting on Stajan or Hagman to fill that role on this squad. Bergfors or Kennedy might. This would allow Greg Nemisz to play 20 minutes a game in Abbotsford to see if he can become Daymond Langkow.

Stalman is interesting, but not sure he is any better than Babchuk. Stralman has put up fewer points and blocked fewer shots than Babchuk and the plus minus stat is not even close - minus 28 for Stralman and plus 27 for Babchuk over the past 2 seasons. While I didn't warm to Babchuk when he first arrived ( mostly because I saw the trade as a further watering down of talent from the Phanuef trade), I thought he was pretty good in his role in the second half. He's a no hitter, but blocked lots of shots and put up points. If the salary and term were equal I'll take Babchuk.

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#6 RossCreekNation
June 27 2011, 11:23PM
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Did Brent coach Bergfors in Jersey at all, or did they miss each other. I'd imagine their paths at least crossed in training camps. Brent's insight on him (and Andy Greene) could prove valuable this weekend.

Kennedy would be a great pickup too.

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#7 Colin
June 27 2011, 11:34PM
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RossCreekNation wrote:

Did Brent coach Bergfors in Jersey at all, or did they miss each other. I'd imagine their paths at least crossed in training camps. Brent's insight on him (and Andy Greene) could prove valuable this weekend.

Kennedy would be a great pickup too.

Bergfors played his first two season in the NHL under Sutter, his third season and his breakout was under a different coach.

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#8 Austin
June 27 2011, 11:50PM
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@FireOnIce

I'll let Babchuk walk, I like how Pardy plays the game though so I wouldn't mind signing him to a 1 year contract, which he probably won't want.

Think of who we have already on defense. Bouwmeester Giordano Sarich Carson Butler (Mikkelson, Pardy, Babchuk). We need to find a semi-replacement for Reggie such as Ehrhoff or Jovanoski.

I don't see us signing Bergfors, I prefer burying Hagman. Then we sign Kennedy.

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#9 schevvy
June 27 2011, 11:56PM
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Kennedy is a quality player and I wouldn't mind seeing him here for a reasonable price. Ehrhoff looks like he will be the odd man out in Vancouver. However, I think he will want big dough and it would be too expensive to get him. Jovanovski is old and I wouldn't sign him cause his quality of play is going down. Maybe we should out in an offer sheet for Stamkos :)

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#10 GRIZZY
June 28 2011, 01:10AM
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I do not think the Flames should be purchasing any UFA forwards this offseason. They already have a full roster of 12 capable NHL forwards. No need to repeat past mistakes and start locking up 3rd liners like TK to multi-year deals. Just because TK was productive in Pitt doesn't mean he will have an impact here, no sense adding role player when we already have a decent bottom six. As for Bergfors, one GM in this league will take a risk and give him more money than he deserves..........I just hope its not the Flames. I say focus on getting affordable D signed but still leaving ample cap space so injuries don't screw us over again. Also buyout Ivanans, Let our 12 forwards play hockey, and bring in a veteran AHLer that has an impressive camp as the 13th forward, much like they did with Meyer last season.

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#11 Kent Wilson
June 28 2011, 05:40AM
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@PrairieStew

Stralman's struggles are almost all percentage related the last few years. His PDO has been garbage the last couple of season. In comparing him to Babchuk, consider their possession rates and zone start:

Stralman: +5.41 corsi/60, 52.8% ZS Babchuk: +3.10 corsi/60, 61.9% ZS (!!)

Relative corsi: +1.3 (Babchuk), +4.7 (Stralman)

They both faced 3rd and 4th liners, but Stralman was superior across the board. As Bob says, neither of them is a future heavy lifter or anything, but Stralman is likely the slightly superior player overall.

The Flames probably have all the bottom-pairing guys they're going to need, but Anton could be useful to more than a couple teams in the league.

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#12 everton fc
June 28 2011, 07:01AM
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Kennedy is young enough to fit into the new youth movement.

We need to dump Hagman somehow, and quick, to make this happen. My sense, though, is the Pens will wake up and sign him by Friday, so we shouldn't get our hopes up.

If you move Sarich, who now slots on a 3-4 pairing... And you have Carson/Pardy/Babchuk as a possible 5-6 pairing (Pardy's fragile, remember) Wehre does Stralman fit? 3/4 seems to be Brodie and Sarich at the moment, but with Butler... Carson... Pardy... Babchuk, if he signs (somehow I think he won't and will go UFA to test the waters)...

If Sarich is moved for a genuine 3-4 guy... Butler & Pardy/Carson/Babchuk becomes your 5/6 pairing. I simply don't see where Stralman fits...Unless Babchuk and Pardy opt for UFA. I don't think Pardy will. Babchuk may.

Bergfors might be worth a punt, but someone has him on the 4th line above. That might work for one season, if the plan is to keep him as part of a rebuild.

As summer closes in on fall... It appears Stajan is an odd-man out. He seems to fit only on the fourth line. I wonder if Florida would take him? Or Hagman?? Two contracts that may should really be moved. I can tolerate Sarich for one more season. In fact, I like him. Always have. But he may be gone before we know it, as well.

Looks like everyone thinks Backlund's our #1 centre. I ask - where else does he fit, with Langkow back?? I don't think Backlund's a #1 centre in the NHL. I like him... But he's not a #1 guy.

Perhaps Moss plays the pivot between Tanguay and Iginla?

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#13 Colin
June 28 2011, 08:12AM
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@everton fc

"Looks like everyone thinks Backlund's our #1 centre. I ask - where else does he fit, with Langkow back?? I don't think Backlund's a #1 centre in the NHL. I like him... But he's not a #1 guy."

I think its mostly fit rather than true #1 ability. Backlund "fit" with Tangs and Iggy to end the season and Langkow(especially after his injury) might not be able to handle the #1 center role, but also he had a good fit with Bourque so having them together is a good thing. Stajan is NOWHERE near a first line center, Jokinen has shown that him and Iggy should never be on a first line. Moss is good but I'd rather him playing with GlennX then being a first line center. And well the last center is Kosto and he ain't playing #1 either. Iggy has shown through the years it doesn't matter who the center is and that Tangs is a better fit for him on the LW than any center, so why not put our most "skilled" guy other than tangs/iggy on a line with them and see if he can't help generate a little more offense out of the two.

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#14 marty
June 28 2011, 08:15AM
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i agree with all 3 as well but would like to see bergfors and stralman here. if feaster can mover one more tweener and replace with the younger forward in bergfors ie stajan. not only would the biggest 3.5 million dollar albatros be gone but it would be replaced with more potential and cap space #nomorecaphell

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#15 Austin
June 28 2011, 09:37AM
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@everton fc

Ya I agree, if we have Bouwmeester/Gio as our first, then Sarich/Pardy Carson/Babchuk/Mikkelson/Brodie/Stralman. That last defensive pairing seems a little long doesn't it. We have offered contracts to enough 5/6 defenders, I say we send Mikkelson to the minors, sign Pardy and Butler. Use Carson and Brodie as our third pairing, or move Brodie up to the second and Pardy down to the third. No real need to sign Stralman unless he can play legitimate second pairing minutes.

I hope we can offload Stajan instead of Hagman. We have tons of depth at center, or so it seems. Langkow, Backlund, Jokinen, Stajan, Byron. If Byron is even going to get a shot at the NHL, one of these guys will have to be moved.

I say either Langkow or Backlund go between Iginla and Tanguay.

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#16 PDumes
June 28 2011, 11:12AM
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I wouldn't be disapointed to see any of those guy dress for the Flames come October.

Also the Wild just placed Cam Barker on waivers, I know he's fallen off the wagon recently, but he's still young. Wonder if the Flames place a claim on him?

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#17 Austin
June 28 2011, 11:14AM
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@PDumes

I wouldn't be surprised if we did. He could probably play in that 3/4 minutes role for a defenseman with Sarich or whoever is going to be the other 3/4 defenseman.

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#18 Kent Wilson
June 28 2011, 01:32PM
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@PDumes

I hope not. Barker wasn't very good when he came into the league and has gotten steadily worse ever since. The Wild are getting rid of him for good reason.

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#19 PrairieStew
June 28 2011, 09:06PM
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@Kent Wilson

Stralman's PDO has been garbage for 2 seasons? Luck should even out sooner than that. Has Steve Mason's sv% been that bad ? Or is it because his defense do not block as many shots ? Is the shooting percentage for Babchuk better than Stralman because the guy can actually shoot the puck hard and score?

While I am all for looking at underlying statistics, some of them measure inputs and not outcomes. A team that shoots alot from bad positions on the ice are going to have guys with better corsi numbers but not neccesarily better results. Shots directed at net by Columbus opponents might be fewer because of how the forwards play defense which would positively reflect on Stralman's corsi and have little to do with him. In contrast Calgary may give up more shots AT net but have had defenders that blocked alot more shots like Babchuk.

I realize Columbus struggled to score last year; they were especially bad on special teams and were therefore not as far behind Calgary at ES as one might think. Stalman got nearly 3 minutes per game on that bad PP and put up only 18 points. Though he played 14 fewer games - Stralman had almost the same number of minutes as Babchuk - playing nearly 3 minutes more per game.

They are both 3rd pair guys, and while I can't argue with the ZS numbers favoring Babchuk the huge gap between the 2 of them on plus minus gives me pause. Babs numbers projected over a whole season in Calgary is 10 g 35 pts and plus 22. I'd take that any day from a third pair guy if he is under $2 million.

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#20 Backburner52
June 28 2011, 11:56PM
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I'm all for adding Bergfors and Kennedy. Both have offensive skill the team can benefit from, and are young enough to fit with the youth movement the team is starting on. For D-men, Stralman would be okay if Babchuk opts for Free Agency. And just throwing it out there, maybe 6'8" D-man Vladimir Mihalik from Tampa Bay. Who knows, maybe the second coming of Zdeno Chara if developed properly.

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