June 29 2012 09:19AM
The Flames announced today have signed Cory Sarich to a new two year deal worth $2 million per season. The addition gives the Calgary blueline nine defenders on one-way deals heading into next season, plus sophomore TJ Brodie, who should be a lock to make the parent club.
Arik made a decent argument for keeping Sarich a few weeks ago, but I am personally extremely surprised the Flames decided to re-sign the 34 year old. He has battled chronic injuries for several years and at times lost the battle to stay in the line-up entirely. He's hard hitting and capable enough on the third pairing, but also slow of foot and can get exposed easily by players of greater speed and skill. At 34, he's also in danger off his play falling off a cliff completely sooner rather than later.
As mentioned the Flames have a lot of bodies on the back-end right now and many of them occupy the space between 5th and 7th (8th, 9th) defender, including Brodie, Wilson, Smith, Carson and Babchuk (and now Sarich). So even if the Flames plan to move one of the incumbent top-4, this addition doesn't make a whole lot of sense because none of those guys listed is a good bet to slide up the depth chart - least of all Cory Sarich.
On top of all that, I am surprised the Flames rushed to re-sign Sarich before the bidding even started. Prices certainly tend to shoot into the stratosphere for a brief period at the onset of free agency, but every year there is usually a few capable guys left standing when the music stops (which is how Calgary signed Hannan for a song last summer). If the team felt they needed yet another depth defender on the back-end, I'm not sure why they didn't wait a few weeks to see if any other bargains popped up. Not that the Sarich contract is overbearing at $4M total, but I'd say there's a better than even chance Cory ends up as a healthy scratch more than once over the course of the next two years - so it's $2M per season oddly, needlessly spent.
On a more general note, this makes me a little more certain the Flames are looking to move Jay Bouwmeester. I was nervous about the potential move before, but the possibility really frightens me with the way Calgary's blueline is shaping up - Wideman is no Bouwmeester replacement and everyone else aside from Mark Giordano and maybe Chris Butler is a bottom pairing defender.
Unless TJ Brodie takes a quantum leap forward, the Flames current blueline absent Bouwmeester would be a rodeo.