Five things: Free agent stuff

Ryan Lambert
April 24 2014 09:39AM

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1. Should they stay or should they go?

The Flames are in a position that I'm pretty sure few NHL teams have encountered in recent years: The number of meaningful contributors that need to be signed this summer is extremely small. In all, among guys who played for the big club this season, only about a dozen are free agents with expiring contracts, and the vast majority of those guys are going to shuttle back and forth between the AHL and NHL next season.

The full list of unrestricted free agents is as follows: Mike Cammalleri, Kevin Westgarth, Chris Butler, Chris Breen, and Joey MacDonald.

There are, as you might expect with a team so young, more restricted free agents to consider: TJ Galiardi, Paul Byron, Joe Colborne, Lance Bouma, Ben Hanowski, Chad Billins, Mark Cundari, and Joni Ortio.

This obviously doesn't include other prospects, like Olivier Roy who are probably also going to get new contracts, but those are the guys with at least a few games at the NHL level this year.

It'll be interesting to see how the team approaches each.

2. Who's staying?

I said it last week but you have to imagine that most of the RFAs are staying, if not all of them. There's no way any of the above-listed guys don't get new contracts, but of that group I'm not sure you'd like to give too many all that much in the way of either term or money. Galiardi probably deserves a little bit of a raise and I'd hope he gets it for a few years. He was more or less an even possession player (49.5 percent) and has shown he can be useful without needing to be especially sheltered, which on this team is a pretty good thing to have in your back pocket.

The idea of re-signing Colborne is one I'm not entirely sure is a good one, but we can all agree it's going to happen. He didn't produce much of anything against some pretty soft competition, but he's Big and he Competes and he's a Burke guy, so he's staying.

Joni Ortio will get another contract, one more season in the AHL, and then a chance to do something if Kari Ramo blows up. That would be the sensible management of that asset.

3. Who's going?

I think we can all agree Mike Cammalleri is almost certainly gone the second the free agency period opens. He's openly stated he wants to test the market, and maybe Calgary wants to overpay him, but one has to imagine this is the last chance Cammalleri has to get both decent money and a shot at the Stanley Cup. So to waste those last few years of his career in Calgary, for a team that's not going to come close to competing for a title, seems a path which he will likely not travel down.

On the other hand, there's Chris Butler, who shouldn't under any circumstance be offered any sort of contract. He is, we can all agree, terrible. He plays soft competition and gets dominated by them, and provides none of the offense of a Dennis Wideman or Kris Russell which would otherwise give the Flames a reason to keep him around.

Joey MacDonald, likewise, will and should be put out to pasture. This team has a lot of problems, but goaltending depth isn't one of them. Replace him with just about anyone you can pick up off the scrap heap this summer and that'll be just fine for this team.

4. Who will wait and see?

There are a few guys who I think the team will probably not be in any particular hurry to sign or retain, but who would be useful overall.

Paul Byron might be the most interesting case; he put up 21 points in 47 games, which isn't nothing one supposes, and he drove possession a little bit, which on this team is saying something. But he's not big, and he's not flashy, and he doesn't overwhelm anyone, so I really do wonder what the team's plan is. They're not going to let him walk, but if Burke is looking to improve this roster notably by taking on a big contract (I'm not betting against this), it might be possible to see Byron tacked on as a cheap throw-in to even out money or something like that.

Lance Bouma, too, got buried in possession, but he's only 23, and he played in 78 games, so it's not like the team doesn't see him as an NHLer. But how much of one, really, remains to be seen. He's a left wing, and that's too his benefit, but if the team wants to give his spot to, say, Sven Baertschi or Kenny Agostino instead, would you really be all that surprised? Baertschi almost certainly fits better into the club's long-term plans, and maybe they think Agostino, a roughly equivalent player, is worthy of consideration. Wouldn't be surprised to see options explored for Bouma either, is the point.

There are also the lower-level D to consider: Billins and Cundari and Breen. Not all of them are going to get a chance on the big club next season, not with Wideman coming back from injury (and maybe Tyler Wotherspoon on the opening-day roster to see what there is to see?) . Again, they'll shuttle back and forth between Glens Falls — or wherever — and the big club when there's an injury, but I don't think there'd be a ton of weeping if they were to leave the organization.

5. Where free agent priorities should really go

Of course, a lot of this is just tidying up. Who's staying and going is obvious, and there aren't going to be many guys fighting for roster spots or anything like that. So what the team's management should really be doing, I think, is concentrating on locking up some guys who are up for free agency next year (as they are likewise eligible to sign extensions starting this summer).

Mikael Backlund, lots of years and money. TJ Brodie, more of both. Probably try it with Curtis Glencross and Kari Ramo too. Not that they'll all end up like this, but any kind of a protracted issue a la PK Subban with the team trying to save a few bucks in the short-term would be foolhardy. Spend big on the right guys. You gotta make the floor anyway.

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Yer ol' buddy Lambert is handsome and great and everyone loves him. Also you can visit his regular blog at The Two-Line Pass or follow him on Twitter. Lucky you!
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#51 Walter White
April 25 2014, 06:36AM
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Be thankful for:

-bad goaltending

-bad scoring droughts by Stemp and Cammi.

-bad officiating that cost the flames points in at least 3 to 4 games.

-bad luck with injuries (thankfully none too serious).

Without these we would be on the outside looking in on some hi end talent in the draft......

WW

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#52 Baalzamon
April 25 2014, 09:50AM
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PrairieStew wrote:

I was suggesting that they send us a first round pick for taking the salary off their hands.

Alternatively only a second rounder from Toronto if they took Jones from us.

So you were. Apparently I somehow read "we" as "they". Derp.

Regardless, I'm still against the idea. Clarkson's contract might (will) interfere with signing better, younger players later on. Perhaps even a high draft pick! At least David Jones is only signed for two more years.

Also, I think Clarkson is probably worth more in trade than Jones is even with that contract. I doubt you get Clarkson and a 2nd for just Jones.

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#53 Stubblejumper
April 25 2014, 01:08PM
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coachedpotatoe wrote:

Strategy one; allow the rebuild to continue especially on the forward ranks but look to upgrade the back end with at least one UFA or trade. Both Bouma and Colborne have done enough to be resigned and quite frankly are needed for the development of the organization as they are some of the bigger bodies who bring more than size. However if you are going to use strategy one it is time to rethink how you deploy your forwards move away from the idea of two top lines, a third line and forth energy(grunt) line. Rather, lets realize that we do not have any ready elite forwards at this time(there are a few that I think could be. By rolling four lines you allow more players to develop complete games, you shelter kids with veteran experience rather than by hiding where they play, you reduce stress and over playing injuries,and your best players are rested for PP time or late in the game situations. These are some of my reasons for wanting to see a change of philosophy. I see the game as being roughly played as 50 minutes even strength and 10 minutes of special teams play(I'm sure some stats guy has the exact break down. I see having two lines that play @14 minute even strength, a third line playing @12 minutes and the last line @10 minutes; extra time each player earns via their ability to play either pk or pp. My lines will all be similar in basic makeup(this would allow for some easy line movement in case of injury). If you look at the palyers the Flames have under contract or RFA's you will see a number of skilled smaller LW, a number solid two way centers and a number of larger other forwards. Ideally each line would have skill,grit and size putting pressure on the oppositions lines no rest for their forth line and no easy shifts for their top lines. If you don't perform you sit and there is a ready replacement somewhere in the organization. Using only our current forwards and our RFA's my lines would look something like this:

Hudler, Monahan, Colborne ( this a line that already has chemistry; it biggest issue is grit but I actually think Monahan is slowly developing some)

Glencross(Grit and skill when healthy), Stajan, and either Poirier/Ferland

Johnny, Backs, Bouma

Sven or Granlund, Knight or Arnold(I would seriously look at some of them on the rwing)and either Byron/McG/Djones.

Now to honest I don't know what the chemistry would look like but this is how I would approach the forwards. I have 17 that I think will compete hard for jobs and that does not include guys like Agostino. I also have not factored in anyone we might draft or trade for as this would be mere speculation. Trashers you may go at it but. But if you have any original ideas please share them as it would be good to have some interesting discussions.

I am certainly an advocate of rolling lines, in much the same fashion of Montreal of prior decades and which some contending teams are currently doing eg STL, LAK, SJS, BOS.

If your 4th line has a little scoring punch and speed to go along with energy and size, and you can trust them defensively, then you have a recipe for playing them 10-12 minutes per game which takes a big load off the top players and reduces injury to endure the grind of a long season.

I liked the look of McG, Westgarth, and Van Brabant each playing on a line and playing hard..they had a real presence which added to the games I thought. I would be in favour of doing more this year while keeping most prospects down in the minors for another year to support proper patient development like Detroit.

Focusing on winning next year is too early for most of our prospects and we will just unnecessarily rush them, and potentially destroy them.

The Flames played some good hockey this year, developed good culture & chemistry, and treated fans to some enjoyable games.

I would be happy seeing more of the same this year without a pure focus on winning..let's prepare for an upward climb from the ashes in 2015-16 instead!

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#54 dick
April 25 2014, 01:51PM
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One thing clear from this article is that the writer did not see Butler play after he wasn't saddled with a guy like O'Brien. I go to most games and would agree Butler was a give away machine LAST year,but his game for the last 2/3rd of this season was very solid. In fact I'd rather have him than Wideman.

It is amazing a guy can put himself out there as some kind of expert when it is clear he doesn't know which end is up, and clearly hasn't watch a Flames game in a long time.

Dick

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#55 coachedpotatoe
April 25 2014, 05:14PM
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Primo wrote:

Your comments are very clear around execution for the next season...good stuff! I would be interested in your high level strategy?

For example my post above quite simply states my 2014/15 strategy will have one eye on continuing the current development and progress of my rebuild and ensuring my foundation is properly developed for the 2015/16 season while having my other eye on McDavid or Eichel as my springboard to the playoffs during the 2015/16 season and 10 years beyond!

My basis is that finishing 18-15 place brings no value as we learned from the Sutter era. If we go for it it's playoffs or nothing! So let's do this properly in 2015/16 where we have a fighting chance but we need to have the right pieces in place. That must include Eichel or McDavid!

Primo: I don't disagree with you as either McDavid or Eichel would elevate our talent pool. My strategy could very well have this team finish near the bottom of the league this year but the development of prospects would be spend up without destroying their confidence.

For me it's rather straight forward have a plan; which is to be competitive for the long run and I believe the cost of that will be another season like this year. There are a number of people on FN who would like to chase the playoff next year and think that by trading away our prospects or even draft picks we can get there, I'm not one of them. We can upgrade our vets and we do need vets for the rebuild via the UFA market or trading vets or the lesser prospects ( I will let other decide who they think they might be) for the 25-28 range players that we do not have i would b okay with that. But really what are we going to get for DJones, Glenx, Mcg or Hudler; not enough to put us over the top and they could be traded lter in the season if the young guys progress as we hope they might. This organization got itself into this mess by chasing the playoffs and cups and giving up draft picks, drafting poorly or not developing prospects for the better part of a decade.For the first time in years we have some real prospects and some people want to go off chasing shadows. (I know you are not one of them)

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#56 The Flames Fan
April 26 2014, 08:09PM
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@Walter White

Even more so, thank Butler, he assisted on about half of the overall goal-againsts

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