UFA Profiles: David Schlemko, Rapha Diaz, and Corey Potter

Pat Steinberg
June 12 2015 10:13AM

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The Calgary Flames really only have four decisions to make in unrestricted free agency. One of them we'll touch on next week in net, while the other three reside on the blueline. In David Schlemko, Rapha Diaz, and Corey Potter, the Flames have three depth defencemen all in need of new contracts. Knowing their situation on D, however, it really only makes sense to bring back one of this trio.

Calgary's most glaring need organizationally is definitely on the back end, but that doesn't mean the team needs a glut of six and seven defencemen. The trio we're about to profile all fill that particular role, so being very judicious here is the way to go.

David Schlemko

2014-2015 stats: 44 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 PTS, 12 PIM, +1
2014-2015 cap hit: $1.1875 million

For a guy claimed on waivers, the Flames got fairly decent value in Schlemko in the 19 regular season games he played. Other than his shootout winner in Boston, Schlemko didn't provide the team any offence, but he did continue to do what he's always done: be an effective depth defenceman at the highest level. That's why I think he leads the pack in terms of being re-signed.

From a possession standpoint, Schlemko has always been decent at the very least. His first two years with the Coyotes were middle-of-the-road, but his last two seasons have been strong when you consider the role he's been used in.

In 48 games with Phoenix during the 2013-2014 season, Schlemko was the team's top possession defenceman with a Corsi for rating of 53.45%. Among regulars (41 games or more), that ranked him second on the team in any position. And, his 2014-2015 season might be a little more telling.

Schlemko bounced from team to team to team during this past campaign, finally landing with the Flames just before the trade deadline. He started by splitting time with Arizona and the Portland Pirates of the AHL before being claimed on waivers by the Stars. He played just five games with Dallas before riding the waiver train to Calgary, where he also managed to get into all 11 playoff games.

Despite being an involuntary nomad, Schlemko kept his possession numbers above water over the course of 44 games with three different teams. That's three different situations and three different coaches, which I think is pretty impressive. In 19 games with the Flames, he had a 52.99% possession rate and followed that up with an even better 54.09% in the playoffs. It's important to point out as well that this was done without a heavily skewed offensive zone start.

He passed the eye test as well. Playing limited minutes that gradually increased, Schlemko was reliable defensively and kept up with a quick, skating team. Nothing he does is spectacular, but that's okay for a third pairing defenceman who you're hoping plays 14 minute a night. If you don't get scored on and spend more time at the right end of the ice when you're playing against the bottom of the opposition depth charts, you're doing your job.

Verdict: 

Schlemko is the only one of this trio I'd sign to a new contract. As outlined, he has a solid track record of being an effective depth d-man. On top of that, he's going to be inexpensive due to his lack of counting numbers and his nomadic existence this past season. A one year deal at less than $1.5 million seems extremely realistic for Schelmko, and if so, would very likely be good value.


Rapha Diaz

2014-2015 stats: 56 GP, 2 G, 2 A, 4 PTS, 10 PIM, -3
2014-2015 cap hit: $700,000

We were all very excited when Diaz was finally healthy enough to return to action in the postseason. After all, he was more capable than some of the other third pairing guys Calgary was forced to rely on. That in and of itself, however, isn't a reason to offer Diaz another contract.

I don't dislike Diaz as a player and I don't think it would be totally egregious for the Flames to bring him back. My biggest problem is I don't see a natural fit for him. As such, I don't think he needs to be a high priority when free agency opens in July. If he's still kicking around into August and Calgary needs some insurance, sure, let's revisit the topic. For now, though, the Flames have to be prepared for him to enter free agency and potentially go elsewhere.

Calgary will enter next season with what we think is a fairly set top four, which realistically leaves three spots open on the active roster. If we factor in David Schlemko and Deryk Engelland as well, which I think is likely realistic but not universally loved, then we're down to one spot. Now there's one spot left and the team has Tyler Wotherspoon, newly signed Jakub Nakladal, and maybe even Ladislav Smid to think about as the team's number seven. Oh, and there's a general feeling that the Flames might look to upgrade their second pairing this summer. So where exactly does Diaz fit?

Diaz didn't have a bad season at all. The problem is, he didn't have an overly good season either. Obviously his offensive totals don't jump off the page at you, with two goals and four points in more than half a season. His underlying numbers were okay, though, finishing with a 45.99% possession rate. Among Calgary defencemen, that was actually third best behind Schlemko and Mark Giordano. However, knowing that Diaz was a third pairing guy, you can't really compare him to the top four.

I see Diaz as a capable swing defenceman on a good team. Is he a bona fide regular on any NHL team? No, but I do think he's an okay option as a six or seven. Let's not forget that he's got the Head Coach in his corner, too, as Bob Hartley clearly showed he trusts Diaz and wouldn't hesitate to put him in the lineup. Will that be enough to get him another contract though? That I'm not convinced of.

Verdict: I don't hate the idea of bringing Diaz back, necessarily. The problem is, the Flames might have to wait a little while to do it, and by that time he might have signed elsewhere. If it does come down to Schlemko or Diaz, I choose the former every single time. He's younger, has more upside, and has a better track record of moving the play the right way. If Diaz is still kicking around in August and Calgary has the ability to sign him as an insurance policy, then by all means. Otherwise, they can let him walk without losing any sleep.

Corey Potter

2014-2015 stats: 6 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 PTS, 0 PIM, -1

2014-2015 cap hit: $700,000

This one is the most cut and dried case of the three. It would be tough to come up with reasons to bring Potter back under most circumstances. Under the conditions we just outlined with Diaz, that sell becomes even more difficult. If I'm hedging on whether to bring back a generally effective Diaz, the writing is pretty much on the wall for Potter. I would imagine that writing is very much the same behind closed doors for the organization.

The Flames signed Potter in September to add to their organizational depth at the position. A veteran of eight professional seasons, Potter could at the very least give you a reliable veteran at the American League level. I don't think the team made a mistake by signing him, because the reasoning was very sound. He did his job the best he could, but it's time for Calgary to move on.

Because of his age and experience level, Potter was the guy tabbed to be the obligatory extra body at practice this season. Because of that, and because of recovery from offseason shoulder surgery, he only played 31 games total. He put up ten points in 25 games with Adirondack and was just fine down there, but was resoundingly ineffective in his six NHL regular season appearances. The same held true for his two postseason appearances.

Again, that doesn't mean Potter was bad. First off, he barely played. Second, and more importantly, he just didn't do anything of note to justify a contract being used on him. At the age of 31, he's still got pro hockey left in him. Will it be at the NHL level? Maybe, but just not with Calgary.

Verdict: If Potter was a 25-year-old restricted free agent, this might be a different story. But he's 31 and has never really proven to be an effective NHL regular. The Flames have better options and probably need the space under the cap of 50 contracts.

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Pat Steinberg is the host of Calgary Flames Hockey and The Big Show on Sportsnet 960 The FAN. He likes advanced stats more than most other radio guys, but knows less about them than most of you reading right now. Follow Pat on Twitter @Fan960Steinberg.
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#1 everton fc
June 12 2015, 10:19AM
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I think this is an easy one.

Sign Schlemko. Give him a chance to be a 5/6 regular d-man.

Let Diaz and certainly Potter, "carry on"...

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#2 Professor Snape
June 12 2015, 10:30AM
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Potter!

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#3 OKG
June 12 2015, 10:43AM
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Diaz' numbers are negatively skewed because he was paired with Engelland all season. Whenever he was paired with Schlemko or Brodie he was beast. Possession is not an issue with him. If he has an issue, it's that he can occasionally get muscled off the puck on the forecheck. Hartley would rather have Engelland giving up a dozen scoring chances in a single shift because he can't get the puck, than risk the aesthetics of a rare turnover because the puck is on Diaz' stick.

I hope Nakladal can replace and improve what Diaz brought, but overall Anyone But Engelland as the #6D would be my leaning. I don't expect Schlemko's stats to look all that pretty when he gets anchored down by Deryk "Look at me! 5 icings in one shift! Warrior!" Engelland.

Another guy I hope can be paired with Schlemko is John Ramage, was really impressed by his steady play in the garbage-time-game.

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#4 CofRed4Life
June 12 2015, 10:55AM
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I'm with you on this one Pat. Of the three here I would sign Schlemko and let Diaz and Potter walk.

Considering they'd all be playing basically the same position next year, Schlemko is the easy pick for me. He's the youngest, and has a higher ceiling than the others. I like the idea of signing him to a cheap one-year deal to let him prove himself to see if he can be an effective and reliable depth defenseman.

Also, he should be glad that shootout with the Bruins went 8 rounds. I think a lot of the fan base fell in love with him just from that move (it was glorious).

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#5 everton fc
June 12 2015, 11:30AM
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OKG wrote:

Diaz' numbers are negatively skewed because he was paired with Engelland all season. Whenever he was paired with Schlemko or Brodie he was beast. Possession is not an issue with him. If he has an issue, it's that he can occasionally get muscled off the puck on the forecheck. Hartley would rather have Engelland giving up a dozen scoring chances in a single shift because he can't get the puck, than risk the aesthetics of a rare turnover because the puck is on Diaz' stick.

I hope Nakladal can replace and improve what Diaz brought, but overall Anyone But Engelland as the #6D would be my leaning. I don't expect Schlemko's stats to look all that pretty when he gets anchored down by Deryk "Look at me! 5 icings in one shift! Warrior!" Engelland.

Another guy I hope can be paired with Schlemko is John Ramage, was really impressed by his steady play in the garbage-time-game.

I like Ramage, too. But if he doesn't come out of camp with at least a seat on the bench as the #7 d-man, he'll never play with the big team.

This his is camp to make the team. He's 24. And was a 4th round pick, like Brodie. So if he never makes it, it's not like he was a big pick. He's also never put points up, ever. Anywhere he's played. He'll really need to convince the organization he's worth a long look at camp.

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#6 Kent Wilson
June 12 2015, 12:18PM
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That is one hell of a header image there Pat.

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#7 RKD
June 12 2015, 01:23PM
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I can't believe we are still talking about Corey Potter, sheesh. Definitely I would bring back Schelmko, he doesn't need to give us offence when our top 4 is producing plenty on their own. He just needs to be steady, reliable and eat up some minutes. I don't dislike Diaz, but I think he is the odd man out.

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#8 OKG
June 12 2015, 02:42PM
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RKD wrote:

I can't believe we are still talking about Corey Potter, sheesh. Definitely I would bring back Schelmko, he doesn't need to give us offence when our top 4 is producing plenty on their own. He just needs to be steady, reliable and eat up some minutes. I don't dislike Diaz, but I think he is the odd man out.

Thing is, Schlemko does give us offense. It doesn't show up on his stat sheet maybe, but it's because he was on the ice that our fourth line guys like Bollig, Shore, Ferland, Stajan, Granlund, all finished the season strong, some even getting promoted.

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#9 Kevin R
June 13 2015, 11:49AM
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From the games I saw last year & in the playoffs, we got hemmed in our zone for long periods of time. Gio would have made a huge f difference & the dynamics of that blue line would have been so much different & will be different with a healthy Gio come Fall. But even with a healthy Gio, don't know if we could have gotten by the Ducks, or Chicago. We have to get better, bottom line. I would like to see the Flames use some significant assets to get a proper #3 defender, we can bicker who that would be later but we need a solid #3. Someone that will allow Russell to progress, improve possession numbers & become a better #4 . I believe in Russell & truly think he can become a very effective 2nd pairing defender.

Wideman would be fine in that #5 spot & PP. I would prefer to see if we can get some exceptional value for him but if not, he's got 2 years left & would be good in that role for this team.

That leaves Smid on LTIR. Engellend is the heir to the #6 because of experience & contract unless Tspoon or Morrison or Nakaladal (?) (I'll call him Nacker) to step up & take his job, otherwise one of those 3 will be the #7. So that leads me to not signing any of these players. I view this as if we sign any of them, this team will not improve & more likely not get into the playoffs. We get a bonafide #3 (& it aint going to be cheap) the possession numbers go up big time.

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#10 Jake the Snail
June 13 2015, 08:42PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

That is one hell of a header image there Pat.

d is for david...the other two can go on their way!

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#11 coachedpotatoe
June 14 2015, 08:04AM
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Schlemko yes, Diaz and Potter no; it's time to let the kids play and take on greater responsibilities. Spoon, Morrison, Kulak, Culkin, Ramage, Sieloff, Kanzig and everyone else need to play and develop and be given every opportunity to have a bigger role in Stockton and as the 6/7 in the NHL.

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#12 coachedpotatoe
June 14 2015, 08:06AM
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Schlemko yes, Diaz and Potter no; it's time to let the kids play and take on greater responsibilities. Spoon, Morrison, Kulak, Culkin, Ramage, Sieloff, Kanzig and everyone else need to play and develop and be given every opportunity to have a bigger role in Stockton and as the 6/7 in the NHL.

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#13 flamethower
June 16 2015, 06:11PM
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@OKG

So if we are truly in a rebuild it is time to lose Engellend. Smid is probably in the process of stepping aside(health reasons)and we wish him all the best. Russell should be moved, his size is his downfall, the reason he blocks so many shots is he can't manage to take the puck away from bigger men proven by Anahiem, he may bring something in return on a package trade! Getting back to the rebuild, in order for this team to compete in the big bad west needs to be bigger, stronger & faster. this club has been taking the correct steps to achieve this position. Now is the time to break out our babies that have been working together in the minors and see what we have going forward. Wins and loses eventually mean chemistry. Offence is the name of the game these days we need players that can move the puck, jump in the play not just keep the front of our net clear!

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