Calgary's best value contracts

Pat Steinberg
January 26 2016 10:00AM

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The Calgary Flames have got some difficult decision to make going forward. With their season quickly slipping away, the Flames have some choices to make on certain players prior to the 2016 trade deadline. Additionally, with two massive contracts to finalize prior to next season, Calgary is going to have to make some contract sacrifices elsewhere. 

Knowing where things are going, the Flames are going to have to surround their core with good value, savvy contracts. Luckily there are a few already on the team. I've narrowed it down to the three best ones.

There is a little criteria for this post. First off, I eliminated players on entry level contracts, so Johnny Gaudreau, Sam Bennett, and Sean Monahan are out. I also didn't include players who have extensions kicking in next year, so there goes Mark Giordano. But there are some solid contracts on this team right now, and they should help the team down the road. (NHLNumbers.com)

3. Josh Jooris

Jooris is currently on a one-year deal that pays him $975,000 which is a solid deal right now. The good news is the Flames will likely be able to keep him for the foreseeable future at around the same price. That could keep a very useful bottom six forward in the fold for a very affordable price.

Jooris had a career year with 12 goals and 24 points in his rookie season. He's not going to hit those totals in his sophomore campaign, but that's all right with me. Jooris has shown me that he is an effective possession player in a bottom six role. We can begin to prove that using his career numbers from war-on-ice.com.

JJ

To put it in a little more in context, Jooris's Corsi rating this year puts him sixth amongst regular Flames forwards. Last year as a rookie, his 47.6% rating was tops for Flames forwards and second overall on the team. It's not like he was being handed offensive time either. Jooris had a 50.3% offensive zone start ratio last year which has dropped to 46.9% in his second season. Plain and simple, he's an effective player that doesn't need to be fed high ground to succeed.

Now, take into account that Jooris is typically playing depth opposition. I'm not suggesting that Jooris can do this in any situation. But that's not what Calgary should be asking of Jooris in the future. As a third or fourth line winger, Jooris is going to play depth opposition with penalty killing duties. Through his first 100 NHL games, he's more than proven he can do that.

Now, this all begs the question why he hasn't been played more, but that's for a different post. Fact is, Jooris probably isn't ever going to put up huge numbers, which will keep his cap hit down. Having a player like Jooris under contract on rolling short term deals is just fine with me, because he'll be cheap and he can play. That's about as ideal as it gets in the bottom six.

2. Mikael Backlund

Oh what a surprise, a FlamesNation post talking glowingly about Mikael Backlund. But in a conversation like this, not having Backlund on this list would be inaccurate. Now in the first year of a three-year deal that carries a $3.575 million cap hit, Backlund is this team's best value forward right now. 

All Backlund has done for the last, oh, his entire NHL career, is play tough head-to-head minutes well and without much issue. As it stands for this season, Backlund has been the team's best centre overall. Over the last four or five years, he's been the team's best two-way centre.

Backlund is the team's top possession player this season with a 50.76% possession rate to go along with a 45.99% offensive zone start ratio. He's done that while routinely taking the top matchup minutes on the Flames. On a nightly basis, Backlund is asked to go to work on one of the opposition's top lines, and more often than not, he ends up on the right side of the ledger. Oh, and every single year, he ends up in the team's top five for possession totals, so it's not like this brand new.

Yeah, his offensive totals are not going to knock anyone's socks off. But at this stage of his career, he's probably never going to put up high end counting totals. Backlund has decent skill and should be good for 30-40 points a season for the next few years. Those numbers are just fine when you take into account how crucial his role is for Calgary.

You can spin lowish offensive totals into a positive, too. With Backlund quietly playing an effective toe-to-toe role every single night, the Flames can continue to keep him at an affordable cap hit for the balance of his career. Let's be honest, Backlund likely won't ever make a whole lot more than he's making right now. Yep, I'll take Backlund at under $4 million any day of the week.

1. TJ Brodie

Was there really any doubt? Brodie is likely the best player on this team right now and is on a ridiculously good contract that still has four more years on it. At $4.654 million per year, Brodie has entered the realm of being one of the best value contracts in the league. How many other crazy steals can you think of like his? Tavares and Muzzin both come to mind right away, and I'm sure there are others, but it's a short list.

I don't really have to spend much time extolling Brodie's virtues to this crowd, I don't think. But just for a second, I will anyway. Along with his partner Mark Giordano, Brodie plays the hardest minutes on the team every single night.

There is seldom a shift Brodie isn't out there against the top line on the other team, and then he's out for other shifts on top of that. Brodie averages 25:21 of ice time per game and doesn't seem to break a sweat. The amount of minutes he plays, and the type of minutes he plays, helps open up so many different options for Head Coach Bob Hartley.

Perhaps the best news in all of this is that Brodie is only 25 years old and has yet to come close to a plateau. Every single year, Brodie has gotten better, sometimes exponentially so. Sure, he'll level off eventually, but even if that were to happen tomorrow, the Flames would still be left with an incredible defenceman for the next half decade at least.

If he doesn't level off anytime soon, well, that's scary. Right now, Calgary has an incredible defenceman bordering on all-world territory. Brodie might be the only Flames player representing Team Canada at the World Cup in September, and he probably has plenty more Hockey Canada in his future. The fact Calgary has all this for under $5 million for four more years after this one is almost unfair. That's why he's this team's best value contract, by a fairly large margin.

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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 Derzie
January 26 2016, 10:18AM
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Brodie is a steal of the century but Jooris & Backlund have Corsi-ed their way onto this list. I don't know the result, but I would feel much better if point production was part of the criteria. Corsi without points is treading water which won't win many games.

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#2 Kent Wilson
January 26 2016, 10:18AM
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Now do the poor value ones!

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#3 wot96
January 26 2016, 10:35AM
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@Kent Wilson

Weren't those done a while ago with nearly all of them being defencemen?

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#4 Ryan Pike
January 26 2016, 10:37AM
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@Kent Wilson

It'll be the Tale of Two Cities of blog posts.

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#5 The Last Big Bear
January 26 2016, 10:43AM
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Derzie wrote:

Brodie is a steal of the century but Jooris & Backlund have Corsi-ed their way onto this list. I don't know the result, but I would feel much better if point production was part of the criteria. Corsi without points is treading water which won't win many games.

Every night Backlund goes toe-to-toe against the best centremen in the NHL, and he gives as good as he gets.

If you have a player who "treads water" against the best of the best, and makes 3-point-something million, I don't see how you could ever call that anything except fantastic.

its far easier to find a player who can feast on lesser competition and put up points against 3rd liners, than it is to find a player who can go toe-to-toe and trade punches with players like Getzlaf, Kopitar, Sedin, Thornton, et al, and come out even.

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#6 Derzie
January 26 2016, 10:44AM
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Ryan Pike wrote:

It'll be the Tale of Two Cities of blog posts.

It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times.

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#7 sathome
January 26 2016, 10:53AM
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Derzie wrote:

Brodie is a steal of the century but Jooris & Backlund have Corsi-ed their way onto this list. I don't know the result, but I would feel much better if point production was part of the criteria. Corsi without points is treading water which won't win many games.

To be fair, if you discount anyone on entry-level deals, there are not a lot of great options. Top 10 scorers on the Flames are Gaudreau (ELC), Giordano (raise next year), Monahan (ELC), Brodie, Hudler, Bennett (ELC), Backlund, Wideman, Hamilton and Frolik. Other than Gio's current deal and the guys in this article, I'm not sure any of them could be described as a great value.

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#8 EhPierre
January 26 2016, 11:01AM
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@The Last Big Bear

Well I wouldn't say "trade punches". It's not like Backlund is putting up the points like Getzlaf and Kopitar but I agree that Backlund does a lot of things right, most of them intangible that don't show up in the scorecard. You can't have a team full of 50+ point players. You need players like Bouma and Backlund to drive the engine of the team as well

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#9 Jeremy
January 26 2016, 11:05AM
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Now that Barkov is signed by Florida we essentially know what Monahan's going to get paid.

What are the thoughts on him as a 6mill player going forward.

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#10 Kevin R
January 26 2016, 11:09AM
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Hey Pat! I would think that 6 year Barkov deal signed today has a huge implication on the Gaudreau & Monahan deals BT has to negotiate. We may find the numbers better than initially predicted. Also the fact that playoffs seem to be slipping quickly away, the lack of success as a team will also help BT get some cap friendly extensions for our boys.

I know this may sound sacrilege but if I were BT, I would start to sell some UFA's sooner than later & push us into next year country, even if it means we can sell Ramo. I know, that is really Oilerish thinking & I'm heading to the liquor cabinet to take a shot of the left over Crown Royal Harvest I have for even thinking that. But.............am I wrong?

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#11 SmellOfVictory
January 26 2016, 11:13AM
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wot96 wrote:

Weren't those done a while ago with nearly all of them being defencemen?

I imagine that'd be about the same until Wideman, Smid, and Engelland are gone.

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#12 FeyWest
January 26 2016, 11:45AM
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Given the major contract talks that are going to be happening soon if they haven't already, what would a "Good Value" contract look like for guys like Monahan and Gaudreau? I mean Johnny is only getting better every year and even Monahan maybe not as exponentially has improved I just think he may be a little over his head at this point (although the last couple days I've seen the confidence building more). $6M -$7M for 8 years being good value and then $8Mx8 being standard and expected for Johnny? Bridge contract for Monahan? Just curious for what to look and hope for!

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#13 wot96
January 26 2016, 11:52AM
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As I understand the CBA, and I might be wrong as I have said elsewhere, the Flames could buy out both Smid and Wideman next year. They are both over 26 so the cost is two thirds of what remains on their contracts spread out over two years. So that costs Calgary $6m, ish. The cap hit next year and the year after is $3m ish.

Assuming money is no object, and that is a questionable assumption just now, the Flames could release two player slots and fill them with younger, faster players that will cost about $2 - $2.5m total. Maybe less. That would give the Flames a less experienced, less edgy but better skating defence and $3 - 4m to spend on others.

I excluded Engelland because I think he has been perfectly adequate this year - and I admit some surprise on that - and I don't think you want to denude your defence corps of guys that make the other team pay. So maybe you exclude Smid too because he is reasonably hard on the opponents (and possibly because I am wrong about how many players the team can buy out).

If the team can only buy one player out, and if they can't trade him for anything, the Flames pretty much have to buy out Wideman. He is very costly and a net deficit on the ice. That opens up cap; it opens up a slot; it improves the team. How is this a bad plan?

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#14 Kent Wilson
January 26 2016, 12:11PM
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Derzie wrote:

Brodie is a steal of the century but Jooris & Backlund have Corsi-ed their way onto this list. I don't know the result, but I would feel much better if point production was part of the criteria. Corsi without points is treading water which won't win many games.

This year Backlund is top-3 in terms of scoring chance differential on the Flames. At even strength, he has the best the third best relative GF% rate (that is goals for divided by goals against). The two guys ahead of his are regular line mates - Bennett and Frolik.

In raw numbers, that means the Flames have outscored the bad guys 26 to 24 at even strength so far.

By comparison, Sean Monahan's relative GF% is -0.45%. Calgary has been outscored 36 to 31 at 5on5 with Monahan on the ice this year. And he gets way more favourable zone starts and plays with Johnny Gaudreau.

BTW, None of these results are out of line with Backlund's career norms. He does this sort of thing every single season.

Points are nice, but outscoring the opposition is the object of the game.

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#15 PrairieStew
January 26 2016, 12:15PM
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wot96 wrote:

As I understand the CBA, and I might be wrong as I have said elsewhere, the Flames could buy out both Smid and Wideman next year. They are both over 26 so the cost is two thirds of what remains on their contracts spread out over two years. So that costs Calgary $6m, ish. The cap hit next year and the year after is $3m ish.

Assuming money is no object, and that is a questionable assumption just now, the Flames could release two player slots and fill them with younger, faster players that will cost about $2 - $2.5m total. Maybe less. That would give the Flames a less experienced, less edgy but better skating defence and $3 - 4m to spend on others.

I excluded Engelland because I think he has been perfectly adequate this year - and I admit some surprise on that - and I don't think you want to denude your defence corps of guys that make the other team pay. So maybe you exclude Smid too because he is reasonably hard on the opponents (and possibly because I am wrong about how many players the team can buy out).

If the team can only buy one player out, and if they can't trade him for anything, the Flames pretty much have to buy out Wideman. He is very costly and a net deficit on the ice. That opens up cap; it opens up a slot; it improves the team. How is this a bad plan?

It saves for next year but then costs for the following one. Instead of the $8.75 counting in 16-17 - the buyout for Smid and Wideman is $2.91 for both 16-17 and 17-18. Assuming you replace with $1m players - it saves almost $4m against the cap for next year, but carries forward that $2.91 buyout expense for 17-18, when no dollars are committed to those 2 players. Sop save $4 for one year - cost $3 for the next.

There needs to be space to get Gaudreau and Monahan under contract next year - but carrying forward the liability might be worse when trying to get Bennett signed.

The solution instead of buyout is to trade and retain salary. At half price those 2 guys would cost $4.375 for one year. (instead of the buyout at $2.91 x 2 years). The key is finding a trading partner willing to take on the other half.

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#16 The Last Big Bear
January 26 2016, 12:20PM
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Why buy out any of Wideman, Smid, or Engelland, when they are all useful NHL players who are overpaid?

With 50% salary retained, all of these players would garner significant trade interest at lower cap hits. Suddenly an extra year on their contract makes them more valuable.

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#17 wot96
January 26 2016, 12:23PM
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@PrairieStew

Agreed. There is a cost in the second year but by then, other slightly less bad contracts will also be off the books by then - he says looking at Raymond and Engelland on that - plus there may be some cap increase in two years time, which seems somewhat less likely next year (or the cap increase will be modest).

Trade and retain would be better but I have assumed these contracts are immovable. Smid less so than Wideman, I would guess. If they couldn't peddle Wideman after his career year, I don't see how they can do it after this season.

Edit - @The Last Big Bear - I don't think Wideman and Smid are necessarily very attractive for other teams even with salary retained.

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#18 The Last Big Bear
January 26 2016, 12:34PM
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I think Wideman would be a tremendous value contract at 2-point-something million. You have to pay for points, and he's a guy who consistently puts up 30-40 points from the blue line.

There are lots of teams who want to add production from their defence, Calgary is one of the only teams in the NHL where this is a position of strength.

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#19 wot96
January 26 2016, 02:53PM
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@The Last Big Bear

Hope you are right.

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#20 wot96
January 26 2016, 02:53PM
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@The Last Big Bear

Hope you are right.

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#21 PrairieStew
January 26 2016, 02:56PM
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wot96 wrote:

Agreed. There is a cost in the second year but by then, other slightly less bad contracts will also be off the books by then - he says looking at Raymond and Engelland on that - plus there may be some cap increase in two years time, which seems somewhat less likely next year (or the cap increase will be modest).

Trade and retain would be better but I have assumed these contracts are immovable. Smid less so than Wideman, I would guess. If they couldn't peddle Wideman after his career year, I don't see how they can do it after this season.

Edit - @The Last Big Bear - I don't think Wideman and Smid are necessarily very attractive for other teams even with salary retained.

I would surmise that taking on either of those guys for 2 full seasons would have been the sticking point. Flames probably didn't shop either one with salary retained over the summer because it wasn't necessary from Calgary's salary perspective( and Smid was hurt) - now it might be neccesary and certainly more palatable for others.

Flames next year are at $47 m with 7 forwards and 6 defenceman signed. Assume $13m to get Monahan and Gaudreau under contract and $4m for goaltending. That leaves about $6 to replace Hudler,Jones, Colborne Jooris and another defenseman.

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#22 wot96
January 26 2016, 03:38PM
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@PrairieStew

Which means Russell is almost certainly out of the question unless his pay demands are grossly inflated in the media, which could be too.

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#23 wot96
January 26 2016, 03:46PM
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@wot96

Further to this, if the Flames want to go with youth, they will end up with a couple of players on ELCs (maybe one D and two forwards such as Kulak, Poirier and the 2016 first), Jooris (assuming Pat is right and he can be resigned at that rate) which leaves a couple million for the fifth player.

Maybe Colborne fits there as he seems unlikely to be hugely expensive.

If your guess as to cost is for Mony and Johnny is right, the Flames have to have a pile of youth next year, move contracts at the deadline, or buyout a player whose contract sucks.

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#24 MattyFranchise
January 26 2016, 04:50PM
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@Kent Wilson

Thank you for bringing puckalytics to my attention. My favorite stats site since extraskater kicked the bucket."

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#25 RealMcHockeyReturns
January 26 2016, 05:37PM
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Maybe BT is trying to re-sign Russell to provide cost-certainty to a trade partner. What I mean is (using an example):

Perhaps we CAN get Hamonic from NYI if the Islanders know that Russell is locked in for 4.2M for 3 years for example. We may need to throw in another bit but I would love to see Hamonic here. Further on that point:

I would love to see both Hamonic and Okposo here but I bet it takes Hudler, Russell, a key prospect, and maybe 1-2 second rounders...Garth Snow is smarter than many think. I would do that deal to get 2 mid-20s solid players in positions we need. Hope we could throw in another anchor contract too.

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#26 Jake the Snail
January 26 2016, 07:28PM
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It is almost time for BT to jettison our UFAs and bring up some prospects for development.

We will still have to live with some bad contracts next year but you can't get rid of them all. We do need experienced forwards to support the young stars. Otherwise the Flames will look like the oilers!

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#27 MontanaMan
January 26 2016, 08:37PM
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Is BT satisfied with Ramo or will he dump both current goalies? If you don't think Ramo is in your plans for the next three years, it's tough to sign him to a rich multi year deal following the 2016 season. I'm wondering if there's a deal to be made for Reimer? If not Reimer, who will be the starter next year?

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#28 PrairieStew
January 27 2016, 11:20AM
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RealMcHockeyReturns wrote:

Maybe BT is trying to re-sign Russell to provide cost-certainty to a trade partner. What I mean is (using an example):

Perhaps we CAN get Hamonic from NYI if the Islanders know that Russell is locked in for 4.2M for 3 years for example. We may need to throw in another bit but I would love to see Hamonic here. Further on that point:

I would love to see both Hamonic and Okposo here but I bet it takes Hudler, Russell, a key prospect, and maybe 1-2 second rounders...Garth Snow is smarter than many think. I would do that deal to get 2 mid-20s solid players in positions we need. Hope we could throw in another anchor contract too.

I have been thinking about a deal like that as well. In addition to Hudler and Russel and perhaps Granlund it would probably also cost the Flames either Kylington or Andesson and either Poirer or Klimchuck.

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