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So, as Kent does an unreal job of preparing us here at Flames Nation for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, I’ll start getting us set for the other big summer date on the Calgary calendar, that being July 1st and the opening of free agency.  Over the next 15 days or so, we’ll profile Calgary’s potential unrestricted free agents along with looking at potential targets and team needs that could be addressed through free agency.

To start us off, we’ll look at the Calgary situation when it comes to restricted free agents.  The RFA scenario affects two players who ended last season on the active roster for the team, along with goaltender Matt Keetley.  But as Keetley has played just one career NHL game, we’ll focus more heavily on the other two, starting on the blueline.

Ian White

The 26 year old defenceman played just 27 games with the Flames last season after being acquired from Toronto on January 31st.  But in those two-plus months of action, many fans in Calgary started to take notice of the 5’10 blueliner.  I know many believe he was the most impressive of the four players who joined the Flames from Toronto.

In 83 games, White set NHL career highs in goals (13), assists (25), and points (38) and finished the season fifth in team scoring and first among defencemen.  His +8 rating was third on the team, and he certainly made an impact in the offensive zone. Among players who played more than 40 games last season, White had the highest percentage of offensive zone starts, coming it at 57.9%. He was on the ice for 135 more offensive faceoffs than defensive ones, which would help explain his team leading +10.37 Corsi rating (among players with 60 or more games played).  However, those stats don’t paint the entire picture, as they were compiled from 56 games in Toronto, so I don’t think it’s a true indicator of his time with the Flames.

But where is White’s value overall?  And at what price should that value come at?  Some of Kent’s scoring chance data wasn’t always flattering for White at even strength. I didn’t hate White defensively, and I really liked his first pass out of his own zone…but is he a guy who demands $3.5 million per season? Or is that too high?  We’ve all heard different rumours when it comes to what GM Darryl Sutter might offer him and/or what the White camp is looking for.  Other blueliners coming in at around $3.5 mil?  That includes names like Niklas Kronwall, Brent Seabrook, Ryan Suter and Brooks Orpik.
It’s an interesting case, because White has certainly shown some value.  I do know Head Coach Brent Sutter is a huge fan, and some of the on-ice minutes we saw from White seemed to bear that out.  However, with over $18.5 million committed to the blueline for next season, it isn’t unfair to ask "where does a new contract for White fit?"

Brett Sutter

From an interest standpoint, the 23 year old Sutter doesn’t draw as much as White, for a number of reasons.  Sutter has played just 14 career NHL games, including 10 last season.  He wasn’t acquired in a high profile, mid-season trade like White was. And he isn’t in line for the same type of salary boost. But it does give us a chance to analyze how the 2005 sixth round pick has progressed.

I think we’re all on board in thinking that it’s a shoo-in that Brett will be tendered a new contract. He’s the son of the GM, and he hasn’t done anything to suggest the Flames should go in a new direction with a drafted player. In fact, there’s been pretty high praise for him. Playing 66 games under Head Coach Jim Playfair for Abbotsford of the American Hockey League, Sutter had 24 points. However in listening to Playfair late in the Heat season, Sutter had been one of the most improved and consistent players on their team. Now after three full seasons in the minors, is Brett ready to make a more permanent jump to the NHL?

The stats aren’t really going to make a huge case for or against, because the sample size is pretty small. At this point, Sutter is probably in line to play the same type role he played late in the season for the Flames. He averaged just over eight minutes of even-strength time and seemed to fit in just fine with Eric Nystrom and Jamal Mayers. He’s not going to make a huge impact on the game, but did show some tenacity on the penalty kill and never seemed to really hurt the team. I don’t know how many would be outraged if he were to start the year with the team; and conversely, if he didn’t, I don’t know how many will lose sleep.

So, a total of three RFA’s facing Darryl Sutter and the Flames this offseason. Both Dustin Boyd and Brandon Prust would have also qualified, but are no longer with the team. On the UFA front, Calgary is looking at 7, which we will start to profile later this week.

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  • I believe White has arbitration rights this year. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see Sutter take that route, mostly to avoid signing a long-term deal. That would make sense given the current needs of the club weighed against the fact that they have guys like Pelech, Erixon and maybe one or two others who will be challenging for a spot a year or two down the road.

    A mock arbitration may be in order.

  • Graham

    I think it’s a no brainer that both those guys get qualified the only real questions are (for Sutter) where will he play (Abbotsford or Calgary… the answer to which I believe is in whether Eric Nystrom is here next year) and for White whether his contract is negotiated or arbitrated. Honestly, if he wants more the 3.0M per (and refuses to budge) I’d entertain not matching offer sheets and taking the comp or trading him for equivalency.

    • I think I’m with you…I don’t know if I’d be willing to give that much to White at this point. And Graham also makes the point as to how this affects Giordano.

      I don’t believe it’s a lock that Giordano will return to Calgary…but with a guy who I believe is important, I think you have to move forward with the intention that you will re-sign him.

  • Graham

    I don’t put White in the Kronwall, Seabrook,
    Suter or Orpik category, so I have to hope we can sign him for under the $3.5 million mentioned. With our cap issues, a $3.5 million contract to White would cause all sorts of negative effects, and would significantly reduce his trade value.
    If we pencil White in at the $3 – $3.5 million range, what on earth are we going to have to sign Gio for next season?

    • I don’t put White in the Kronwall, Seabrook, Suter or Orpik category

      And I don’t either, by no means was I trying to compare the players. Just an idea of what else is out there…to be fair, Justin is right when it comes to Seidenberg, and a guy like Craig Rivet is sitting at 3.5.

  • Graham

    White isnt worth $3.5 million. The max amount Sutter should pay him is $5 mil, 2 year contract, averaging $2.5 mil per year, take it or leave it. I don’t really expect White to sign with the FLames, nor do I really want him to( no offense to him). It’s just that the Flames will have Giordano offensively, and Bouwmeester will have a bounce back year for them to. Plus, youve got Bouw, Reggie, and Sarich all making more than $3.5 mil, and Staios at $2.7. Not enough cap space, so I expect to see Matt Pelech or Staffan Kronwall battling Adam Pardy for the 6 spot next year.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Dennis Seidenberg is older, slower, had less points, a lower QCOMP average, and a lower CoRQCOMP then White, and he was just paid 3.25 million per over 4 years. White is going to get a 3.25-3.75 million dollar offersheet if Daz isn’t able to resign him.

    He better hope he can, because if he doesn’t, Phaneuf was traded for Hagman and Stajan.

  • i’ve said it from the get-go: i don’t think daz has any intention of re-signing white, i think he’ll either deal his rights before the draft for some higher picks (likely) or go the arbitration/offersheet route. i’m not sure he ever had any intention of keeping him…. when you factor in the aulie pitch-in, this makes the dion trade pretty questionable, if not bad, IMO.

    totally frustrating and largely infuriating.

    • It makes the Phaneuf trade absolutely @#%$ING STUPID!!!

      What was the point? Giving away a prospect AND (a perceived) blue chip defenseman for those two. I know what Dion was and I am still part of the camp that wanted him gone but for that????!

      Frustrating and infuriating are the two best words WI.

  • Ian White was in the top 3 in scoring for defensemen and one of the only players in the + department for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    During his 27-games in Calgary he had a better point per game total then any other Calgary defensemen, including Giordanno (~0.44 PPG). During that period of time he was a +7. This elevated him to the third best +/- on the team, second for defensemen.

    He logged nearly 21-minutes per game, much of that against the leagues best alongside Regher.

    He is an RFA. The Calgary Flames can sign him if they choose. And they would be nuts not to. Even if only to trade him during the summer.

    Not that I am suggesting they should trade him. Keeping him gives the Flames the oppurtunity to trade players like Regher, Gio, or Beuwmeester to bring in first line forward talent.

    Regardless of any trades, White at 3.5 million is leaps and bounds better then Staois at 2.7 or Sarich at 3.6.

    • Wanyes bastard child

      White also had largely advantageous situations in Toronto (easy comp, great zone start), and +/- is a overrated stat not indicative of quality of competition. He is going to get a big money offer sheet, and comparing his contract to the two biggest albatrosses on the team does not do him any favours. If Daz can get rid of or demote the 10 million dollar men, then signing White @ 3.5 would only make me a little mad.

    • I’ll agree with Justin here…looking at some of the scoring chance data Kent compiled, White did not fair well. While Giordano was typically on-ice for far more chances for than against at even strength, White was usually even at best if not far behind.

      Is this part of who he’s playing against? I’m sure it is, but I don’t think it’s the only reason.

  • White is a solid middle tier two-way defender and he is worth 3.0 to 3.5 million per year. I was happy with his play over his 27-games in Calgary.

    With respect to the great work that Kent does, the “chance” data doesn’t interest me that much. As Calgary learned last year, it isn’t about the chances.

    He played against the league’s best (on the second lowest scoring team in the NHL) and ended up in the positive where it matters. And he looked strong doing it.

    It isn’t between Gio and White. (If it was I would pick Gio.) They can find salary for Gio if he wants to stay with the team. (i.e. Staois contract). I think its closer to being between White and Sarich. Which one would you want on your team?

    White gives you a solid 3-4 D that can play 1-2. He does it in the right price range. And he gives the team the option to trade a premier D for much needed scoring support without crippling the team on D. I am sold.

    • You don’t think out-chancing the other team is important?


      On the other topic, White is probably worth a mid-tier deal. Problem for the Flames is, they are awash in defensemen on similar tickets. They’ll have to get rid of at least one of them if White comes in at that price.

      • I should rephrase. Clearly out chancing your opponent is important. However, not when used in the context of “Sure, he scores a lot of goals, but he didn’t have as many chances” or “Well, he didn’t actually produce anything, but boy he had a lot of chances.” It isn’t the defining statistic. At the end of the day its actual production that wins hockey games. As the Flames proved in many a game last year.

        But I agree with you. To sign White, they need to make room for White. They can’t fit him on the roster as is.

        I just think they should make room.

  • the “chance” data doesn’t interest me that much. As Calgary learned last year, it isn’t about the chances.

    What in the name of hell or good green Earth are you talking about?

    Scoring chances are fundamental to hockey. If scoring chances don’t interest you then hockey must not interest you. Why are you spending your spare time commenting about hockey then?

    I suggest you brush up your understanding of how the game is played on the ice, because it is clearly lacking right now.

  • I wouldn’t be surprised to see White signed & Giordano dealt (along with an albatross like Kotalik). The only way you can move any of the 3 big$ liabilities is to throw them in with a cheaper good-value guy. I’m not necassarily endorsing this idea (nor am I dead-set against it… depends on the deal), but I could see White having been brought in to replace Gio because they know they’re dealing him.

    • Wanyes bastard child

      Am I allowed to swear if my mom doesn’t care?

      In short, eff that noise. I would much rather let White get taken then do anything that meant that Gio was on his way out. Gio should be the most untouchable player on the team.

  • Why would the Flames get rid of either White or Gio? They’re two of the best d-men on the team, and their contracts (and potential future contracts) are probably going to be the best value of anyone currently signed. If it came down to it, dump JBo before either of those two.

    • Wanyes bastard child

      I would like to keep both of them. That is likely not an option, so I would much rather have a 1st & 3rd round pick, salary encumbrance and Gio @ 3.5-4 million/season then White @ 3-3.5 per. There are 4 dmen here that can play top two minutes well. That’s not ideal in the salary cap world if you can’t get them to sign below market value. I envision 3 possibilities:
      -White is signed, Gio is then let go at the conclusion of next season
      -White is qualified at 3.11 million, another team offers more, White is lost for 1st & 3rd rounders
      -White is signed, Gio is traded at draft along with salary encumbrance and prospect X for a first rounder.

  • jeremywilhelm

    Keeping Giordano, Bouwmeester, Regehr and White are all pretty much a must. Sarich and Staois need to be jettisoned ASAP.

    Having that top 4 can allow the team to bring along Pelech and the rest of the D prospects at a nice slow pace into the NHL as 5-6 dmen. You don’t even need to lock Gio and White up for very long. 3 years at most, and then the prospects in the system should be able to take over for Regehr and one of Giordano or White when their contracts are up.

  • Oyo

    if we need to move one of our top 4 Dmen ( cuz i doubt anyones taking sarich or staios off our hands) who would you choose??

    i like whites play so far, taht ive seen. Gio id keep and i think bow id going to have a bounce back year… what kind of return do you think regher might bring us???

    maybe package him up with a higgens or kotalik to bring in a 3-4 d man and decent forward??

    • Wanyes bastard child

      White would be the easiest to get rid of. Both Regehr and Bouwmeester have NTC’s, and Giordano shouldn’t even be in this conversation. I would rank them like this:
      1.Gio 2.JBouw 3.White 4.Reggie. Depending on what kind of money White’s offered, though, I’d bump him down. I think the max for White should be 3.1/year, which is 75% of Reggie’s contract.

  • Oyo

    The Flames have gone the way of the good-D-as-foundation route for competitiveness. Not exactly a strategy I agree with but one should have the courage of one’s convictions.

    So if one does stick to one’s plan, Regehr and Bouwmeester shouldn’t go anywhere, they are legitimately awesome tough-minute D. Gio and White can walk.

    Of course if there were actual reasonable deals to be made of good complete forwards (if we’re greedy, in the Nash mold, if we’re not greedy, in the Pavelski mold) and one wants to deviate from one’s plan, then perhaps Regehr and Bouwemeester should be considered as trade components.

    Anyways. The short version of this long story is keep the impact defencemen unless there are impact forwards on the table. As good as White and Giordano look in jeans, they do less to help this team win that Regehr and Bouwmeester.

  • Oyo

    makes sense to me.
    is spezza looking like our most viable option right now to bring in that big center peice??
    cuz i dont really like his style either….

    but perhaps we could swing him / top 6 forward to get rid of our junk….

    sarich, higgens, moss, maybe a pick???

    i just dont think this team is going to improve much in the standings next season unless we bring in some legit shooters.

    • Wanyes bastard child

      Spezza is a passer. We have a legit shooter-you may have heard of #12?

      It will take a lot more then those two, a UFA and a throwaway pick to bring in Spezza. Realistically, if you wanted Spezza, you would have to give up Reggie, Moss, and a 2nd rounder. You may have to chuck in a prospect too. It’s just not worth it.

      • Oyo

        ok so we have one ageing legit shooter. what i meant was that we need a more balanced threat.

        ill defs agree with you about needing to offer more to get spezza. i guess im of the variety of trying sometihng new rather then trying to rekindle a blown out fire.

        in my opinion i would love to have a REAL good number 1 center but a few more offensively gifted forwards would suit me fine. based on the sheer amount of players we have, i hope sutter can make it work.

      • As soon as Spezza had that meeting with Murray in Ottawa, you knew his name was going to be linked to Calgary.

        But to RO’s point…is Spezza the impact forward that you’d want IF you were going to move an impact blueliner. I don’t think he is.

  • Oyo

    (psst: guys —higgins is UFA july 1. he’s as good as gone. pick another hard grinding forward who can’t score to package up in your trade suggestions….)

    god that 2.7 mil worth of facepalm on the blueline irks me. that’s ian white money, straight up.

    and i’m fully prepared to see gio traded on or just before deadline day (and not sooner). i’m not HAPPY about it, but i can feel it comin’.

  • Oyo

    im in the same boat.
    so WI, you seem to know whats crackalackin….

    what would you like to see happen with the flames org???

    who to resign, who (if anyone) to bring in..??

    • Oyo

      i’ve really wracked my brain in effort to figure out why darryl made the moves he did this year, and i can only presume they were opening moves, not finishing moves. i guess this because there is no way that anyone in his position could be that stupid. there’s just no way.

      the brighter side of staios is that he would be an effin’ good presence in the lockerroom IN ABBOTSFORD. seriously. i have no idea if he’d go, or if he’d retire (or get picked up on waivers), but with all the moves the org is making to beef up the baby flames, this actually makes a whole lotta sense.

      TO ME, the bright side of the dion trade IS ian white. he’s presumeably not hit his ceiling yet as a young guy, and with regehr and sarich getting long in the tooth, having other defensively responsible dudes on the blueline seem like a good idea. still, white is a little guy and doesn’t fit the darryl sutter mold of hulking Dmen so i’m guessing he’s as good as gone. of course, i have no idea how keith aulie goes east in that deal…. useless 1st round draft pick to follow.

      i’m still holding out hope for stajan and i love langkow. backlund will find a spot on the big club and hopefully hagman will bounce back. bourque’s golden. nystrom, mayers & mcG are as good as gone. conroy MIGHT get one more year at league minimum…. i’m not sure i like that idea though. glenX and pocketdawes rule. we just need a few guys with some actual skill and booyah !

      • glenX and pocketdawes rule.

        Love Glencross…the only thing that has hampered him at times has been consistency. That seemed to be less of an issue last season.

        Would love to see Dawes start the season on Langkow’s flank. I think a good chunk of time playing with Langkow will do wonders for the all round game for Dawes.

  • As someone stated above, and maybe I’m way off base here but, could Darryl not just trade Sarich, Kotalik, Staois, ect for late round draft picks. If the flames are looking for salary space let them walk for 4th or 5th round picks and use the cap space for Gio and White and maybe a decent free agent (slim pickings this year) or a trade or two. Bring up Pelich, Kronwall or see what a guy can swing. The whole Kotalik/Staois situation just doesn’t make sense to me. Why bring that much salary for those two marginal AHL players?

    • Wanyes bastard child

      Doubtful that he will get anything past a 6th for Sarich and Staios, and a 5th for Kotalik. I’m sure there are some GM’s out there stupid enough to trade for them, but I don’t think Daz will move them.

      • Oyo

        well lets just all agree that HE NEEDS TO MOVE THOSE EFFING CONTRACTS. whether its abbotsford or trades or whatever! do something about it. and im with WI.

        there had to be some kind of game plan for all these trades he made. i dont think Daz is at his final stage of his plan yet.

        waiting with baited breathe darrel. please please please do not dissapoint