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.
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?"
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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