UFA Profiles – Chris Higgins

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 14: Chris Higgins #21 of the New York Rangers collides with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist #30 during their game against the Los Angeles Kings at Madison Square Garden on October 14, 2009 in New York, New York. The Rangers defeated the Kings 4-2.(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

 

Pretty much the only way Higgins could score last year

 

 Forward Chris Higgins is next up on our profiles of potential unrestricted free agents for the Calgary Flames.  He played just 12 games with the Flames, after being acquired from the New York Rangers on February 1st along with Ales Kotalik.  His stint with Calgary was cut even shorter, thanks to a foot injury that sidelined him the final 14 games of the regular season.

It was a tough haul for Higgins offensively, and his frustration level following losses last year was visible.  He put up career low NHL numbers: 17 points in 67 games, and his time in Calgary seemed at times to be a microcosm of the entire season.  Good scoring chances would go wide, or he’d break a stick with a prime opportunity in the offensive end. I remember one game when he was asked about a particular chance and he smirked and said "with the way things have gone this season, nothing surprises me."

Montreal drafted Higgins 14th overall in 2002, and after three consecutive 20 goal seasons, his offensive numbers dipped in 2008-09, thanks in large part to a combination of different injuries (groin and hand).  He was able to muster 12 goals and 23 points in 57 games before being traded to the New York Rangers on June 30th of 2009.  The New York State native didn’t flourish closer to home, and was again traded; and the question now becomes a tough one to answer.  Is Higgins able to regain the form that saw him score 20 goals three straight times?

Because nobody reading this will have the answer to that. All we can do is speculate.  I liked Higgins for a lot of what he did in his short time with the Flames. I looked at Kent’s scoring chance data, and only once did I see Higgins being out-chanced at even strength in a game.  Part of that comes down to who he was playing with (Langkow), I get that, but I also think Higgins was a pretty good fit with Langkow.  A lot of the other stats aren’t going to tell a true story for this past season, as most of it was with a different team in a different conference.

What it will come down to for most is dollars and cents. Higgins would have counted $2.25 million against the cap for a full season this past year.  Here’s what I’ve been told: Higgins is one guy Head Coach Brent Sutter wants back, for on-ice reasons as much as off-ice.  For a team that had "casual atmosphere" issues, Higgins seems to be a guy who doesn’t fit that mold.  If you were to tell me two years at $5 million total on a new contract, I might not be totally against it. For a team that struggled to have very many impact forwards, I think Higgins has the potential to be one.

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  • Higgins underlying numbers with the Flames were solid as a rock. His SH% was a career low last year (4.8%) which is Cory Sarich territory. he could come at a steep discount thanks to his awful counting numbers.

    That said, dude is rather injury prone. And even if he’s in $1.5M territory, I don’t even know the Flames will have the cap room for him.

    • For sure. Whatever happens with other UFA’s will swing on two things. The first is the resolution of the White situation and the second is whether Sutter can free up some cap roome (ie; get rid of Staios or Sarich).

  • Canucks Suck

    Four more words: Higgins instead of Kotalik. 😀

    But regarding Sarich and Staios, call me a cockeyed optimist, but I get the feeling that Sutter will manage to divest himself of at least one of them, if not both.

  • dustin642

    Another solid piece, Flamesnation, you guys rock!

    I would love to see Higgins back, I thought he fit in well with Langkow, and is almost guaranteed a bounce back year statistically. From what it sounds like, we will be losing Nystrom so I cannot see why we won’t re-sign him. My guess is a 2-year $3.7M deal 1.85per year. Higgins fits in on almost every line on this team and after a terrible season last year, he is due for a better outcome next year.

  • dustin642

    I am guilty of huge saw-him-good with Higgins. He was terrific on the boards and in gaining the zone, he was basically like Langkow in that regard. It didn’t hurt that he played with Langkow, but he helped drive the bus on that line too. The difference by eye between him and Dawes on Lanks’ wing – chasmic. And I like Dawes.

    Not sure what his contributions are to the PP and that’s important when determining how important he is to the team, as much as I like these EV difference makers they have to be competent on the PP as well if you are going to commit money and years to them.

    When I have the time Kent I’ll check out the SCs sheet you sent and look at Higgins specifically. I doubt he faked his way through that last part of the season so I’m confident he’s a player, but it’d be nice to know the answer to “how much”.

    • I am guilty of huge saw-him-good with Higgins.

      That’s where I’m at with Higgins; I loved the way he played while watching games. Unfortunately, there’s not always a number to back that up.

      Not sure what his contributions are to the PP

      I looked at the PP numbers from this season…I’m still not as good at reading them as you or Kent are, but they seem to be fairly middle of the road in terms of shots and goals for per 60 on the PP. Those numbers also seemed pretty static from the last three seasons.

      as much as I like these EV difference makers they have to be competent on the PP as well if you are going to commit money and years to them.

      I agree, but if you were to come to me and say “2 years, 4 mil” I’d be all right with paying that for just the even strength stuff.

  • dustin642

    I don’t see any real case in where he comes back. He’s not the type of guy the Flames need. The team is stacked with “pluggers”. The team needs to be quick, younger, faster, more skillfull and can score. While some say he is still relatively young, fast and has potential to score, I think the $2M he will want is way out of the question. He is injury proned, appears to have peaked. I think he must be a nice guy and the type of “Sutter” player but remember Darryl in an interview with Kerr and Boomer said that Kotalik impressed him the most and was one of the better players on the team. Goes to show you there’s something else funky they’re growing on that farm by Viking.

  • Patinator,
    I thought Higgins was turning the heat up right before he got hurt. The team got side tracked when Higgins, Glencross and Langkow all got hurt. Not suprising he received some bad luck for a whole year. Stuff just happens sometimes, as we’re not all born Wayne Gretzky. Wood sticks don’t break nearly as often as composits. Don’t be suprised if he doesn’t re-sign. We can just add him to the list of what if’s and what could have bin.

  • i think that between reg, sarich and staios one maybe gone and 2 if you are a cockeyed optomist. im a big fan of reg but if we can get what we need out of him leaving i will give it a chance, i also like sarich if only we hadn’t made that staios trade. 2.7 off the books would be so nice. cause i don’t think he will be picked up anywhere and i don’t see us sending him to the minors which i would be all for

  • 2 year deal for a guy who hasnt played a full year in a couple years. A guy who’s injury prone, plays hard but doesnt produce. RO, I can’t believe you disagree with me even on the stuff grown up in Viking?

    I’d give him MAX 1 year with a team option for a 2nd, at around $1.5M if that works under the Flame s cap. Maybe incentives to $2M with games played, etc. The worst thing you want is a guy making $2M, getting 15 points and is injured most of the time. The problem would be most of his injuries arent long term so that long term disability wouldnt kick in and that full $2M would count against the cap with no relief.

  • Trade Moss for a draft a pick or prospect. We have seen the ceiling with him and I believe the ceiling is higher with Higgins.

    Otherwise, this team would be light years ahead with the simple addition of Marleau to the compliment of Bourque and Iginla on his wings. If it were only that simple.

  • Nolan: Your evals of Higgins and the Flames aren’t asking the right questions. I mean you’re using words like “plugger” as if they actually mean something to the way things go down on the ice. They don’t.

    Marcus: Moss is the same type of player as Glencross, Dawes, etc – players who can do something or other at even strength. This is the type of player teams need more of.

    Wait, no I forgot, we have BACKLUND waiting in the wings, the Flames are saved.

  • Sutter gets a lot of crap and he deserves some of it too. But when his detractors are instead pining for players of Marleau’s ilk… that’s the pot calling the kettle black.

    While we’re at it we should just ask for Jokinen back too. Since we’re so bent on completely screwing the Flames.

  • Graham

    I liked the chemistry between Higgins and Langkow, and given that we are stuck with Kotalik, having him play right wing on this line looks like the ‘best’ fit. The trio looked pretty decent in the games they played together.

    If Sutter can squeeze out some cap space, Higgins would be a solid signing.

    How does Nystrom fit into the equation?, are we looking at an either Higgins or Nystrom situation, are both likely gone, or do we move another forward (Moss, Glencross?) to fit in Nystrom?

    • If Kotalik is going to be here, then putting him with Langkow and Higgins is fine with me.

      To be honest, I don’t think Nystrom should fit into the equation. If he’s coming back at the same dollar figure, maybe it’s all right…but at this point, he’s a guy who can play 4th line minutes and hope not to be scored on, and not a whole lot else.

  • Canucks Suck

    RO – You are right Moss can do something or other like GlenX. Dawes is a different player that needs to be protected within a line-up and is a different subject. Higgins could easily replace a Moss… With all of the useful something or other players where do you fit them all on the roster?

    Moss doesn’t have the ability to, or is afraid to kick into a higher gear. He’s stalled and I don’t want to wait another year before his value plummets outright.

    Detractor? Your Presumption is so far off. As an enthusiastic Sutter supporter pinning for Marleau is a pipe dream and realistically more suited for the flames style of play. Iginla has evolved into a playmaker as noticed with Cammaleri.

    Marleau is a Canadian Olympian that has become a legitamate playoff threat with significant playoff experience. Jokinen was a retard that couldn’t hold a candle to Patrick and was far to daft to play the big man role like Sutter.

    Instead of presumptuously bashing easy targets like me that offer controversial ideas, why not provide your ideal scenario as an alternative? That would be far too how black is your kettle Pottsky?

    Backlund is coming indeed, hopefully he can improve upon his already bright showing. If Brent Sutter has stated he has no problem having the kid on the ice in most situations, then there must be something more there than your sarcasm suggests. Swede’s are disciplined and coachable so his potential is stronger than you give credit for. Can’t wait to say I told you so. Since your memory is quite good, you’ll remember I said 2 years. that’s all he needs to start knocking off 60 pt seasons. Worst case he is the equivalent of a Hagman and that is not a bad thing considering his pedigree.

    What is it about Sutter’s last 2 drafts that he has shown? First picks were swedes. A significant detraction from the early years and proof of at least a change of course if not an evolution of a general manager. Most detractors armed with poor information are only qualified enough to discuss hockey with the complainers that bark on blogs and forums.

    • Backlund is coming indeed, hopefully he can improve upon his already bright showing. If Brent Sutter has stated he has no problem having the kid on the ice in most situations, then there must be something more there than your sarcasm suggests.

      Backlund wasn’t really used in all situations in his 23 games last season. He’s a young player who’s all-round game needs improving, just like most other young players. Played a lot of protected minutes, so this season will give us more of an indication.

      Marleau is a Canadian Olympian that has become a legitamate playoff threat with significant playoff experience.

      Marleau is fine, but I still think he’s going to re-sign in San Jose. But maybe that’s just me.

  • Marleau is a Canadian Olympian that has become a legitamate playoff threat with significant playoff experience. Jokinen was a retard that couldn’t hold a candle to Patrick and was far to daft to play the big man role like Sutter

  • Marleau is a Canadian Olympian that has become a legitamate playoff threat with significant playoff experience. Jokinen was a retard that couldn’t hold a candle to Patrick and was far to daft to play the big man role like Sutter…. had expected him to fulfill

  • Hi Steinberg!

    Backlund – Agreed. I still think he is 2 years out from showing up. His calmness and vision with the puck intrigues me. I think he’s special.

    Marleau – Sutter never overpays via free agency so it’s my pipe dream to see him sign for 5 mill. Sutter is deliberate in ‘prioritizing the position’ as he did with Bouw so I am curious to see what his priority is beyond the backup position.

  • I still dont’ see any upside with Higgins. He’s a minus player. He’s never been a plus player in the NHL. In 6 NHL seasons he’s only played 2 full seasons, and hasnt played a full since 07-08. Sure he may have ‘intangibles’ but what is the value of that. As i said, $1.5M with incentives and a team option. I think Kotalik is here to stay. Moss is a bigger (2 inches) and much like the same, very comparable. What i see also is that the Flames have not used Moss to his strengths. If he added 20 lbs imagine what he’d be like in front of the net? Also, those who think Marleau is leaving SJ. . . dream on.

    • I think you’re writing off “intangibles” far too much. He’s a guy who has the ability to play in both zones, and can help a unit move the puck up ice. Calgary didn’t have enough of those players this season.

      I don’t think Marleau will leave SJ, I’m with you there.

  • @nolan

    Moss has already been used in every situation plus he has had significant powerplay time only to see his production fall. 20lbs would slow anyone down considerably and not help his cause.

    Higgins may require you have a closer look over time and agreeably he will need that time for fans to get an idea of what type of player he really is, and what he brings to the table overall.

    Marleau as noted is my pipe dream. Dare to dream son. Dare to dream.

    • I still think he is 2 years out from showing up. His calmness and vision with the puck intrigues me. I think he’s special.

      Don’t get me wrong, I think he has potential! He’s very creative and is growing in confidence. We just need to see that continue.

  • McLovin’,

    You’re saying that a career minus player is good on both ends? Hmm, I’ve always thought a 2 way player should be a plus player. Again, IF, IF he comes back, it could be a high risk, high return, mitigate that risk, base plus incentives plus a team option. If he doesnt pan out, dont pick up the option.

    • I just think +/- is far overrated as a no miss stat. There are inaccuracies in it and I don’t think they tell anywhere close to the story of Higgins and his impact.

      He started in the defensive zone far more than a lot of other Flames.

    • If I’m not mistaken, option years on contracts are no more. Not knowing if the year is to be included could affect the cap hit (if numbers were different on option yr), and I believe they got rid of options in new CBA. Also, incentive bonuses have been taken out for most players as well. I’m not sure of the exact criteria (Kent could find it easily, I’m sure), but the only way to include incentive bonuses is on entry-level contracts and for players over a certain age with injury history (35ish I’m guessing).

      In any case, Higgins could not be given incentives or an option yr on a deal. I don’t mind Higgins, but based on recent (offensive) performance and injury history, I’m not sure I’d go above a 1 year deal worth $1.875M.

      • In any case, Higgins could not be given incentives or an option yr on a deal. I don’t mind Higgins, but based on recent (offensive) performance and injury history, I’m not sure I’d go above a 1 year deal worth $1.875M.

        I wouldn’t hate a two year deal, to be honest…I don’t think he’s an un-tradeable guy if the dollar figures are around what you suggested.

  • Funny that everyone thinks its a slam dunk Marleau stays in San Jose (maybe it is). I’m not saying he won’t, but I’ll go out on a (little) limb and say Marleau signs with the Kings. Marleau’s looking to stay in Cali & Lombardi’s looking to make a splash. Not to mention, they’re pretty familiar with each other, and I just see Patty as a guy Lombardi would be more willing to bring in than Kovalchuk. JMO.

  • #steinberg

    RE Backlund

    Creativity and growing confidence are intanible things you can’t quantify by stats other than the greats who put it all together. let’s hope for more! You don’t know how many times I’ve looked like Denis Savard playing shinny then come game time when everything speeds up I get caught sqeezin my stick! Confidence is everything in hockey.

  • keep Higgins. He’s good. Enough said.

    Amen.

    Creativity and growing confidence are intanible things you can’t quantify by stats other than the greats who put it all together. let’s hope for more! You don’t know how many times I’ve looked like Denis Savard playing shinny then come game time when everything speeds up I get caught sqeezin my stick! Confidence is everything in hockey.

    Which Backlund were you watching? Because the Backlund I was watching, at the NHL level, couldn’t make plays in the offensive zone to save his life. Every damn time he was on the rush it would be a muffin from around five feet inside the blueline. His ability to keep the play alive left a lot to be desired too.

    I mean I’m all for watching players to see what their skills are but for God’s sake you actually have to watch the players. You can’t just come here and make stuff up. For all your wet-dreaming about Backlund you haven’t once cited specific things that actually happen on the ice.