Kent wrote a great piece last week analyzing Calgary’s strength and depth on the blueline, asserting that decisions will need to be made ahead of opening night in October. Well, another wrinkle was added on Sunday afternoon when the Flames announced the signing of Matt Pelech to a one year contract. Now my question is…how does the guy fit?
On the official stuff, while not being officially official, the strong indication from everyone I’ve talked to is that, yes, Pelech’s deal is a two-way contract. The other interesting thing to note on Pelech is that, from how I understand it, he WILL be waiver eligible this season. Pelech’s first pro contract, and first pro season, was his 20 year old season, meaning he had three seasons of waiver exemption, which has now passed. How much will that affect things isn’t quite clear…on the one hand, you’ve got a young blueliner who some in the Flames organization have been high on for a while. On the other hand, Pelech has suffered with injuries and has only played one full pro season (his OHL career was also marred with injuries). I encourage you to check out FlamesNation’s prospect profile on Pelech, as well.
My waiver understanding, as I’ve been pouring over the CBA the last two days since the Pelech signing, has certainly been upped a little. Now, if someone is reading and understands the waiver and re-entry waiver procedure better than I do, please feel free to correct me, because by NO means am I saying this is 100% accurate and beyond reproach. However, from reading, my understanding has it that Pelech, while being subject to the regular waiver process, would not be required to go through re-entry waivers. As well, the waiver process isn’t enforced until September 25th of this year, meaning Pelech could start the season in the minors prior to that date without the worry of being claimed. The wording also gets hairy because Pelech did not play an NHL game last season.
Going back to our FlamesNation roundtable following the season, Kent asked the question as to whether we’d like to see Pelech take a crack at the team for this upcoming year. I answered yes, I’d like to see it happen, but as the offseason has rolled on, the prospects of it actually happening, pending movement, are less and less viable.
First off, there are sheer logistics…seven d-men are locked up on one-way NHL deals. Add in a likely contract of some length to Ian White, and you’re up to eight. Now, to clarify, one or two-way contracts have nothing to do with waivers; all it means is a player is payed differently in the American Hockey League as opposed to the NHL. The financial convenience is usually why players on two-way contracts are returned to the minors first. So, assuming a White deal is done, here’s what the Flames blueline looks like currently:
Kronwall spent most of last season in the minors while Pardy was largely used as a seventh defenceman down the stretch. At this point, if Pelech has a shot to make the big roster, it’s going to have to be over Pardy and Kronwall, unless the Flames decide to make a trade or bury a blueliner in the minors.
So is Pelech a good fit on this team for this season? The more I think about it, the more I lean towards saying no. Not to say he isn’t a viable blueline prospect, but maybe this year isn’t the year. He signed a one year deal, and I wonder how much of that short term is to see whether or not Pelech can play a full pro schedule (something he hasn’t done since 2007-08).
I know there are some who will say "he’s been down there for three seasons, it’s time to either make the jump or cut your losses and go in a new direction." But, being that the team still has high hopes for him, another year in the AHL may not be the worst thing in the world. If it ends up being another shortened, sub-50 game season, then all of a sudden red flags start to pop up. If he plays 70+ games and continues to show the things the Flames like, then you’ve got something to build on for the following season (when Staios, for one, is no longer a factor).
So, in short, is it possible for Pelech to blow the socks off the Flames management and coaching staff this September and make the team straight out? Yeah, I guess. But, with the way things look right now for the team AND the player, I think I might favour another year in BC before any talk of full time NHL duty is discussed. But then again, this Flames blueline could still look a whole lot different come September and October.