Of Calgary’s main roster players last season, defenceman Brendan Mikkelson is the lone pending restricted free agent to worry about. Playing just 19 games with the Flames this year, the team needs to decide whether they see the former Anaheim second round pick ever being capable of playing regular minutes on the blueline. Mikkelson certainly struggled throughout last season, and certainly hasn’t shown me anything to prove he’s worthy of a one way contract this time around.
The Flames claimed Mikkelson off waivers from the Ducks early on this season, but the soon-to-be 24 year old defenceman had immediate problems fitting into Calgary’s plan. The problems weren’t overly noticeable in game situations, as Brent Sutter was forced to protect him on the third pairing. The problems were most glaring during practice situations, as Mikkelson struggled in 5-on-5 drills with his first pass and exit positioning. As such, Mikkelson saw very limited work, playing just four games in the calendar year of 2011.
On the positive side, Mikkelson is still young and does possess decent size and skating ability. With Tim Erixon leaving the organization, it might make Mikkelson’s possibilities of sticking with the team greater, and another two way contract isn’t totally out of the question. That said, with five defencemen already under contract, a regular spot on the NHL roster doesn’t seem like the greatest possibility, especially if T.J. Brodie does what many hope he does and impresses for a second straight training camp.
The other thing that impacts Mikkelson is what Calgary decides to do with pending unrestricted free agent Adam Pardy, who we’ll profile later this week. If Pardy is signed and Brodie starts the season with the big club, it doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for Mikkelson. The team does need AHL defecemen right now however, and having Mikkelson as a first up, first down type guy isn’t the worst idea in the world. He could fill a solid role on the Heat and could fill a seventh defenceman spot if needed at the NHL level.
I will say this: Pardy clearly needs to be a higher priority than Mikkelson at this point. We’ll see if the Flames tender Mikkelson a qualifying offer prior to the deadline; if they do, it might give us an indication as to how Pardy fits into their future plans.
EDIT: Jay Feaster announced Monday afternoon a qualifying offer has been sent to Mikkelson along with goaltender Leland Irving.