UFA Profile: Anton Babchuk

Watching the progression of Anton Babchuk in his time with the Calgary Flames this past season was one of the more interesting storylines of the 2010-11 campaign.  While he gave the Flames an element they haven’t had since Dion Phaneuf manned the point, we also saw a number of deficincies in Babchuk’s game.  Because he had strong counting numbers, Babchuk will have interested parties that may drive his price tag up; a price tag I believe the Flames need to be very wary of.

Babchuk is coming off a one year contract where he made $1.4 million split between Calgary and Carolina after spending a year in Russia.  In all honesty, and I’ll give credit where credit is due, he gave the Flames a whole lot more than I thought he would when the trade was made.  With a howitzer of a shot, Babchuk is absolutely a factor on the powerplay.  He makes rooms for other players and he has the ability to unleash a shot that seemingly goes through goaltenders.  As such, 11 of his 27 points with the Flames last season came with the man advantage.

There’s no doubting how Babchuk can be effective, but there’s also the fact that he’s not the most well rounded defenceman.  Defensively, there are glaring problems that pop up especially as he plays more minutes on a per game basis.  Those things can be covered and minimized by utilizing him at even strength in a much less impact role, which is exactly what Head Coach Brent Sutter did as the season progressed last year.

When Babchuk first arrived, he was playing more minutes in a higher role, and he was not donig very well 5-on-5.  Gradually, Sutter managed his ice time more and more to the point where he was relegated to a 5-6 role on the blueline with plenty of powerplay time and very little defensive responsibility.  His 61.9% offensive zone start was the highest among regular Flames players and among the highest in the NHL.  Essentially, the Flames utilized Babchuk as a specialist, which is just fine and it’s something that you can get value from.  The question is, however, how many resourcse do you put into that type of player?

I’d have no problem if the Flames brought Babchuk back at or around the same cap hit from a year prior.  However, I don’t see that happening, as his camp is probably fully aware how thin the free agent crop is this season, and how many teams would love a nice infusion on their powerplay.  As such, Babchuk’s price will probably be driven up to the point where I believe he’d no longer be a realistic option for the Flames.

Calgary needs to cap what they’re willing to offer Babchuk and not let the market force them into a bidding war.  Let other teams get into that, because as good as he can be on the powerplay, paying much more for a guy who gives you very little at even strength is not worth it.  I’m not overly optimistic the Flames will resign him anyway, as there is a perceived rift between Babchuk’s agency and the Flames; I’m not sure to what extent that actually exists, but not signing this guy may not be the worst thing for the team.

  • MC Hockey

    Even though he was used as a specialist, the defensive deficiencies in his game were so glaring on a shift-to-shift basis it was ridiculous. Good riddance.

    • Canucks Suck

      Not that bad of a loss considering his lack of skill in the defensive zone. I’m going to miss that cannon of a shot he had though. If anything, it was just fun to see Babchuk wind up and all the defenders flinch.

      On the bright side, that’s one less person Brodie will have to compete with come training camp.

  • Canucks Suck

    I say give him another year at a fair price and try and work out some of those flaws in his game. You are never too old to learn how to defend effectively. If he wants too much let him walk. I think our PP won’t be as good as it was to end last season anymore though.

  • SmellOfVictory

    I think the Flames are fine for bottom pairing defenders. I want one of those spots to at least be available to Brodie, and if there is a logjam of 4+ guys of that ability on one-way contracts, it just complicates things that much more. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure I’d mind the Flames just tanking this year. Apparently Nail Yakupov is projected to be a very good player (and for those with fear of Russians, he’s in the OHL right now because he wanted a more direct route to the NHL).

    • Yakupv scored 49 goals and 101 points in 65 games as 16-17 year old in the OHL this year. The guy who placed second on the Sting in points was 20 years old and he managed just 88. That’s ridiculous.

      I can’t imagine the Flames falling far enough to get Yakupov. He’s going first or second next year.

      • SmellOfVictory

        Trade away JBo and our team has a damn good chance at him. Haha.

        FireOnIce: That’s exactly what it is. If it goes to arbitration, the team is forced to either take what may be an overly large salary or let the player walk and sign with someone else. This way they get to negotiate without worrying about it.

    • thymebalm

      I think the best you are gonna do with him is “Future Considerations” and those FC are gonna be a 7th rounder if he signs at best. Erhoff and Wisnieski had value and can actually play a defenders role. I don’t think the flames are the only team aware or the shortcomings of one Babchuk and I don’t think any teams are in rush to speak to him and are more than willing to wait and see what the bidding price is. Cause if you spend the pick on him your feel almost obligated to get a deal done which usually leads to an overpayment.

      I give full marks to Snow for getting back a fourth rounder once he knew he wasn’t gonna get Erhoff signed he moved him for similar value even though a lot of time expired.

      I just REALLY REALLY hope we don’t sign Babchuk but if we do it better not be for more than 1.7 or 1.8. I don’t see how you can justify paying a guy 2.5 or more to be a bottom pairing guy.

      • Fair enough, but I find there’s always someone in the league willing to pay a bunch for a dude who can put up points from the back-end. There’s no question in my mind he’ll get north of $2M when he get’s signed this summer. That’s more than Montador’s going to get.

        • I fully agree, there is someone out there fully willing to give him that 2.5 or whatever he might end up with because he can put up points on the backend, how do you think Kotalik got his contract, he has one hell of a canon. I’m just hoping its not us giving it to him. But I doubt that someone is gonna give us anything to talk to him early, I think most people realize what and who he is and won’t give up another future assest to talk to a guy who SHOULD be a depth signing. Somehow I see some stupid team signing him and he ends up playing 3-4 pairing minutes, that poor poor team.

  • RKD

    Watching Babs was interesting for sure. I always felt he overstickhandled. He would move the puck left to right 5-6 times before dishing off the puck. He’s definitely useful on the powerplay.

    I would bring him back as a 5-6 but not at the money he would be asking for. He helps our powerplay, after Gio is on the first unit, Babs came in on the second unit and got some decent shots on net.

  • In UFA news, according to Bob Mckenzie’s Twitter, Pittsburgh is working on re-signing Tyler Kennedy…

    What in the hell is up with these teams not qualifying their RFAs, then wanting to sign them after? Is that some sort of plot to not be stuck to an arbitrator’s decision or what? Makes no sense to me.