While there has been plenty of discussion surrounding the future of some of Calgary’s more high profile pending unrestricted free agents in recent weeks, the talk about their three soon-to-be RFA players hasn’t been as loud.  One of those players is 26 year old winger Blake Comeau, who is due the largest qualifying offer of the trio.  I don’t believe the Flames can realistically entertain going down that road, but I also don’t think that means they need to lose him either.

While neither Mikael Backlund nor Blair Jones, Calgary’s two other pending RFA’s, are entitled huge money if the team elects to qualify them by the June 25th deadline, the same can’t be said for Comeau, who would need to be offered 100% of his $2.5 million salary for Calgary to retain first rights of refusal on his contract.  That qualifying offer would be equal to a new contract for Comeau if he opted to accept prior to July 15th.

Is a $2.5 million cap hit really good value for a guy with four goals and 11 points in 43 games?  Probably not.  Comeau hasn’t shown me much that shows he’ll return to a 20+ goal scorer in this league, to be perfectly honest.  While his skating and hard nosed approach to the forecheck is exciting at times, I haven’t seen a lot from Comeau in taking the puck to the scoring areas of the ice.  He seems to suffer from the Matthew Lombardi syndrome, in that he’ll drive wide on the rush more often than not.  Those traits have me leaning towards "guy who’s scored 20 goals" as opposed to "20 goal scorer".

That said, there are compelling reasons for Calgary to bring Comeau back next year.  His ability to work an effective cycle fits well with how this team wants to play, currently, and he gives you decent possession minutes in a depth forward role.  Comeau’s possession rates are respectable this year, and his +6.3 relative Corsi and -3.68 raw number speak to that.  Those rates place him near the top for regular forwards on this team.

His goal total is probably a little low as well, with his 4.78 shooting percentage contributing largely to his drop off after scoring 24 and 17 the two previous years.  His shooting percentage those seasons was over 8% on both occassions, a much more realistic number for an NHL forward.  On a decently deep team, and not the New York Islanders, Comeau is ideally an effective third liner who can move into the top six in a pinch.  That’s not a bad thing to have…at the right price.

I’m all for the Flames electing to retain Comeau for the coming season, but they can’t do it using the standard method for an RFA player.  Calgary isn’t in a position where they can take on more poor value contracts, so qualifying Comeau shouldn’t be in the cards for them.  So how can they bring him back at a good value contract?

It’s pretty simple, actually.  The Flames can simply elect not to qualify Comeau and let him become an immediate unrestricted free agent.  With proper communication with player and agent, Calgary can easily indicate their desire to have him in the fold for the coming year or years.  But by having Comeau get to UFA status they are no longer locked into a salary number and can negotiate something more reasonable for him. 

To me, this is the only way the team should be approaching things with this player.  Sure you could have him sign elsewhere, but I’d rather see that than have the team locked into another $2.5 million cap hit for him.  Ideally, you can have it both ways: keep an effective winger while also doing it at an affordable price.

  • PrairieStew

    completely agree. comeau’s the stereotypical possession 3rd liner.

    let him go ufa, then come back with a 2/3mil or 2/2.50mil. there might be a bit of a premium to pay because I’m sure there’s at least one other team out there who would sign the guy.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    2:26am on a non game day? Writers.

    Anyway Comeau should let the market decide what his value is not the qualifying upon his first contract.
    Guys get overpaid based on their draft position and get qualified to unsubstantiated numbers.

    I look at Comeau when he’s off and it’s all mental with him (he thinks too much and he’s in between all the time offensively it seems).

    When he’s on he’s aggressive and heavy.

    The way this team is built, when they are not feeling it offensively they need to get back to simplicity. They’ll get chances and become dangerous. The confidence will come, the defenders will back off and they will have room to make plays again.

    The top guys may have got more shots last game but they were never dangerous. It was only Horak’s line that was dangerous against the Blues.

  • 2:26am on a non game day? Writers.

    No, that’s just Steinberg. Doing OT and afternoon drive shows home shows has trained him to stay up until 3:00am every day.

    As for the article, it’s a good move. The Penguins did it this past summer with Tyler Kennedy and still managed to retain him. Thanks to Comeau’s poor counting stats this year there is a lot less risk another team will swoop in and offer him much, so this is definitely the path the Flames should take.

  • So if Comeau is allowed to go UFA and another team elects to offer what his current salary is (more or less) I wouldn’t attempt to match in order to keep him here. I also would be hesitant to table an offer over $2 million, as I think he’s a perenial 3rd liner who can occassionally work the 2nd line. We already face the prospect of one more year of Stajan @ $3.5 million on the 4th line, so I wouldn’t want to be bogged down with too many “role players” with substantial cap hits. Oh wait, that’s what we have now isn’t it.

    The one thing Pat hinted at was that Cameau’s style of play does fit in with what the coaches want. What happens if Sutter doesn’t return, does Feaster have to wait and see what a new coach prefers, or does he see an opening to sign Comeau at a decent cap hit and go for it?

    Overall, I think for what we’ve seen out of him this year, let him sign elsewhere. We can use the cap space.

      • I guess I should clarify my Stajan comment. No one is going to want him for that cap hit and the Flames won’t buy him out with 2 years left. However, if they don’t trade him by early 2013 or send him to the minors, I see the team buying out his last year. I would be very surprised to see Stajan with the Flames for the 2013-2014 season. While Matt has done well in his 4th line role, it makes no sense to have him on the ice when there are dozens of other players capable of playing the same role at a fraction of the cost.

  • everton fc

    You let him go UFA and hope he signs for less on the open market.

    If his wife/family want to be here… He’ll accept. I’ll assume Sutter will not be back, so his style of play may have to be adjusted to a third line grinder role. I still think he has 10-15 goals in him, with the right coach/system/linemates. He’s young. A project. BUt he can skate. Check. Grind.

    Might have been wiser to move Comeau in a package deal to a team in need of some grit with hands. Perhaps they tried, and got no, or unreasonable offers…

    If we make the playoffs with this bunch… What do you do w/Sutter? He’s kept an expansion roster in the race, but seems to have lost some in the room.

    Can anyone confirm if Sutter has the room? I know this is subjective… But some of you get the inside “skinny”. Do the players like Brent/Lowry/Hartsburg??

    • Can anyone confirm if Sutter has the room? I know this is subjective… But some of you get the inside “skinny”. Do the players like Brent/Lowry/Hartsburg??

      Im going to have to say I don’t think it matters at this point. Sutter isn’t going to be around after this season. And the Flames players could love the coaches all they want. Without different decision making and, well, a better roster, it wouldn’t improve the results all that much.

        • The Phoenix roster is better. The Flames have built their team around a top end that can’t drive play. Hanzal, Vrbata, Langkow are all better ES players than pretty much anything the Flames have.

          Also, I’d say they have a better coach. It helps that Smith is having a career year as well.

        • go with a better coach kent, butter hasnt gotten any results. dont let the jersey shore stats schew your decision. as for perry como, let him walk his type are a dime a dozen, 4th line winger with good wheels and no finish. the 9 thru 12 spots should be occupied by youth as an apprenticeship program, or for you acedamia internship.

        • loudogYYC

          Phoenix has a great coach, but they also play more like a team than the Flames ever do. I think that’s more of a locker room thing.

          I think that Playfair interview on the Fan960 will become more and more relevant in the next 12 months or so.

          On Comeau, he’s a young, big and fast player that has scored 20 goals once that can’t do it on a consistent basis but doesn’t hurt your team when he’s on the ice. Sounds to me like David Moss of 09-10. If you can sign him to Moss money, I say keep him. If he becomes the next Nystrom/Pardy and gets overpaid elsewhere, let him go.

          • Moose Hiway Hitman

            Right on the mark regarding the Coyotes. The same could be said for the Stars, Blues at the very least. Team first structure, believe in their coaches etc. I would however, bring back Nystrom in a heartbeat if it meant ridding ourselves of Comeau and/or Moss. In my mind we let both go. Another factor in the whole scenario would be, where does Baertche? fit in next year and is Rienhart gonna be ready by 2014?

          • everton fc

            I’ve heard Aucoin’s a great leader in the room there, as well. I assume he might have been here. And I’ve always thought of Langkow as a good leader, on and off the ice.. In the room, as well. Perhaps.

            Just some thoughts…

  • My opinion of Comeau since his coming to Calgary is that of a love/hate relationship. I hate that he can’t seem to score goals and I feel bad for the guy. I really want to believe this is just poor shooting percentage but I don’t know.

    I like the path you suggested Pat, I think we could sign him as a UFA for 1.5M$ tops. Anything over that isn’t worth resigning. I see a 2 year contract in the books as well.

    Just one question though, couldn’t the team simply offer Comeau a contract extension or is that not possible due to the fact of Comeau being an RFA. Just wondering

  • Comeau is easy to replace. I mean come on – they got him off waivers from the Islanders!

    The $2.5 million is just the qualifying offer – the two sides can come to whatever deal they please.

    That is, the Flames can offer less (say a 3-year, 5-million package), and Comeau can either accept the deal, or become a UFA.

    • Ah, I see you beat me to it. They could certainly take this route.

      EDIT: I see a few peeps have already mentioned this route… so yes, either sign him to an extension before June 30th, or don’t qualify him & try to sign him as a UFA.

      • Kennedy ended up getting a significant raise. IIRC, the reason he wasn’t qualified was so that he couldn’t take the team to arb. He was making 725k, so his QO would have been well under a million, yet he signed for $2M per.

  • Good take, Pat. I wouldn’t want to come off as argumentative, but if the Flames want him back, they could re-up him to a new deal without taking this route. If Comeau wants to stay, what’s from stopping them from negotiaging a new deal before July 1st? He’s certainly gotta know he’s in for a pay cut. If they could find a common ground before then – say $1.25M to 1.5M per on a 1 or 2 yr deal – then they wouldn’t have to go thru the process of not qualifying him.

    Of course, 1 key decision that you may want to make before re-signing him is deciding coach Sutter’s fate first.

  • loudogYYC

    When thinking about the value of Blake Comeau, the old addage “if he fell into a barrel of tits, he’d come out sucking his thumb” comes to mind. I’ve often wondered if he’s somehow related to Rico Fata.
    Sure the guy is fast, and he sometimes translates his speed on the forecheck into hits but what bothers me most about him is his inability to make smart plays. Too often he skates the puck into a corner and misses his opportunity to use any of his outlets. This always leads to a low percentage scoring chance or a turn over. When he elects to shoot, its usually right on the logo if it even registers as a SOG.
    This guy doesn’t intimidate anybody, making him replaceable in my mind. I get what you’re trying to say Pat but I don’t know he’d accept the fact that he is over valued and go for less money in Calgary.

    • Hahaha can’t say I disagree with the initial statement there. Comeau doesn’t strike me as the brightest of players; that said, he plays in a manner that’s effective for a checker, and he’s a likable guy when he’s not making borderline suspendable hits.

  • PrairieStew

    You really shouldn’t pay Comeau anything over a million at his current level of play. Having said that, and factoring in everyone’s angst over $3.5 to Stajan, the question that begs to be answered is this : What would the Flames spend money on to improve ?

    You are not getting Suter or Parise in an offseason bidding war no matter how much money you have. The rest of the UFA class is terrible, old (Rolston, J Blake, Roloson) bad ( Penner,Huselius, HUet!!) and trouble (Semin, Avery, Kostytsin). I was sure that in 2 years time Calgary would not be a cap team. That might be actually next year.

  • RexLibris

    The first team I can think of showing interest in Comeau as a UFA might be Vancouver. It was rumoured that they had interest in Brule, but not at his price point, and Comeau is a younger, healthier option.

    So if the Flames would be alright with losing him to free agency, then I totally agree that they should not qualify him and then try to negotiate something a little closer to what his actual market value might be.

    I will say, though, that outside of some serious free agent contracts the Flames will have some decent cap space available.
    Earlier this year I offered up some names of pending free agents in the middle tier that Calgary could pursue to restructure their roster on the fly. I’m wondering now if that isn’t something that Feaster might pursue this summer.

  • Ken V.

    I just don’t think Sutter is commanding respect from the room. It just shows on the ice…. The Blues on the other hand, not one player stood around watching the play, always skating, AGGRESSIVE! and smart hockey. Hitch owns their heads. All he was saying on the bench was stuff like “Good Job”, or on the pk “Be Responsible”. If Sutter said this to our bench I believe you’d hear “yeah, ok buddy”. They don’t give a shi!t what he says….In some ways unfortunate because he’s teaching smart hockey but he’s just not the guy to teach it I suppose.
    10th place finish – no playoffs this year. I’ve waited 7 years before and I’d do it all over again just hope I don’t have to….

    Offer Comeau less as a UFA and if he doesn’t take it no big deal.

  • Captain Ron

    As far as Comeau is concerned:

    Burrows…..2 Mil Higgins…..1.9 Mil Lapierre….1 Mil

    There are plenty of other comparisons like those three to make the case that 2.5 mil is way too much for him.

    1 Mil or he can leave as far as I’m concerned. Anything more than that should be some kind of scoring bonus. Its time this team’s salary structure was in line with some of the top performing teams in the league. Otherwise dump the baggage. What concerns me though is that they may overpay for free agents in order to try and improve the team right now.

    Time to shake Brent’s hand and thank him for his services. Move on with somone else.