I’m not a huge Sarich fan. I think he’s capable enough when he focuses on the small things, but he’s slow, not very agile, and provides little to no offense. That said, the Flames should absolutely look into re-signing the blueliner.
A lot of Flames fans and writers seem to think Sarich is indicative of the problems that plague the Flames – this is true, to an extent. His cap hit is (or was) too large for what he brings (or rather, doesn’t) to the team, and that limits who Calgary can bring in to fill in on the blueline. He represents the classic Darryl Sutter style of management, which is to say "Bigger and harder hitting is better" regardless of skating ability. So while Cory Sarich is a fine example of these two basic problems, he’s hardly the larger problem itself.
As a UFA this year, the first issue is easily fixed: Sarich clearly isn’t in line for a pay raise and the Flames could probably have him for something in the realm of $1M. With the salary cap likely to go up again, can anyone really argue that $1M is way out of line with what Sarich should be earning?
The second issue, in a sense, was already fixed by the Flames last season. Sarich was given slightly tough zone starts (47.8%- sixth toughest on the team among skaters with at least 30 games) and slightly easy competition (8th easiest on the team). How’d he do with that ice time? Better than you’d expect: Sarich ended up with the second highest Relative Corsi on the Flames at +12.0 (his most frequent partner, Brodie, was first at +17.0, though in slightly easier minutes).
Bang for the Buck
So while it’s clear Sarich isn’t Nik Lidstrom in terms of longevity as a quality NHL player, he’s certainly not a liability in limited minutes. Still, there has to be a better defenseman for the bottom of the pairings, right? Actually, not particularly. There’s plenty of roughly "equal" players, but most of them will cost more and are less familiar with the team and the city.
Sarich, on the other hand, will almost certainly come cheap for the Flames. It’s also worth noting he’s not an "Anton Babchuk" bottom pairing defender either – he can play 16 minutes a game and not be an absolute trainwreck given his decent possession numbers. Babchuk, for the sake of contrast, began more often in the offensive zone and saw easier competition than Sarich and ended up with a worse relative corsi rate (-2.8/60).
The real reason to resign Sarich, however, is one of hockey philosophy. The Flames won’t gain anything by letting him walk to another team. Sarich on the Flames is not a question of rebuilding or not rebuilding he could likely be had for a cool $1M, which wouldn’t preclude the Flames from signing other players. If he stays, the Flames have a known quantity who’s not a complete liability for cheap. He’s familiar with the city, management, and the rest of the Flames.
Sarich isn’t a player hockey operations should expend more than a modicum of energy trying to re-sign, but if he’s happy to stay at a low cost, there’s more reasons to do so than not.