With only about 24 hours before the bidding begins in earnest, the Flames have rendered a lot of our earlier speculation moot with all of their pre-frenzy wheeling and dealing. The addition of Cevenka and Wideman plus the re-signings of Sarich, Jones and Stempniak has plugged most of the existing holes on the roster and whittled the club’s cap space down to just over $8 million. Once Mikael Backlund’s deal is done, the Flames will have 12 forwards, 8 defenders (at least) and about $6.5M to work with. If you want to pencil Sven Baertschi on the big club (and I think most do), that means Calgary has 13 forwards in place, and about $5M in cap space.
Meaning, absent some kind of swap, this is more or less the team is going to battle with this upcoming season.
There is perhaps flexibility and money to add one more forward. Lance Bouma is still on his two-way, ELC so he could easily be bumped if Calgary lands another top-six type forward. I previously made a case for Alex Semin, but it’s unlilely the Flames will take a chance on him. They also clearly don’t have enough money to afford Zach Parise, so he’s out of the mix as well.
Here is a list of guys who the Flames mught give a call to tomorrow.
UFA Forward Options
PA Parenteau: A late bloomer who scored for years in the AHL, Parenteau is 29 and only caught on with the Islandersfull time in 2010-11. He scored as many points as Jarome Iginla last season (67) playing with John Tavares and Matt Moulson for the Islanders.
Parenteau’s numbers are good across the board, but there’s a very real danger they are completely circumstance dependent. Tavares has become a heavy hitter, Moulson is no slouch and they were given a very favorable situation in terms of zone starts (and because Frans Neilsen takes on the big guns on the Island).
Parenteau has some offensive talent for sure, but it’s an open question whether he would be able to replicate his results here in Calgary without Tavares and Friesen.
Daniel Winnik: Not a top-six scorer or PP guy at all, what Winnik would be for the Flames is more a David Moss replacement. He’s quietly played the toughs for years and moved the puck in the right direction, so Winnik could form part of a high-end shut down line if he was added. Fast, strong, tough to move off the puck, Winnik plays and simple, mean-and-potatoes game. He won’t up his line-mates scoring, but he’ll make life easier for them and everyone else on the roster if he’s used properly.
Jiri Hudler: He looked lost for awhile after returning from the KHL, but regained some of his form last year in Detroit scoring 25 goals and 50 points. Of course, playing in Detroit with guys like Lidstrom, Zetterberg, Franzen and Datsyuk moving mountains, one can probably shave 25% off his scoring and effectiveness in less pleasant environs like Calgary. He’s mostly a middle rottion scorer who will get exposed if things get tough.
Brad Boyes: Remember when Brad Boyes scored 43 goals? I don’t even think he does at this point. Boyes is an object lesson in the fact that goal scoring can be fleeting in the NHL. He had two bumper years in St. Louis but has since become an okay, 40-point forward. He was more or less and third line option for Buffalo last season and his results were…well not bad in that role. But not great either.
Jaromir Jagr: Cevenka’s buddy has been a popular rumor for awhile. Jagr is still as strong as an ox and difficult to knock off the puck in the offensive zone. He scored 19-goals and 54-points for the stacked Philadelphia Flyers and his coach made sure to use him almost exclusively in the offensive zone with a zone start of 59.9% and only middling competition.
Jagr would be a splashy move, but at 41 years old is probably only a soft minutes/PP guy at this point. In short, he and Jarome would be fighting for the same minutes on the club.
Brandon Prust: Third times a charm? The twice over former Flame developed into a bit more than a pugilist in the Big Apple. He started just 33% of his shifts in the offensive zone last year and was looked upon for other defensive duties like penalty killing. Prust will still drop the gloves, but he’s also a functional 3rd or 4th liner.
Kyle Wellwood: After years of jokes about his lackluster physique and commitment to the game, Wellwood has turned out to be a surprisingly effective depth player. Last year, he had the second highest relative possession rate on the Jets and the second highest even strength points rate. Of course, he also started every other shift at the good end of the ice and faced nobodies, but I did make sure to say "depth player".
Shane Doan: The Coyotes long time Captain is finally going to escape the desert. He’s 36 years old, but has been a steady 50-60 point option for years now. The risk being a sudden drop-off in performance thanks to his age, plus the whole "over 35" contract clause (where the cap number sticks to the team like glue) if he sholuld ask for any sort of term.
Doan is decent, but with his age and risk factors it would make a lot more sense for him to sig a one or two year deal in a market where the chances are winning in the short-term are much higer.
Other players of interest: Dustin Penner, Jordan Tootoo, Andrei Kostitsyn, Ryan Smyth.
As you can see, the options up front are almost all middle-tier forwards of varying quality. They are the kinds of players who can add a few goals to a club’s differential if deployed properly, but aren’t going to single-handedly right any ships. There isn’t a guy on the list I would personally choose to commit any kind of major term or dollars to.
We’ll keep an eye on the proceedings this weekend and update you on any Flames moves ASAP. We can also run a UFA live chat tomorrow afternoon if enough folks are interested.