With Backlund in the fold, the Flames have 12 forwards on one way contracts plus a few kids and tweeners knocking on the door (Baertschi, Bouma, Horak, Kolanos, etc.). The blueline is full as well, with nine guys couting one way deals plus probable top-six sophomore TJ Brodie. The only question now is whether Leland Irving will be re-signed and if he’ll back-up Kipper instead of Henrik Karlsson.
So absent any kind of trade, this is the club the Flames will go to batlle with once the owners and players decide on a new CBA. Most of the principles that were here at the end of the season are back, aside from Olli Jokinen. The blueline has more offense thanks to Dennis Wideman and there are a few more question marks up front that could go either way (Cervenka, Baertschi). Jiri Hudler slides in the right side instead of David Moss and Matt Stajan still looks like the odd man out.
Here’s how I see things shaping up this season
Tanguay – Cammalleri – Iginla
Glencross – Cervenka – Hudler
Baertschi – Backlund – Stempniak
Jackman – Jones – Comeau
Bouwmeester – Giordano
Butler – Wideman
Brodie – Smith
The issues up front are obvious: there’s a question mark on every line in the top-9. And it doesn’t seem to matter how you re-arrange things, you have at least one guy who isn’t terribly adept at driving play on every unit (Im making an assumption with Baertschi here, as good as a prospect as he is – almost no one is a good all around player in their rookie season).
You can push Baertschi up with Cervenka to create a sort of "shut down" unit with Backs and Glencross, but then you have a second line you’d likely need to feed Sedin-like minutes to in order for them to succeed (and no Malhotra/Kesler lines to soak up the tougher stuff). Anyways, it will be interesting to see how Hartley cobbles together that puzzle.
On the back-end, we may see the destruction of the Butler/Bouwmeester duo with a new boss on the bench and Wideman in the mix. Another question is which of the 5-7 defenders make the nightly roster: Brodie, Smith, Sarich or Babchuk? Brodie is the cheapest and is on a two-way deal, but has the most upside. Babchuk and Sarich are the most expensive and each brings a unique (albeit limited) skillset. Derek Smith is a capable all around depth defender who is mobile and can add some offense here and there.
So have at it gang. How do you see the depth chart lining up?