Although we’re all still waiting for Shane Doan to make up his damn mind and there are suggestions Roberto Luongo will maybe, sorta, kinda be traded, the 2012 summer free agency period is pretty much over. A few more signings will likely trickle in as the season’s start approaches (whenever that will be), but the big boys are all spoken for at this point.
The Flames were somewhat busy this off-season. Although they didn’t make many major alterations to the existing players, Feaster and company added Dennis Wideman, Jiri Hudler, Roman Cervenka and re-upped Cory Sarich, Mikael Backlund, Blake Comeau, Blair Jones, Lee Stempniak and Leland Irving. Lost to free agency were Scott Hannan, David Moss, Tom Kostopolous and Olli Jokinen.
So now it’s time for some serious armchair GMing…what would you have done in the big chair?
My Own Summer
Truth be told, it wasn’t the best UFA crop in the world this year. The number of difference makers was small, so the options for everyone apparently not named the Minnesota Wild were few.
Still, I would have done a few things differently…
Let’s first establish that I would have aggressively shopped by Iginla and Kipper, although any subsequent moves in that direction would have been entriely dependent on the packages on offer. Because we can’t realistically forecast those, I will leave player swaps out of my hypothetical GMing here*.
*(which isn’t to say I endorse the full tear down model. Only that I think it’s entirely possible for the club to potentially trade Iginla and Kipper at this point and at least remain as competitive as they currently are, assuming the pair dealt for some magic beans and a collection of bottlecaps from the Toronto Maple Leafs.)
Signing #1 – Alex Semin, three years at $5.5M
Semin lingered for a long time on the market and eventually inked a one year deal with the Carolina Hurricanes. The per year dollar amount I have here is lower than what he went for ($7M), but I assume a longer term commitment to the player would have deflated his single season demands somewhat.
Semin is derided as enigmatic, lazy and selfish. And maybe he is. but his results over the last five years are some of the best in the league, offense wise. So whatever his personal flaws, he still managed to put together nice numbers, both counting and advanced. He was probably the best pure offensive guy on the market aside from Parise, but the NHL’s grown man gossip sunk his stock, making him a good "buy low" candidate.
The three year term would have taken Semin just into his 30’s, minimizing risk of eventual drop-off.
Signing #2 – Daniel Winnik, 3 years at
One of the Flames most underrated losses this summer was David Moss. Although I also would have let Moss walk owing to his on-going and persistant injury problems, he nevertheless represented a rare strength in the Flames area of weakness – possession.
Few players were as consistently good at moving the puck forward and keeping it in the offensive zone as Moss. Calgary struggled mightily in this area of the game last year and none of the actual signings did much to address this issue.
Enter Daniel Winnik. Like Moss, he doesn’t have the greatest hands in the world and probably isn’t going to dazzle anyone with big scoring numbers. But for the last three or four seasons, Winnik has been a guy who quietly plays in tough circumstances and outchances the bad guys. Remember that list of players who skated against Jarome Iginla for more than 30 minutes last year and outshot him soundly? It was mostly a bunch of other first liners…and Winnik. The Avs outshot Calgary to the tune of 31-17 when Winnik’s line faced Iginla last year, and the dude was available for near relatively cheap.
Winnik is 27, so the 3 years would have taken him to about 30 years old. The dollars are small enough to not be an issue. Winnik could have provided some sure footing for a potential shut-down line and PK presence, which is what he’ll be doing for Anaheim instead.
Signing #3 – Jason Garrison, 6 years at $5.0M
Garrison was my favored target over Dennis Wideman for a couple of reasons: he’s marginally younger and had better underlying numbers (positive possession) in tougher circumstances (top-two in quality of competition). Wideman’s gross offensive production have been better for longer, but when it comes to defenders I always prefer the ability to play against tough competition to goals and assists (although Garrison has a howitzer of a shot and scored 16 times last year).
I can’t say whether the White Rock native could have been swayed to join the Flames over the Canucks given Vancouver’s proximity to his home town and their superiority as a club overall, but that’s why I matched the real contract length and bumped the per season cap hit to $5M.
Other changes – Assuming the above, I would not have signed Jiri Hudler, Dennis Wideman or Cory Sarich.
Moves Retained – Like Feaster, I would have re-upped Stempniak, Backlund, Comeau, Jones and Irving and allowed Kostopolous, Jokinen and Moss to walk.
Here’s how the resultant depth chart would sort out:
- Tanguay – Cammalleri – Semin
- Baertschi/Stempniak – Cervenka – Iginla
- Glencross – Backlund – Winnik
- Comeau/Baertschi – Jones – Jackman
- Bouwmeester – Garrison
- Giordano – Butler
- Brodie – Smith
The Flames top-six gets one more heavy hitter who can potentially bump Iginla down the depth chart, giving him easier minutes. The putative shut-down line featuring Glencross and Backlund gets another guy who push the play forward and make life easier for the rest of the group.
The Flames back-end adds another the top-2 defender who can face the other teams big guns. This pushes Butler down to a more reasonable second pairing role with Giordano.
This scenario doesn’t do much to fix the Flames obvious center problem, but there wasn’t a solution to that conundrum in this summer’s free agency pool. It will take a big trade, Mikael Backlund taking 3 steps forward offensively or Mark Jankowski skipping about 10 developmental steps for the club to make progress on that front.
My preferred changes don’t automatically make the Flames a contender or anything – the team needs fundamental alterations for that to occur. Still, I think they address some of the club’s true issues a little better and represent a few more solid bets overall.
That’s how would have run things anyways. Your turn.