Flames 2012 Free Agency Primer

 

 

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.

Conclusion

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.

  • RexLibris

    Just a note on your honourable mentions at the end there, Kent, last year the Flames were close to trading for Smyth, as per the rumours. Does that make him any more likely a candidate?

    I need to add here that I think we need to understand that there is a distinction between who the Flames ought to sign and who they will. Two month ago re-signing Sarich wasn’t seen as very likely.

    Given his predilection for playing close to home, might he be a name that Feaster and Weisbrod would consider?

    I’m not advocating this, nor would I actually like to see him in a Flaming C, but I think the possibility shouldn’t be entirely discounted.

  • Graham

    On Backlund, I wonder how good the relationship is between Backlund and Feaster, beginning to sound like some bad blood.

    His contract status is interesting, if we can’t sign him, we may have to trade him, and accept a pretty low return. Ouch, that would hurt, not to mention the optics of anothe first rounder not wanting to stay with the team. (different reasons that Erixon, but trouble for the organization image)

  • Brent G.

    Free agency is such a poor bet on almost all fronts. I will guarantee you Suter and Parise will sign stupidly expensive and long contracts that will not look like a good value given on ice play almost immediately. The big fish never live up to the expectations.

    I think teams are smart to focus on the smaller fish out there because the odds of it working out for the club are significantly better. Given the different cap hits and contract lengths would you all prefer to have Jackman in your line up (when he was a FA) or Kovalchuk or Brad Richards. Both of those contracts are huge and already looking terrible 1 or 2 years in. Factor in NJ is losing Parise because they cant afford to pay him because of Kavalchuk. I dont understand why GM’s and fans dont see this. Trying to build a team through free agency is stupid and a suckers bet. Adding useful low frills guys to fill out lines 3 or 4 (maybe 2) is a great bet.

    The thing is the Flames really have no needs on these lines and hopefully put the kids in rather than replacement level players through FA. I like Prust a lot but the difference between him and Buoma is simply not that much or worth the ink on the contract Prust would receive.

    As a side, I do hope Jay Bo is traded. Not because I think he is anything but necessary in the line up, I just think he is incapable of elevating his game when playoffs are on the line. Say what you will about it being a farce but the fact he has never been in the playoffs ever (by far the leader in games played without making it in the NHL ever at seasons end) and you see a flawed player; the teams he has played on were never that bad in Florida but he couldnt make it happen and doesnt care about losing. I think I would rather see try in some younger guys. If it fails we get “the second coming of Crosby.” That would be a pretty amazing and quick way to turn this team around from the inevitable downfall we are all but certain is going to happen. This is the necessary trade that will open the door to bigger future moves.

  • Graham

    Feaster plan is unfolding, the additions of Cervenka, Wideman and likely Sven, and the deletion of Jokinen and Moss. Cervenka and Sven will likely add some offensive talent, but questions remain as to how they handle the schedule, and in Cervenka’s case playing in North America. Wideman adds an offensive minded dman, but isn’t the greatest in his own zone.
    Sven is still young, will likely have to be sheltered a lot, needs to gain experience. Will help, but I don’t see huge numbers this year.
    Cervenka / Backlund need to step up and play big minutes and replace Jokinen’s points.
    Going to be tough… Wideman helps, but only if JBo stays with the club. No JBo, the d corp looks suspect.
    Overall, likely younger (marginally), lots of questions marks. (we may be weak down the middle)Are we better?, we may have added and subtracted ourselves to roughly the same point, a 8 – 12 place team.
    Two keys, JBo and the play of Cervenka… I still see a JBo trade, would love to see the cap space used to add a quality forward, but Millions may have been in the ball park, a deletion of his salary, with the Flames starting the season in the $60 million range.

  • Graham

    I can see that Kent, not close on a Backlund Deal. Feaster is VERY VERY undervaluing Backlund, probably cause he’s not a feaster pick or whatever, and Backlund and his agent probably want more. As well with Comments like Feaster wanting to put Backlund in the AHL last season if not for suspensions/injuries, I could see Backlund not even wanting to sign here. Maybe he’s asking the moon to further a trade.

    Whatever the case, Feaster has handled the Backlund contract and season like an idiot if the plan was to put Backlund in the AHL, I bet he’s trying to negotiate a 2 way deal as well.

    • Graham

      I can’t under stand all you guys thinking Backlund is so undervalued. granted he has potential, but it is about time this guy got is A– in gear. He has been coddled for the past 4 year. It as about time he dug in— and by the way check the points from last year. Played six game more than a guy named Derrick Smith and got one more point. That has to tell to you something about how undervalued he has been.

  • Since we are going all out to win, we must go hard after the big guys, not depth guys. Go hard after Parise, Semin and Suter as they are difference makers. Let’s say for whatever reason, we sign one or even 2. Anyone see some potential problems created? But, just where are we if we don’t sign any players? Our only hope is that Jay has somehow or will get some great value, Backlund and Sven produce and that none of our old guys get older. Maybe Hartley is a magician. I hope we at least get some toughness.

  • I think the roster you,re looking at now is PLAN B,In case PLAN A does,nt work out.I think they will go after Parise or possibly Sutor.I doubt either will want to play in Calgary, which will lead to a swap or trade with a team like ST lOUIS.

  • I don’t think we should be excluding players becuase of the existing roster. Sign Colaiacovo, trade Butler or Bouwmeester. For example.

    And the Flames still need a top 6 forward and grit on the bottom 6. Per the GM.

    I also think they are looking at size and face offs on C.

    I also wouldn’t discount Semin after the Wideman signing.

    Hence my list above.

  • I like the ideas of PA Parenteau and Winnik the best as well. Winnik in particular since the Flames will likely be losing Moss, who was maybe their best pure possession player on the team.

    If Moss goes, almost nobody on the Flames can move the puck north efficiently up front except for, maybe, Backlund.

    Parenteau has a lot of potential upside, but with a lot of concurrent risk given his short NHL career and how little we know of him.

  • All the negatives in the list don’t even want me thinking about the positives. I WANT to sign PAP but I also don’t want to, the guys might be a good fit as the 2nd line RW however with that said, is he just gonna come back to earth after getting the big deal, because behind Jagr and Semin, he’s probably the next best winger, someone is going to overpay and for a long contract.

    He is under 30 and can put the puck in the net though.

    However the rest of the list is pretty well a pass over. Do not want.

  • I like the idea of Winnik the best. He shouldn’t be an option that’s too expensive and could carry his own. He wouldn’t be counted on for his offensive numbers and could contribute in numerous ways. This guy would be a great signing. Other guys I like are Shane Doan and potentially Jagr.