For as bad as the forward market is this year, the defensive and goaltending markets are likely even worse. There are maybe 6 defensemen in the entire UFA class that I would deem “top-4 quality” (Zidlicky, Scuderi, Lydman, Leopold, Lundin, White).
Likewise, the amount of Moneypuck-type goaltenders is limited: the majority of goaltenders who have posted a .920 EVSV% (at least 1000 shots faced) and are free agents this year are guys who are big name starters looking for big name deals.
There’s not a lot of meat on these bones, but let’s take a looksee, shall we?
Looking at the basics, it might not make much sense for Mike Lundin to come to Calgary. Rebuild, the plethora of mid-range (3-5) defensemen, the likely overvaluation of young players, etc. However, we note that the guy has gotten two one-year deals in a row, so he might just sign the second the phone rings. Lundin has been a legit top-4 defenseman in his short career, and by my count the Flames only have 3 of those guys.
Since he broke into the league, Lundin has found himself buried in one way or another and has still found a way to push the puck forward. I also like that he’s not an immobile lug, having demonstrated he can move around the ice pretty well.
He’s had some durability issues, though, and it’s possible that may have resulted in his 11-game stint in Ottawa this season. But just last year he faced top-level comp with a negative ZS% and his relative Corsi was only -3.1. He’ll be cheap and you can bury him with Giordano or whoever against 2nd and 3rd line comp. Low-risk, mid-reward. He did just reportedly sign a deal in the KHL, though, so who knows if he’ll even be available come July 5th.
Age: 29 (on 5/10/13)
Assumed Cost: Likely a one or two year deal at no more than $1.25 million AAV.
Sulzer’s the exact type of guy you’d want as your 5th defenseman: never in his career has he had a negative Corsi On or Relative Corsi. He’s always played 3rd or 4th line comp and his ZS% is not outrageously high. He also brings a bit of offensive upside, to the tune of about 15 points per season. The defensive pool this summer is insanely thin, and aside from these two guys and possibly Ian White, there isn’t anyone else that really intrigues me out there.
Age: 29 (on 5/10/13)
Assumed Cost: Likely a one year deal at no more than $1 million.
As I’m still wholly unconvinced about the ability of Reto Berra, Karri Ramo, et al to play at the NHL level, the Flames need some kind of NHL-level goalie in the system to play with Joey MacDonald (who, in his own right, is barely an NHL-level goalie). Ray Emery is likely the best goalie on the market at this second – Mike Smith will probably want term and money beyond what the Flames will (hopefully) offer. Emery has performed well over his career – a .921 EVSV% over the course of 9 seasons and 4631 shots at even strength. The past few seasons show similar numbers: a .917 (2488 shots) and .916 (1277 shots). It’s therefore reasonable to expect that a healthy Emery will stop about 91.6%-92.1% of the shots he faces in a season.
On average, Emery faces about 700 shots per season at even strength – which is about 30-35 games worth. Emery has the potential to be an NHL-average 1A starter when healthy. He will likely be low-balled on his contract demands, given the quality of the Blackhawks this year and how goaltending performance is perceived to be affected by the team in front of said goaltender. This is a perfect target for the Flames: a goaltender who will perform positively over a short term while other goalies develop and acclimate to their various leagues.
Age: 31 (on 5/10/13)
Assumed Cost: 1 or 2 year deal, likely at less than $2.5 million AAV.
Many have a theory that to be successful as a franchise, a team needs to have three goaltenders who can play at the NHL level. Greiss may be the best #3 guy out there. Over 857 shots at even strength, Greiss has managed a .921 EVSV%. Certainly, that’s not a huge sample size or overly impressive save percentage – but Greiss has demonstrated an ability to backup at a good rate from year to year. He’s only 27, which could mean that the Flames could sign him to a 3 year deal and not blink an eye. He’ll also be dirt cheap: based on his previous contracts, I’d be shocked if he was paid more than a million dollars per season. He won’t be flashy, but he’ll be cheap and he’ll be able to stop pucks at the NHL level.
Greiss, together with Ramo, Berra, MacDonald and potentially Emery would ensure significant and above-replacement level of redundancy. However – I doubt the Flames sign two goaltenders this summer due to the glut of pcukstoppers under contract and the (likely) overestimation of talent contained within the Berra, Ramo and MacDonald trifecta.
Age: 27 (on 5/10/13)
Assumed Cost: 1 or 2 year deal, likely at less than $1 million AAV.
Like I said above, the pool here is shallow as all hell, but it still appears as though there’s still some value to be had. Whether the Flames want to sign more defensemen or goaltenders is another question, given that (by my count) they already have at least 7 defensemen and 3 goalies (including RFA’s) that will likely see some NHL time next season.
Did I miss anyone? Let me know who you’d like to see targeted in the comments.