It appears the Flames are finished window shopping for UFA’s. Word is the club hasn’t even bothered contacting Mason Raymond and probably the only other worthwhile player on the market given Calgary’s needs is Mikhail Grabovski. Naturally, there hasn’t been even a whisper that the team has any interest at all. So, absent any left field trades, what you see is likely what you get when it comes to the roster.
The Flames uninvolved free agency – whether by choice or because their overtures were re-buffed – is probably a good thing. I have a piece at the Sporting News today explaining the "winners curse" and why every summer features grotesquely expensive contracts to players who probably anre’t worth it. Like the Feaster pursuit of Brad Richards last summer, sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t (or in this case, fail to) make.
Calgary isn’t in a position to meaningfully compete next year anyways. The only reason for them to sign name brand players at this point would be to add potentially undervalued assets at a good price: ie; guys who could rejuvenate their stock here and either become a meaningful long-term piece for the rebuild or, alternatively, an asset the club could flip in the short-term. Buy low, sell high.
Of course, those sorts of guys are hard to find as UFA’s. The best you can do in the off-season is usually not to overpay a guy too much, which is why it doesn’t make much sense for the Flames to get involved in a bidding war. And besides, Calgary isn’t going to be at the top of the list for most anyone at this point. Which is likely why their only NHL acquisitions have been through trade so far (Kris Russel, David Jones, Shane O’Brien).
So yeah, all that’s left of the off-season is a couple of months, a prospect camp and a rookie tournament in BC. Settle in and enjoy the nice weather everyone.
– Backlund and Brodie still aren’t signed. Todd Cordell reached out to Feaster recently and discovered the team has started to make in-roads. Feaster says Backlund is the priority because he has arbitration rights, which is a process the team would like to avoid for a couple of reasons.
1.) It’s very unpleasant. To make a case before an arbitrator, the team is obliged to sling as much mud as possible in order to keep the price low.
2.) The club must abide by the contract awarded to the player in the process. They have the option to walk away if the dollar amount is over $3.5M (doubtful in Backlund’s case), but otherwise what is decided by the arbitrator is locked in. In addition, the contract is always short-term (one or two seasons max), meaning they’d risk having to pay him more very soon if his results improve.
Both Backlund and Brodie are cases where the team can potentially underpay for either guy by handing over some term and security. In my Sporting News article above I note that not all long-term contracts are bad deals – that a club can actually reduce risk in some cases by capturing younger guys’ peak years and a few UFA seasons.
There’s always a chance that a younger player doesn’t quite live up to expectations, but if you get him cheap enough on a long-term contract it usually means the only risk is paying him at market value. The upside is securing a player who improves, meaningthe team underpays him relative to his actual value during his best seasons.
Because the NHL under the salary cap is an efficiency contest, great teams almost always have a few deals like this on their roster. The Flames have an opportunity to make two good value bets on Brodie and Backs this summer, so it will be interesting to see what washes out. Of course, the players and their agents have to be on board too, although I can’t imagine Brodie in particular balking at a Roman Josi type deal from the team.
– Corey Pronman released his organizational prospect rankings and actually had the Flames in the top-10 (10th in fact), which is kind of amazing given where the club has typically landed (bottom third at best). Of course, ranking-type articles are made to generate argument more than answers, but Pronman usually has his thumb firmly on the pulse of these things so I’m satisfied enough with his expertise to take his word for it.
The addition of Monahan, Klimchuk, Poirier, Cundari, Agostino, Hanowski recently as well as the maturation of Baertschi, Gaudreau, Horak, Reinhart and Arnold (etc) gives the Flames a much wider field of potential NHLers than they’ve had in recent memory. Of course, keep in mind Pronman’s considerations are limited to players who have not yet made the NHL full time, so young guys like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Joanthan Huberdeau and so on are exempted.
So while the cupboards certainly aren’t bare anymore, there’s still work to be done in terms of gathering truly high-end talent that can compete with some of the younger stars in the league.