So the Flames signed another college free agent this week, this time a kid out of Union College named Josh Jooris, of whom they got a nice eyeful at this most recent development camp.
I know that I — for a fairly good reason — have the reputation around here of knowing everything about college hockey, but when it comes to Jooris, and indeed Union as a whole, my knowledge is fairly rudimentary. But in my constant efforts to please Flames fans, I have asked around with some college hockey experts for some opinions about him and the results were, shall we say, mixed.
"Honestly, he’s meh," said one. "Decent size, OK skater. Won’t be a goal scorer and is a so-so playmaker. I thought he was overrated at Union."
The reason for that?
"He benefited from playing with a lot of guys – Jeremy Welsh – who scored a lot of goals. They had two 20-goal scorers last year."
Welsh is famous for being heavily scouted during the NCAA playoffs in 2011-12, with about five or six NHL general managers going specifically to see him play (he ended up signing with Carolina after a hard sell from Jim Rutherford and Kirk Muller. Welsh put up 53 goals and 100 points in 119 NCAA games, which is no small feat at that level.
Another guy I talked to said of Jooris, "Good three-zone player, good vision and shot. Plays bigger than he is. Remember being surprised he was only 6-1 after seeing him hit someone."
So this should come as no surprise, but Jooris is, at 23 years old, looking like a definitive AHLer to start his career. That’s fine, that’s great, but to expect any more than that from a guy who underwhelmed in college from a production standpoint seems like a lot. It’s important to fill out the AHL roster, obviously, and competition is never a bad thing, but all these quotes about how this is an NHL contract and so forth, well, that’s true only in the most technical of senses.
2. This is becoming a trend
I don’t mean, "The Flames signing college free agents," because that’s a trend that’s been around awhile now, and it’s a smart one for NHL teams. Bringing on NCAA or junior players without having to give up anything more than a few hundred thousand dollars is smart; most of these guys have relatively low ceilings and the vast majority need at least a few years of seasoning in the minors, but it fleshes out rosters pretty well.
What I mean is that NCAA free agent are now signing what amount to AHL deals with NHL teams (plus signing bonuses) with a little bit more frequency than I think I remember in the past. This has been the case with NCAA FAs since the New NHL CBA was signed (as opposed to the current one, which I consider the New New NHL CBA), when they changed the rules for how college players can be signed, though those mostly applied to drafted players. Teams are getting more aggressive, yes, but so too are the players themselves.
Another recent example of this is Ludwig Karlsson, a Swedish-born, 22-year-old skillsy forward out of Northeastern who attended Ducks and Predators devo camps the last two seasons but ended up signing with Ottawa for as much as $1.475 million per season (including $92,500 signing bonuses in each of the two seasons of the contract) but just $70,000 a year at the AHL level. I’ve seen the kid play a lot, and he’s going to spend a lot of the year in the minors, if not the duration of the contract. Word around college hockey was that his agent got very aggressive in getting him signed this summer, ahead of what would have been is third season in college hockey.
This, obviously, isn’t necessarily a good thing for the NCAA hockey product, or the chances of the schools themselves to replace these players on such short notice, but sending more kids to the best two pro leagues early is certainly not a bad thing.
3. Ugh, they’re gonna do it
The longer summer goes on without the Flames signing another pro-level center, the more I’m starting to think Sean Monahan makes the team out of camp. I’ve talked in the past about why it’s a bad idea for the Flames to do that, and let me reiterate again:
It’s a really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, REALLY bad idea.
Even apart from the fact that the decision to bring him aboard makes him more expensive down the road, what good would it do for his development? Yeah, he’s proven he can play hard, hard minutes on a garbage junior team, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense to do with an 18-year-old rookie. You’d rather he continue to log 23 minutes a night on that crap junior team rather than 13 of kind of soft minutes against mediocre NHLers with the occasional power play appearance mixed in.
Plus there’s the prospect that he might be traded to an actual good team, and that the ability to play alongside players who can put the puck in the net in real life might help him to develop his burgeoning offensive game even further. Who’s he gonna play with at the NHL level that can do that? No one on the Flames roster, that’s who.
4. More on Seattle?
So a report came out late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning that with the Phoenix moving to an actual good hockey market having fallen through, the NHL would instead look to expand to Seattle. Makes perfect sense to me. Why wouldn’t it? If they have an ownership group in mind that has an appetite to put a team there and is willing to pay what will likely be a sizable expansion fee, and the arena is ready, then absolutely.
Oh but according to this report, Gary Bettman would be pushing for this team to become a thing for the 2014-15 season. You know, a year from now. Which seems crazy to me. Wouldn’t the arena have not even been ready?
It would be one thing to have the Coyotes, a transient team, hole up in an interim arena for a year or two while they build the new one (even if maximum capacity for hockey at KeyArena is less than 15,200). But to have a brand new team not have a brand new arena seems very odd to me.
5. Hey they re-signed Brodie
I sat here for most of yesterday afternoon with four definitive things and a bunch of question marks next to "5." Then the Brodie signing was announced.
"Oh god," I said to myself, "is it a bridge deal?" And then it WAS! Oh boy is that probably going to work out poorly. Not PK-Subban-winning-the-Norris poorly, but poorly nonetheless. God, bridge deals are so stupid.