A whole lotta Calgary Flames signing news came down today, as the hockey world awaits the July 1 free agency kick-off.
Here’s a rundown.
BILLINS TO KHL
Defenseman Chad BIllins, who played 10 games for the Flames and was an AHL All-Star for the Abbotsford Heat, reportedly signed with CSKA Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League. Billins is an older prospect, having spent 4 years in the NCAA and then a year with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL on a minor league deal. Billins’ yo-yoed between the two levels, and I think it was rather obvious given that Tyler Wotherspoon was recalled first (and Patrick Sieloff probably would’ve been, too, had he been healthy) that Billins was a stop-gap measure in the AHL.
The Flames retain his rights if they give him a qualifying offer, as he’s a pending RFA…
FLAMES QUALIFY SIX RFAs
Receiving qualifying offers, and sticking with the Flames organization: goalie Joni Ortio, defensemen Chad Billins and Mark Cundari, forwards Joe Colborne, Ben Hanowski and Lance Bouma.
Ortio was good in his first full North American season. Cundari was fine but bounced around a lot. Colborne was fairly effective when they moved him to the wing. Hanowski showed some nice flashes in the AHL and is big. Bouma was really good in his role. Billins was qualified to retain his rights, in the event he is really good in the KHL and/or decides to come back after a year. (Tampa did this with Karri Ramo when he left for the KHL.)
FLAMES DON’T QUALIFY FIVE RFAs
Cut loose by virtue of not getting offers (and becoming UFAs): ECHLers Olivier Roy, James Martin and David Eddy, as well as T.J. Galiardi and Paul Byron.
Roy, Martin and Eddy didn’t show much, if anything, at the AHL level and were no-doubters to get their walking papers.
Galiardi had strong underlying numbers, as did Byron, though Galiardi really struggled to put up points despite all that and, as a result, bounced around the roster and in-and-out of the line-up. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I’d be shocked if he wasn’t Calgary’s most frequent healthy scratch.
Byron’s a surprise, but two factors probably played in. First, he’s small. Second, where’s he going to play if Calgary kept him? The club likely wants to give a shot to some younger players – including, but not limited to, Johnny Gaudreau and Sven Baertschi. Byron can’t play the fourth line effectively, and the top-nine doesn’t have much open spots for players on two-way deals.
Hopefully Byron can catch on somewhere else. He’s got something, but evidently it’s something the Flames feel they can succeed without. Do note, though, that the Sun’s Wes Gilbertson pointed out on Twitter that Byron would’ve had arbitration rights had he been qualified. He may still get signed.
O’BRIEN BOUGHT OUT
And, to the shock of few, Shane O’Brien is getting bought out. O’Brien’s 30 and was demoted to the farm team mid-way through the year because he wasn’t particularly good at the ice-hockey, nor was he the tough customer the Flames hoped he’d be when they acquired him.
O’Brien was slated to make $2 million in the AHL this year, so his departure frees up a roster spot down there and probably simplifies a lot of roster decisions for new coach Ryan Huska. It’s going to be a young group down there, so look for the big club to grab some minor league veterans to mentor the young defensive crew.
FLAMES TRIED TO MAKE MORE TRADES
And finally, Darren Dreger reported while doing the media rounds that Calgary was active in trade talks on draft weekend, despite only landing Brandon Bollig.
- They wanted in on James Neal, but apparently Pittsburgh didn’t do a lot of bidding.
- They tried to get Cam Ward & 7th overall from Carolina as a salary dump.
- They tried to get Mike Ribeiro & 12th overall from Arizona so the Coyotes wouldn’t have to buy Ribeiro out.
Sure, none of these moves worked, but it’s nice to see new GM Brad Treliving placing the Open for Business sign out in the open.