When the deadline to tender qualifying offers to RFA’s passed last week, many of us were disappointed that Paul Byron was not among those given offers by the Flames. That mistake has been rectified.
Paul Byron was drafted 179th overall in 2007 by the Sabres, put up respectable numbers in the AHL, and played his first 8 NHL games with the Sabres, scoring 1 goal and 1 assist. The Flames acquired him from Buffalo as a small piece of the much-maligned Robyn Regehr trade. In the remainder of the 2010/2011 season, Byron played 22 games for the Flames, got 5 points, and, despite being sheltered, was hammered badly in terms of possession. During the following (lock-out shortened) season, the Flames called Byron up from Abby for a measly 4 games and threw him to the wolves. He played shockingly tough minutes for a rookie and was correspondingly destroyed in Corsi, although he did manage a lone assist. To make matters worse, Byron’s AHL production dropped to just 0.39 ppg that season, which was the lowest pace in his pro career so far. With just one year left on his contract, things looked grim for Byron.
His professional career teetering on the precipice, Byron started the 2013/2014 season off right. He scored 18 points in 25 games, which was his best AHL pace since leaving the Portland Pirates. When the Flames’ injuries piled up in November Burke finally gave Byron the call. It might have been desperation or maybe Burke just wanted to see what Byron could do in the NHL before his contract was up. The rest is now well known to Flames fans.
Byron was again thrown to the wolves and found himself facing similar competition to Backlund and Cammalleri. This time, however, Byron proved equal to the task. He netted 21 points in 47 games (0.45 ppg) and was one of the Flames best possession forwards. Fans were soon affectionately referring to him as “Mighty Mouse”, not only because he’s tiny, but also because of his uncanny ability to zoom up and down the ice at astonishing speeds just in time to save the day.
Although it is unclear why Byron was not tendered a qualifying offer while he was still an RFA, he has finally been signed to a contract by the Flames. While his salary is not, at the time of writing, known, we do know is that it’s one-way and one year. This is, unmistakably, a “prove thyself worthy” bridge contract. With the additions to left wing made this summer, it’s not entirely clear where Byron will fit into the lineup. However, it’s heartening to see the Flames retain a player with clear potential rather than allowing him to be snapped up on the UFA market just because he doesn’t quite measure up to the current ideal.
Welcome back Paul Byron!