It only took three signings for Brad Treliving to accomplish his primary goal this summer – get over the NHL’s salary floor. That seems like an entirely trivial and underwhelming objective to celebrate, but it’s one that had the possibility of causing all sorts of self inflicted wounds. Take, for example, Dale Tallon’s orgy of spending from a few summers ago when he signed half of the league’s mediocre UFA’s to long, bloated contracts. The Flames, conversely, escaped relatively intact. None of the deals were longer than three years and or for a dollar amount that may hamper them in the future. Mission accomplished.
So is there anything left for the club to do this summer?
– Before we move on, let’s just establish that the Deryk Engelland deal is, in fact, a bad contract. It is forgivable, however, given the three year term and the fact the Flames have buckets of cap room. If things go wrong a la Shane O’Brien, it’s also not so large a deal that it can’t be moved, bought out or buried. So as far as July 1 missteps go, it’s extremely minor.
– People have asked me what the chances are that Engelland actually finishes that contract as a member of the Flames. I’d say they’re fairly slim – at the very least, he’s likely to be a 7th defender and frequent healthy scratch by the time 2016-17 rolls around. Either because the Flames have improved and he’s been usurped or because his skills have eroded to the point he’s no longer an everyday NHLer (or both). The post-32 years don’t tend to be kind to big, slow guys with minimal puck skills.
– The Mason Raymond and Jonas Hiller deals, on the other hand, are wholly defensible. Neither is probable to be a true difference maker, but they will make capable placeholders while the team finds its footing at the very least.
– Treliving and Burke might be finished for the summer. Aside from tying up some loose ends like the Joe Colborne arbitration case, the Flames brass can ice an NHL squad come October. That said, if they want to get creative, there are a few more options they want to pursue…
– A few of the NHL’s better teams are still in cap trouble. The Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals in particular are rubbing up against the cap ceiling. Calgary has already done a deal with Chicago for Bollig, but it’s possible they may be able to wrangle a Johhny Boychuk, Chris Kelly or Mike Green from the Bruins or Capitals, depending on price and interest on the other end.
Green is the most interesting target – he’s 28 and has just one more season at $6.25M. The native Calgarian has struggled to stay healthy since his back-to-back 70+ point seasons a few years ago. On top of that, his last year was his worst in the league statistically since his rookie campaign in 2006-07 (9 goals, 38 points in 70 games). It’s possible his club may be looking to sell him for pennies on the dollar, particularly since they backed up the brinks truck for Matt NIskanen and Brooks Orpik this summer.
The situation is a potentially ideal one for the Flames. It gives the team a one-year audition with Green to see if he’s on the steep decline or just experienced a hiccup. If he falls on his face, the team can walk away. If he rebounds, they can choose to re-sign him.
– Another name constantly surfacing in the rumor mill is the Winnipeg Jets Evander Kane. The 22-year old sniper suffered through a 7.6% personal shooting percentage and ended up with a relatively disappointing 19 goals and 41 points in 60 games ;ast season, but there’s no denying he is a legit talent.
The problem with a Kane deal is the Jets will be looking for hefty return, even if they have soured on the player for whatever reason. The demanded return may be heavy in assets the Flames either don’t have (established impact offensive forwards) or don’t want to give up (2015 first rounder, Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie, Mikael Backlund, Johnny Gaudreau, Sam Bennett or Sean Monahan).
At the very least it would be worth inquiring about the player given his ceiling, age and potential offensive impact. At 22, he’d slide right in the gap between Calgary’s young-ish core players (Backlund, Brodie) and their up-and-comers (Monahan, Gaudreau, Baertschi, Granlund, Bennett, etc).
– Speaking of which, the Flames decision makers will need to start identifying which veterans they want to either keep or acquire for this Flames roster a few years down the road. If guys like Hudler, Glencross and Wideman aren’t in the plans, then it’s time to start laying the groundwork for deals to ship them out of town and garner some sort of return.
In addition, the club will need to start planning on how they can start supplementing this roster with useful 27-30 year olds if everything goes to plan and the kids start making some noise in a couple years time. It’s possible for the Flames to avoid the decade long ditch the Oilers find themselves in and get this thing turned around relatively quickly, but they’ll need to be able to leverage their youth with quality NHL veterans when the time comes. And no, Brandon Bollig and Dereyk Engelland don’t qualify.
– The other bit of optional business for Treliving this off-season is Mikael Backlund and TJ Brodie extensions. The Feaster bridge deals for both guys end in 2015 and as of July 1, the Flames have the ability to begin negotiating their new contracts in earnest.
It’s the right move. Both players had a coming out party last year.The counting numbers weren’t big enough to catch the attention of the general NHL fanbase, but each guy put up stunning underlying results in a very difficult situation. As noted recently – the Flames with Brodie and Backlund on the ice together put up elite level possession and goal differentials. Without them (and Giordano), the club was bottom-5 territory. These are core players and, as such, are likely only to get more expensive if they play another season and lead the Flames in various categories. They’re probably only going to get more expensive past October 8th.
If either guy has a decent agent then they likely know this and may well wait the Flames out to ensure a higher pay day. That said, I hope the team is looking into the possibility anyways.