Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving checked off another thing from his to-do list yesterday, inking restricted free agent Joe Colborne to a two-year deal. That leaves RFAs Lance Bouma, Mark Cundari and Joni Ortio left to sign. (And an extension for Curtis Glencross, which can probably wait.)
(For the record, I betcha Bouma gets somewhere closer to $1.5 million when he re-signs.)
Backlund will be 26 when his deal expires, but by virtue of his age and by only playing six contracted pro seasons, he’ll be an restricted free agent. The new deal will be Backlund’s final contract before entering his UFA years.
Backlund’s been Calgary’s best possession player for basically the past five seasons, even when he was a depth guy trying to break into the league full-time. He showed flashes of offensive greatness here and there, but it wasn’t until last year he really “woke up” offensively. During the lock-out year, he played with his hometown team in Vasteras and quickly emerged as one of the top players in Sweden’s Allsvenskan league (secondary below the SHL), even when playing against such exiled NHLers as Anze Kopitar. That confidence carried over to the last year and a half of hockey he played.
As you can see, Backlund’s last two years have been pretty consistent all-around, and he’s probably a 50-point player if he shoots a bit more. Because of his two-way prowess and his subsequent deployments by recent Flames coaches, he’ll likely be a 40+ point player for awhile, but he’ll have no shortage of situational ice-time – especially as guys like Monahan and Bennett mature into NHLers.
In terms of a deal, Brad Marchand (a 50-ish point scorer) makes $4.5 million in Boston and Bryan Bickell (who scores less than Backlund) makes $4 million in Chicago. On the open market, Backlund probably fetches around $4.25 million, maybe a bit more. I imagine he’ll be offered something in that neighbourhood by the Flames, as well.
Brodie will be 25 when his deal expires. With five seasons under his belt, he, too, will be a restricted free agent. Depending on term, most likely this will be Brodie’s last deal before becoming a UFA.
Like Backlund, Brodie’s progressed really well over the past few seasons. In 2010-11, he played three games out of training camp and looked like a 20-year-old kid trying to play NHL defense. So he went to the farm, worked his backside off and has gradually (a) played more and more games in the NHL, (b) played more and more key minutes in the NHL, and (c) played well enough that he’s become arguably Calgary’s best defender. He’s still prone to occasional gaffes and lapses, but he’s probably a better skater than Mark Giordano and has a better first pass – Brodie’s outlet passes from the blueline have created more break-away scoring chances for his teammates than the other Calgary players combined.
Like Backlund, Brodie is one of the most consistently strong possession players on one of hockey’s consistently worst possession teams. Now, while Backlund seems to have settled into a “type” of player, if you look at Brodie, his numbers keep progressing. I imagine the Flames will want to tie him up in a long-term deal, because he is really good. His representatives might argue for a shorter deal to hedge their bets about his continued progression.
Dennis Seidenberg is making $4 million for Boston. Niklas Hjalmarsson is making $4.1 million for Chicago. Ryan McDonagh makes $4.7 million for the Rangers, but scores a bit more than Brodie. Mark Giordano is making $4.02 million for the Flames. I foresee Brodie getting more than Giordano on any deal. Maybe something in the realm of $4.3 or $4.4 million will be warranted.
SUM IT UP
Of course, these estimations for deals could fall out of the window if either player goes nuts this season and blows their prior numbers out of the water. That’s why it probably would be a good move for the Flames to get a jump on these extensions. It might not matter right now, as the NHL’s fourth-worst club probably shouldn’t be too worried about spending efficiently. But in a few years, they hope to be a good team, and good teams spend money intelligently.
Signing Backlund and Brodie to deals right away with an eye towards the team’s future salary structure would be a very smart thing to do.