Mikael Backlund, Lance Bouma, and Paul Byron are the highest profile restricted free agents for the Calgary Flames this summer. Those aren’t the only RFA contracts the Flames have to concern themselves with, however. In Josh Jooris, Micheal Ferland and Drew Shore, Calgary has three players who were new on the scene this past season. Are we talking about slam dunk deals for this trio? And if so, how similar will their deals look?
The interesting thing about this threesome is how all three joined the organization. Jooris was a free agent signing out of college, Shore was a mid-season acquisition, and Ferland was a 2010 fifth round draft pick. All of them made some sort of an impact in their first years with the Flames, although their impacts were felt to varying degrees. In the end, though, none of them have likely done enough to earn anything long term. So what will these contracts look like when they inevitably get signed?
2014-2015 stats: 60 GP, 12 G, 12 A, 24 PTS, 16 PIM, +1
Jooris was one of the most positive stories for the Flames this past season, and for me, he stands out the most of this trio. For a guy who was slated to play only one preseason game, Jooris showed he could compete as an NHL regular and actually ended up being one of Calgary’s most consistenly effective forwards.
With a Corsi for rating of 47.00%, Jooris ended up being Calgary’s best possession forward and trailed only Mark Giordano in that same category among Flames regulars. Part of that number was helped along by a 51.2% offensive zone start (fourth highest on the team), and the fact he wasn’t usually matched up against top end opposition. That doesn’t take away from his effectiveness, however, because he really was a useful player this past season. That’s backed up by him being the team’s top possession forward in the postseason at 52.67%.
What I really like about Jooris is how simple and smart his game is. He’s not blessed with incredible attributes in any individual area, but what he does possess is a very solid understanding of the game at the highest level. You can see it almost every time he’s on the ice. Jooris makes things happen by making smart chips in his own end, and by playing a straightforward game offensively. He works a good cycle and you can count on him to spend a good amount of time at the right end of the ice.
Because of those things, Jooris’s offensive numbers this year were a bonus. Should we be expecting 12 goals plus from him every year? It’s a good benchmark to set, but he’ll probably need to take a few more shots to see that offensive trend continue. Jooris shot 13.5% on 89 shots this past season, so it will likely be big for him to fire the puck a little more to go along with his time in the offensive end.
Verdict: There would be absolutely no reason not to sign Jooris to another contract. He had a really nice rookie NHL season and looks like someone who can play at the highest level on a consistent basis. I really like him, so I’d be fine with a two year deal, but the team still has the leverage so a one year deal is probably where this ends up. He is an effective even strength play, can kill penalties (1:07 average shorthanded ice time per game), and has a decent offensive flair. Not bad for an undrafted college free agent.
2014-2015 stats: 26 GP, 3 G, 2 A, 5 PTS, 16 PIM, +1
No Flames player made a more unexpected name for himself during the 2015 postseason than Ferland. Whether it was Kevin Bieksa pretending not to know how to say his name, or plastering Luca Sbisa to the boards, the Vancouver Canucks certainly won’t forget about the 2010 fifth round pick. Ferland wasn’t able to make as much of an impact against the Ducks, due to injury and the nature of the opposition, but he certainly endeared himself to Calgary fans in April and May of this year. So now what?
My biggest question about Ferland is if he can do what he did in the playoffs over an 82 game season. To play with the pace and physicality that he did when he was making an impact cannot be an easy thing to do on a regular basis. If the answer to the question is yes, however, then the Flames have got a pretty interesting player on their hands.
Plain and simple, Ferland makes an impact when he plays the way he did for the majority of the postseason. He had Vancouver hearing footsteps for the entire series and he was able to add a little playoff offence as well. Ferland finished with three goals and five points in nine playoff games and held his own on a relatively effective line with Matt Stajan and David Jones.
Sure, there are areas of Ferland’s all round game that will need refining, but that’s to be expected of a guy with 35 games of NHL experience under his belt. He’s come a long way since his draft year and continues to have a nice ceiling for what he could accomplish. Whether he blossoms into a full fledged power forward or ends up filling a role as a physical bottom sixer remains to be seen. The fact that first option exists makes keeping him around for a while longer quite tantalizing, however.
Verdict: Much like Jooris, this one is easy. Of course you re-sign Ferland, and once again, because the team has the leverage, this can be a one year deal. Ferland has some nice offensive tools, specifically his shot and his hands in tight and down low. We know he can make an impact by throwing his body around, and I for one am quite hopeful he continues progressing.
2014-2015 stats: 11 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 PTS, 0 PIM, -5
This one is a little more interesting. Shore was acquired by the Flames in January from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Corban Knight. At the NHL level, you and I only had a small window of which to form an opinion on Shore. From what I’ve seen, I’m certainly sufficiently interested to see him some more next year.
At the age of 24, Shore was an AHL All Star, putting up 37 points in 47 games split between the San Antonio Rampage and the Adirondack Flames. He’s been a pro since 2012, so his development curve is a little different as opposed to a guy like, say, Jooris or even Ferland. Those two project to have a good shot at being full time NHLer’s next season. For Shore to do that, it might be a little more difficult.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. Even if Shore’s ultimate upside in the organization is being a tweener who spends time in the American League between NHL recalls, there still is value there. Because NHL upside does exist, signing him to another one year contract to see what a full year in the organization brings is only prudent.
Shore has shown he can be a versatile player, as he’s a natural centre but has no problem playing the wing. Knowing Calgary’s lack of depth on the wing, specifically on the right side, that versatility might help him stick with the organization for a little while. He’s put up decent totals at the AHL level as a player in his early 20’s, so I still think there is some all right offensive upside there as well.
Verdict: It just makes sense to sign Shore to another deal. Again, we’re likely talking about a one year deal, which is just fine. Remember, the organization only got to see him play in 23 games (11 in Calgary and 12 in Adirondack). It would be rather silly to acquire a player, play him for a third of a season, and then let him walk. Sign him to a one year deal and if it doesn’t work, then you can think about potentially cutting bait next summer when Shore is 25.