Let’s Talk: UFA Targets for the Stockton Heat

Free
agency is coming! Free agency is coming!

As
Burke and Treliving have noted in the past, free agency isn’t a time to find
answers, it’s a time to fill holes, so I have pieced together a list of
potential unrestricted free agents who could be of interest to the Calgary
Flames to fill holes and address needs on the farm.

These
are the needs I identified as being of utmost importance for the Stockton Heat
this summer:

  • Steady, veteran defenseman
  • An offensive defenseman
  • Consistent veteran scoring forward
  • Leadership
  • A veteran backup net-minder for Jon Gillies

FORWARDS:

Bobby Robins – Robins is one
nasty so-and-so. He’s a right-handed RW who would fill a fourth-line role as a
veteran leader alongside Mathieu Tousignant. He played two games with the Abbotsford
Heat back in 2011-12. He was the AHL’s most penalized player in 2012-13. He
would be a guy who acts as the center of mass for a team of green pros. Could
probably be had on an AHL deal.

Drew Leblanc – A once highly
coveted college free agent, Leblanc won the Hobey Baker Award in 2012-13. The
Flames reportedly had heavy interest in the skilled playmaker who eventually
chose to sign with Chicago. Unfortunately, he hasn’t transitioned that
offensive skill to the pro leagues yet. The Flames do have familiarity with
Leblanc as he was a teammate of Ben Hanowski’s. At 25 years old, the kid could
just use a change of scenery. He might be worth the risk.

Bobby Butler – Butler has become
a scoring machine in the AHL. He’s a natural goal scorer with good playmaking
skills. He’s a 28 year old veteran RW who has amassed a consistent 133 points
in his last three AHL seasons (174 games). He could play a first or second line
scoring role.

Dustin Jeffrey – The type of
veteran scorer you’d want on your farm team. At 27 years old, he still has NHL
aspirations, so he may not be interested in the Flames with such a deep
prospect system. However, he has averaged nearly a point per game in his last
four AHL seasons. Calm, cool, collected personality that would fit in well with
the culture Calgary has built.

Bryan Lerg – Lerg was the
captain in Worcester and Lake Erie in each of the last two seasons. He’s a gritty,
energy scoring winger. He’s a tad small at just 5’10” but he plays like he’s 10’5”.
He’s really harnessed a scoring role in his past few seasons and has been a
great leader.

Eric O’Dell – A primary cog
in why the St. John’s Ice Caps have been such an elite team the last few
seasons. He’s a big time playoff performer, who, at just 25 years old, is
someone Ryan Huska could build a consistent offense around. Strength and
toughness seem to be his Achilles heel. Doesn’t look out of place as a
temporary NHL call-up.

Manny Malhotra – Manny will
probably be more coveted on free agency day than one might think. He’s heralded
as the ultimate teammate and is one of the best faceoff guys of the past half-decade.
He’ll want a one-way deal and is unlikely to sign to a team wanting him in the
AHL. However, his NHL skill is dwindling and it might be time for him to switch
leagues. Don’t get your hopes up, but he’d be an enormous signing for the Flames if he was willing to go to
Stockton. It’s unlikely though.

Danny Kristo – I can’t see
the Rangers not signing the
25-year-old. He’s the former linemate of Corban Knight at the University of
North Dakota. He was a Hobey Baker finalist in 2012-13 alongside Johnny Gaudreau.
He has been an offensive dynamo for the Harford Wolf Pack in the last two
seasons. He can break the sound barrier with his speed and quickness and has
the hands to go with it. Kristo is an outstanding prospect that has been buried
by an incredibly deep New York Rangers organization. If he hits the open
market, Treliving should make it a priority to sign him.

DEFENSE:

Colby Robak – The Dauphin,
Manitoba native was a highly touted second-round pick for the Panthers at one
point, he just didn’t reach his potential. Robak is a 25 year old defensive defenseman
who plays the game steady without being overly physical. He’s one of those
players you don’t notice all that often, but can eat up a ton of minutes. He might
be a good fit on the Heat.

Andrew Campbell – Campbell is
another big defensive defenseman (6’4”, 206 pounds) who has spent six full
seasons in the AHL (five in the LA Kings organization). He’s a freak of nature
as he rarely loses games due to an injury. At 27 years old, he’s not over the
hill and seems to be in his prime as he played 33 games with the Coyotes last
season. However, he didn’t have the greatest Relative Corsi rating on a very
bad Phoenix Coyotes team.

Davis Drewiske – His NHL
career is likely over, but his AHL career is just getting started. Drewiske is
a sturdy, cagey veteran who would be an excellent teacher for a very young
defensive core in Stockton. The 30-year-old had a career year with the Hamilton
Bulldogs last season. He was a member of the 2011-12 Stanley Cup winning LA Kings.

Matt Corrente – A former
first-round pick of the New Jersey Devils, Corrente is an average-sized, yet
physical defensive defenseman. He didn’t develop as hoped, but that hasn’t
stopped him from having a decent AHL career. Corrente has a propensity for big,
open ice checks. The downside is he tends to play a bit undisciplined, but he
does have NHL experience to draw from.

Oliver Lauridsen – A hulking
Dane. He stands 6’6” (off skates) and 229 pounds. At 26 years old he’s likely
just reaching his prime. While his physical attributes are evident, he also has
the potential to be a shutdown defender as he develops. Lauridsen plays the
game with an edge and amassed over 150 PIMS in his last two AHL seasons. His skating
is an issue as is with most giants, but it’s manageable. He played on Denmark’s
World Championship team this past spring and has 21 games of experience in the
tournament.

Alex Biega – You probably
won’t find a more consistent defenseman than Alex Biega. He’s a bit undersized
at 5’11” but he can skate efficiently and will always opt for the smart read. He
always seemed to eat the Abbosford Heat alive whenever he played against them.
His style of play is quite similar to Kris Russell’s. Biega doesn’t often get
injured and is good for 20+ points per season.

Chris Wideman – Why not add
another freakishly good offensive defenseman named Wideman to the organization?
At just 25 years old, Wideman packs a whole lot of offensive tools into his
small frame. He’s only 5’10” and 181 pounds, but he led the AHL in goals,
assists and points for a defenseman last season and won the Eddie Shore Award
for best defenseman. The Adirondack Flames really missed that offensive punch
from the blue line last season without Chad Billins. Chris Wideman would be an
unbelievable signing for Treliving if he makes it to free agency, which is
unlikely. It would be idiotic for Ottawa to let this kid leave.

GOALTENDING:

Tom McCollum – The former
Detroit first-rounder will be the youngest UFA goalie on this year’s market if
he gets there. He’s 25 years old and is just reaching his prime. It was an
unfortunate scenario for McCollum in Grand Rapids as he played second fiddle to
Peter Mrazek. In fact, Mrazek and McCollum were arguably the best goaltending
duo in the AHL for a couple of seasons. He has decent size for a net-minder at
6’2” and, in my opinion, is extremely underrated. If McCollum hit the open
market and Treliving signed him, he wouldn’t just be an excellent partner for
Gillies, he would be a legitimate prospect as well.

Mike McKenna – McKenna has
spent his entire career jumping from organization to organization, but has
remained an AHL goalie throughout. He’s 32 years old and has a history of injuries,
but when he’s healthy he can be an average to good net-minder. As a backup, he
might find a niche. He had a good year with Portland last season posting a 2.24
GAA and a 0.926 SV%.

Jason Labarbera – Talk about a goalie that’s been around the
block. Labarbera’s a 35 year old who knows a thing or two about the NHL. He’s
been an NHL backup most of his career with stops in New York, Los Angeles,
Vancouver, Phoenix and Edmonton. If you truly want to shape Jon Gillies into an
NHL goalie, Labarbera might just be the perfect option as an AHL
backup/secondary goalie coach.