FN Mailbag – June 28, 2015

Mailbag

The draft is done and the Flames added no less than three excellent young blue liners to their organizational depth, a group obviously headlined by erstwhile Bruin Dougie Hamilton. The former 9th overall pick instantly firms up what was previously the clubs biggest weakness (blueline depth after Brodie and Giordano). 

Brad Treliving has the opportunity to further add to the Flames depth with free agency season right around the corner. We’ll talk about this stuff as well as Calgary’s other draft additions in the mailbag today.

According to Elliotte Friedman, the Bruins offered Hamilton $33M over 6 years, or $5.5M per year and were rejected. That puts Hamilton’s ask north of $5.5M, though it’s entirely possible he’d settle for a lower number for more term (7 or 8 years)? Either way, I can’t image the Flames having much of a problem signing him.

Of course, with the above in mind, it’s clear the Flames blueline is set to become very expensive very soon. TJ Brodie’s raise to $4.65M kicks in this year and Mark Giordano will likely bounce up to the $7-8M per year range the season after that. Kris Russell is also a free agent in 2016, to say nothing of Sean Monahan, Jiri Hudler and Johnny Gaudreau, all of whom will need new contracts by that time as well.

That means the combination of Giordano, Hamilton, Brodie and Wideman will likely cost somewhere in the neighbourhood of $23M altogether, which figures to be about 30% of the club’s cap space in 2016. Ladislav Smid and Dreyk Engelland will cost another $6.417M if they are still around as well.

So I figure the club can only plan on having one of Russell, Wideman, Engelland and Smid on the roster by the time 2016-17 starts. Dealing Wideman and/or Russell in the next 12 months shouldn’t be a monumental challenge, but it will be interesting to see what the club does to delete the Smid and Engelland deals.

It’s possible because some GMs always value toughness and leadership. 

It may very well come down to the Flames offering to eat some salary in order to get Engelland off the roster. Remember that demotion to the AHL only saves a club the first $900k or so off a player’s cap hit, which means Engelland will cost the Flames $2M in cap space even if he is buried in the minors. If a trade comes along that requires them to eat some cash but still saves them more than an AHL demotion, they may look at it.

This question comes from speculation from Friedman that the Flames may be interested in Chris Stewart as a free agent. As I’ve mentioned in this space before, Stewart isn’t a very good NHL player. In fact, he might be one of the worst defensive forwards in the entire league:

Stewart1

Stewart2

In the first chart, I’ve circled Stewart’s last 3 seasons. In each of them, he’s made everyone around him worse in terms of corsi for and corsi against (meaning both offensively and defensively). The second chart shows that Stewart isn’t too bad at generating points, but is worse than your average 4th liner when it comes to possession/shots against. 

Stewart still appeals to NHL GMs because he has the coveted combination of size and hands. Unfortunately, there’s either something wrong with the computer or the ticker, because he hasn’t been able to put his tools to effective use for a long time now. It would be foolish to think that THIS will be where he finally puts it all together. 

There are better options out there. Just say no to Chris Stewart. 

I don’t know if Calgary would have been classed “UFA cursed” prior to this season, but it’s true that it can be more difficult to attract talent in the midst of a difficult rebuild. 

It’s entirely possible the club has re-invigorated itself in the eyes of potentials UFAs with its turn as Cinderella though – not only does the club have the Jack Adams award winner, but also a Calder finalist (Gaudreau), a pair of other young, high-end centres (Bennett, Monahan) and no less than three high caliber defenders (Brodie, Giordano and Hamilton). 

Optimism reigns in Calgary right now and that could prove seductive for guys looking to be part of something.

It’s way too early to expect either of these guys to make the team. Even very good prospects are typically long shots to become NHL players of any note.

Assuming both Andersson and Kylington make the grade, however, you can usually expect a 3-5 year maturation period for most defenders. TJ Brodie, for instance, was picked in 2008. He made his first brief appearance for the Flames in 2010-11 and was a full timer by 2012-13 (after half a year spent in the AHL thanks to the lock-out). That’s a 5 year latency between draft and full-timer and keep in mind Brodie is the best defense prospect the team has seen in a long time. 

I don’t think the Hamilton acquisition effects Wotherspoon at all. He’s battling with guys like Engelland, Smid and whoever else the team signs this summer for depth on the bottom pairing (Schlemko?). Wotherspoon still has to convince the powers that be that he’s an NHLer at all, which means he has to permanently usurp whoever is at the bottom of the Flames blueline depth chart.

I figure Wotherspoon starts the season in the AHL (and would have even with Hamilton was never acquired) and will have to claw his way up to the third pairing. In relation to the discussion above, Wotherspoon is rapidly approaching the 5 year anniversary of his draft and will turn 23 in March of next year. I suspect he will likely have to take a firm step forward this season in order to convince the team he’s still a prospect of note.

Mike Green was of interest before the Hamilton trade. Now it’s clear the Flames couldn’t afford him even if they needed him. As for Stafford, I don’t really have much interest in him personally. He’s a middle rotation RWer who is just okay at everything.

My UFA preferences are Michael Frolik (a Backlund type player who can score 40-points, play wing or centre and drive possession) and Justin Williams (still one of the best possession RWs in the game, though his scoring touch seems to be slipping). On the back-end you might be able to get Christian Ehrhoff to sign a short “prove it” contract after his injury ravaged year, though that may depend on if Wideman is still with the team. 

Finally, I think the Flames should also look to retain their own free agents in Paul Byron (who will be cheap and has high utility up and down the roster), and at least one of David Schlemko or Raphael Diaz (who were capable in limited minutes on the blueline last year). 

  • everton fc

    Based on what I’ve read, there seems to be a lot of interest in Schlemko around the league. He should be retained.

    Let Diaz walk. Try to unload Smid’s contract somehow, if need be. They’ll be okay w/Engelland’s contract one more season, but may have to look for a “dance partner” to unload his contract to, say a team like Arizona, trying to reach the cap floor. If we can hold the d-corps together one more year, I’d try. As for Russell vs. Wideman, keep Russell.

    • everton fc

      I think Jones and Fehr are pretty similar players with similar roles at this stage of their careers. Jones might have better offencive potential if healthy, with the right linemates.

  • RedMan

    our defensive third pairing needs to provide acceptable defensive ability but really will shine if the third pairing can provide a PP specialist like wideman and a PK specialist who is strong and mean enough to clear the front of the net.

    While Engelland is big enough, I don’t think he is fast enough to keep up with the forwards he would face while on the PK. this is based on what I saw last year when he was left standing in the dust on more then one occasion by forwards who cycled so fast and efficiently that they ended up dancing around him.

    I like Engeland and I also like wideman, but appears to me it is Engelland who is the odd man out in my opinion.

    However – the question remains – who then is the third pairing defender that will provide the strength and nastiness to clear the front of the net?

    I wonder if Flames will look to Wotherspoon to fill this role as the #6/7 defender and also wonder if this isn’t the role they expect Kanzig to fill in the near future?

  • mattyc

    What (if any) is the downgrade between having Schemko and/or Diaz on the bottom pairing vs. Engelland, Wideman, or Smid?

    Personally, I’d rank them Wideman>Schlemko>Engelland~=Smid, however Wideman’s salary makes him less desirable going forward (along with his age/expected decline). Exhibit A of why the bottom of of the roster should be constructed with quantity (hoping something sticks) rather than paying for it.

  • beloch

    Wow. That Hamilton contract is better than I ever anticipated. Amazing.

    Let’s hope the Gio extension is just as good.

    I’m thinking Frolik would be the best UFA pickup for Calgary, though I wonder if Oduya would be worth looking at if they can free up Engelland or Smid contract.

    If one of Engelland, Smid or Raymond gets traded Calgary will be looking in great shape.

  • PrairieStew

    It will be interesting to see how Treliving approaches free agency. This team has a first line and a good tough minutes line with Backlund, Bouma and Jones. The secondary scoring might eventually be provided by Bennett, Granlund, Poirier and Klimchuck, but maybe not just yet. Colborne, Raymond and Stajan are veterans whose combination of offense and upside are not top 6 material. I am comfortable with Matty anchoring the 4th line with a rotating cast of Byron, Ferland, Arnold, Agostino and Reinhart, making other veterans expendable.

    Can he translate Bollig, Raymond and Colborne, and perhaps Wideman in to one solid second line forward, then sign another to play with Bennett?

    Smid and England are basically not tradeable, otherwise they would be on the go also.