Lance Bouma is Brad Treliving’s next test

Brad Treliving has only been an NHL general manager for a little over a year, but it’s been a hell of a year. Misappropriated cap space aside, his early blunders can be forgiven; especially after the off-season he’s just had. 

Without giving up any meaningful assets, Treliving has upgraded the Flames’ top four defence and top six forward group for years to come. He has altered the course of this franchise, and seriously sped up the rebuild. 

Before that, he passed an earlier test by re-signing Mikael Backlund. This was an obvious one because of Backlund’s RFA status, but at the same time, it’s easy to lose those kinds of guys for nothing. Instead, following the end of the season, Treliving identified Backlund as a core player, and made sure to hold on to him.

That brings us to his next test: another RFA, one Lance Bouma.

An odd bridge deal

Since joining the Flames in the second half of the 2011-12 season, Bouma has looked like an NHLer. Unfortunately, he lost his entire 2012-13 season thanks to injury early into the year, and didn’t get to dress again until 2013-14.

Signed to a one-year, $577,500 deal after his entry level deal expired, Bouma went on to spend the entire year in the NHL. He scored five goals and 15 points, and averaged 12:36 minutes a game: modest fourth liner numbers. He clearly belonged, but his role wasn’t big.

Bouma’s new contract took a really long time to get done. He was the last Flames RFA to get his new deal, waiting all the way until the end of July 2014. Eventually, an amount was settled on: one year, $775,000. 

It seemed kind of odd. Why all that time to hammer out an incredibly basic deal for someone who looked pretty established as a fourth liner? 

Turns out, the real winner of the deal was Bouma. Because he’s due for a new contract, and with it, a raise.

A deceptive season

This isn’t to say Bouma doesn’t deserve a raise. He absolutely does. He should have been paid more than his $775,00 last season. He should’ve been getting at least, say, $1.25 million – Brandon Bollig money – to play a role he, the younger player, was already better at.

This is to say that he doesn’t deserve to be paid as a 30-point scorer. 

Bouma exploded for a 16 goal, 34 point season. His average ice time bumped up to 14:01 – not a big increase from the earlier year, but a reflection of his promotion. Bouma started the year in the bottom six, but was placed on Backlund’s wing around the All-Star break, and only left it due to injury.

He also shot at 15.4%. This isn’t a Sean Monahan case of “maybe he’s just an accurate shooter” – Monahan has two seasons under his belt of 15.7% and 16.2% shooting percentages. Prior to his own breakout, in 2013-14 Bouma shot at 6.1%. As far as we know right now, Monahan is just an accurate guy; Bouma, on the other hand, has had one good season and one more in line with expectations.

Never bet on an unproven guy to repeat a good performance. If you’re a pessimist, then you acquire someone else in addition to your guy. Worst case scenario, you have one good guy and one bad; best case scenario, you have two good guys. If you’re optimistic about things, though, and your guy with the one good season flops, then you’re pretty much screwed.

Bouma couldn’t even score 16 goals as an overager in the WHL. When it comes to a new contract on a team running towards the cap, you don’t immediately pay him like he can do it again.

If I may reuse some #content:

This is a team that cannot afford to overpay

The Flames were one of the least expensive NHL teams. They had a lot of cap space to play with: so much, in fact, that they offered to take salary dumps from other teams in exchange for rebuilding assets (Cam Ward, Mike Ribeiro, and Mike Richards all come to mind over the course of the last year).

That was before Dougie Hamilton and Michael Frolik. Calgary’s two biggest acquisitions this summer cost them a little over $10 million, and that’s with five RFAs who may all count against the cap still to sign. And there isn’t a lot of room left.

Of the five RFAs left, Bouma is the only one who can command a substantial raise. Josh Jooris has only played one season, Paul Byron just hasn’t been able to establish himself, Micheal Ferland is brand new to the NHL, and Drew Shore was barely even touched. 

Bouma, however, has been through that already. His “show-me” deal was last season, and he showed a lot of people. 

Thing is, he’s going to have to show people again, because in Bouma’s case, there is zero reason to believe he can repeat. Maybe next year there will be, but right now, there isn’t.

To offer a cautionary tale: the Chicago Blackhawks are currently going through cap hell, in part because of Bryan Bickell, an okay third liner who has a $4 million cap hit thanks to a 17-point post-season. He’s the fifth most expensive forward on a Blackhawks team loaded with talent. He’s part of the reason they lost Brandon Saad, and you definitely want Saad on your team over Bickell every single time.

Don’t let Lance Bouma become Brandon Prust. Don’t let Lance Bouma become Bryan Bickell. Don’t let just one good, potentially fluke season screw the team over. That’s Treliving’s next test.

  • piscera.infada

    Bouma is a warrior. Give him some well deserved security that he is part of this team going forward. 3 year deal for 5.7 mill/ 1.9 AV

    I would be a happy man, Bouma gets some term to establish a better payday & gets a nice juicy raise. Like Frolick, Bouma is a type of player that helps you win games. No-brainer.

    • Burnward

      Bouma to me is a player, I would argue, that most GMs in the league have a slightly illogical affinity for. For me, he’s a strictly intangibles kind of player and an easy trap for management to fall into.

      GMs love guys like Bouma because of their willingness to put themselves through walls for the team with little or no concern for their own well being. This fact makes GMs loyal to guys like this when they really shouldn’t be if they’re looking at it logically.

      I think most people who look at Bouma’s stats and history honestly can see Bouma’s past season for what it is; an outlier. This isn’t to say that he can’t be a useful player for you but if you’re gonna pay Lance Bouma to produce like a 2nd or even 3rd line player… You’re gonna have a bad time.

      All that being said, I would expect Bouma to get paid this summer based on the fact that GMs around the league always fall in love with these kinds of players. Anything south of 2mil is a win for me anything North is just plain silly. If you must make him earn a higher pay day by incentivizing production through bonuses if you must but keep that cap hit under 2 at all costs.

  • piscera.infada

    I’d go as long as three years on the term, the guy is still young and as a high as a $1.75M annual cap hit…he doesn’t deserve more than that tho considering he’ll be playing a 3rd and 4th line role go-forward.

    Important team guy, role player, team’s win with guys like this but they need to be very diligent with their contracts moving forward, especially ensuring they do not overpay guys in bottom 6 roles. Treliving is a smart guy, knows how to maximize a dollar after being in cap strapped Phoenix all those years, he’ll get these Remaining RFA’s signed to reasonable contracts

  • First Name Unidentified

    Good read. I agree with most you’ve said here. I’d give him 2 years at 1.5 per. That gives him approx 100% pay raise and a couple more years to prove that he can continue to contribute. I have no doubt in my mind that he’s going to be a solid 4th line guy for us for years. We need Boums for playoffs. Period. I would also turn my attention to Ferland right away. That kid has the potential to score 20 goals and play the tough minutes.

    I’m so excited for this upcoming season

    • Burnward

      Indeed he has to be able move some of his players without hurting his team.

      Last year he added some salaries to get to the floor and now he has to figure out how to remove them. He gave Raymond a no move clause and BB did the same for Stajan; both of whom could be passed by by players currently in the system(@7m). He acquired Bollig and he has already been replaced by Ferland and Bouma; Bollig’s salary is rather irrelevant in the NHL but his spot on the roster is.

      Finally almost everyone’s whipping boy, England; while he played better in the last quarter and in the playoffs what was the cost. TJ having to carrying him and TJ’s game going down. With the addition of Hamilton there is no need for England as the organization has better/cheaper options; Nakladal, Spoon, or even some of the other prospects. For his nearly $3m a year we could sign a much more skilled player.

      He will also need to find a trading partner for one of the veteran goalies; hopefully he can find someone who will pay @$4m for a tandem goaltender.

      As far as Bouma which this article is supposed to be about I would love to see him signed for 3 years between $1.5m and $1.7m with whatever bonuses a team is allowed to add. i would like to Ferland signed for a 2 or 3 year deal around $1-$1.3m and be done with it.

  • Parallex

    Bouma or Raymond? Now there is a no- brainer!

    A 25 year old grinder who gets his nose dirty and can score a few goals versus a 29 year old soft perimeter player at an annual cap hit of 3.15 million!

    Trade Raymond if you have to for a draft pick and re-sign Bouma to 1.55 million per season for 2 years..Money in the bank!

      • Greg

        Thing with Raymond is, he has potential to be much better, and you don’t have to do anything with him yet.

        Most people were ok with his contract when it was signed and even more so when he started the season on fire. Wasn’t until he came back from injury and was sub-par the rest of the season.

        Sit on his contract this season, play him in favourable situations, see what you can do with him at the deadline or next off season. If he gets back to a good level, then maybe you’ve got an asset you can do something with. If not, you’ve got a bad contract with only 1 year left instead of 2, which is a lot easier to get rid of then.

  • Bouma is obviously someone the guys in the room respect, and appreciate for what he brings every night. 100% effort and a willingness to block shots with your face will buy that kind of credibility.

    Is he worth the 2.5 million Prust signed for? Absolutely not. Bickell money? Good Lord no. But at 1.5-1.75 x 2/3, you do that deal all day long.

    Ferland plays a similar game and will hopefully become the 20-25 goal banger everyone’s hoping for, but for the next couple of years I’ve got no problems with parting with third-line money for Bouma.

  • Burnward

    People can poo-poo the intangibles that Bouma brings all they want, but the way he plays is a big part of what this team is all about.

    He plays tough minutes, kills penalties, blocks shots…all things that free up Johnny and Huds, etc to get favourable matchups and excel.

    I’d rather overpay a guy like that by 500k because once you lose one, you’re immediately looking for another.

    I’d be fine with anything 2.5 or under.

    • piscera.infada

      Bouma was given a “some me” contract and he excelled. As a part of that last summer he went to a shooting specialist for specialized training which may help to explain his SH% rise (we will see). He provides massive amount of intangibles. He needs to be paid… $2.5-$3.0mm is well in line with his accomplishments.

  • Greg

    bouma’s a great glue guy who has shown the potential to elevate his game beyond his role. he’s a solid bottom-six guy who has an outside chance to play higher in the lineup.

    unless he completely falls off, I wouldn’t be afraid to give him some term provided the cap hit is team friendly. I would be happy with any of:

    3 mil over 2 years (1.5 mil aav)
    5 mil over 3 years (1.67 mil aav)
    7.5 mil over 4 years (1.875 mil aav)

    anything over 2 mil is an overpayment for bouma.

  • Burnward

    As much as I like Treliving the Buoma signing may prove to be one of his biggest mistakes. He had the opportunity last year to lock him up long term at about $1.25 but decided to give him a second gap contract. Boy did Buoma prove him wrong.

    From what I understand Buoma’s agent is going to play hardball big time with the Flames…I don’t have a good feeling with this one….