As free agency enters it’s second month, one of the small mysteries for me has been the future of defenceman David Schlemko. Claimed on waivers late in the season by the Flames, I thought the serviceable blueliner more than held his own in the role he was given. Is this high priority stuff for Calgary? No, it’s not. But I do think you can make a compelling case why bringing him back makes sense.
Again, this isn’t something that me or anyone else needs to lose a lot of sleep over. Dougie Hamilton has been acquired, the Flames boast one of the deepest bluelines in the league, and they’ll be just fine if Schlemko doesn’t come back. But knowing how important defensive depth is in this league, it is somewhat curious the team hasn’t struck a deal.
What’s the holdup?
The reasons to bring Schlemko back are fairly plentiful, in actual reality.
He was pretty good
Despite being bounced around to three different teams last year, as I profiled earlier this summer, Schlemko is actually a pretty effective player. During his time in Phoenix, he was one of their top possession defencemen, while he also kept his head above water last season in three different cities. In 19 games with the Flames upon being acquired, he had a 52.99% possession rate. Schlemko followed that up with an even better 54.09% in the playoffs, and he did all that without a heavily skewed offensive zone start ratio.
I’m not saying Schlemko is going to play in Calgary’s top four, because that’s silly. But as a potential third pairing player, he was arguably more effective than Deryk Engelland, Ladislav Smid and certainly a step up on Tyler Wotherspoon.
He’ll come cheap
Schlemko’s salary cap hit last year was a fairly negligible $1.1875 million, and I can’t imagine it being any higher than that on a new deal. Knowing the way negotiations work, Calgary (or any other team, for that matter) would have most of the leverage. Schlemko was on three teams last year, he has lasted late into the summer without being signed, and he’s going to be a depth guy.
On top of that, he’s not signing anything more than a short term year deal. The Flames have no cap issues for the coming season, so adding a guy like Schlemko for effective depth doesn’t hurt them in any way, shape, or form.
You need to be deep
Remember in the playoffs when we are all losing our minds over the return of Rapha Diaz? It’s not like we were totally off base, either, because he was a welcome addition to the group. But, with no slight meant at Diaz, that fact really shows you how depleted Calgary’s blueline was. Smid was out for the year, Mark Giordano had gone down, and the team was forced to play Potter and Wotherspoon in the playoffs when they really didn’t want to.
Don’t get me wrong, adding Hamilton to the fold helps with their depth immensely. But the 2015 playoffs for the Flames are a really good reminder as to how important it is to be deep on your back end.
There’s nothing to lose
But Steinberg, if Calgary signs Schlemko, it means he might be keeping someone out of the lineup! Well, that’s not necessarily the case. Say Schlemko looks like garbage in the preseason or struggles early in the regular campaign. Well, it’s very easy to cut bait. The Flames claimed him on waivers in the first place, so him being exposed and potentially claimed isn’t really a worry at all. The worst that can happen is they pay him NHL money in Stockton.
Hey, I know, I just wrote a nice, long article about a potential number six/seven defenceman. It’s late July and it’s a Flames hockey blog, this is what we do. The fact still remains that there are plenty of reasons to bring Schlemko back on another contract.
Are there reasons not to? Sure, you could make a few arguments. Maybe they’re waiting to sign Cody Franson? Maybe they’re waiting to see if a Dennis Wideman trade materializes. Or perhaps Calgary anticipates Smid to be completely healthy for next year. That being said, if you ask me, the pros far outweigh the cons, and I’d bring The Schlemko back for one more year.