Report: Flames Open Contract Talks With Kris Russell

Lost in the hustle and bustle of the last pre-season game for your Calgary Flames last night was an interesting bit of news. According to a report by Calgary Sun scribe Eric Francis (and some comments from the player’s agent), the Flames have begun talks with pending unrestricted free agent Kris Russell on a new contract.

“I had very preliminary talks with Brad, and obviously, they’re big fans of Kris, and it’s home for him, so he’d like to stay,” said Roy following his visit to Calgary.
“Are we going to get something done? We are hoping. We are just beginning talks.”

Russell is in the final season of a contract that pays him $2.6 million annually. Most likely, his camp will want a raise. With the NHL’s revenues projected to go up only slightly this season (to $4 billion, around a 1 percent increase) and the Canadian dollar in the toilet, it’s unlikely that the salary cap will go up at all for the 2016-17 season. He was Calgary’s #3 defenseman last year in terms of duties and deployments, and broke the NHL’s modern-day record for shot-blocking – meaning he spent a lot of time in his own zone alongside Dennis Wideman and was gutsy enough to help his goalie out. He’s one of the most respected players on the team, but (at least last season) was one of the worst possession players on the club. Regardless, Russell’s probably a good fit as a #4 or #5 defender on a good team – which is what the Flames are aspiring to be.

For the curious, per NHL Numbers data, the Flames have 14 players signed to one-way deals for next year (or the equivalent), with Michael Frolik, Mikael Backlund, Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferland, Mason Raymond, Matt Stajan, Lance Bouma, Brandon Bollig, Dougie Hamilton, Dennis Wideman, T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Ladislav Smid and Deryk Engelland all signed for a combined cap hit of around $47.3 million (ignoring bonuses for Bennett). That leaves them with $24 million to sign restricted free agents Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Joe Colborne and Josh Jooris, as well as signing two goalies, and then trying to figure out how to fit Russell or Jiri Hudler (who’s also a pending UFA) under the cap.

Now, let’s just take this story for what it is: the player’s agent saying that they’ve started negotiations. This is an organization that seemingly prides itself on saying virtually nothing publicly about internal business – we heard nothing about the Mark Giordano extension until it was finalized, for instance – and Brad Treliving was quoted in the story in the broadest of terms (saying they’d like to keep him). The cynical part of me is thinking the agent wants the negotiation news out there for whatever reason.

Most likely the Flames only have enough money to sign one of Russell or Hudler, and all we know right now is that they’re beginning to talk turkey with one camp. I’d be shocked if they aren’t also talking to Hudler’s representatives as well and trying to figure out which player they can fit into their plans going forward.

We’ll (obviously) have more on this saga as it unfolds over the next several months. Under the terms of the CBA, unrestricted free agents can sign extensions anytime during the final year of their contract, so we theoretically could have news about Russell and Hudler at anytime during this season.

  • Greg

    All of you wonder why oilers fans come here, well, you can thank Walter White. If you got him off the site, pretty sure the trolling would go down a significant amount. He calls an 18 year old kid useless. Seems somewhat pathetic..

    • Cfan in Vic

      Ahhhhh, Muffin…

      If you’ve got a problem with a troll, why don’t you take it up with your ON moderator (that’s their job). I’m pretty sure none of us has any control over WW.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Thanks for not trolling. That said, You haven’t exactly made a lot of friends at FN. While you seem to have cleaned up your act lately, this complaint largely falls on deaf ears, given the junk you’ve posted here. Out of the 100 or so Commenters at FN, I doubt you get to 5 that routinely troll ON. And your solution is (or at least was) to come here to goad people into responding to useless crap. Did it make you feel better?

      Respondong to trolls doesn’t work, and becoming one makes things worse.

  • Greg

    Anything over about 1.5M is an overpay for Russell. He’s just not that good. Teams don’t pay 3-4M to guys that shouldn’t be more than a 5-6.(Sbisa doesn’t count because Benning).

      • Burnward

        Not a huge fan of his eye test either.

        I hate blind wraps up the boards. Engelland does it every time because he’s terrible. But Wideman and Russell do it more than you’d want out of a 3-4 because they are in over their head in their own zone.

        I really liked the idea of Brodie Wideman because they seemed to be complimentary. Brodie is a shot attempt suppression machine, while Wideman can’t defend. Wideman generates a high level of CF attempts. It seemed like a good fit.

        Then, Russell is demoted to the third pairing. His fancy stats probably improve drastically, because he’s playing softer minutes. It’s a win win for everyone, except Russell who probably loses a 2M+ paycheque.

  • MonsterPod

    Also, I don’t really have an issue with WW. I’m pretty sure he’s a Flames fan. His opinions aren’t popular, but they are his and he owns them.

    If that 18yo was Janko, was he really that far off?

  • T&A4Flames

    Resigning Russell (which I am totally fine with) will probably be in the 3.0mill territory. It pretty well declares him the #4 moving forward. Then Wideman needs to be moved when Brodie returns. For all the Engellend haters & Smid, those contracts can’t really be dealt with until next summer.
    We move Wideman, we gain $$$ for Hudler, that’s how I look at it. Jones, Ramo & Hiller will = our #1 next year with Ortio backing him up. The remainder of those savings will be going to Monahan & Gaudreau.

  • wot96

    Isn’t the issue usually term, not dollars?

    I struggle to understand why re-signing Russell for dollars and/or term would be a good idea in the context of the players the Flames have coming up. We all watched Phat Ras play great in the pre-season. Kulak is looking like he belongs. Hickey is projecting quite well.

    I like Russell but unless the deal is right, this doesn’t make sense. The Flames need to re-sign Hudler moreiss.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Part of the problem with Russell is that he plays with Wideman, and is forced to be the defensely responsible guy on the pairing. I’d like to see him paired with either Brodie, or Hamilton and away from Wideman. I would then hope both the eye-test and his possession stats would improve dramatically. On the other hand, giving Wideman either Brodie or Hamilton as a partner for the sole purpose of increasing his value. The team could continuing to place him with every OZ start possible , plus give him #1 PP time. Hopefully, another team looking for a PP specialist would be willing to give an asset up for his services as a rental.

    No matter how you look at it, the Wideman/Russell pairing is a liability and should not be the #2 unit. Here’s the rub, which of those 2 guys is capable of holding up Engelland? Frankly, neither is a great choice and this fact forces Hartley to waste a great defender like Brodie to protect Engelland. This is my biggest concern for the Flames defence. The team will not demote Engelland, and as a result it really makes a mess of the entire d-core.

    • T&A4Flames

      First off, Wideman would not be a rental, he’s got 2 years left on his contract. But, overall I agree with you. I would like to see a pairing of Ham’s with Rus. Both are decent 2 way players. Aldo, I think putting Russell with England could help Russell’s #’s as Engelland would be the D first guy allowing Rus to maybe think a bit more offensively.

  • MonsterPod

    Overall, the Flames have an expensive D. They’re gonna need to play an ELC guy somewhere at some point. One of Russell or Wideman has to go, perhaps both. If they can’t trade Wideman, then they may have to just let Russell walk based on nothing more than numbers.

    Chicago releases talent every year because CAP. We’ll be getting there soon too. Our top line is cheap. Our bottom pair is pricey. That will change and Russell looks like the odd man out.

  • T&A4Flames

    Re: our cap, by next summer, BT us going to have to really start thinking of moving several vets. Aside from Wideman, and possibly Russell, guys like Stajan will have to be considered to have move along as well. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think possibly both Wides and Rus could be moved. We’ve got lots of depth and several guys who may soon be ready to play in the #4-6 spots. Personally, I like Wotherspoon with Hamilton. TSpoon is D 1st guy which could allow Ham’s to think more offensively. Kulak, Morrisonn, Nakladal, Culkin, Andersson and Kylington are all tracking well. I think moving that “2nd” pair will be doable by the summer.

  • RedMan

    Flames have some very interesting defensive prospects on the cusp or just a bit out of making the NHL… we get all worked up about who is here now, but 2 years from now it will be totally different.

    I’m not worried… things look good.

  • ClayBort

    Anton Babchuk and Chris Butler used to block a lot of shots too.

    Look, I like Russell (he’s about 10 times the player Babchuk was, just to begin with), but the Flames cannot prioritize his extension ahead of those for Monahan and Gaudreau. They just can’t.

    Do the right thing, Brad. Get the important pieces signed first, then worry about the complementary ones. It may be that Russell is redundant as soon as next season, too. Kulak, Wotherspoon, and others are all tracking well, and not one of those guys will cost even half as much as Russell will on an extension.

  • First Name Unidentified

    “Now, let’s just take this story for what it is: the player’s agent saying that they’ve started negotiations. This is an organization that seemingly prides itself on saying virtually nothing publicly about internal business – we heard nothing about the Mark Giordano extension until it was finalized, for instance”

    Factually incorrect.

    Treliving made it very clear to the media on locker clean out day back in May that signing Gio to a long term extension was the club’s # 1 priority over the summer. I recall listening to Sportsnet 960 at least 3-4 times this summer where BT again, in interviews with Boomer and also Kerr made it clear talks were ongoing and it was still the organization’s priority to get Gio re-signed. BT could not have made it more public that they were in ongoing contract negotiations.

    As it relates to Russell and Hudler, I would hope BT is doing his due diligence and speaking with both player’s agents to gauge what their asking price may be…after all he has to manage a cap!!! I would expect he has already contacted both Monahan and Gaudreau’s camps as well to get a feel for how next year’s cap scenario is shaping up. Anything less would be a GM not doing his job…and Brad is a smart, young hockey man, we’re lucky to have this guy.

  • First Name Unidentified

    As i have proposed in the past, i think this is the best time to trade Russell. Hartley will play him top 4 mins with an A on his chest. At below 3 million he can fetch better trade value than wideman. Our D should look amazing in about 2 years

    Gio-Hamilton, TJ-Kulak, TSpoon-Kylington/Anderson

    • T&A4Flames

      Fast tracking Kylington and Andersson not in the Flames best interest, may not be ready in 2 years. TSpoon may be traded…Ryan Culkin probably closer to NHL than those 3.

  • RKD

    His possession numbers don’t bother me, they are masked by him being a great d-man. What he does for our team and did last season was remarkable. Losing this guy would be a mistake, St. Louis probably wishes they still had him.