Report: Flames Still Trying To Re-Sign Kris Russell

As we get closer to the February 29 trade deadline, expect talk about the Calgary Flames and their impending free agents of various stripes to start heating up. Case in point? Tonight’s Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada, where Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman had an interesting morsel of information regarding a certain pending unrestricted free agent from the local hockey club.

To quote Friedman’s assessment of the situation:

Another defenseman to keep an eye on: Kris Russell from Calgary. Hearing teams have been asked about Russell’s availability. He’s a UFA. But one GM said he’s been told that Calgary still wants to try to see if they can re-sign him.

Russell is making $2.6 million this season and he turns 29 in May, and he’s from Central Alberta originally. After serving time as a third-pairing defender in Columbus and St. Louis, he was sent to Calgary in a sign-and-trade dead in the summer of 2013 and seemed to find a home in the Flames blueline – albeit during a rebuild on a team that had suspect depth until just recently.

Unfortunately, Russell’s made his reputation on shot-blocking in Calgary and that’s troublesome for two reasons. First: Russell plays a physical style and sacrifices his body a ton. That means he’s more susceptible to injuries than players that play a different style of game and long-term there should probably be some concern about his ability to maintain a high-level of player over the long-term. He’s already been injured this season and at times seems visibly slower than in years past.

Second: Russell spends a LOT of time in his own zone. Here’s his player usage chart for his career.

russell

If Russell was a bonafide top-four defender, his bubbles (indicating Relative Corsi) wouldn’t have that much red in them as he spent more time against better players. Unfortunately, these numbers indicate that as you give Russell more ice-time against better players, he gets his head kicked in possession-wise – which is why he’s in a position to set NHL records for getting in the way of shots.

Russell definitely has some value and can contribute offense when given the chance. But any argument regarding signing him long-term is one vested in “Hey, who else do they have to play on the second pairing?” logic rather than any arguments that he’s the guy best suited for that job. Russell’s a good third-pairing defender on a good team, but signing him long-term and giving him a raise means cementing him into a spot that he’s not well-suited for.

  • KACaribou

    I don’t wish any bad luck for the man, but I can’t wait until Nakladal is called up and then everyone here starts the “He Sucks” chants.

    The Devil you know…

    • Kevin R

      Agreed, but it has to be a price that will not handicap the Flames. He will probably get 4.0-4.5 mill on the open market but Flames shouldn’t be going over 3.0 per. I doubt he likes Calgary that much to take that type of discount. But yeah, a lot of critics that think he’s hot garbage, yet he plays over 20 minutes every game, that may be worth even more than just a 2nd round pick. GlenX got a 2nd & 3rd & he was older & played less minutes & role on the team. The silver lining of Hartley’s usage is that Russell’s value is much higher than FN opinion.

  • KACaribou

    Russell and Hamilton are a very fine second pairing D. I wouldn’t want to see that broken up. I don’t think Hamilton would either. Russell allows Hamilton to venture up ice, and I think Russell’s toughness is rubbing off on the big man.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    I really hope this is Treliving playing this smooth. Pretending to adamantly try signing him and then trading him at the deadline when they “couldn’t come to terms”. This would look better to other teams than “Russell is available” as a message.

    *crosses fingers*

  • KACaribou

    He’s a trade deadline candidate. Teams gunning for a deep run can use this guy as a depth defensemen and contributor…he can get Flames a 2nd rounder….

  • flamesburn89

    Kinda reminds me of some years ago when Kent said that Feaster’s decision on whether or not to resign Anton Babcuk as a pending UFA, at least for him, was a test. Same thing goes here for BT. I feel that a decision to resign Russell would be a mistake for the Flames. There is just too much money on the Flames backend with guys like Smid and Engelland making way too much money. Since the Flames are unlikely to get rid of those two contracts, they need to trim the fat elsewhere to make room for Monahan, JG, and Gio’s new contracts. Deal Russell, Hudler, Jones for whatever you can get for them, and look at dealing another player with salary retained. Also, I’d waive Bollig and bury a good chunk of his contract in the AHL.

      • flamesburn89

        Lol I really hope so. I just have a feeling that BT spent some time this summer trying to deal Wideman but was rebuffed. If Treliving couldn’t find a suitor with Wideman coming off a career year, I don’t think he’ll be able to this year with Wideman’s numbers regressing. Wideman also has a no movement clause I think, so maybe that’s what has stalled any talk of him moving.

        Then again, I should never say never I suppose. The Leafs did find a way to rid themselves of Clarkson’s toxic contract, so I guess there is some hope.

        • Kevin R

          Yeah but given Wideman does have utility on the power play, a 2.625Mill per is probably pretty good value & the fact the team would have next year should increase the return. But we may still have to package that & a Granlund to extract a late 1st. If the Canes make the playoffs, that type of deal might fit their tight budget & get us a 1st. Who knows.

  • flamesburn89

    Everyone wants to ship out Russell and Hudler and Jones and Backlund and Wideman and Smid and even Stajan, but who is going to replace these guys? If we let Russell walk, Wideman moves to the second pairing, is that what we really want? And if he got injured, then it’s Smid on the second pairing, or an untested minor leaguer. What about our RW? We let Hudler and Jones walk, who do we have? There’s no one in Stockton who could replace them. Can we really find better in free agency? Like any item or asset in life, the value of something is what it costs to replace it. With all that being said, I agree we should look for a better option than Russell as our second pairing d man.

    • KACaribou

      You’re exactly right of course, but I believe those people who want Russell gone actually think Nakladal is some hidden gem in the minors who will just magically step in as Hamilton’s long-lost partner.

      • flamesburn89

        No, it’s because you can’t afford to have 20M in salary on your top 4 D.

        It’s because Russell isn’t worth 4M+.

        It’s because Nakladal isn’t magic, but probably won’t be any worse than Russell, with the promise of potentially being slightly better.