The Calgary Flames have got some difficult decision to make going forward. With their season quickly slipping away, the Flames have some choices to make on certain players prior to the 2016 trade deadline. Additionally, with two massive contracts to finalize prior to next season, Calgary is going to have to make some contract sacrifices elsewhere.
Knowing where things are going, the Flames are going to have to surround their core with good value, savvy contracts. Luckily there are a few already on the team. I’ve narrowed it down to the three best ones.
There is a little criteria for this post. First off, I eliminated players on entry level contracts, so Johnny Gaudreau, Sam Bennett, and Sean Monahan are out. I also didn’t include players who have extensions kicking in next year, so there goes Mark Giordano. But there are some solid contracts on this team right now, and they should help the team down the road. (NHLNumbers.com)
3. Josh Jooris
Jooris is currently on a one-year deal that pays him $975,000 which is a solid deal right now. The good news is the Flames will likely be able to keep him for the foreseeable future at around the same price. That could keep a very useful bottom six forward in the fold for a very affordable price.
Jooris had a career year with 12 goals and 24 points in his rookie season. He’s not going to hit those totals in his sophomore campaign, but that’s all right with me. Jooris has shown me that he is an effective possession player in a bottom six role. We can begin to prove that using his career numbers from war-on-ice.com.
To put it in a little more in context, Jooris’s Corsi rating this year puts him sixth amongst regular Flames forwards. Last year as a rookie, his 47.6% rating was tops for Flames forwards and second overall on the team. It’s not like he was being handed offensive time either. Jooris had a 50.3% offensive zone start ratio last year which has dropped to 46.9% in his second season. Plain and simple, he’s an effective player that doesn’t need to be fed high ground to succeed.
Now, take into account that Jooris is typically playing depth opposition. I’m not suggesting that Jooris can do this in any situation. But that’s not what Calgary should be asking of Jooris in the future. As a third or fourth line winger, Jooris is going to play depth opposition with penalty killing duties. Through his first 100 NHL games, he’s more than proven he can do that.
Now, this all begs the question why he hasn’t been played more, but that’s for a different post. Fact is, Jooris probably isn’t ever going to put up huge numbers, which will keep his cap hit down. Having a player like Jooris under contract on rolling short term deals is just fine with me, because he’ll be cheap and he can play. That’s about as ideal as it gets in the bottom six.
2. Mikael Backlund
Oh what a surprise, a FlamesNation post talking glowingly about Mikael Backlund. But in a conversation like this, not having Backlund on this list would be inaccurate. Now in the first year of a three-year deal that carries a $3.575 million cap hit, Backlund is this team’s best value forward right now.
All Backlund has done for the last, oh, his entire NHL career, is play tough head-to-head minutes well and without much issue. As it stands for this season, Backlund has been the team’s best centre overall. Over the last four or five years, he’s been the team’s best two-way centre.
Backlund is the team’s top possession player this season with a 50.76% possession rate to go along with a 45.99% offensive zone start ratio. He’s done that while routinely taking the top matchup minutes on the Flames. On a nightly basis, Backlund is asked to go to work on one of the opposition’s top lines, and more often than not, he ends up on the right side of the ledger. Oh, and every single year, he ends up in the team’s top five for possession totals, so it’s not like this brand new.
Yeah, his offensive totals are not going to knock anyone’s socks off. But at this stage of his career, he’s probably never going to put up high end counting totals. Backlund has decent skill and should be good for 30-40 points a season for the next few years. Those numbers are just fine when you take into account how crucial his role is for Calgary.
You can spin lowish offensive totals into a positive, too. With Backlund quietly playing an effective toe-to-toe role every single night, the Flames can continue to keep him at an affordable cap hit for the balance of his career. Let’s be honest, Backlund likely won’t ever make a whole lot more than he’s making right now. Yep, I’ll take Backlund at under $4 million any day of the week.
1. TJ Brodie
Was there really any doubt? Brodie is likely the best player on this team right now and is on a ridiculously good contract that still has four more years on it. At $4.654 million per year, Brodie has entered the realm of being one of the best value contracts in the league. How many other crazy steals can you think of like his? Tavares and Muzzin both come to mind right away, and I’m sure there are others, but it’s a short list.
I don’t really have to spend much time extolling Brodie’s virtues to this crowd, I don’t think. But just for a second, I will anyway. Along with his partner Mark Giordano, Brodie plays the hardest minutes on the team every single night.
There is seldom a shift Brodie isn’t out there against the top line on the other team, and then he’s out for other shifts on top of that. Brodie averages 25:21 of ice time per game and doesn’t seem to break a sweat. The amount of minutes he plays, and the type of minutes he plays, helps open up so many different options for Head Coach Bob Hartley.
Perhaps the best news in all of this is that Brodie is only 25 years old and has yet to come close to a plateau. Every single year, Brodie has gotten better, sometimes exponentially so. Sure, he’ll level off eventually, but even if that were to happen tomorrow, the Flames would still be left with an incredible defenceman for the next half decade at least.
If he doesn’t level off anytime soon, well, that’s scary. Right now, Calgary has an incredible defenceman bordering on all-world territory. Brodie might be the only Flames player representing Team Canada at the World Cup in September, and he probably has plenty more Hockey Canada in his future. The fact Calgary has all this for under $5 million for four more years after this one is almost unfair. That’s why he’s this team’s best value contract, by a fairly large margin.