With the news that T.J. Brodie is good to go, the Flames still have a fully healthy roster: something they’ve only had since just after the All-Star Break. Brodie is probably the most important player to this team, so his not being injured is an extremely good thing.
That leaves the Flames still with 23 healthy and not-suspended bodies. Considering how overly expensive some of them are, there’s little room for any roster maneuvering. Normally, that isn’t a problem – except when the waiver wire, on occasion, provides a gift.
The Vancouver Canucks have waived Yannick Weber, and as a 27-year-old upcoming UFA with a $1.5 million cap hit now available for free, he could potentially be such a gift.
Why is he on waivers?
As Canucks Army explains in the link above, with Dan Hamhuis’ impending return, Vancouver needs to make room for him on the roster. To that end, they’ve chosen Weber as their sacrificial lamb, and it seems Canucks fans aren’t too happy about it. (Right off the bat, that’s one reason to claim him; but of course, there has to be more to things than annoying a fanbase.)
Weber has averaged 19:10 a game for the Canucks this season, a new career high for him. He’s only scored five assists all year, though – a far cry from last season, when he scored 11 goals and 21 points through 65 games. He shot at a relatively high (for him, and for defencemen) 9.4 shooting percentage (his career average is 5.4%), so a drop off in goals wouldn’t have been unexpected, but to fail to score entirely this season was probably unlikely. He had 117 shots on net last season – 1.8 per game – and his 56 this season puts him at 1.6 per game, so there isn’t much of a drop off there at all.
However, all five of Weber’s assists this season have come on the power play. Through the 35 games he’s played, he has yet to register a single point at even strength. It’s not as though he’s completely reliant on the power play to put up points – five of his goals and eight total points came on the power play for him last year, leaving him with 52% of his 2014-15 numbers coming in at even strength – but he still isn’t someone you can count on for scoring.
He’s a depth guy. But at $1.5 million, he’s a much cheaper depth guy than Deryk Engelland or Ladislav Smid – and maybe better, too.
Where would he fit in on the Flames?
Via War on Ice:
An important distinction from the usual War on Ice charts: the colours are measured in 5v5 CF% rather than 5v5 CF% rel, so we can judge Weber not relative to his own teammates, which would be irrelevant in a Flames context, but on par with the rest of the NHL – and with that, the Flames.
And essentially, he looks like a slightly better version of Dennis Wideman. He gets more offensive zone starts – Wideman was already the most sheltered defenceman on the Flames, and Weber would take it up a notch – with better possession rates (a 48.54% CF as opposed to Wideman’s 44.78%).
Weber has played 94:41 on the Canucks’ power play this season, sixth in total ice time, and second out of all Vancouver defencemen. So he really would be a Wideman replacement, but without the scoring. Twenty-one points was Weber’s career high, but this season Wideman has 19 points, and this is considered a bad year for him.
But at least pucks don’t go against him quite as much. Though considering his advantage in zone starts, one should hope not; then again, that hope hasn’t exactly panned out with Wideman.
Will the Flames claim him?
Would it be a good move to take Weber over Wideman? Yes, but the reasons why aren’t logical with a waivers claim. Weber is five years younger than Wideman, nearly $4 million cheaper on the cap, and set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season. On-ice, he may or may not be an upgrade, depending on just how much you value possession rates versus actual production.
But all of the big reasons you’d want Weber over Wideman are contractual. This isn’t a one-for-one trade, though; this is a waivers claim. Picking up Weber does nothing regarding Wideman’s contract.
If Wideman were to be traded, that would be another story, but that has yet to happen.
It might make sense as the Flames, technically, do need a Wideman replacement – what with his being suspended and all – except for one important factor named Jakub Nakladal.
Nakladal, a 28-year-old unrestricted free agent from Europe looking to make his NHL debut has yet to actually make said debut. He chose to sign with the Flames over other bidders, and has, thus far, played 35 games in Stockton to show for it. After years of play in the Czech League as well as the KHL, that – and a couple of exciting trips to a real NHL press box! – is all he has to show thus far for his North American experience.
Claiming Weber and then likely sending down Nakladal (Markus Granlund would be another demotion possibility, but it’s unlikely for a team to carry eight defencemen and 13 forwards) would be a massive slap in the face to a player still being forced to put in his dues. And if you were an unrestricted free agent – maybe another older player like Nakladal, or maybe even a kid like Artemi Panarin or Nikita Zaitsev – would you really want to take your chances on your NHL debut with a team that acts like that?
For a marginal upgrade on a suspended player in a year the Flames should be looking develop their own prospects, claiming Weber would not be a particularly prudent move.