Things and Thoughts: Jakub Nakladal is worth re-signing

It took nearly all season before fans and writers finally saw Jakub Nakladal finally play in the NHL. This of course was after Dennis Wideman’s heinous crimes happened, numerous injuries, and Kris Russell being dealt before he really became a mainstay on the Flames’ blueline. 

Within that time frame Nakladal has made an honest case for being re-signed in the off-season. And it’s hard to be unhappy with his results so far of this smooth skating Czech in his first North American year of pro hockey.

NAK CITY: HOPEFULLY HERE TO STAY

Nakladal has been a fantastic story and exactly what the Flames’ blueline so sorely lacked for the better part of two seasons: competency that provides a meaningful impact in the third pairing. This isn’t a real slight at veterans Ladislav Smid or Deryk Engelland, two grossly overpaid individuals for what they bring. 

It’s simply an acknowledgement that the on-ice impact Nakladal has brought in just 22 NHL games is a welcome sight for sore eyes.

Here’s his season, at 5v5 – 22GP via War on Ice and Corsica. Glossary for terminology found here.

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One of the biggest things that immediately stands out within this quarter-season sample is just how positive his impact has been. Really, virtually in every stat above you get an idea that maybe Nakladal is underused, which to some degree he has been. Be it shot attempts/shots or a positive impact in scoring chance generation, in a third pairing role it shows that he’s cut out for it.

At even strength, Nakaldal is averaging just under 12 minutes a night with 1:22 on average of power play time. To some honest credit, Hartley has attempted to use him in the second PP unit to bump his TOI up a bit. Which is an added perk given he has quite an exceptional shot that should be utilized a lot more. 

For argument’s sake, there is a reasonable case to see a bit more even strength ice time. If anything, it’s worth taking the chance with the few remaining games of playing him with Mark Giordano: an obvious upgrade over Engelland as a partner. If the opportunity permits, this is a suitable option to consider exploring this fall.

WOWY TIME

Using Corsica Hockey‘s WOWY tool, we get a brief look at the top 10 players Nakladal has played with at 5v5. The names are alphabetized from left to right by first name. The size of each circle indicates TOI together/apart.

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We see a mix of results, predominately pushing up the likes of Joe Colborne, Jyrki Jokipakka, and Sam Bennett, while there is clear evidence that Backlund and Frolik are huge driving forces that meet in a rather perfect storm when with Nakladal. The volatility of the limited sample is very present with many others shown, though seeing relatively modest boost when with the Czech defenseman.

Regardless, there is still rational consideration that given an even larger sample we could have a clearer picture of what Nakladal brings in terms of positive or negative impacts on particular teammates.

WHO ELSE IS TO CONSIDER?

When we start looking at comparables that have been predominately used on the third pairing it gets a little bit difficult given Engelland’s usage as of late. Instead we have a variety of players who’ve played a similar number of games this season. A brief look at their outputs paints a two-sided portrait of who we could see along side Nakladal hypothetically in 2016-17:

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In a limited showing Brett Kulak made quite the impression early on, carrying Engelland well above 50%, too. Wotherspoon, who was up and down all of last season rarely seeing the light of day outside of the press box, has had a relatively decent showing as well.

For Smid, who when healthy and playing was predominately on the third pairing and penalty kill, his results at 5v5 are atrocious to say the least (outside of the anomaly that is his HSCF%). They’re quite literally the inverse of what Nakladal, Kulak, and Wotherspoon have brought forth this season. In Jokipakka, this is where everything gets more interesting. There is no denying he’s a work in progress, but he’s definitely struggled as of late, and it shows quite clearly. 

This is a pocket of optimism for Flames fans. There is reasonable promise in Kulak and hopefully Wotherspoon or Jokipakka. Smid is what he is now: held together with scotch-tape and a massive hindrance on the team’s on-ice performance.

THE BIGGEST ROAD BLOCK: CAP SPACE

The topic has come up at great length over the last month: buyouts and the value they can provide to this franchise. Dennis Wideman still remains the most crucial player to be bought out this summer. With reason there is to assume Smid is all but finished because there is little sense in playing the poor soul any further.

The Flames get a do-over here as they had to let David Schlemko venture onward where he’s found success in New Jersey. In some respects, Schlemko last season is what Nakladal is this season: the parity this team has needed for so long. Not only has he proven quickly in 22 games at the very least NHL capable, but he’s done it on a struggling team.

The Calgary Flames of this season could very well be a different one than what fans may see come October. There should be reasonable optimism that Jakub Nakladal remains a Flame for, at the very least, the short term future. He’s proven by the antiquated creed of always earned, never given that he isn’t Roman Cervenka 2.0 or any miscast narrative.

Not only does finding a way to jettison the salary cap drudgery help Nakladal stick around, but it presumably opens the door further to the likes of Brett Kulak, Tyler Wotherspoon, or pending talent heading to Stockton or there already. 

  • piscera.infada

    Could not agree more. Nakladal is an ideal candidate for another short-term, low-money deal. He’s effective in the bottom-2, and might be able to be a temporary place-holder (of sorts) on the second pairing if need be.

  • CofRed4Life

    I still think Nakladal has what it takes to be a solid 3/4 defender. His small sample size is promising, and he definitely deserves another year or 2 with us. I would like to see our top 4 be Brodie-Hamilton and Giordano-Nakladal to start the year.

    • PrairieStew

      100 % this. Brodie and Hamilton against top lines – Gio and Nak racking up the points. If you can’t move Wideman – move Engelland, and have Jokipakka and Wideman as the third pair.

  • Kevin R

    Ideally, I would like to see a 2 year deal but no more than 3. Sign him to a small raise of around 1.25 per & we have a decent bottom pairing with some ceiling to maybe be a #4 in a pinch. Has potential to be a good value contract.

    I really think next year we don’t need to add to our blue line but we need to subtract. Wideman & Smid (probably an LTIR for the remainder of his contract). I could live with Engellend next year, it will be very crowded & extremely competitive with Nacker/Tspoon/JJ & Kulak for the 5-6-7 spots. If we can get a little value for Engs I would say move him to open a space for the other 4. On D we seem to be pretty set going into next year barring injury in preseason.

  • Scary Gary

    Using the players we have under contract what are your ideal 2016/2017 pairings flamesnation folk?

    Brodie/Hamilton
    Giordano/Nakladal (resigns 1M)
    Wideman (until traded)/Engelland (until traded)
    Jokipakka

    Wotherspoon (resigns)
    Kulak

    Smid LTIR

  • everton fc

    I believe Nakladal can match Wideman’s offencive output. Just a hunch…

    I’d do my darndest to move Wideman. Perhaps a trade like Bernier coming this way. Or some team trying to meet the cap-floor…

    Or expansion draft…

    I’m up in the air about Engelland. He’s had a good season. Perhaps there is an interested party? But he did well w/Kulak.

    Simply too m any bodies…

    I like:

    Brodie/Hamilton
    Giordano/Nakladlal
    Kulak/Wotherspoon/Jokipakka

    • RedMan

      Engelland HAS had a good year, and would be a fine 6/7 dman, IF his contract were more cap friendly. But at that price, there is no doubt something has to give for Engelland. But of all the over priced guys, I would keep Engelland first out of Smid, Wideman, Stajan, and Bollig.

      Now about Bouma

      he had a tough year and struggled through injury. if he is able to bounce back next year and put up 25-30 points, he is fine, but if he is not able to up his game, he will also join the “overpriced” group.

      • RE: Bouma – You’re banking on a guy, who has been relegated back to where he belongs putting up similar numbers he put when in a top-six role. And that was with his SH% at three-times what his career average was.

        Presumably if he pots between 5-7 goals there is value there, but at the end of the day there are quickly becoming better options in Stockton doing what he does, but better.

      • cberg

        There is still stuff to clear up re potential expansion draft, but what it looks like now is if before July 1st, 2017 all expiring contracts would still be on the books and count, i.e. Wideman, Engelland and etc….

        We are supposed to know exact rules and timing by this June.

  • KiLLKiND

    With this logjam at defense, should we try to trade Wotherspoon for as part of a package? Barring injuries it doesn’t look like we have room for him, Kulak, Jokkipakka, Nakladal, and hopefully somebody else maybe Sieloff or Culkin makes a strong showing at camp. Either way our defense pipeline is full and we could use that to address our needs at forward.

    As of our defense next year it looks to me that unless we buyout Wideman, which I don’t think will happen we will once again have a full line-up without any room for call ups. This is also assuming Smid doesn’t come back again, which he might. Nakladal could be our 6-7th D man next year, but then there will not be room for our young guys to have a shot at making the team “always earned never given”. Wotherspoon has earned a shot at the NHL by now and we can’t give it to him. I also don’t know whether he would require waivers next year if someone could help with that.

    I could be wrong and be a season early on when the young guys will be given shots to make the team. Once Wideman, Smid, and Engelland are gone it will be much easier to audition the kids.

  • beloch

    I’m with you on Nakladal being worth resigning but, dude, your WOWY chart is freakin’ illegible. How about using enough resolution for us to read the tiny freakin’ font it uses?

  • KACaribou

    If the Flames plan to have 3 highly paid, top-end defensemen, they surely can’t afford their 4, 5, 6 or 7 to cost a lot more than $1 – $1.5/yr.

    The same can be said for their third and fourth lines. Now that we appear to have star power on lines 1 and 2 which will demand to be paid severely, most of the 3 and 4 line guys will be in that $1 to $1.5 million category. Other than the 3c mind you, which hopefully will remain a well-paid Backlund.

    Now we await our young talent to mature, get stronger and develop even greater skills; all along seeking the wingers who will ultimately fill out those top 2 lines.

    3rd line wingers, and the 4th line I fear will be a rotating group of journeymen and young up and comers.

    I see Nak in our 3rd pairing in the future.