RFA Profiles: Shore, Hamilton, Wotherspoon

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As we continue rolling through the lengthy list of pending Calgary Flames restricted free agents we come to three players in very similar situations. The trio of Drew Shore, Freddie Hamilton, and Tyler Wotherspoon all have at least three full years of professional experience under their belts and all have decent NHL experience (at least 25 games). So is the clock ticking for any or all of these guys?

This is the second of our RFA profile articles with another coming later this week. Here’s the rundown:

Let’s get started with our next three.

Drew Shore

Shore just completed his first full season in the Flames organization and finished fourth on the Stockton Heat in scoring (59 GP, 10 G, 28 A, 38 PTS). It was another decently productive year in the American League for Shore but he’s definitely entered the limbo realm as a full-time pro. Those sentiments were shared by Heat Head Coach Ryan Huska when I spoke to him earlier this week.

“I think Drew’s biggest challenge now is
really finding out who he is as a player,” Huska told me. “If you were to ask Drew, he would
probably tell you that he had a tougher year this year, not the year that he
was hoping for. He’s kind of a little bit caught in between; am I an offensive
guy? Am I a guy that has to play hard every night and be in a third line role?
Where do I fit in? I think that’s his biggest challenge moving forward.”

Shore has proven to a very capable AHLer with 140 points in 205 career games at that level. While his NHL totals (80 GP, 9 G, 15 A, 24 PTS) aren’t bad at all, he hasn’t been able to stick in the show, especially in his time with Calgary. Taking a look at some of his underlying numbers, nothing really jumps off the page either.

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 3.20.06 PM

Specifically in his 14 games with the Flames, Shore has been neither good nor bad. He hasn’t hurt the team, but at the age of 24 and 25, the hope would be for Shore’s impact to be a little greater. If he does end up getting another contract with Calgary, it’s going to put the pressure on for a really emphatic campaign. Again, those were sentiments shared by Huska.

“There is a lot there with Drew,” Huska said. “I think
it’s just a matter of him really dialling in into how he has to play to be an
NHL player full time. I think that’s his real challenge over the course of the
summer. He has to really come to camp with a good idea and understanding of how
he has to play every time he steps on the ice.”

Verdict: I lean towards qualifying Shore and giving him another year with the organization. After all, he’s been with Calgary for fewer than two seasons and has some things going for him. At 6’3 and 205 pounds, Shore has the size element the Flames have talked a lot about; he’s also shown versatility playing down the middle and on the wing. More than anything else, though, re-signing Shore will put him in a “show me” situation. Pressure like that can motivate and elevate which is great. If it doesn’t, well, we know how this profile will go next summer.

Freddie Hamilton

It’s only been one year in the Flames organization for the older of the two Hamilton boys after acquiring Freddie from Colorado in the offseason. In the end, the team essentially got Hamilton for free; the Flames retained their seventh round pick after the conditions on them dealing it weren’t met. So how do we evaluate year one in a new organization for Hamilton?

With 43 points in 62 games, Hamilton finished third in scoring with the Heat and added a goal and two points in four NHL games near the end of the season. The 2015-16 season was Hamilton’s fourth in professional hockey and his most productive by a slim margin. Much like Shore, Hamilton has proven to be a strong AHLer as his counting numbers show.

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At the NHL level, though, points have been a little harder to come by. His two points at the end of the season were just his second and third in the show; he now has three points in 33 career NHL games. While Shore still seems to have a number of questions to answer, I don’t get the feeling there are a lot of people waiting for things to come together for Hamilton. He’s very likely entered “is what he is” territory, or is very close if he hasn’t.

Hamilton doesn’t do anything remarkably well, nor does he do anything glaringly awful. He’s got decent touch around the net, is an average skater, and, according to a lot of scouts, thinks the game at an above average level. Can Hamilton be a productive player on the farm with the ability to step in at the NHL level in a pinch? Yes, and I think he’s shown that in four pro seasons. Does he look like a full-time NHLer in the making? With him turning 25 on New Year’s Day, I would lean towards no.

Verdict: I’m fairly ambivalent on this one, but I think Calgary will end up qualifying and re-signing Hamilton. With his brother Dougie already in the organization, what’s the harm in not doing so? That said, Hamilton also needs to show the Flames he’s more than just a “tweener” to avoid finding himself lost in the shuffle with a bunch of new contracts filtering in over the next 12 months.

Tyler Wotherspoon

I’ll spoil the verdict of Wotherspoon’s profile, because I think the team has to qualify him. However, I do think this coming year is an important one for the 2011 second round pick of the Flames. We’ve seen some really impressive flashes from Wotherspoon in his 26 career NHL games, but this really is his year to make his mark.

Calgary has a whole lot more organizational depth on the back end even compared to one year ago, so all of a sudden, getting surpassed on the chart isn’t totally out of the question. Players like Jakub Nakladal, Oliver Kylington, and Rasmus Andersson have all entered the organization in the last year. Those three, and perhaps others, could very well give Wotherspoon some competition for a third pairing spot many of us thought was his only a short time ago.

While the two play different positions, comparing Wotherspoon’s situation to where Markus Granlund was 12 or 18 months ago isn’t unfair. Both players were 2011 second round picks and were promising prospects for quite some time. Granlund was surpassed on the organizational depth chart, though, and ended up getting dealt to Vancouver prior to the 2015 trade deadline. That’s the fate Wotherspoon needs to avoid, and this season could go a long way in doing just that.

Wotherspoon has come a long way since his draft year and I still think he’s got the ability to be an NHL defenceman. With contracts like Deryk Engelland, Ladislav Smid, and Dennis Wideman coming off the books in the next year, the door will be open for a few younger blueliners to crack Calgary’s roster. I think Wotherspoon can be one of those guys, especially if he makes this crucial coming year a good one.

Verdict: This one is much more cut and dried than the last two. Qualify Wotherspoon and sign him to another one year deal and see if this is the year he breaks the door down. If not, next year’s conversation will be slightly more interesting.

  • The Fall

    T-Spoon needs to be an NHL’er this year. He is a dependable and affordable bottom pair guy. Tree has to find a way to open up the blue line for these players.

  • jakethesnail

    Unfortunately for Shore, his chance to bust into the Flames lineup was last season. Especially since the Flames are in need of a big, solid right winger.

    I don’t know much about Freddie, but he will meet the same fate as Shore, should the Flames give him another contract.

    By all means re-sign T-Spoon. He will be in the NHL once Tre dumps Wideman and Smid.

  • Baceda

    With a player like Wotherspoon I think the ideal situation would be that he starts the season on the 3rd pairing.

    Hopefully proving himself very proficient in the role he can then be flipped for a good prospect to a playoff team at the deadline. And by then we should have Kulak, Anderssen, Kylington and Culkin etc. all competing to take his place

    A trade similar to the Granlund trade where we get a B+ prospect in return would be great value for Wotherspoon, who is a solid prospect but currently a bit of a redundancy

    Of course this can only happen if he’s given the chance and able to prove himself a full-time NHL’er this fall.

  • smatic10

    Ok let’s look at the facts:

    Wotherspoon is 6′ 2″ 210 lbs. He’s only 23 years old. He’s been ok with the big club, i.e. not flashy but also not a liability. He’s going to be dirt cheap to re-sign.

    Sign the guy. Simple as that. Dmen take longer to develop. Who knows, by 25-26 years old, he may be the ideal 3rd pairing dman that many teams covet. Our dcore can look like this in a couple years:

    Brodes-Dougie
    Gio – Andersson
    Spoon – Kylington

    Looks pretty good. Oh also, sign Hamilton, drop Shore.

  • JumpJet

    There is a whole in the top 4 beside Dougie Hamilton, and Wotherspoon (on paper) seems like a good match for Dougie in terms of style of play. I’d like to see both Wotherspoon and Kulak get some decent time there in camp and pre-season and hopefully one of them shows they can play there full time. I like Wotherspoon and I would really like to see more home-grown, younger talent on the back end.

  • freethe flames

    Take a look at our lack of center prospects in the AHL and ask yourselves the question; can we afford not to sign Hamilton and Shore. The best organizations have depth in the AHL even if it is only to mentor the kids. Spoon is a no brainer, sign him and let him earn a spot in the top six. If not trade him and get what you can.

  • The Last Big Bear

    As many of you may know, I don’t feel like every Flames prospect is a special snow flake, and I’m not afraid to put a fork in a prospect when I think he’s done.

    However, in this case, I agree the Flames should keep all of these guys.

    Hamilton is pretty borderline, but he’s a quality replacement-level player, and I think his versatility is valuable. Among other things, it allows more flexibility in optimizing line combinations for prospects on the farm.

    Shore has a number of tools that lead me to think he has full-time NHL upside. Particularly his speed. Not saying he’ll ever reach that potential, but he’s cheap and seems to hustle when he gets a chance.

    Wotherspoon looks like a future full-time NHLer to me. He was in Hartley’s dog house, but there’s a very good chance he gets much more of an NHL look now that Bob’s gone.

    • The Last Big Bear

      1) Hartley is a top-tier coach. He won championships and professional accolades in the best leagues in the world, including the Stanley Cup, and NHL coach of the year. Yes, it was time for him to move on, because he is a hard-*** coach with a short shelf-life who had lost the room.

      But he is an elite coach, with a resume that puts him in the top tier of even NHL coaches.

      2) The new guy will have his own head games. Hartley “hated rookies”, and would play bad vets in favor of better prospects. The new guy is just as likely to spit in the face of veteran leadership by (for example) benching Giordano in favor of some teenager because Gio has 2 bad games.

      3) Every coach will make baffling decisions, because they are making decisions that include off-ice considerations, of which we know nothing.

      All of which is to say that while it is time for Hartley to move on, this is not something to be celebrated. He wasn’t perfect, but he’s damn good, and the new guy is unlikely to be materially better all things considered

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I’ll weig h in on all 3 players when Trelliving deals with the current NHL roster. I’d be satisfied if the Flames opened up 3 spots. 1 (of 3 goalies) will be gone, and for me shipping out Wideman and Bollig are obvious targets to open up spots.

    I’m not advocating that the aforementioned AHLers take those spots, just that it would be easier to determine who could slot in.