RFA Profile: Joe Colborne

Of all the pending restricted free agents for the Calgary Flames, Joe Colborne is by far the most interesting and the most contentious. Coming off a career season, conventional wisdom would suggest Colborne is poised to cash in with a nice new contract. The circumstances surrounding his 2015-2016 season, though, make a big raise much less of a sure thing. So what does the future hold for Colborne in a Flames uniform?

Our look at Colborne’s situation is the final piece in our series of RFA profiles. Here’s what we’ve done to this point:

There’s no question Colborne’s case lends itself to more debate than the others. So let’s get into it.


Colborne is coming off a career season where he almost doubled his career high goal totals and eclipsed his best ever point tally by 16. In a year where things were mostly negative surrounding the Flames, Colborne’s breakout campaign was one of the few bright spots. It’s fair to call it a breakout year when you take a look at his career numbers below.

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 8.03.58 PM

There are definitely red herrings when talking about Colborne’s 2015-16 season. His shooting percentage was unsustainably high and he got the added bump of playing with Mikael Backlund for a good chunk of the season, for instance. But as I wrote back in March, Colborne deserves a little credit, too.

Colborne was more effective this season than he’s ever been before. There’s no doubt playing with Backlund and Michael Frolik helped out immensely, but Colborne has made some changes, too. He used his size effectively, made better decisions in the offensive zone and took some steps defensively.

That plays nicely into pro number two for Colborne. Since joining Calgary right before the start of the 2013-14 season, he’s done nothing but show improvement. Even the most ardent Colborne detractor can’t deny he’s a far better player now than when the Flames first acquired him. A quick look at his possession totals helps tell that story.


Over a span of three years, Colborne has seen progression on the possession side of things while also seeing his minutes become less and less sheltered. If this progression curve continues for a few more years, Calgary could be looking at a pretty solid middle six forward.

Finally, Colborne has proven to be the team’s best performer in the shootout since joining the Flames to start the 2013-14 season. Over his three seasons in Calgary, Colborne has scored on 47.1% of his shootout attempts going 8/17 over that span. Only Sean Monahan (8/19, 42.1%) is close over that same period of time.

The shootout is only a small part of the game, but that extra point can be crucial in a playoff chase and having a proficient performer like Colborne is valuable. While it won’t be a huge part of potential contract negotiations, it is a nice carrot to have if you’re Colborne’s camp.


The biggest drawback to re-signing Colborne is what the price could end up being. Coming off a career season with numbers like he put up, Colborne has some leverage in asking for a sizeable raise. That’s not a good thing for the Flames, because they need affordable contracts in filling out their roster right now.

What is slightly scary is the precedent set with Lance Bouma’s extension from last summer. Bouma had a career year and was rewarded with a three-year deal at $2.2 million per. While many were leery of that deal when it was signed, it looks even worse after watching Bouma’s 2015-16 season. Knowing Colborne’s most recent season is reminiscent of Bouma’s career campaign the year before, Calgary needs to be careful to not go down a similar road.

Then there’s the matter of the Backlund bump. Both Kent Wilson and I have written in recent months about how beneficial it is to spend regular time on a line with Backlund. Well, this past season, Colborne spent a good chunk of his time doing just that and the results were rather staggering.


Seeing those WOWY (with or without you) results, it’s fair to wonder how sustainable Colborne’s success will be going forward. Playing on a line with Backlund and Michael Frolik is going to make most players look better. The right side of that table above isn’t horrible, but it’s definitely not the type of stuff that would have us talking about $3 million annually either.


I would like to see the Flames bring Colborne back, but it has to be on terms that are good for the team. Whether you’re a fan or not, Colborne’s production gave Calgary outstanding value last season and if the team could get similar value on a new deal, then I am all for it. The problem is, I’m not sure if that’s a realistic ask.

If I’m the Colborne camp, I’m pushing hard for a big raise because it’s very likely out there. If I’m the Flames, though, I’m setting a hard cap on what I’d be willing to pay annually for Colborne’s services. Qualify the guy for sure, because that keeps a number of options on the table. From there, though, things get a little more difficult.

Colborne’s cap hit was $1.275 last season and if they could get him back by adding another $800,000 to that AAV, then this could work out really well. I’m not confident that’s really in the cards, though, and as such, the team might have to explore other options.

  • Petzl

    Give him 1 year at 2.2-2.5 to prove it, he started the year terribly and ended it by getting a ton of bounces off his ass.

    Honestly all I want to see is some true progression for one more year, last year seemed extremely fluky while getting to play with the best possession forwards on the team and being spoon fed undeserving powerplay time.

  • cunning_linguist

    Sign Monny and Johnny first. Get a goalie. Look around the league to see if you can get a quality RW for cheap. Then, sign Joe Colborne with whatever is remaining.

  • al rain

    Over the past few years, as the Flames rebuild, I’ve tossed around different versions of my own fantasy lineups and rosters. Joe Colborne has never been on any of them. Not even close.

    I think CBJ could use a little Joe. Sell high.

  • RKD

    BT has got to be smart and not overpay Colborne like he did Bouma. I know Bouma was injured different times during the season but even when he was healthy he was nowhere near the player he was with Backlund on his line. Colborne obviously has much more offensive upside, but I would be surprised if he pots 19 or more next season. He heated up during the second half of the season, his sh% will come down. If his shooting percentage comes back down to his 11-13% range, he would need to take an additional 40 shots next season just to hit 19 goals.

  • KiLLKiND

    I like the idea of a 1 one year deal we can afford to give him a raise nest year after he proves the last half of the season was what he can bring consistently. We also can’t afford to spend 3 mil on a player who plays anywhere from the 4th line to 2nd and gets so much wasted powerplay time.

  • First Name Unidentified

    Not a Colborne fan. i don’t think he brings anything to the table that can’t be replaced by young prospects in the system already. No need to overpay him. Why not try Grant in his place, he’ll do much better defensively, plays bigger and a great face-off man.

    Colborne shouldn’t be on Treliving’s to-do list anytime soon.

  • Connor McDaigle

    2.5 per is likely ballpark for Joe. Would love to see Bouma gone first though. Here’s to hoping Lance is packaged in a trade or he has a good season and is our expansion draft casualty!

  • Derzie

    The rumour-mill has Backlund being offered for Bishop (plus picks). Personally, I’m rooting for this to see the writers here lose their collective marbles. Now that’s entertainment. Listening to Boomer telling Pinder ‘I told you so’ would be very enjoyable as well.

  • The Fall

    I like JoCo as our third line anchor going forward.

    Bouma – JoCo – Ferkland

    Lets see those players who have all had the Backland bump work together for a change.

  • wot96

    Regarding the article, I am with those that would keep Joe’s cost down to the $2.2 – $2.5 range but I don’t think he would sign a one year show me contract. I don’t think he has to, i.e., he may well get a better offer term wise.

    Regarding MAF or Bishop, I don’t understand why they are pushing so hard to pick up one of these goalies, if indeed they are. As was pointed out yesterday on other threads, the Flames are one of the few teams in the FA/trade Goalie market and there are some good but much less expensive options out there.

    The team shouldn’t blow its cap brains out with a high priced goalie now, before it has Mony and Gaudreau signed.

    • cberg

      Because they are the two best guys out there, by a mile. Gaudreau-Monahan WILL get done, after which they’ll do whatever is needed to get the Cap situation in order.

      • KiLLKiND


        This article has something similar to HERO charts, but for goalies and it shows that Reimer is basically just as good as MAF, but is UFA, so we don’t have to give up any assets, is cheaper, younger and we can control the term and cap hit. Flower is not better by a mile or even 100 metres he might be better by a few centimetres, but is that worth everything that comes with it?

        Unless Pittsburgh gives us Sprong, and MAF for Wideman and Bouma I don’t see any reason for Calgary to help Pittsbugh out of the situation they are in.

        • cberg

          OK, point taken. The biggest difference is that Reimer has never really had a full starter status, and he seems to let in a lot of softies(low risk SV%), but otherwise pretty identical. I still would put MAF ahead of Reimer, but Yes I would have Reimer as a good back-up plan if the ask continues to be out of this world.

          • KiLLKiND

            That’s basically my point Reimer has never been amazing, but will sign without giving up any assets. We don’t need an all star goalie now and even if Reimer keeps letting in softies we saved a ton in assets cap space and hopefully find a way to address a much larger need which is RW. We have Jorris and Frolik who can play RW… we need a right winger save money on goaltending, as once whoever ends up being our stop gap goalie’s contract is done we can bring up Gilles. Why waste assets on getting someone marginally better when we can spend those on a RW?

            Pittsburgh is the one who needs Fleury gone before the expansion draft, there is no guarantee that they even trade him this year as Murray only has played 33 NHL games. Flames fans don’t want a Gilles Ortio tandem this year, why should an actual contending team be willing to ride a rookie, and Zatkoff when they are trying to repeat? Also just looked up Zatkoff more and his numbers are better than expected he has never dipped below .910 in any league since his stats have been tracked. So maybe they aren’t too worried about the potential of Murray faltering or even getting injured.

    • The Fall

      The goalie situation goes hand in hand with the contract signings. All of this is connected.

      Maybe Johnny and Monny want to see what the Flames commitment to winning is before they sign away their prime playing years. Investing in, or at the very least HAVING, a net-minder seems like a big piece of the plan, don’t you think?

      • wot96

        Point taken, in part.

        I agree that players want to know there will be a real goalie there but I think those concerns can probably be addressed by pointing out that league average tending gets the Flames to the playoffs last year and presumably next year and that there are several choices out there that the Flames can acquire for nothing that will give them league average tending, or better, which will also cost less that MAF (probably) or Bishop (certainly).

        In addition, Mony and Johnny are several years in front of their prime, so they don’t necessarily need to sweat that detail.

        • jakethesnail

          Interesting that there was a piece on Flames need a goalie and pointed to last years horrible goaltending. But the clips showed Hiller getting beat while on his knees in 3 of the 4 clips.

          If Ramo didn’t get seriously injured I would have been happy with Ramo/Ortio this season.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    Steiner, you spelled Colbort wrong.

    I’d be interested to know the OZS% that goes along with that WOWY table. My guess is that it would put a pretty big spin on the table in the Pro section.

    In other words, did his one season of improved possession (last season) happen entirely because of Backs and The Fro?

  • Kevin R

    Once you settle yourself from the frenzy of the time of week before the draft, there could be a few takes. If Tampa were to move Bishops 6.0mill, they create a domino of their other signings, including Stamkos.

    Tre wants a bonafide goalie, not a probably good enough goalie like Riemer. Bishop is the real deal. If we had him last year, we would have had playoff games at the Dome. Danger is the 1 year left & being 29, we would have to commit to at least 5 years at 7.0 mill per. Not that would be such a bad thing for a Vezina finalist but what does that say to Gilles. But, if we were to package Macdonald & Hickey & 2 of the 2nd rounders, well, it buys Tre time to see if Gilles has what it takes in Stockton & if there is, Bishop could probably get us some assets back at the TDL or prior to the expansion draft. If Gilles looks questionable (no one have any concerns about that hip surgery that cost him all last year?), you give Bishop his $$$ .We can extend him any time. Either way, Tre gets to test drive Bishop for 1 year & gets a year to see if Gilles still has what we are all hoping he has. This doesn’t have to be so cut & dried the way we all think it does.

    #6 for MAF, ole Rutherford can go pound.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    The thing that makes me laugh is the ambivalence for Colborne on this forum. Posters who want to keep him are only willing to do so if Joe takes a steep discount because Joe Colborne is just a guy who scored 20 goals, but as trade fodder these same posters think 20-goal scorer Joe Colborne can be exchanged for the vast riches of Amazonia. Dumbest thing I’ve read all week was some crackerjack proposing Colborne and the 6th for the Jackets’ 3rd. Give your head a shake, buddy boy.

    Colborne is not a difference maker for the Flames or any other club. He’s a spear carrier. End of discussion.