Can the Flames re-sign Joe Colborne?

Joe Colborne is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. The Flames didn’t qualify him, relinquishing their exclusive rights over him – but by doing so, they denied his ability to elect for arbitration and, potentially, bind the Flames into an expensive contract.

Colborne had a career season. He scored 19 goals and 44 points, all at a bargain $1.275 cap hit. He’s earned every right to want higher salary, and try to negotiate for it.

But even if you ignore the possibility that this was a fluke season of Colborne’s, the Flames may not be able to bring him back at his desired price, because they’re facing a cap crunch – one that Colborne may not be able to fit into at all.

The current cap situation

The 2016-17 season is going to have a $73 million cap, so that’s $73 million the Flames have to work with.

They currently have nine forwards signed, including Mason Raymond. They currently total $22.45 million, and that’s including Sam Bennett’s bonuses, but excluding Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan’s impending contracts. In addition to those two, the flames will still have to sign (or promote) another three forwards.

Seven defencemen are currently signed, totalling roughly $29.7 million. This includes Ladislav Smid’s $3.5 million, which will have to fit under the cap before the season starts as long as he is still a Flame. If he cannot play, he will be placed on LTIR after, giving the Flames that much more in leeway – but to start the season, his cap hit has to fit. Because of Smid’s situation, the Flames will probably have to sign (or promote) at least one more defenceman.

The Flames have just one goalie signed for next season: Brian Elliott, coming in at a very affordable $2.5 million. They will still need to sign somebody else, whether he be Joni Ortio or another free agent.

That’s roughly $54.65 million already committed, with another six or seven players left to sign. They have $18.35 million with which to do this, and Monahan and Gaudreau are likely to take up most of it.

Fitting everyone in

Let’s say Monahan and Gaudreau make a combined $14 million. It’s a number we’ve been going with for some time now, and it feels like a higher end estimate – which we want, because we don’t want to underestimate just how much these two are going to get. They’re core pieces of this team; they’re going to get paid.

Now let’s add Colborne’s lower end to that – $3.5 million – and that leaves the Flames with just $850k left to sign two forwards, a goalie, and possibly a defenceman (thought the defenceman may be able to come later, after Smid has been placed on LTIR – assuming he is still injured).

That’s not going to happen. The Flames can get their backup goalie and pretty much nothing else, leaving them with only 12 forwards. They’d have to dress a 21 man roster to start the season.

If you factor out Bennett’s bonuses – $2.3 million if he hits them – then the Flames would have $3.15 million with which to work. That’s still really tight, but doable. Except then any bonuses Bennett hits would go to the 2017-18 season’s cap, and leave the Flames with virtually no cap flexibility for 2016-17.

Do you do it?

So we’ve established that it is possible to keep Colborne at his asking price, but it comes at great cost to the rest of the team. 

Now, let’s go back and revisit Colborne’s season. He had a fantastic one. He also had an uncharacteristically high 19.0% shooting percentage – something that’s likely to come down, which will likely see him score fewer goals. He also has Mikael Backlund to thank – and he’s asking for Backlund money (or more!).

Is it worth it to pretty much destroy any cap flexibility for the season to retain this player? He could be en route to several more 40+ point seasons, or that could be as good as he ever gets. For the risk he carries, not to mention the cost to the team to retain him, I’d lean towards no. Either Colborne’s price will have to come down significantly – his next contract would have to start with a “2”, and even then it’s tight – or he’ll have to find a new team.

I like Colborne. I think he has value on a team. But I don’t think he’s a player worth handcuffing for, and that’s essentially what his contract asks are asking the Flames to do.

  • Nighteyes

    I think it would be very strange, and also unjust, to see someone who got the Backlund bump get paid more than Backlund himself. Not that I think it was just Backlund that helped Colborne this year. He’s seems like a great team guy and is a good player, but I would only resign him in the 2 million-ish range.

  • DoubleDIon

    2.5 is the max money I’d offer. I’d offer it at any term he prefers. He’s a good player to have, but he isn’t part of the core in my opinion.

    • Colin.S

      That amount of money is fine, not at any term.

      If Joe wanted 2.5 or maybe a tiny bit more over 3-4 years I’d be fine with it, he’s not going to be the guy we all saw last year but he’s not a bad guy to have as a depth forward option. Certainly better than Bouma.

      He’s not an offensively gifted forward, he was getting premium powerplay time on a line with Gaudreau and Monahan and still only walked away with 5 Powerplay points all year (Even Wideman had more than him). He’s also not the most defensively gifted forward as has been shown time and time again in various articles. You don’t pay someone close to 4 million to get a younger version of Matt Stajan. Colborne has a nice ability to fill in up and down the lineup and can play center or wing. But just cause he can doesn’t mean you should pay him like he will all year because he’s going to be spending a lot of time in your 3rd and 4th lines and 4 million is for guys you want in your top 6.

  • Greg

    Negotiations are funny… Earlier everyone thought we could sign him for just under $2M. Now his ask is $3.5M+ and everyone seems to think $2.5M would be reasonable. He’s still a $2M player in my books, you don’t move up another $500K just because his initial ask is high. You can’t let asking price skew your perception of actual value.

    An arbitrator might have given him $3.5M+ because of his scoring stats last year, but in reality, he is not a ~20 goal, ~45 point forward. You gotta play the percentages, and he’s likely to just be a ~15 goal, ~35 point guy. He’s also not really a 6’5″ Center because he plays like he’s 5’10” and is less of a liability on the wing. Still a good support player to have on the team at $2M. But at $3.5M he has to be helping drive the bus, which he is never going to do.

    Some GM might actually give him that number, but it won’t be BT and I’m glad for that. He clearly learned a lesson dealing with Bouma last year and I like how he’s playing his cards on it now.

  • Stu Cazz

    I’m not really a Colborne fan. As confirmed by BT in earlier interviews the majority of his goals came when the games were no longer relevant. As a 1st rounder he really did not deliver on his expected potential. Many of the prospects/and available UFA’s have surpassed him…Time to move on…best of luck Joe!

  • Dan the Drunk

    Colborne is a strange case. A majority of the goals scored came from being in front of the net, from redirects or deflections – this is why his shooting percentage is so high, but also why he was deployed on the powerplay – he was one of the more difficult Flames players to push out of the crease.

    But some of his defensive blunders would literally get me out of my seat and throw a tantrum. It was almost like he was lazy at times… a half step behind opponents, relying on his big reach to make a play instead of fighting to get himself in their faces.

    I just don’t see him as a 3MM player. His big year was because of Heartly’s deployment. I don’t see him repeating it.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I grew up in Calgary and love the city but I can’t see anyone leaving 1-1.5 million on the table to stay with the organization. Joe needs to move on and not get low balled. I am torn on Joe a bit, personally most of his points occurred once the Flames were out of the playoff race, as wel his 19% shooting percentage is not attainable.

    However, I do see the value in him and can see him winning some games for us in the shootout ( Johnny has only scored once out of five attempts …so it is not that easy). He is big but does not play big… but he has great character and gives back to the community. It is hard to get rid of players that offer value and want to be there.

    I am a little confused why BT won’t exercise his buyout option on some players to free up some cap room. I would like to see us go after Perron for the top line.
    I also think it sends the wrong message to the players that are being low balled. I would hate for the flames to get a reputation as one that is only good to its core players.

    • freethe flames

      I am confused about not using buy outs unless he is waiting for the last minute before using them. Maybe he is trying to trade these guys as part of some deal, although I’m not sure what Raymond is worth in a trade.

    • The GREAT Walter White

      Why buy them out so that they are on the books for twice as long? This is not our year to win the cup, I hope they don’t buy any out…

      I think Joe re-signs with the Flames for a discount because if a deal was not already in place BT would not let him walk for free, he would have traded his RFA rights by now, he is way smarter than that.

      Joe’s family has lots of money, I don’t think that is as important as playing in Calgary.


  • freethe flames

    So here is a little bit of information to ponder. What would you pay each of the following players?

    Player A: 26 years old, GP 200 Goals 43 Total Points 82. This player is currently making $2.3m

    Player B: 25 years old, GP 225 Goals 59 Total Points 126. RFA

    Player C: 24 years old, GP 158 Goals 31 Total Points 81. RFA

    Player D: 23 years old, GP 143 Goals 29 Total Points 74. RFA

    Player E: 26 years old, GP 217 Goals 37 Total Points
    100. RFA

    Player F: 26 years old, GP 182 Goals 59 Total Points 113. RFA

    Player G: 21 years old, GP 158 Goals 23 Total Points 63. RFA

    If player A is a stated is making 2.3m what do you pay the others? How much of a home town discount should any of them take?

  • DangleSnipeCelly

    Already been mentioned today on Twitter but full marks to Joe for his continued community service contributions. Even today without a contract… Good dude.

  • beloch

    Colborne has always looked a little bit unfinished to the eye. His bag of parts seems like it should add up to more than what we’ve seen from him to date. I can’t shake the feeling that the right off-season training regimen or the right coach could help him put together a better game even though, at 26, he’s probably done developing.

    That being said, as unfinished as Colborne may be, he puts up a surprising number of points for a bottom six player. He may have gotten lucky last season, but he put up two >30 point seasons before that too. He may not drive possession that well, but he does seem to have a decent finishing touch. A player who can consistently top 30 points with bottom six linemates and relatively tough deployment is useful. For the right price, I’d love to see him return.

    $3.5M or more is not the right price for the Flames.

    This summer’s cap crunch really does limit what Treliving can pay his players. Even with the Elliott signing, the Flames still need to fit an awful lot of players into the tiny bit of cap space that will be left once Monahan and Gaudreau are re-signed. Had Colborne been qualified, he might have gone to arbitration and been awarded a salary below what the team is allowed to decline but above what the team can afford. This is probably why Treliving was unable to qualify Colborne.

    I have a feeling Colborne will be able to get more money on the open market than Treliving will be able to offer him. How much of a home-town discount will Colborne be willing to take?

    • Nick24

      The problem is, there have been plenty of players with skill and size that if they could only put it all together would be amazing. Off the top of my head: Chris Stewart and Devante Smith-Pelly and two guys who showed some exceptional flashes, but nothing sustained. This isn’t a case where Colborne needs to change one little thing and he’ll have an impactful season, and his shot metrics seem to echo that.

      $3.5M is too much for him. There are plenty of players in free agency that will be signed for $1M or $2M less than his asking price who will be able to put up equal or better number than him, while also being able to contribute in more diverse ways.

      Especially with the cap situation that the Flames are facing, I don’t see any reason for Colborne to be back unless his contract is in the $1.5M-$2M range.

  • freethe flames

    So nobody liked my little comparison chart and I apologize for not having all the information people would require to have to make a decision. So I have a different question. From the list provided which players do you think will receive contracts greater than $2.3m x 3 years when they sign this year: Kevin Hayes, Rikell, Nichushkin, Krieder, and Hoffman.

    The second question is there anyone on this list that you would like the Flames to acquire?

  • BlueMoonNigel

    I had forgotten that Joe is a whiz at shootouts. That has got to be worth something.

    If Joe counters with lower bucks and longer term: does Tre do it? What about 4years at $9M?

  • MarbledBlueCheese

    There is a fairly immobile cap and a fairly large glut of UFA forwards who are looking for pay: Nielsen, Okposo, Lucic, Stamkos, Eriksson, Pirri and so on. Guys wth more curb appeal than Colborne, probably.

    I don’t know if there are a lot of teams who would pay 2.5-3M fo Colborne, or more. If they exist I think Treliving may have traded him away already.

    It isn’t ideal; I had the thought in mind that he would be an asset to move at this point but the arbitration rights and declining of RFA status means we’re more likely to lose him for nothing to a team that pays a little more. Wholly unsatisfying.

    • Kevin R

      This is a league wide problem. Hell Chiasson may give us the same as what Colborne will give us & he’s signed for $800K. We need as many cheap effective bottom 6 players as possible if we want 2 top rock star lines & 4 great dmen. Things sure could be worse. Look at that crab bag Yzerman, no wonder he’s so cranky, he’s about to lose his franchise centre for didly squat. & next year he’s about to lose a top 5 goalie for peanuts. Now imagine being a Tampon Bay fan, that’s gotta sting.

  • smatic10

    Colborne’s likeable. Good guy in the room and good guy in the community. Let’s break it down. The following info is based purely on what I have seen, no stats involved because I’m too lazy to look it up.

    Doesn’t have great foot speed, not overly physical. I don’t recall him being an overly effective face off taker (though apparently he was 54.84% this past season. Decided to work up the energy to look that stat up :P). Pretty decent in front of the net. Shows flashes of top-line talent every now and then, but disappears from time to time as well.

    Considering what he brings to the table, he’s not worth 2.5mil and above. Too inconsistent. He had a great second half when the playoffs were out of reach.

    The only way signing him would make sense would be if Tree can shed some ugly contracts really soon and sign Colby to a two-year, 2mil AAV.

  • foureyedmike

    I saw one live Calgary game this year – it was in January, at home, against the Sharks. (I’m in Ontario, was home for a late Christmas.)

    My biggest take-away from that game was how lousy and useless Joe Colborne was, especially in the D-zone. Bollig looked better that game. Pucks seemed to float past Colborne, and he lost all the puck battles. He’s big but you don’t notice his size in terms of physicality.

    Now, this is a very small sample size… still, to my eye, I don’t see a $3M player.

    There’s a lot of bottom/mid-6 players out there and I’d rather have the Flames roll the dice on someone new.

    All the same, I do have to shout out to his community service, and say he seems like a great dude.

  • freethe flames

    I wonder if not signing Joe signals that we might be involved in FA looking to sign a top 6 forward. This is where you can really overpay in money and term.

    • Kevin R

      Even without signing Big joe we don’t have the space to burn to go big game hunting unless we trade a contract or buy one out. Really, who out there would be real worth going that crazy for. Now I would actually overpay Lucic on a 6.75 mill deal, if it was only for a max of 3 years.
      The only other thing I would explore is a higher name RFA that might fit that top 6 & may take 3.0 to 5.0 mill to resign. But deals like that won’t shake out until later in July. Wonder what it would take to take flyer on Nichushkin, with word he may go to the KHL equates to him & Stars not getting along as well as on might think. I would rather give 3.0 mill to Nichuskin than Big Joe, sorry Big Joe but I want a shiny new toy this October. :-}