The Calgary Flames didn’t have many unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2015-16 season. They had a handful of bad goalies, Derek Grant, and Jakub Nakladal. The more meaningful names – Jiri Hudler, Kris Russell – were traded prior to the trade deadline, leaving the Flames with a shallow offering to the free agent pool. (Interestingly enough, neither has been signed yet.)
As a young team, though, the Flames had a ton of restricted free agents in need of new contracts. And instead of giving them those contracts, they cast nine of them to the wind.
It’s a pretty great turnover. And yet, it won’t be reflected that much in the NHL roster.
Not wasting time
Two of the restricted free agents let go were Josh Jooris and Joe Colborne. Both have been signed by other teams, and it’s arguable the Flames made a mistake in letting them go. They’ve both played over 100 games in the NHL; it’s clearly the league they belong in.
Everyone else let go, though? Not so much.
|Player||Age||NHL Games Played|
|Bryce Van Brabant||24||6|
Who, on this list, looks set to become a full-time NHLer? Turner Elson aside, everyone is either in their mid-20s or about to enter them, and has yet to find their footing in the NHL. This is hardly a surefire way of determining players’ potentials – Jooris didn’t enter the NHL until he was 24 himself – but it does point to one thing in particular.
Absolutely none of these guys were anticipated to be the future of this team. And rather than spend time with them hoping they’re defy the odds, the organization decided to move on.
Why waste time – even one more year – when there’s a never ending supply of new talent who might be able to do better?
Hunter Shinkaruk is 21 and just two years into his professional career. Daniel Pribyl and David Rittich are 23 and completely new to North American hockey. Alex Chiasson and Linden Vey are both 25 and already have extensive NHL experience, albeit with middling results.
These players’ replacements are all either younger than them, budding with more potential, or just plain much more successful at the same age. At worst, they’re lateral moves.
And when we’re talking about entering the final stages of making a team a playoff contender, an at-worst lateral move is a good way to go. While you are risking the possibility of not improving, you aren’t taking any steps back, either.
The Flames are a team still in need of top six players. Chiasson and Vey probably aren’t going to be those guys; at the same time, none of the old cast-offs were likely to be them, either. But Shinkaruk and Pribyl? Room has been cleared to give them opportunity. And that doesn’t even go into someone like Matthew Tkachuk, nor new bodies in the AHL such as Andrew Mangiapane and Rasmus Andersson.
At this point in time, they deserve more of a chance than the Flames’ previous options. Because the others had their chance, and now, it’s someone else’s turn. There’s no sense dwelling on past efforts – not when new kids with greater potential are already here.