The great purge of the 2016 off-season

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
Drew Shore 25 80
Kevin Poulin 26 50
Derek Grant 26 40
Joni Ortio 25 37
Kenny Agostino 24 10
Bryce Van Brabant 24 6
Bill Arnold 24 1
Turner Elson 23 1

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.

New blood

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.

  • Slowmo

    The only lose as far as Im concerned is Colburn great kid big and strong and I think was just starting to come in to his own. To bad but I guess he couldn’t wait on the flames to sign the big contracts. Im sure that is what it all boils down to can’t sign some of these guys till they know where they end up with on the JH MONO contracts.

  • cunning_linguist

    This season might be the most interested I’ve ever been in the farm team. So many Flames prospects with potential coming into important roles. At first I was disappointed with all of the unqualified RFA’s, but I’m starting to realize how shrewd of a move that really was.

  • SickFloBro

    Honestly, I’m still a little salty over losing Arnold and Ortio… but I suppose decisions like these are probably better left to the people paid to actually run the organization. Unless you’re a Canucks fan, because Benning.

    • Parallex

      Agree on Arnold… I’m fine with cutting Ortio thou. Johnson is better then Ortio and we have two incoming pro goalies (+Gillies). No real spot left for him.

      I do wish we’d kept Agostino around.

    • DoubleDIon

      Arnold I agree on. I think he’d make an ideal 4C moving forward. Good on the draws and in his own end. Brings a little bit of snarl to the game too. I didn’t understand that one, especially with Stajan only having 2 years left. Maybe he was tired of waiting and wanted a new opportunity.

      • everton fc

        Arnold hasn’t been signed to my knowledge, so you never know. But Vey can play pivot. And there are others in the system (Jankowski, for one, Freddie H another) who can also play that position. As can Bouma. So no big loss.

        For me, Agostino was the most surprising one let go.

      • Jake the Snail

        If a 4th line position is the player’s highest potential, he is not worth keeping and taking a roster spot that could be used with players of higher potential. Those types of players are readily available in the summer – even on a camp tryout.

        The goal of the Flames is to develop players to build 4 strong lines. It may not be possible to keep them all in the future, but that should be the goal.

        • freethe flames

          One way to enhance the development of players at the AHL level is to have enough veterans around them to develop. At this point the Heat appear to lack veteran leadership. I am looking forward to see who they sign to address this issue.

          • T&A4Flames

            Maybe it’s already been addressed. Perhaps the acquisitions of Chiasson and Vey are for the AHL and never really intended on them being with the big club unless they prove beyond doubt they can be difference makers.

          • piscera.infada

            When Vey was signed, Treliving noted AHL depth as a reason. If he comes to camp and makes the team, I’m sure they won’t complain, but that move was pretty much strictly depth with some potential upside.

            I’ll agree with you on Chiasson, but he could easily find himself in the ‘A, if he doesn’t make some sort of impact.

          • freethe flames

            You are right that BT did mention Vey and AHL depth however the issue remains the same the Flames need more veteran depth in the AHL and I am wondering who BT will sign for the AHL. It appears looking at the kids that they could use a veteran center(vey?), a veteran skilled forward and maybe a veteran d although I like their depth on the back end and Spoon/Kulak and for that matter Culkan and Morrison are sound.

    • Joe Flames

      yes, they have to keep the kids in the AHL hungry. better for their development.
      keep trying guys until you find someone who can play in the top six at the NHL level.