Ladislav Smid’s status is holding up the depth defenseman signings

We’re into mid-July around the hockey world and the Calgary Flames still have four restricted free agents left to re-sign. The most prominent names are forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan (along with Freddie Hamilton), but blueliner Tyler Wotherspoon hasn’t signed yet either. (Also on the market: unrestricted free agent Jakub Nakladal).

Given the quiet marketplace for blueliners, I’ve heard the question on Twitter (and elsewhere): why haven’t Wotherspoon and/or Nakladal re-signed yet?

If you want a short answer, here it is: Ladislav Smid.

Smid came to the Flames in November 2013 in just the second trade between Calgary and Edmonton. (The other one involved Steve Staios, if you’d like a sense of how low the bar has been set there.) He was decent enough in his first season with the club (2013-14), but has played just 53 of a possible 164 games over the past two seasons. The reason he’s missed 111 games over the past two years is a recurring neck injury, the product of a few collisions he’s been in – he last played on Feb. 17.

He has a year left on his contract. He has no incentive to retire, as retiring would void the final year of his contract (and he would get zero money out of it). The Flames didn’t buy him out – either because they didn’t want to or perhaps he wasn’t medically cleared and it wasn’t an option – so they’re on the hook for his $3.5 million contract. So as they were last year, the Flames are left to wait and see how he’ll recover from last season’s neck injury and whether or not he’ll be placed on the long-term injured reserve (and give them some cap relief).

Last season, everyone and their dog raved about what a great fit David Schlemko was on the Flames. But with the Flames jammed up with one way contracts, it’s likely that Schlemko’s agent was looking for clarity in terms of fit and opportunity in Calgary, and sighed and ended up in New Jersey. (Evidence for that theory: he signed in September.)

This season’s versions of Schlemko are Wotherspoon and Nakladal.

Wotherspoon, 23, was one of Calgary’s second round picks back in 2011. He just finished his entry-level contract and is no longer waiver exempt. He’s played 26 NHL games and 162 AHL games between Abbotsford, Adirondack and Stockton. He’s been good, but not great, and he’s in the position where I’m not entirely sure he’d be claimed on waivers. If I’m his agent, I’m asking for a one-way deal (so that Wotherspoon gets sweet, sweet NHL money no matter if he’s in the NHL or not) or maybe a deal with a big AHL salary. If he’s not going to definitely be in the NHL, Wotherspoon probably should try to get paid. If he’s in the NHL, he’s probably a third-pairing guy and if he’s in the AHL he’s probably a top-pairing guy.

Nakladal, 28, made the journey to North America from Europe last season. He had hoped to play in the NHL. He spent half of the year in scenic Stockton, California. When he finally hit the NHL, he was pretty good. Like Wotherspoon, he’s no longer waiver exempt. Given he got power-play time last season, I’m not sure if he goes through waivers unclaimed. And given his experience level and how damn long it took him to get an NHL roster spot last season, he’s probably (a) not signing a two-way and (b) probably not signing unless he’s damn sure he’s going to be on the NHL roster.

Smid is probably going to miss the beginning of next season. Probably. But the problem is there isn’t a ton of clarity right now, and this is the exact same situation as last summer. Without having a good idea of where they would be play and what their role would be, why would Wotherspoon or Nakladal both sign with the Flames?

Wotherspoon is a restricted free agent and as a tweener that hasn’t established himself in the NHL quite yet, he’s a commodity that most clubs have in spades. He doesn’t have a ton of leverage on the Flames, nor do they on him.

  • If he doesn’t sign, it’s unlikely that other clubs will try to steal him away from the Flames via offer sheet.
  • If he doesn’t sign, it’s also unlikely that the Flames will be bereft of other left-shooting options.

In essence, the Flames are hoping that both camps – Wotherspoon’s and Nakladal’s – will take a lesser deal in the hopes of taking advantage of Smid’s likely absence (and the roster spot). But since there are no certainties and he’s still under contract and could recover enough between now and camp in September to be an on-ice presence at some point in 2016-17, it’s easy to understand both blueliners’ reluctance to sign on the dotted line.

  • TheRealPoc

    Smid’s last year at $3.5M, which he’ll most likely collect on LTIR, isn’t the problem.

    Wideman’s last year at $5.25M, which includes a full NMC, is the problem.

    • Danomitee

      Wideman can still play, he’s just being pushed out due to our prospects and his salary. Wideman should have been moved already. Smid is a bigger problem because LTIR doesn’t kick in until training camp so he still counts against our books for the time being, worse yet what if he’s healthy?

      • TheRealPoc

        Not at 5v5 he can’t, at least against any meaningful competition, or without the presence of a big-time shot suppressor beside him. He’s basically a PP luxury piece at this point of his career.

        Re: Smid’s status, that’s why I referenced Wideman’s NMC. If Laddy is healthy, at least you have the option to give him the Raymond treatment and gain an additional ~$1M in cap space for the big club – probably enough to bring back Nakladal on a 1-year deal at worst.

        There is no refuge for Wideman’s final year. For better or worse, unless Tre finds a taker, we’re stuck.

        In retrospect, Feaster’s incompetence was truly astounding.

    • Parallex

      Yeah, the Flames are awash in bad money right now some of it is Treliving’s fault (Engellend, Raymond Buyout, Bouma, Bollig) some of it Feaster’s (Smid & Wideman) heck Burke in his short stint as interim GM even eff’ed up a significant chunk of $$ allocation (Stajan).

    • DoubleDIon

      Flames have so much dead cap this year. Stajan, Engelland, Bouma, Smid, Bollig are all replacement level players who are making way too much.

      Wideman and Brouwer are useful pieces but overpriced.

      • Parallex

        Yeah, 13M-ish of that comes free after this season and I reeeeeeally hope that Treliving can look at that pile of cap space and act with some foresight and not go hog wild on boutique players because a lot of the guys we’ll need to be quality complementary/depth players will be needing raises.

    • RealMcHockeyReturns

      Not officially but how about a “European player development and scouting role” at just 1.2M a year for 3 years and faking the injury being worse!

  • Hockeyfan

    Smid contract has been a complete albatross. Wideman is gonna be a penalty magnet at 5.5 mil., i don’t see a trade partner.
    buh bye to both after this year, thank goodness.
    Maybe Stajan can get 15 goals by Feb. so we can trade him. HAH. keep Engs this year,the muscle will come in handy.

    is that new guy Geddy Lee?

  • everton fc

    So what’s up w/Nakladal? No one is signing him?? That seems strange – the Oilers could use him. And isn’t he building a home in Calgary for his dad – I think I read that here…??

    Seems strange he’s still out there – perhaps they are telling him, “Wait until we decide on Smid, and we can give you a contract.” Thoughts??? Would love to see he and Wotherspoon as #’s 5/6, but Nakladal has looked good w/Gio, and I think Jokipaaka and Wotherspoon would work as “5/6”, assuming we can move Wideman, which I doubt will happen.

  • Druds

    our plan worked! Dump Smid on the flames and he will haunt them for eternity ..or at least 4 years at 3.5 mill…MUHUHAAAAAAAAA

    was that not another great Feaster trade?

    • Rockmorton65

      And Horak is lighting it up for yo…oh wait. Well, there’s still Broussoit…oh right. ECHL. No one of any significance moved in that deal. The fact that the Oilers failed to capitalize on the extra cap space speaks to the pathetic nature of the team.

      • Druds

        HAH well at least we got rid of Horak and did not keep him around for the next 3 years…LOL and Brossoit is going to be a great goalie so I think you got hosed and you should accept it.

        now go brand some cows or whatever you do down there for fun!!!…

        • Rockmorton65

          No time to brand the cows. My neighbor hates it when I brand his cows. Hockey season starts soon. You know about the hockey season, right? It’s those looong nights on the ice in Edmonton between entry drafts, when Hopkins & McSaviour are hurt and plotting their exit strategies.

          BTW – Broissot….backup material.

        • Baalzamon

          Consider the following: The Oilers can only protect one goalie in the expansion draft, and Las Vegas needs to select at least three goalies.

          So obviously the Oilers will protect their starter, Cam Talbot. Leaving Brossoit exposed. Brossoit will be by far the best goalie prospect available in the draft (Jon Gillies is exempt, and the Jets will certainly protect Hellebuyck over Pavelec).

          Have a nice day.

    • Flamethrower

      Have to agree. Flames will have payed out more than 10 million for a very short career. Nobody else ever gets that kind or compensation, especially for playing a game. Whats next get his name on the concussion list! Besides he must face the fact that he was never really all that good.

      • FireScorpion

        53 games in 2 years? I wouldn’t call that playing through anything. He plays just enough to collect his bag of gold. If his neck is screwed, say so and move on, don’t hold the organization hostage that has already been good enough to pay you WAY too much for too little. I know if my neck was wratched I wouldn’t be showing up to work 25% of the time…oh but I don’t make 3.5 mill a year either.

        = Milking It

        • supra steve

          If you are injured, you don’t have to play at all to collect your pay…this isn’t unemployment insurance. According to the CBA Smid was injured playing NHL hockey and is owed that money, if you doubt that, educate yourself.

          I’m going to go ahead and guess you are young and have never had any kind of experience with chronic injury. I’ll forgive your inexperienced opinion on that matter. If you are not young/inexperienced…then you are something worse…

          • FireScorpion

            Well I’ll chalk you up in the happy to pay Smid another 3.5 mill to do jack $hit and play Even less games this year than his 22 last year and possibly force the team to wave bye bye to Nakladal category. Good thing you don’t run this team

          • supra steve

            So…how would you fix the problem, as GM? You must know a way, since you’re sure anyone that doesn’t is inept.

            This is your big chance to show you are (or are not) a genius. I suspect I already know what you will prove.

          • FireScorpion

            Not sure on all the ins and outs with contracts and injuries just not a fan of guys hamstringing an organization to some degree when he contributes 0 for going on 3 years now. Just like I don’t like newfies who work a few months and than go back to the Rock and collect pogey ripping the system and taxpayers . Maybe not the same but it’s the same to me.

          • supra steve

            Hey, it’s too bad, the Smid thing. He was injured before he was traded to the Flames and the surgery performed while with the Oilers didn’t completely fix that problem, that hampered his play with the Flames. Then he was reinjured and was out for a long period before coming back and playing a short while, then reinjuring again. Guy most likely will have some permanent health issues as a result. Yes he is getting paid a pile of $$, but when he is in his old age, possibly crippled by his injury, I bet he would trade all the money he made from the Flames if he could just have a healthy spine again.

            Situation is bad for him and bad for the Flames, but no one can justifiably hold him responsible for the situation that his injury has put the Flames in. For his sake, I hope he is not planning on coming back, his body is not up to it.

          • The Beej

            Its the same to you?

            Im all for having an opinion but you straight up do not make sense.

            First of all im sure there are folks who feel you are stereotyping them and are offended.

            Secondly Smid has done nothing to milk the system. Just as if you got hurt on the job you and your income would be protected so is he.

            He has done nothing but follow the rules of his contract. Its an unfortunate situation and im sure he doesnt like it easier.

            To accuse him of intentionally milking the system is completely baseless and silly.

          • FireScorpion

            Oh probably. It’s the day we live in, people are a bunch of wimps and get “offended” at the drop of the hat . No one’s got a set any more.

            I’m offended, that offends me, that’s offensive. Please.

            Worked in McMurray for 3 years. So trust me when I say I’ve seen Maritimers do that. In fact they’re rather infamous for it. That’s fact. Have I known hardworking Maritimers that work all year long? Of course. If that’s enough to get panties in a twist I say Man Up for God’s sake..

          • The Beej

            Fair enough like I said opinions are fine and Im not saying your wrong but I dont think the Flames message board is the place for that kind of drivel.

            I think you missed my point.

            When you day “its the same to me” it makes it seem like you dont understand the difference between getting hurt at work and going on welfare. These are obviously two different things so when you post stuff like this it makes people think you are a little bit dumb that you cant tell the difference.

            And “man up”…. oh please what a joe.

          • The Beej

            I think dumbredneck.com is the place for this kind of drivel.

            The one thing that i notice about people that love to offend others is they usually dont have anything intelligent to say and their offensive comments are just there to compensate for their lack of intelligence.

            I think I see you right now actually… you are wearing a Donald Trump hat and you are carrying a sign that says.. well it says something.

          • Nighteyes

            Yep, this is also the person that responded to discussions around Iginla’s #12 being retired or never being worn again as “playing the race card.” Ridiculous,..and also evidence that racism is a very serious problem still, unfortunately.