What should the Flames do with Kris Versteeg?

The Calgary Flames will have a handful of unrestricted free agents after this season. Deryk Engelland and Dennis Wideman will likely be gone; at least one of Brian Elliott or Chad Johnson will probably stay.

But it’s Kris Versteeg who’s the most interesting upcoming UFA. Almost out of the NHL this season thanks to insurance complications preventing him from going to Switzerland, he ended up signing a PTO with the Edmonton Oilers.

After which point he said thanks but no thanks, and decided to skip south about three hours and join up with the Flames instead. Now, 16 games in the season – 10 missed thanks to both upper and lower body issues – he has seven points, and is sixth on the team in points per game. He’s a winger that can play either side, and one of the few older guys on this team.

He’s also been rather, well, good. So that begs the question: do you try to bring him back?

The case to let Versteeg go

Letting Versteeg go can happen in one of two ways: either he isn’t re-signed, and walks at the end of the season, or he’s traded at the trade deadline.

The latter is preferable to the former, because losing an asset for nothing sucks, especially when you can avoid it. And Brad Treliving has been pretty good about not losing assets for nothing through the two trade deadlines he’s been the Flames’ GM through so far. 

If Versteeg can net you an extra pick – even if it’s only, say, a fourth rounder – you take it. The Flames traded away David Jones to acquire an extra sixth round pick, and that sixth round pick is currently leading the Victoria Royals in scoring and is tied for 22nd in the WHL, so having Matthew Phillips is better than having had Jones for a couple of extra games.

When you’re rebuilding, you don’t get to be that picky, and every little additional asset can count. Versteeg can provide that. Compound that with the fact that he’s 30 years old and has had his fair share of health issues, and keeping him around as opposed to getting that one extra asset may not be the best move.

The case to keep Versteeg

On the other hand, a draft pick is great and all, but an actual NHLer is better. And the Flames can’t field a team of just kids. Assuming the expected departures take place, next season the Flames would be opening up with all of three people 30 or over on the roster: Mark Giordano, Troy Brouwer, and one of the goalies.

There isn’t any particular reason Versteeg can’t be a part of that group. He scored 38 points in 77 games last season; the year before that, 34; the year before that, 36. He’s on pace for 32 this year, injuries and all. This is a guy who can probably at least be counted on for 30+ points while being able to play either wing. He checks a lot of needs for the Flames.

Not only that, but he’s a responsible player who generally doesn’t hurt his team. His underlyings with the Flames haven’t been the best this season – his 47.33% CF at 5v5 is the seventh worst on the Flames, and that’s with an OZS of 33.33% – seventh best on the Flames. But through his three seasons before joining the Flames – on the Panthers, Blackhawks, Hurricanes, and Kings – he’s been a positive Corsi Rel player (typically just by a bit, although last season he was a +5.37 guy). 

Granted, he had better offensive zone starts on those teams, too. But still, despite his less-than-stellar underlyings so far this season (on, let’s be honest, a less-than-stellar team), Versteeg doesn’t appear to be someone who has cost the Flames on the ice.

Another virtue to Versteeg? He’ll likely come cheap. If he continues to play this season the way he has, probably not six-figure cheap, but if he comes in at, say, Lance Bouma money – $2.2 million – then that’s worth it for a perennial 30+ point guy who will generally perform well. Not that the Flames are going to undergo a cap crunch in 2017-18 the way they have this season, but cheap, reliable depth is always a good thing to have, and that’s what Versteeg should be able to provide (when healthy).

The expansion draft

There is one other thing to consider in re-signing Versteeg: Vegas could easily pick him up, and then that’s that.

Either you let Vegas take him – which, in the big picture, wouldn’t be a major loss in and of itself – or you protect him. If you protect him, though, then you’re letting someone else go.

The forwards we’re currently projecting the Flames to protect are Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Troy Brouwer, Michael Frolik, Mikael Backlund, Sam Bennett, and Micheal Ferland. Considering where the Flames are at right now, where they’re poised to be in the future, and everyone’s contracts, would you leave one of them exposed in order to keep Versteeg?

  • DoubleDIon

    I’d happily leave Brouwer exposed. I’d be very happy to get out from under that deal. There are better players available in free agency every year for less money. Versteeg is a placeholder. He’s been good as a placeholder, but you don’t give him big money or term. Guys like him are available cheap every offseason. If you can turn him into a 4th rounder at the deadline you do it. Middle six guys who make 4.5 million per season need to be excellent at what they do. Think Frolik or Backlund, certainly not Brouwer.

  • Arminius

    Lots of anger towards Brouwer lately. Somebody should Probably call the Wahhmbulance

    Enjoy the teams run of form lately all without Johnny. Sure it’s not perfect but give yourself a break

    • DoubleDIon

      Not anger. Just an acknowledgement that he’s an average middle six player who makes too much money for what he is right now. In 3 years that contract will suck even more. Make a point to show why critics are wrong if you’d like. Whaaambulance “humor” is middle school nonsense and better suited to forums like CP.

  • SmellOfVictory

    I think one benefit of signing Versteeg to a decent contract is explicitly because of the expansion draft. It’s one more guy who the Flames would have exposed, who might tempt Vegas more than one of the younger unprotected guys like Poirier.

  • PrairieStew

    For all those complaining about Brouwer’s contract, think about Andrew Ladd – a million more for 3 more years than Troy. Lucic $1.5 more- 3 more years, even Okposo $1.5 more – 3 more years.

    • DoubleDIon

      Those are all bad deals too. I’d prefer to have signed a good deal like the Pirri one or the Stempniak deal. If you notice almost all of the bad deals that get signed are for players who play a physical brand of hockey and bring middle six talent. I’d avoid this type of free agent and try to develop entry level/restricted guys for those roles. Players like Ferland can play the role even better than those guys. Players like Pirri and Stempniak can bring the same offense for a third the price and are better defensively.

  • Scary Gary

    It’s too early to tell regarding Verteeg but he’s been a useful utility player.

    In other news CF% leaders by line:
    1. 64.1% Marchand ($4.5M), Bergeron (6.875M), Pastrnak (0.925M) = $12.3M

    3. 60.3% Tkachuk (0.925M), Backlund (3.575M), Frolik (4.3M) = $8.8M

    That’s good value!

    • Arminius

      Now if only Backlund would pick up his current 5% shooting percenTage..Oh right but it’s Backlund. So probably not happening..well at least not until Game 60 or so

      Thought he might build off his finish last season and getting into the World Cup…but no

      • Backlund is a career %8.7 shooter and last year he shot %13.5 but ok….

        You are complaining about one of Calgarys most consistant players who pushes play forward while getting burried in the D-zone and playing the heavies.

        You should likely be worried about Monahan, He is getting destoryed while getting %100 ozone draws and playing middling competition…

        • Thunder1

          58.1% corsi for, 50% o-zone starts and a game score of 1.43 according to Tiberi’s always excellent game recap.

          Misspelling destroyed is the least of the mistakes in your post!

      • DoubleDIon

        What do you expect from him? If he scored at the rate of a Sidney Crosby he’d win the Hart trophy every year. He’s a top end defensive centerman who you can bury and play against top competition. The Flames would be the worst team in the NHL without Backlund and Frolik doing the heavy lifting so other players can have easier minutes.

        Every guy who plays with Backlund seems to have a career year which the Flames promptly overpay him for. Thankfully they saw through Colborne which gives me some hope we evaluate more thoroughly.

        Backlund is who he is. He’s Hanzal or Couturier not Toews or Bergeron. He also makes 6.5 million dollars per season less than Toews so I’m fine with it.

  • Derzie

    Is this what the NHL wants to be? Where their fans argue over the relative merits of overpriced middling players? That’s 90s-NJ Devils-level boring. The NHL needs an overhaul. We need separation between teams. Separation between players. Some great teams. Some terrible teams. A cap that’s big enough to ice a good team with 4 strong lines and 3 strong pairings and an NHL-level goaltending tandem. Lebrun did an article today about the points system so the media is getting tired of it as well. False parity bites. False parity though loser points. The standings are meaningless until April. False parity through too tight a cap. Watered down teams. Watered down ref pool. It’s all got to change at some point. Like 2004 where they made hockey watchable again by removing th red line and enforcing clutch and grab. By banning head shots which reduced checking and sped up the game.Time for another overhaul.

    What to do with Versteeg you ask? Who freaking cares. I want to talk about on-ice stuff rather than being forced by the league to care about cap hits and coaching systems. I’d like to say ‘end rant’ but it’s ongoing.

    • PrairieStew

      The loser point presently doesn’t affect the standings much: 20 teams had between 8 and 11 loser points last year, so if you eliminated it, the standings would hardly change; the only loser would be the the big losers (Carolina had 16 last year).

      What might actually change with the elimination of the loser point is less “safe” play at the end of games. Going to the 3-2-1 system might not have the same effect.

      You are advocating a return to dynasty era. Perhaps a slightly larger gap between the cap ceiling and cap floor might help that. Maybe some penalties for signing free agents mixed in there to balance that off. Personally, I’d like to see a higher minimum salary so that useful veterans aren’t run out of the game for young salary minimum players that aren’t very talented but just cheap.

  • Arminius

    Backlunds 5% shooting percenTage is worst on the team among forwards who have scored at least once. Yes that includes Freddie Hamilton.
    I can’t get my head around this. Year after year it’s the same. Hands of stone. Touch of a blacksmith. Limp wrists. Whatever you want to call it dude can’t put it in when it matters.

    • The GREAT WW

      Yes; he has NO touch around the net… but he also shoots from EVERYWHERE, as soon as he enters the O Zone he shoots, REALLY low % Shots….good for the advanced stats though….


      • trox

        He frequently gains the zone and takes a shot from the perimeter that the goalie is forced to freeze. This is a much more intelligent way of setting up a line change than dumping it in, and also sets up an offensive zone face off for the first line (if we ever have one again, that is). He does this whenever he gains the blue line late in a shift and there is no play and it is a smart play.

    • Scary Gary

      Patrice Bergeron is shooting 4.2% with 3 goals, do you think he has “hands of stone” or “limp wrists” and “can’t put it in when it matters”?

      Backlunds 5 on 5 shooting percentage is 7.7% but it could definitely improve a percentage or two (9.6% in 2014/2015).

    • Greatsave

      Take this trash outta here. “Year after year”? In the four seasons since the last lockout Backlund has shot 10.9%.

      You wanna talk “hands of stone”? How about back in early 2015 when Gaudreau scored 2 goals over 23 games shooting 4.4%?

  • Locker Room Talk

    I think I’m in the minority, or maybe my viewpoint is skewed based on some of the other contracts signed around the league this summer, but Brouwer’s contract doesn’t seem all that bad. Maybe it is a million too much and a year too long, but holy crap look at Ladd and Backes over there.

    As for Versteeg, right now I’d like to see him back in Flames silks next year, but I don’t think the Flames would even consider using a spot to protect him from expansion. I am quite certain the team wants Brouwer, which potentially means losing someone like Ferland if Versteeg is protected. No thanks.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Way too early to be talking about extending Versteeg and Johnson.

    Had Tre panicked and signed impending FAs in December, the club would have been stuck with yucky contracts for Hudler and Russell.

    I can’t think either Versteeg or Johnson will cost that much more if the Flames want to extend them at the end of the season.

  • Just.Visiting

    At this point, trade for an asset as the trade deadline approaches.

    We need to be very disciplined with bottom sixth depth players and need to have opportunities for the pipeline of younger players who are on the way.

    Building for the future as a contender requires us to grow those players in the NHL to see who is and who is not going to contribute meaningfully at this level.

    Blocking their development with a lot of OK established players is not going to help us attain the longer term objective of being a serious contender.