I think most of us can agree the Calgary Flames would be well served to sign Kris Versteeg to a contract extension. With 21 points in 40 games, Versteeg has given the Flames great value on the one year, $950,000 contract he signed just before the start of the season. But while it seems simple enough to sign Versteeg to a new deal, there are a few important wrinkles to consider.
As mentioned, Versteeg has given Calgary great value on the deal he signed one day before the start of the season. It’s actually pretty amazing to think Versteeg was set to play in Europe six months ago and had to make an NHL team off a PTO, because he is clearly still an NHL caliber forward. Versteeg has been one of the team’s most productive players as illustrated by his scoring metrics.
To see a player on a short term deal at under $1 million rank top five in all of the team’s offensive categories is notable and that’s exactly what Versteeg is doing. The 30-year-old has helped turn Calgary’s powerplay around and has gotten the job done just fine 5-on-5.
The only things that could be viewed as drawbacks are Versteeg’s age and possible durability concerns. Versteeg turns 31 in May and, for some forwards, that’s around when things can start to fall away. Additionally, Versteeg has missed time on two different occasions due to injury this season and he’s missed 10 or more games in three of his last six seasons.
Here’s maybe the most interesting part of this conversation, or at least the part that I think is most unknown. Because Versteeg’s situation is rather unusual, I’m honestly not sure what type of leverage Versteeg has in contract negotiations, either with the Flames or another team.
On the one hand, Versteeg’s overall point production as ranked by points per 60 puts him amongst the top 150 players in the league. Some logic would suggest he deserves a decent raise from the sweetheart contract he signed for this season, at least when talking about production alone.
The problem for Versteeg becomes the continuing trend around the NHL to shy away from anything but bargain basement deals for players over the age of 30. Versteeg will be 31 next season and I don’t think it’s a guarantee the Flames will be ready to step up with the type of deal he’d be looking for in free agency.
On the other hand, Versteeg seems like a pretty aware guy and was ready to go to Europe this past summer. As such, he might not be adverse to signing another good value, short term deal to guarantee his NHL future for another year. Furthermore, Versteeg has spoken openly about his desire to play close to his hometown of Lethbridge which is why Calgary and Edmonton were the two biggest blips on his radar this fall.
This one is a strange one to come to an opinion on because there are a lot of unknown variables. Personally, I think something in the ballpark of a a two-year deal at around $2.5 million per season makes sense for both sides. While I think that’s something the Flames would be into, I’m not sure if that’s something Versteeg’s camp would jump at or not.
Finally, the looming expansion draft adds an important wrinkle to seemingly any contract or trade discussion around the league. It certainly factors in significantly when talking about Versteeg’s future with Calgary because of their protection list situation. Earlier this season I wrote about the potential of protecting Micheal Ferland in the expansion draft and came up with the following list of likely protected players.
Assuming Calgary elects to protect seven forwards, three defencemen, and one goalie, all of a sudden signing Versteeg prior to the expansion draft becomes slightly less attractive. The Flames likely aren’t going to sign Versteeg only to leave him exposed come June, which would then leave a guy like Ferland exposed which isn’t necessarily desirable.
Earlier this week Kent answered a question in the mailbag about exposing Brouwer and I think the conversation is totally valid. However, much like the Overlord Emeritus, I really can’t see Calgary signing Brouwer to a big fat contract one summer and then exposing him in an expansion draft. I’ve been underwhelmed by Brouwer in his time with the Flames and I’d expose him if I were making the decisions, but I’m not sure the team would go down that same road.
The ideal scenario here would be to sign Versteeg after the expansion draft but before free agency kicks in come July 1st. To do that, the team would likely have to have an agreement in place and just get Versteeg to agree to wait until after the expansion draft is done to officially put pen to paper. It certainly isn’t out of the question but, much like the prior topic, it isn’t a guarantee, either.
I think it’s a good idea for the Flames to re-sign Versteeg to a reasonable deal. What does reasonable look like? Well, for me, somewhere in the two-year range and for less than $3 million per season registers in that category. Versteeg remains very productive, he is great on a powerplay, he’s smart and seems to play well with virtually anyone he’s put on a line with. For me, those things outweigh any potential cons like age or durability.
However, as we’ve illustrated, it’s not quite that simple thanks to the unknown variables. Would Versteeg agree to sign after the expansion draft? Would he be okay staying on a good value deal as opposed to potentially chasing bigger money elsewhere? Because we don’t know the answers to that question, the best I can put his chances of re-signing with the Flames at is somewhat likely.