24
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

The Flames have every reason to re-sign Kris Versteeg

The Flames have a number of unrestricted free agents whose contracts are set to expire within a couple of months. Both of their goalies are UFAs, as is roughly half the defence… plus one forward.

It’s the one forward who probably has the best reviews out of the entire class. While Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson disappointed at times throughout the season, and the bottom half of the Flames’ defence was notably much worse than the top half, Kris Versteeg slid right into the Flames’ lineup just a day before the season started, and not once did he ever really pose a problem (other than the occasional injury and games missed earlier in the season).

You had a good year when the worst thing anyone can say about you is “sometimes you were injured and that was unfortunate”.

Versteeg is the one upcoming UFA just about everybody has slated to return to the Flames, and that probably includes the player himself. Versteeg – from Lethbridge – has not only been vocally adamant about staying close to home, but even offered up heartwarming lines about learning to love the game again. There’s a clear desire on his part to stay a Flame.

But a contract is a two-way street. That’s great if Versteeg wants to stay a Flame; the question is, do the Flames want him to stay? The answer had better be yes.

Focus on numbers

Versteeg scored 15 goals and 37 points over 69 games: good for eighth in team scoring. That’s with him averaging just 14:43 a game, which was only 15th on the team; the only notable forwards he received more ice time than were Matthew Tkachuk (rookie) and Micheal Ferland (buried on the fourth line for much of the season for some reason).

It should be pointed out, too, that Versteeg played 175:40 on the powerplay over the season: seventh on the Flames, and fourth out of all Flames forwards (behind Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, and Troy Brouwer). Versteeg’s 16 powerplay points were tied for second on the team with Gaudreau and Mikael Backlund, and he led everyone with 54 shots on the man advantage. The powerplay setup called for a right shot, and Versteeg was the best one Calgary had available: and he earned every minute he had on the man advantage. His eight goals were tied with Monahan for the team lead.

He scored .54 points per game: tied with Michael Frolik for seventh on the Flames. Almost half of his points came on the powerplay, which is a bit of a red flag; on the other hand, all that for a $950,000 cap hit? That’s awesome.

Therein lies the one possible counterargument to re-signing Versteeg: how much he’ll cost to bring back. He’ll soon be 31, so his best days are likely behind him. Before this season, he carried a cap hit of $4.4 million for four years; kind of fitting, considering how that’s pretty close to Frolik’s current contract and they scored at the exact same rate, though Frolik had a much stronger even strength performance.

Versteeg isn’t going to be re-signed to a Frolik-like deal. Among the players who scored at the same rate he did this season, Tyler Toffoli had the lowest cap hit: $3.25 million, courtesy of a bridge deal.

Versteeg can probably be had for less than that; this may be his last chance at a decent-sized contract, but he also doesn’t have too much to leverage for a big deal (not to mention the hometown discount is a very real possibility with someone whose actual hometown is just a couple of hours south). And this is a player who, while he may not have another 50-point season in him, has consistently hovered around .5 points per game the past several years.

His underlyings weren’t the greatest this season – he actually had the worst 5v5 CF% of any regular forward not named Brouwer or Lance Bouma – but it’s also perhaps worth mentioning that he was Brouwer’s most frequent linemate, and his CF shot up about 8% when they were separated (albeit with higher offensive zone starts), so that may not be entirely on him.

Here’s what it comes down to with Versteeg: are you going to be able to find another forward who can produce – even if roughly half of it comes on the man advantage – at the rate he does for a cap hit that’s probably under $3 million?

No numbers, just narratives

Versteeg is a local boy who wants to stay close to home. Number one, having players who actually want to be here is always a good thing, so that in and of itself is already a point in his favour. Number two, the local kid returning home to help his childhood team – who doesn’t love that story?

Number three, he’s come back after winning two Stanley Cups. There’s a fair amount of emphasis placed on acquiring players who have won before and, therefore, know how to win; Versteeg’s rings alone do a pretty good job of embodying that. He’s played 93 playoff games in his career (sorry, that was a number), so you’d have to think he has a pretty fair idea of what it takes to go deep into the postseason.

It isn’t just winning that makes his presence valuable, though: it’s that he can easily slide in just about anywhere in the lineup. He’s a right shot who can play either wing. His initial linemates were Gaudreau and Monahan, who he could theoretically still fit with; however, towards the end of the season he started building chemistry with Sam Bennett, and that can’t be discounted, especially if the Flames have trouble finding another high-caliber winger. Even then, it’s entirely possible he could end up playing alongside Backlund and Frolik, too; they barely played together this past season, but it’s easy to see those three working out as a cerebral, roughly half-a-point-per-game shutdown line.

Oh, and just to further emphasize this: he’s a right shot, something the lineup last season didn’t have much of. This was especially apparent when Versteeg was injured and Alex Chiasson, also a right shot, replaced him on the powerplay. Versteeg is clearly good on the powerplay; Chiasson, less so. Simply having Versteeg around makes the Flames’ depth much better in multiple situations.

And it’s not something we would have thought – especially since, other than Gaudreau, he’s the smallest player on the team – but he’ll fight, too.

No matter how you look at it, there’s really no reason to not want him back – and once the expansion draft is over, hopefully, his return will be made official.

Also, this

I mean you gotta admire a man who has literally no shame whatsoever. Not to mention just how easy it is to find any video of him rapping. I’m not sure what value that has but it’s gotta be something.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    I’m all for signing Steeger for 3-4 years to reduce the annual cap hit. He can play with Sammy, or anyone on the top 3 lines. 2nd power play unit, if not 1st. Nothing but good here.
    4 years at $2.5 per.

      • ThisBigMouthIsRight

        Yes, Two years… Flames have too many good young prospects coming up to put more than 2 years on Steeger. That doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be other staff positions available to him with the Flames after, If he were to be interested?

        • wot96

          He isn’t really taking a job from a prospect. Flames have practically no right shot, right wingers in their system unless you think he is stealing a job from any of Hathaway, Linden Vey, Austin Caroll, or Hunter Smith? Prybl, maybe, but he has had some injury issues too so do you choose the guy with a couple of rings and injury issues, if he is cheap, or a guy with no NHL experience and injury issues?

          • ThisBigMouthIsRight

            No one said stealing a job right now, but in two years, yes open up some space for the young guys! In Two Years some of those guys will probably be ready, besides Steeger has spent most of the year on the LW. Players up and coming include…Hunter Shinkaruk, Andrew Mangiapane, Morgan Klimchuk, Ryan Lomberg, or Matthew Phillips on RW? Besides After two years the flames could always re-sign him if no one is stepping up from the farm.

  • Jobu

    Great asset. This team will still need its vets and examples. who better than a guy who came back from almost playing in Switzerland and became a key contributor.

  • Pyroflatulence

    He’s a keeper. The guy has heart, cares, and wants to be here. Brouwer is a good example of someone who does not get injured. I’d take Versteeg and a few injuries any day of the week.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    That video is just plain creepy. That aside, how many other clubs are wise to the good year Versteeg had and would like to sign him? The Hawks and Wild were major playoff flops this spring, so how much tougher will either club be next spring with the wily Versteeg in the lineup? As much as Versteeg talked about how much he loved playing close to home this season–and I believe him–the chance of scoring a big payday with another club at this stage of his career might be hard to pass on. Once he retires, he can live the rest of his days in sunny southern AB, but for an extra million or two a year for the next couple of years, the Ohio rustbelt may be awfully attractive even with Torts.

    • supra steve

      None of the teams you mentioned have the cap space to give Versteeg an “extra million or two a year for the next couple of years”. It was a good story though.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I hope he comes back. He seems to take the game serious but does not take himself too serious. Now that he dust a settled on the first round of the playoffs a few observations.

    Flames were swept by the Ducks despite shutting down most of their big guns. Everyone knows that Getzlaf had a strong series but his most of his points came off very lucky bounces. Offensively, Kesler who has had his way with the Flames was a non factor finishing with 2 pts. Perry was even worse, his only contribution was picking a fight with the Flames bench as Theodore sent a muffin on Elliott which he could not handle. Even Eaves who seemed to be scoring every game since being acquired was not overly noticeable.

    Big guns like Gaudreau and McDavid had very pedestrian first rounds with Johhny getting 2 helpers both on the PP in 4 games. McD had 4 points in 6 playoff games which is not bad until you realize that most were on the PP and 1 was into an open net.

    Minnesota’s stars were equally quiet, 0 goals for the following players – Staal, Nederreiter, and Granlund.

  • Eggs Bennett

    Two things:
    1. We have nobody worth a damn in the shootout. Versteeg’s 4 SO goals were elite highlight reels and pretty much single-handedly got us 4 extra pts.
    2. Instead of seeing his bout of PPP as a danger sign, think of it as him being the missing QB we’ve needed on the PP. I watching his passing and vision with Johnny is very entertaining and exciting.
    He is absolutely worth 2×2.5M

  • BendingCorners

    I don’t know if the cap is good or bad for the Flames. I suppose it stops them being priced out of the market and lets the owners make money, but it makes building a contending team very difficult. Brad has managed quite well so far, but to stay under the cap to move up to Cup-contender status next year may require an act of genius. What would it look like?

    Gaudreau Monahan TBD-1RW
    Tkachuk Backlund Frolik
    Ferland Bennett TBD-3RW
    Versteeg Jankowski Chiasson
    Stajan Lazar

    Giordano Hamilton
    Brodie Stone
    Wotherspoon Andersson
    Kylington

    Elliott
    Gillies

    If the Flames manage to keep Kris and Alex, or sign two equivalent players for the money Kris and Alex likely would have been paid, and sign and keep Micheal and Sam and Mike Stone or an equivalent and Brian Elliott or an equivalent, and promote several players from the AHL, they have room to sign a depth winger but not a top-line winger. To do that Brad needs to find a way to dump Troy and Lance’s salaries. That would be the act of genius.

    A top-line winger is the key improvement the Flames need to make. It makes them deeper and better at the same time. Micheal looked good with Johnny and Sean in March and April but it was a contract year for him and he’s already 26 so the remaining upside might be somewhat limited. As a guy who can be put into that role when necessary, he makes a great top-nine forward. As a permanent top-three guy, I’m not convinced.

    Promoting three AHL players on defence is less of a gamble than it appears since that is why those players were drafted, to build the defence internally. Tyler looked good every time he played in Calgary and could even be paired with TJ some of the time. Rasmus and Oliver are either ready or close to it and with protected minutes should mature quickly. And this saves money since the young ones are cheap.

    Brian doesn’t seem like an elite goalie but he has had some excellent stretches and with St.Louis a good playoff run. Paring him with a young backup could potentially work out very well and also fits within the cap.

    Every team finds itself in this situation once they achieve some success, and this year was a good one in spite of the early exit. Here’s hoping that Brad finds a way to square the circle and continue to improve the team.

  • Burnward

    Johnny-Mony-Ferly
    Tkachuk-Bennett-Versteeg
    Frolik-Backlund-Brouwer
    Shinkaruk-Lazar-Hathaway

    Gio-Brodie
    Alzner-Hamilton
    Kulak-Engellend-Wotherspoon

    Johnson/Darling
    Gillies