28Deryk Engelland.
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

UFA Profile: Deryk Engelland

Deryk Engelland has had an interesting run as a member of the Calgary Flames. Engelland’s three-year, $8.7 million contract is set to expire on July 1 and there’s debate as to what his future with the team should be. Some look at Engelland as a replaceable third pairing player while others really value the toughness and edge he’s brought to the Flames. While both viewpoints have merit, the question is whether the latter can outweigh the former in determining his future in Calgary.

This is the first of our UFA profiles after we ran through the team’s high profile restricted players earlier. Here’s what we have so far:

Now let’s examine if there is a realistic future for Engelland with the Flames.

Evidence

Whether you thought Calgary reached on Engelland’s contract or not, it’s fair to say he’s played the role expected of him since joining the team. Engelland was brought in as a third pairing defenceman and has been used almost exclusively as such. The only exception has been due to injury, specifically late in Engelland’s first season with the Flames after Mark Giordano went down with a season-ending biceps tear in February 2015.

On the third pairing, Engelland has been used in a primarily defensive role, which makes sense. Engelland has never had much of an offensive bent to his game; in fact, he’s never scored more than seven goals in a season going all the way back to his WHL days in Moose Jaw. Knowing how he’s been used, Engelland’s outputs have been passable, but certainly not spectacular since joining the Flames.

In terms of both possession and the eye test, this past season was Engelland’s best in Calgary. He played 81 games, was okay in his own zone, and outperformed his offensive zone start ratio. Sure, his $2.9 million cap hit was never good value, but Engelland had some decent stretches over the last three seasons, with 2016-17 being his best.

Last season also saw Engelland see a massive bump in his penalty killing responsibilities. After averaging around a minute of shorthanded time per game in two seasons under Bob Hartley, Engelland saw his PK time almost tripled in year one with Glen Gulutzan at the helm. Engelland finished second to Giordano on the team in shorthanded ice time and was one of the most heavily utilized PK players league-wide.

After being a fourth or fifth penalty kill option in his first two seasons with Calgary, Engelland was leaned on heavily by Gulutzan and Paul Jerrard in year three. As such, it shouldn’t surprise you to know he finished second on the team with 134 blocked shots.

What’s less difficult to track empirically is Engelland’s impact on the physical side. He plays a tough-as-nails brand of hockey and led the team with nine fighting majors last season. As a result, Engelland endeared himself to many fans, with his one-on-two savagery against Vancouver in the 2015 postseason being especially memorable.

Deliberation

When looking at a possession aggregate, Engelland has been one of Calgary’s least effective players since joining the team. While things were better last season, Engelland’s combined 44.2% shot attempt rate is among the worst on the team since 2014-15. For context, the only players worse have been Lance Bouma, Ladislav Smid, David Jones, and Kris Russell.

And, even though last season was his best with the Flames, he was still clearly a bottom pairing guy at best. To illustrate that, let’s take a look at the possession outputs for all of Calgary’s somewhat regular defencemen last year.

In terms of effectiveness at five-on-five, Engelland was in the same neighbourhood as Stone and Wideman and slightly better than Jokipakka and Bartkowski. At any given time last season, Engelland was the team’s fifth or sixth best defenceman.

As for his time on the penalty kill, I think there’s a worthwhile discussion to be had about whether he was the ideal guy to be getting the minutes he did. In charting the team’s blueliners at four-on-five last season, Engelland was on the ice for the most action against.

As you can see, Engelland was on the ice for more shorthanded Corsi events and goals against than any of Calgary’s other d-men. Yes, some of that can be explained by his heavy shorthanded workload and being deployed in his own end to start so many penalty kill shifts. But, knowing how guys like Hamilton and Brodie performed in man-down situations, it would have been interesting to see if they could have been better fits. So, yes, Engelland saw a ton of penalty kill time, but from what I saw with my own eye and from looking at the data, he seems to be a middle-of-the-road option at best.

Verdict

I believe it’s time for the Flames to move on from Engelland. The guy gave the team all he possibly could in his three seasons, but I think there are other options available, either within or outside the organization, that can do a similar job. At 35, I don’t think bringing Engelland back to play on the third pair makes a ton of sense.

Now, if Calgary was really in love with Engelland’s toughness and veteran influence, I guess seeing him back for another year at around $1 million wouldn’t be an absolute disaster. In saying that, though, I believe Brett Kulak is ready to be a full time NHLer and the Flames will likely be looking to upgrade their blueline in free agency, too. From a roster standpoint, I’m not sure if there’s a natural fit for Engelland.

Finally, let’s not forget the expansion angle. Engelland’s offseason home is Las Vegas and there has been plenty of speculation linking him to the Golden Knights. Signing there would be a nice story for Vegas, and could mean the Flames wouldn’t lose anyone in the expansion draft. Regardless, I think Engelland will find NHL work next season, but I’m just not sure it should be in Calgary.

  • buts

    Today’s game is about speed and smarts. After that line change by Engeland that gave the ducks a 3 on 0 cost the game I’d say bring up Ras or Kulak to take his spot.

  • Cfan in Van

    If he is UFA, how would his signing with Vegas prevent us from losing someone to expansion? Perhaps I’m missing something with regards to how the expansion pick works…

  • Jobu

    With Engelland gone, whos going to be Calgary’s slash repellent? Gio? All our other scrappers are on our top defense pairing (Gio), small-ish (Versteeg) or playing wing on the top line (Ferland). We’re going to need some more toughness on the bottom of the squad. Hathaway fits that bill pretty nicely plus can agitate like a mofo. Maybe a Holzier or a Postma as a UFA D?

    • OKG

      Slash repellant? Gotta love hockey fan imaginations. Engelland didn’t do **** to deter ****. Neither did Brouwer. Neither did Ferland (nor was he expected to).

      Gaudreau’s broken finger should be obvious evidence that you can’t expect players to police the game. Players are there to play the game.

  • Burnward

    Pretty sure I saw pics of him at a Golden Knights promo event already. He’s perfect for them.

    Will always have a tonne of respect for the way he played here.

  • OKG

    Better options than Deryk Engelland on the market:
    M. Stone
    R. Polak
    JM Liles
    B. Campbell
    M Hunwick
    P Postma
    K. Russell
    C. Franson
    M. Del Zotto
    D. McIlrath
    R. Stanton
    C. Billins
    J. Oesterle
    B. Gormley

    If Deryk Engelland is the best player Brad T can sign this offseason for our bottom pair I seriously question his due diligence. Engo is awful.

    • OKG

      To clarify, it’s not that Engelland is necessarily worse than these guys, but he isn’t better, and in addition he has “Coach’s Idol of Immunity” which makes him the worst option. No matter how much better Brodie, Stone, Kulak, or Hamilton perform, they just can’t seem to get the ice time that Engelland does. Nothing is earned, everything is given to Engelland and that’s what I take exception to.

      Also I would add J. Nakladal to above list.

      • Torchy

        I have no idea how you are comparing Engelland against the other guys on your list (Gormley?? C’mon man…) and especially confused by the icetime comments. Brodie and Hamilton both averaged more ice time than Engelland. So did Stone but it’s quite possible his ice time was high due to more playing time in Arizona.

        Clearly you don’t like the player, but it’s a bit dramatic to extrapolate you opinion as evidence of moral/intellectual dishonesty by management and coaching

    • BlueMoonNigel

      While you could cull your list by a lot, I do agree with you that if Engelland is wearing a Flames jersey this October, something very wrong happened between 01 July and the start of the regular season which Tre has to take full blame for. Three full months and a sack full of dough and he retains Engelland. Mercy. It would be the equivalent of Sutter re-signing FA Ollie Joke.

  • Just.Visiting

    I’ll start by giving credit where credit is due. He gives his best every game, provides functional toughness, seems to offer something on the leadership front and had a much better year in moving the puck in the transition game this season. That being said, my strong preference is that he not be brought back, while getting a positive ovation when he comes back for his first time in a visiting uniform (presumably LV). There were regularly problems in the defensive end with positioning and bad choices with the puck. There would also be a problem with this coaching staff going with the devil they know and giving him too much ice time if he were to return. There was a comment on an article the other day that I thought was very insightful. Signing a suboptimal player to a much more favourable contract is ultimately just signing a suboptimal player for less money. The team isn’t improved in any way because the price tag is lower. We need to get better, and Deryk doesn’t fit the get better narrative that we need to prepare optimally for 2018-2019.

  • freethe flames

    Good luck to him but if we read another article about him and the Flames then something is seriously wrong with Flames management.

    On a different topic; who should the Flames be looking at to fill the RW; many writers here suggest we should resign Versteeg RH but he seems to prefer the L side. Would there be an upside in pursuing Sam Gagner? He’s younger than Versteeg, thicker than Versteeg, can play center if needed and is also a RH shot who can play RW? I’m not saying I’m sold on the idea but he might be an affordable option as a UFA.

  • freethe flames

    I was wondering if the writers were going to do a series of articles on the teams that will need to be dealing with players prior to the expansion draft and what the Flames might be able to acquire to meet one of our needs a goaltender and a top 9 RW.

    • Kevin R

      Going to be real tough. The way it stands, we are totally ready for the expansion draft unless we acquire a Dman or to a lesser extent, a RW. I think the only way we see actual deal done prior to the expansion draft will be a goalie because we don’t really have anyone to protect. Just saying. I think Flames will be way busier at the NHL Draft.