You can understand why Calgary Flames fans are eager to see Kris Versteeg back under contract next season. Signed to a one-year deal on the eve of the regular season, Versteeg enjoyed a successful first year with the Flames and gave the team great value on a $950,000 cap hit. While bringing Versteeg back on a new contract makes a lot of sense, there are some interesting variables playing into his future with the team.
This is our final free agent profile of the offseason with what we’ve compiled for you so far linked below:
- RFA Profiles: Sam Bennett, Curtis Lazar, Alex Chiasson, Micheal Ferland
- UFA Profiles: Deryk Engelland, Michael Stone
While most agree the Flames should bring Versteeg back, let’s take a look at what a new deal might look like.
Versteeg came as advertised in his first season in Calgary: an offensive winger. During his decade in the league, Versteeg has never been known as a spectacular two-way player, but when put in offensive situations, he gets the job done.
Versteeg put up solid offensive numbers while averaging 14:43 of ice time per game in the regular season. From an initial underlying standpoint, he was rather pedestrian; Versteeg’s 47.5% shot rate was 15th on the team, even with the team’s fifth highest offensive zone start ratio. But that’s okay in Versteeg’s case knowing how productive he was.
Even with blasé possession outputs, head coach Glen Gulutzan played to Versteeg’s strengths by giving him plenty of offensive high ground. Additionally, Versteeg saw a ton of powerplay time, averaging 2:32 per game, the third highest among Calgary forwards. As such, Gulutzan was rewarded with one of the team’s more productive forwards. All scoring rates come courtesy Puckalytics.com.
Five-on-five, Versteeg gave the Flames solid value for his cap hit; his points-per-60 rate trailed only big time names Gaudreau, Tkachuk, Monahan, Backlund, Frolik, and Hamilton. Versteeg’s real wow factor came on the powerplay, however, as he was one of the team’s most consistently dangerous players when playing a man up. Calgary finished the year with the league’s 10th-best powerplay (20.2%) and a big reason for that was Versteeg’s work on the right flank.
It’s not like last season was a revelation for Versteeg. Over the last four seasons, Versteeg has played for five different teams (Florida, Chicago, Carolina, Los Angeles, Calgary), but one thing has remained constant: his ability to produce. Versteeg’s even strength scoring rates in 2016-17 fell right in line with what he’s done over the last four years.
Establishing the pattern above is important, just in case anyone thought Versteeg rode favourable percentages in year one with the Flames. In fact, Versteeg shot at 11% last season, which is slightly below his career average of 11.2%.
As for powerplay production, Versteeg’s 2016-17 outputs were higher than the norm: his 5.51 powerplay points-per-60 was well above his career average of 3.37. Even if those numbers dip a little bit over the next few seasons, though, it’s tough to dispute Versteeg’s sustained productivity, both five-on-five and on the powerplay.
So what does this all mean for Versteeg’s next contract? Well, because his situation was somewhat unique, coming up with comparables was a little more difficult than with other players. Remember, Versteeg was set to go to Switzerland last summer before running into insurance issues; he’d eventually go to camp with the Oilers on a PTO before signing with Calgary. As such, the Flames got Versteeg at the cap-friendly price of $950,000.
While I don’t think he’s going to break the bank on his next deal, I do think Versteeg is in line for a raise, especially if he does end up going to free agency. In doing my research, the best comparable I came up with is a familiar one: Lee Stempniak.
Playing on a bargain basement one year, $850,000 contract in 2015-16, Stempniak posted solid numbers in New Jersey and did the same in Boston following a deadline day deal. As a result, Stempniak cashed in with Carolina last summer for two years at $2.5 million per. A lot of what we saw from Stempniak heading into free agency last summer applies to Versteeg this time around.
Stempniak signed his latest two-year deal at the age of 33 and gave the Hurricanes a nice season in year one (82 GP, 16 G, 24 A, 40 PTS). That should be encouraging for Flames fans if Versteeg, who turned 31 last month, ends up signing a similar deal with the team this summer.
I think a deal similar to Stempniak’s will be enough to keep Versteeg in Calgary. At this point in his career, Versteeg has identified staying close to his hometown of Lethbridge as a priority, so the Flames have an inherent advantage right off the hop. He said as much when I talked to him at the end of the season.
“Obviously being at home, being around my friends and family, is the most important thing to me,” Versteeg said. “If it happens that’s great, obviously if it doesn’t happen, it’s a business and you move on. But 100%, being at home is my main priority”
A $2.5 million cap hit seems reasonable to me, as does a two year term. And, knowing how important playing close to home is, Calgary might be able to get that AAV down a little bit. Regardless, once the expansion draft is put to bed, I can’t see any reason why the Flames and Versteeg won’t come to a contract agreement somewhere in that ballpark.