With free agency opening soon, the NHL’s buyout period is nearing its end. And the Calgary Flames have decided to take advantage of it, electing to terminate Lance Bouma’s contract in the final year of his three-year, $6.6 million deal. He has been placed on unconditional waivers to be bought out.
The Bouma contract was a horrible one from the second it was inked, its only saving grace being that it wasn’t at a higher cap hit.
To the player’s credit, he was coming off of a one-year, $775k “show me” deal for the 2014-15 season. And in a way, he did show the team what he was capable of, spending the second half of the season playing in the top six and scoring 16 goals and 34 points along the way.
But just because he had one good season didn’t mean he had properly shown anyone anything. Was it a good story that his 16 goals were the most he’d scored ever, including during his four seasons in the WHL? Sure – but it was ultimately meaningless. Bouma’s shooting percentage skyrocketed to 15.4% out of nowhere, and while there was an attempt at justifying it by saying he’d worked with a shooting coach, ultimately, it was nothing more than a blip.
A blip further pushed by the fact that he was on Mikael Backlund’s wing, and it was Backlund doing much of the work that make him look good. Once Bouma was off of Backlund’s line, his numbers predictably sunk. (And as for the question of why not just continue to play Bouma with Backlund in order to help Bouma? Because it would have hurt Backlund. Compare Backlund’s numbers with Matthew Tkachuk on his left instead – a 50-point season and fourth in Selke voting – and it speaks volumes to just how much you need to play good players with good players, rather than saddle them with poor ones in desperation they’ll help.)
But the Flames bought in to Bouma’s year. It may have taken a bit of edging – Bouma did file for arbitration, and a hearing was held – but they did.
And it was probably in arbitration they made their silliest mistake. They’d been through the hearing and were waiting for the arbitrator’s decision. An arbitrator not only decides how much money the player will get, but how long his contract will be: one or two years.
The Flames jumped the gun on the arbitrator’s decision and inked Bouma to a three-year deal on their own. If they had simply waited for what the arbitrator would decide, his contract would be over by now, and he’d be an unrestricted free agent through passive means, rather than via forcing a buyout.
Either way, though, it appears Bouma’s time as a Flame has officially come to an end. He will cost $666,667 on the cap this season, and $766,667 on the cap next season. More importantly, an underachieving player has been removed from the roster, opening a chance for someone else.
This post is a little harsh on Bouma. After all, absolutely any one of us would have signed the contract he was offered without a moment’s thought. And his struggles weren’t entirely on him – he missed a number of games over the past two seasons due to fluke injuries.
But he also followed up that 34-point season with 14 points over the next two years, all the while not really contributing anything else on the ice. It was unacceptable. And with prospects starting to push for spots, not to mention the relatively cheap cap penalty the Flames will take, this is as good a time as any to bid farewell.
If there’s one positive that came out of Bouma’s contract, it was likely that it was a major lesson for Brad Treliving. When Joe Colborne had a career year with 44 points in the 2015-16 season, Treliving had the option to re-sign him. Colborne shot at 19.0% that year. Treliving passed, not even qualifying him. Colborne scored eight points for Colorado this past season.
If an otherwise medicore player suddenly breaks out with an abnormally high shooting percentage while spending a lot of time on Backlund’s line, chances are they aren’t actually going to be worth their future contract, after all.
Also, Ryan Murphy is being bought out the day after the Flames acquired him, for reasons. He’ll carry a cap hit of $100,000 this upcoming season and $137,500 in 2018-19.