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Flames blueline will be cheaper, younger (and likely better) in 2017-18

When the Calgary Flames began the 2016-17 season, hopes were high. Unfortunately, those hopes were almost undone by a rough start propelled by some uneven defensive play and shoddy goaltending. After spending a ton of money on their blueline group last season, the Flames have made a ton of changes to the blueline group that broke camp last fall.

All signs point to their blueline being cheaper, younger and probably better in this coming season.

The 2016-17 group

Player Age Cap Hit
T.J. Brodie 26 $4.65 million
Deryk Engelland 34 $2.917 million
Mark Giordano 32 $6.75 million
Dougie Hamilton 23 $5.75 million
Jyrki Jokipakka 24 $900,000
Brett Kulak 22 $656,000
Dennis Wideman 33 $5.25 million
Average 27.7 $3.84 million
Total $26.87 million

Including the cap space used on Ladislav Smid (who was on the long-term injured reserve all season) and the partial cap hits for the other blueliners they used (Rasmus Andersson, Matt Bartkowski, Niklas Grossmann, Michael Stone and Tyler Wotherspoon), the Flames used up $30.9 million of cap space on defensemen.

The 2017-18 group

Player Age Cap Hit
Matt Bartkowski 29 $612,500
T.J. Brodie 27 $4.65 million
Mark Giordano 33 $6.75 million
Travis Hamonic 26 $3.857 million
Dougie Hamilton 24 $5.75 million
Brett Kulak 23 TBA
Michael Stone 27 $3.5 million
Average 27.0 $4.19 million
Total $25.12 million

The cap hit figures obviously don’t include Brett Kulak, who hasn’t signed yet, or the $100,000 buyout cap hit for Ryan Murphy. Presuming Kulak gets roughly $750,000, the combined cap hit would be around $25.97 million (for an average of $3.71 million).

They’re a little bit younger (0.7 years) and a little bit cheaper ($130,000 per player) than they were a year ago. But are they better?

Comparison

Let’s go pairing by pairing.

Top pair:

  • 2016-17: Giordano & Hamilton (well, eventually…)
  • 2017-18: Giordano & Hamilton
  • Advantage: At worst it’s a push, but presumably the built-in chemistry of these guys will get them going even faster than last season.

Second pair:

  • 2016-17: Brodie & Wideman
  • 2017-18: Brodie & Hamonic
  • Advantage: Unquestionably the newer pair is better.

Third pair:

  • 2016-17: Jokipakka (or Kulak) & Engelland
  • 2017-18: Kulak (or Bartkowski) & Stone
  • Advantage: This year’s pair is younger and more mobile, so slight advantage to the newer pair.

Sum it up

All in all, the Flames have quietly done a pretty good job upgrading their blueline – with the majority of the new faces in the fold being acquired since mid-February. They’ve gotten younger and cheaper, and are arguably better (or at least as good) in all three defensive pairings.

Now all they have to do is play the games.

  • KobasewYa

    They’ve gotten better because what they had before in that bottom 3 was truly awful. There’s really no statistical evidence that Stone is going to be an upgrade over Engelland and while I like Harmonic, he’s still not a sure thing going into this season.

      • freethe flames

        Any good orthopedic surgeon will tell you it takes at least a full year to be fully recovered from significant knee surgery. Stone should be better just for that. The problem after the top 6 is beyond Bart there is no NHl experience. I have confidence that Andersson will be NHL ready this season, Tspoon has to step up and be better and I believe Kylington could be ready by seasons end.

        The problem remains for me is that our 4th line headlined by Stajan and Brouwer will be an anchor going forward. Brouwer needs to have a significant bounce back or he needs to be an overpaid popcorn eater. I am not convinced that Smith and Lack are the answers in net but I’m prepared to see where this goes,

  • Just.Visiting

    Actually, huge advantage on the third pair and better on the PK with Stone over Engelland too. Of course, this is based on what my eyes told me in terms of positional play and what appeared to be fewer mistakes in the D zone.

  • Captain Ron

    Compared to last year this group of D has to be better but just like any other year it will come down to goal tending. Is Smith and Lack an improvement? If Smith can still play at a high level and stay healthy, and Lack can win more than he loses in a backup role we are looking good. I’m optimistic we will be better when factoring in some improvement of the younger players but time will tell.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    Hamonic was used to shut down top offensive units in the metro last year. That was a hard as hell job to have last year and so I don’t trust his stats.

    I think his heavy hitting defensively responsible style will pair beautifully with the lighter offensive style of d that Brodie plays. I think that pairing will be more than a little bit of an upgrade over last year. Shall see about thay though.

    • Joe Flames

      Look for both Harmonic and Stone to improve this year.
      You have to remember that Harmonic was playing top pairing in new york against the best lines every game. Here he is the #4D, so should fare much better against lower quality competition.
      Likewise, Stone was probably overmatched as a second-pairing D last year, this year he #5D and should be fine in that role.
      Good to know that both these guys have experience playing up the roster so can fill in short-term if we have injuries. Our D will be much better this year.