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WWYD Wednesday – Sign a vet or promote a kid?

For a short while, it seemed that Brad Treliving’s last big move in free agency would be to sign 35-year-old winger Patrick Sharp. A former impact forward coming off a down year, Sharp is a decent rebound candidate despite his age. That he was available for cheap made him a good target for the Flames.

At the last minute, Sharp decided to return to the Chicago Blackhawks, leaving Treliving with no more priority targets on the market. There are a handful of veteran right wingers still available, but each day tends to erode the list of viable guys a little more.

On the other hand, Calgary has enough bodies up front to start the season. Even with Lance Bouma’s buyout, the Flames should be able to ice a reasonable forward group come October, even if Treliving decides not to take another dip in the UFA pool.

So what you do? Sign a vet or give the kids a chance?

The kids

Let’s take stock of how the Flames’ depth chart looks today:

Gaudreau – Monahan – Ferland

Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik

Versteeg – Bennett – ?

? – Stajan – Brouwer

The current candidates to fill the question marks above are:

1.) Curtis Lazar, C/RW

Calgary’s trade deadline acquisition can play both C and RW and is likely to make the team out of camp since he’s now waiver eligible. The 22-year-old is coming off a dreadful season marked by illness (mono) and inconsistency. The decision makers seem confident that Lazar can find his footing and become a useful everyday NHLer, so he might get to play with Sam Bennett and Kris Versteeg out of the gate.

2.) Spencer Foo, RW

This year’s prized college free agent decided to come to Calgary, in part because of the organization’s lackluster depth on right wing. That perceived opportunity might play into the 23-year-old’s hands right away if the Flames fail to sign any more veterans. Assuming Foo can make an impact in training camp, he might get the chance to play with Bennett on the third line instead of Lazar.

3.) Mark Jankowski, C

Stockton’s best forward last year turns 23 this September and is clearly knocking on the door. A big, two-way center with good puck distribution skills, the org has waited a long time for Janko to arrive. Although he’s not really a winger, the team might be willing to shift him to the left side in order to get him some time in the show. Or, alternatively, they could bump Matt Stajan to the wing in order to keep Janko down the middle.

4.) Freddie Hamilton, C/RW

Dougie’s older brother is the very definition of a fringe NHLer, but the team likes him well enough that he could be penciled in as a fourth line winger or 13th forward. He could also bump Stajan to the left wing if the team is more comfortable keeping Troy Brouwer on the fourth line (otherwise Hamilton bumps him up with Bennett).

5.) Hunter Shinkaruk, LW

Coming off a well above average season last year, some expected that Shinkaruk might press for an NHL job in training camp last September. That didn’t happen and the former Canucks prospect struggled to replicate his success in Stockton, at times struggling with consistency in the AHL and rarely making an impact during his few call-ups to Calgary.

Shinkaruk will be waiver-eligible this year, so he has to make a strong push to become a regular NHLer. If that happens, maybe he can snag the last open spot on LW.

The vets

As for the old folks, here’s what’s left on the dwindling free agent market:

1.) Jaromir Jagr, RW

Yes he’s 45 years old and yes he’s not the fleetest of foot anymore, but Jagr is still an impact forward. That can change at any moment given his age, but for a one-year deal, he might be worth a shot.

Jagr could either fill the spot next to Sam Bennett or skate with Monahan and Gaudreau, bumping Micheal Ferland back down the depth chart.

2.) Drew Stafford, RW

A big guy at 6’4″, 215 pounds, Drew Stafford is coming off one of his worst seasons in the league that saw him manage just eight goals and 21 points in 58 games. A former 20+ goal, 50+ point guy, Stafford has been an okay middle rotation forward in the past, although the last time he eclipsed either of those totals was 2011-12.

He’s not nearly the player Jagr is (not even a 45-year-old Jagr), but Stafford might be a better bet than an untested kid.

3.) Alex Chiasson, RW

Remember him? Treliving walked away from Chiasson as an RFA due to the player’s arbitration rights, but wouldn’t rule out bringing Chiasson back as a free agent.

The Flames know what they get with the former Senator: a bottom rotation guy who can slide up the depth chart (briefly) if needed and is a decent PKer. Chiasson doesn’t have the hands to be an everyday impact guy, but he did put up some of the better underlying numbers of any Flames depth players last season.

4.) Jarome Iginla, RW

Alright, let’s talk about it… Iggy is still available, he wants to play next season, and he’ll probably come cheap. That’s the good news. The bad news is Jarome probably isn’t capable of a regular even strength shift anymore. He can still put up points and is probably a better than average trigger man on the PP, but he will give it all back and more if you run him in the top nine at five-on-five.

Besides his need to be carefully managed, the other question mark when it comes to Iginla is… does he really want to come back to Calgary?

5.) Shane Doan, RW

Shane Doan is the other functional 40-year-old on the market. The Coyotes’ long time captain was finally given his walking papers by Arizona this summer, leaving him to look for a new home for the first time in his NHL career (aside from that whole Winnipeg Jets moving to the desert thing).

Although he managed 28 goals and 47 points the previous season, Doan’s scoring slipped to just six goals and 27 points last year. Is that father time finally catching up to Doan? Or was he a victim of the Coyotes’ admittedly bad depth and terrible season?

Like Jagr and Iginla, Doan probably isn’t the quickest player, but if you believe he can contribute in a support role for a better team, he might be an option.

6.) P.A. Parenteau, RW

The NHL’s Rodney Dangerfield. Although P.A. Parenteau routinely puts up better than average shooting and points rates, the 34-year-old is perpetually looking for work every summer. Whether that means there’s some detriment to his game that modern measures don’t catch or there’s something wrong with the player off the ice, we can only speculate.

His underlying numbers slipped last year after many seasons of consistency, so it could be that the player is finally hitting the wall. If he rebounds, Parenteau is probably capable depth. If not, he’ll be battle Brouwer for time on the fourth line.

7.) Daniel Winnik, C/LW

The big 32-year-old is one of the best bottom six possession players in the league. You’ll never get much offense from Winnik, but he can push the play in a defensive role, which can be a valuable commodity at the bottom of the rotation.

The Flames don’t need a C or LW as much as a RW at this point, but Winnik is there if management feels like they another grizzled “big body” who can play.

8.) Brandon Pirri, C/LW/RW

A guy who always puts up better than average goal rates, Brandon Pirri is a pure triggerman. As in, he’s not very good at anything else, which is why he tends to bounce around the league.

Pirri only managed eight goals in 60 games for the Rangers in a support role, but he’s the kind of guy who can put the puck in the net in the right circumstances. Is that enough to give him a chance in Calgary on a cheap deal?

9.) Thomas Vanek, LW/RW

Speaking of triggermen, Thomas Vanek can still put points on the board at a pretty good pace. The problem is, he’s a terrible defensive liability and known for his poor effort and consistency issues. That said, Vanek still scored 17 goals and 48 points for a mediocre Detroit Red Wings team last year and is “only” 33 – young enough that he may still have some gas in the tank.

Vanek is the type of guy who could skate with Monahan and Gaudreau and score 25 – or stink the joint out and be a healthy scratch by midseason.

10.) Jussi Jokinen, C/LW

In 2015-16, Jussi Jokinen scored 18 goals and 60 points for the surprising Florida Panthers. He failed to replicate that level of output this season, leading the new/old management regime to buy him out of his contract.

The interesting thing about Jokinen is he still sports above average numbers across the board aside from his goal scoring:

On top of that, Jokinen is also a capable faceoff man, winning over 52% of his faceoffs last year.

The fact that he is a natural C and a left shot probably means there isn’t a spot for him here, but the Flames could do a lot worse for veteran depth if they decided to find a way to squeeze Jokinen into the lineup. Particularly since he can likely be signed for peanuts.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve seen the options, which way would you go if you were the Flames GM? Rely on the organization’s prospects to fill the gaps? Or get at least one more cagey veteran to buttress Calgary’s depth?

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  • Fan the Flames

    The more I think about it I am inclined to leave the spots open to allow a young player in the lineup the players in the system need to know if they do the right things they have an opportunity in this organization .

  • Al Rain

    Niederreiter is going to arbitration and the Wild need cap space. I wonder if the they’d take a couple of prospects (Andersson, Shinkaruk…) for him. Of course we’d have to magically ditch some 4.5m from our payroll…

      • RealMcHockeyReturns

        Sorry Flames actually have cap room with him if we include someone making at least 1.75M like Versteeg (he would not want that), Brouwer (even if some salary retained…we wish!), or Stone (but would they re-sign him after him being loyal then trade him?). Otherwise we are looking at sendiung Brodie, Ferland (and does not move enough salary) or someone good to Minny to get Neiderreiter.

  • Lucky 13

    Thanks Pike.. didn’t Parenteau get picked up by the Rangers?

    We need to graduate some of our prospects, Janko, Foo and Lazar have the best chances of making the club this year.
    I’d like to see Lomberg make a push this year as well.

    Not really sold on another veteran, can we evaluate our prospects before vets please?

  • Parallex

    Another legitimate NHL’er please. Our window is open Jankowski can log big minutes as 1C in Stockton and be at the ready for a recall & Foo is to much of an unknown. Get those guys some more minor-pro experience for next year (When veteran UFA & Stajan’s deals expire).

    • Joe Flames

      I would like to see one young guy get a shot, but not two. Sign a veteran bottom six guy. I would love to see Iggy finish out back in Calgary. He would be fine as a 4th line RW and PP guy.

  • everton fc

    Not my preference, but logically, “on paper” , barring no more moves (Brouwer)…

    I think Lazar makes the team. I hope Jankowski and Hathaway do, as well. And Freddie. But there are only three spots…

    I wonder if they can move Brouwer? But I get this feeling they have no intention of moving him, he’ll slot in yet again as 3rd line RW, Lazar centre’s the 4th line, Stajan plays LW and one of Foo and Hathaway battle it our for 4th line RW, w/Freddie as the extra forward. Everyone else spends another year in the “A”, or they are moved…

    If they can move Brouwer and pick up Neiderreiter for Anderrson and Shinkaruk, a pick would have been nice to have, as well, to make this happen. Alas….

    • Puckhead

      I can’t see why Ras will be moved. He’s got to be one of the more ‘untouchable’ guys on the farm and his age (20) makes him a perfect candidate to be part of the teams succession plan on D, where older guys will ultimately be fazed out and replaced.

      • Al Rain

        The back end is stacked and the forwards need some help so you trade from a position of strength. And not all of our high-end D prospects will play on the Flames blueline – some of them are currency.

        I suspect that Treliving’s knowing he was going to land Foo (probably the equivalent of a first rounder) for free allowed him to draft Valimaki rather than a forward. If that turns into being able to turn Andersson into a trade chip for a top guy like Neiderreiter, I think you do it.

        • Ole YELLEr

          Valimaki is a ld Andersson is RD, unless I’m forgetting someone Andersson is our only RD close to being NHL ready. On the left side we have Kulak, Tspoon, Klyington and possibly Healey and OEM. If the Flames do trade a D prospect it probably should be a lefty. The only problem is Klyington is probably the only one worth much and with his potential ceiling I wouldn’t want to move him at this point.

          • piscera.infada

            Adam Fox is a right-handed D prospect. But yeah, your point stands–I also agree about Kylington. I do think with regard to chasing Neiderreiter, the Flames need to have enough forethought to realize what that would likely do to their cap moving forward. Even if they had the assets to get a deal done there (which I doubt), I’m not sure they would want to acquire an arbitration case with the possibility of a large cap-hit moving forward.

          • Puckhead

            I know but unless management knows for sure there is some risk there that may need to be taken into account. Obviously we all want him to sign, there is no indication to state otherwise, Tre seems to be very adept at signing players up, and college players seem to want to play here.

            Good RHD are hard to find and Ras appears to be trending towards being a top line D-man. He is signed and is a certainty. You do not trade a guy like Ras, or Fox for that matter.

          • piscera.infada

            Good RHD are hard to find and Ras appears to be trending towards being a top line D-man. He is signed and is a certainty. You do not trade a guy like Ras, or Fox for that matter.

            I won’t argue that, but the reason is not “because Fox won’t (or might not) sign”.

  • Puckhead

    One would assume that Freddie should get the 13th forward position. He is what he is and won’t improve by being sent down. He played fine when given the opportunity and was not a liability – an overall safe bet in who seemed ok with his role last season.

  • Lucky 13

    I don’t want to be negative here , however how many players are we hoping have a bounce back season?
    Brouwer … he’s too slow and kills every possession .. hope that changes, probably not

    Lazar… we hope his stint in Ottawa was an anomaly

    Mike Smith… hoping he doesn’t have any injuries
    Eddie Lack…Is he capable of being a backup ?

    Hamonic.. love the guy, hoping he returns to former self

    Stone… same

    There’s a lot of IFS surrounding our team right now. I’m sure our remaining prospects would be able to provide just as much as a grizzled vet… we overrate NHL veterans and don’t give enough credit to our youth in our system. Time to change the guard, don’t you think?

  • Ole YELLEr

    Go with the kids all the way. You have to figure Lazar will be on the nhl roster and probably be in the opening day line up barring a bad preseason. Leave a spot (or 2 if Lazar struggles) for Shinkaruk, Jankowski, Poirier, Foo, Pribyll or maybe even Klimchuk, Mangiapanne or Lomberg to fight over. I’d be fine with a fa or pto to be an extra forward/ahl depth but it’s time for some of our older prospects to sink or swim imo.

  • Jobu

    The only FA names here that make sense to me are Jokinen and Winnik if the price is right. You don’t hire a career 1st or 2nd liner and expect them to play a bottom 6 role.

  • DKramer

    I’m not a Brouwer supporter, but can it really be as bad next year? Well, I mean of course it can with how bad he was this year. But a slight bounce back I expect. Not 20 goals by any stretch. But just less bad I suppose. GG knows the forward core now and Brouwer won’t be starting in a role that involves players 10x better than he is. Being sheltered start to finish of the season theoretically should help him right?

  • Backburner

    This doesn’t look horrible.. just sayin..

    Gaudreau – Monahan – Ferland
    Jokinen – Backlund – Frolik
    Tkachuk – Bennett – Lazar
    Versteeg – Stajan – Brouwer

  • Ole YELLEr

    I know we’re talking about forwards here, but after reading up on dev camp I realized I forgot about the Healey signing. I wonder if he’s a dark horse to make Flames out of camp or as a call up this year? Healey and Stone could be a very physical 3rd pairing.

  • Kevin R

    I see Ferly is going to arbitration, curious to see how that impacts any decision. Maybe if Tre doesn’t like the ask from the Ferly camp, maybe he & Kylington would be enough to get Niederreter? Otherwise, keep the spots open & see how camp slots out. I would try to see if Bennett, Tacks & Versteeg can get a line going & I would see if Janko can slot in with Backlund & I have no problem seeing Lazar centring Brouwer & Stajan on the 4th line.
    The one kid I think can take a run at this is Foo. But ultimately I think Foo Fighter needs to Learn to Fly first :->

    • Ole YELLEr

      It’s my understanding that if a team and player go to arbitration the team gets to chose either 1 or 2 years term. If this is correct I can’t see any ruling in Ferland’s favour the Flames can’t fit under the cap for 1 season. I love Ferland and think he’ll have his best season yet (especially if he plays 1RW), but as of now 15 goals and 25 points are his career highs. I can’t see him being awarded over 2.5. So, other than potentially souring the relationship between team and player it isn’t something I’d worry about. I fully expect the flames to sign him for 3 years for 2.5 or less. Kassian is probably a decent comparable and i think he signed at 1.9 per for 3 years.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I am curious to know how people think that Foo could jump Janko in the depth chart. They are close in age but one player has played a year of Pro with great success while the other is fresh off a season in college. Janko has been used as a RW. I don’t see the need to bring in any re-treads as enticing as it may be.

  • loudogYYC

    I say sign Jokinen, promote Klimchuk and let him and Lazar earn the roster spot. As the season advances bring up Janko and start removing Stajan from the lineup.
    We’re stuck with Brouwer so may as well improve the quality of his linemates.

  • Just.Visiting

    We have perhaps two spots in play up front, with one of those spots realistically being on the fourth line. We have a pool of potentially viable forward candidates that includes Janko, Lazar, Foo, Shink, Klimchuk, Lomberg, with Hathaway and Freddie in the mix as extra pieces.

    The concern is that one of our prospects would be unable to take top nine minutes so we should target a vet who in a best case scenario would offer 35-40 points instead?

    If we’re planning on becoming a serious contender with a window beyond one year, the answer is obvious that you try to make it work with the prospect. The bulked up Janko offers a solid defensive game and hands. He’s about as safe as it gets for a role on the Mikes line, for example. Will he give as many points this season as a player whose best years are undoubtedly behind him? May be, may be not, but I think that the experience in year one sets them up for a higher level of performance in subsequent years.

    That there was a perceived need to write this article at all reinforces the degree to which there are serious concerns about the Flames’ approach to player development and prospect usage once you move beyond the no brainer prospects.

    The bury them in the press box/give very few minutes approach to the AHL call ups is the most obvious example of that. Not playing Janko one game at home before sending him down when the fans really wanted to see him also reinforced that approach to asset management.

    The other aspect of some concern is the bias to the “new shiny thing”. Lazar and, to a lesser extent, Foo should actually be in the pack with everyone else, as neither has actually done anything yet.