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?
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.
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.
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?