One down, one to go.
As we quickly approach the start of training camp – the Penticton Young Stars Classic is only three days away! – the Calgary Flames still have a bit of housekeeping to do in the form of re-signing some young restricted free agents. One item is sorting out Sam Bennett’s new contract, which has not happened yet.
The other? Getting Tyler Wotherspoon re-signed – which he now is, to a one-year, two-way deal, worth $650,000 at the NHL level.
This is a good, cheap, “show us” deal for Wotherspoon, who enters his fourth contract with the Flames. It’s a slight bump in pay from his 2016-17 salary, which saw him carry a $625,000 cap hit at the NHL level. Wotherspoon only played four games in the NHL this past season, however, registering no points.
He played 56 games for the Stockton Heat in a top role, scoring six goals and 18 points: the third highest-scoring Heat defender, after Oliver Kylington and Rasmus Andersson.
If you’re thinking, “Hey, this sounds familiar,” then you’re right – it’s the exact same contract Brett Kulak has. And this comes as something of a reminder that the Flames’ sixth defenceman has not yet been officially decided, nor has the seventh, for that matter.
The three assumed contenders for the two remaining spots in the Flames’ backend lineup are Kulak, Wotherspoon, and Matt Bartkowski. Kulak should have the biggest edge to be a regular, but nothing is set in stone – and if Wotherspoon can come roaring out to a strong camp, then he could find himself at long last with an NHL job, something he has yet to establish with 30 NHL games played over four seasons.
Bartkowski has an edge to perhaps stay on the NHL roster due to his status as a veteran – while Kulak and Wotherspoon have played 30 NHL games each, Bartkowski has played 235 – and just how easy it would be to have him not play. He’s not really an investment at this point; Bartkowski was acquired to fulfill a quota for the expansion draft, and at 29 years of age, he isn’t about to get any better.
Then again, Wotherspoon, 24, may himself be running out of chances.
Either way, this is a simple, smart signing for the Flames. If something befalls Kulak – perhaps injury, perhaps simply not being at expected levels yet, perhaps something else entirely unforeseen – then Wotherspoon is likely the next most NHL-ready defender the Flames have who should be able to fill a bottom pairing role with little issue. And at the same price tag, the Flames can be free of any cap headaches.