50
Photo Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Is there a Flames future for Matt Stajan or Kris Versteeg?

Matt Stajan and Kris Versteeg find themselves in very similar situations this summer. Both veteran forwards are pending unrestricted free agents and both face uncertain futures with the Flames. It’s unlikely Calgary will re-sign both players, but you can make a case for one of the two returning on an affordable contract. Who’s case is better, though?

Today’s piece on Versteeg and Stajan can be added to the list of free agent profiles we’ve compiled already. It’s not as lengthy list as in years past, but this is what we’re looking at thus far:

THE CASE FOR

The case for bringing Stajan back for another season goes beyond the emotional ties he’s forged with Flames fans over the last eight years. He’s actually coming off a fairly effective season as Calgary’s fourth line centre, regardless of how much money he was making.

GP CF% OZS%
68 52.2 39.8

In a very specific role, Stajan did the job he was tasked to do effectively. He was a plus possession player by a decent margin despite seeing the lowest number of offensive zone starts on the team. Regardless of age, role, or contract, there’s a value in what Stajan accomplished last year and no other player was more effective as the team’s fourth line centre.

Versteeg, on the other hand, has impacted the team very differently in his two years. While Stajan has done a solid job as a defensive forward, the Flames have used Versteeg in an offensively slanted role and he’s put up decent numbers in the process. Specifically, Versteeg has excelled on the powerplay as judged by his scoring rates from last season per Natural Stat Trick.

G60 Rank A60 Rank P60 Rank
0.81 7th 3.22 3rd 4.03 4th

It’s tough to deny the work Versteeg has done on the man advantage, especially when you take into account how bad the team was following his injury in late November. If Calgary was to sign Versteeg to another deal, he’d likely be used as somewhat of a powerplay specialist once again.

Both players have some off-ice things working for them, too. Stajan is as well respected inside that locker room as anyone and he’d be welcomed back with open arms. Versteeg, well also well liked, carries with him the cache of being a multiple Stanley Cup winner. Some value that highly, some think it’s overrated, but it’s also fact: Versteeg has two Cup rings.

THE CASE AGAINST

Let’s be honest, neither Stajan nor Versteeg are on the right side of the NHL’s age curve at this point.; the former turns 35 in December while the latter turned 32 earlier in May. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for players in this age range to get work these days, which will obviously work against them. If the Flames are looking to get younger and faster up and down the lineup, these two guys likely don’t fit the bill.

While Versteeg still has some offensive upside, specifically on the powerplay, Stajan isn’t going to bring much to the table in that regard anymore. If Stajan is going to play in Calgary, or any NHL city, next season, it’s going to be in a very similar role to what was saw this season. Additionally, Stajan may have seen his last days as an everyday player and may instead need to adjust to a “13th forward” role.

After the last two seasons, durability is one of the biggest concerns for Versteeg. Thanks to the aforementioned lower body injury he suffered in November, Versteeg played just 24 games this season; he got into 69 games during his first season with the Flames. At different times in his career we’ve seen Versteeg get close to 82 games, but that’s been less frequent over the last few years. With so many miles on his chassis, injuries will likely be a concern for the rest of Versteeg’s NHL career.

Finally, we’re talking about two players who may have some struggles keeping up to speed going forward. Watching teams like Winnipeg, Nashville, and Vegas excel in the 2018 postseason makes you wonder if Stajan and Versteeg have the legs to play at that pace. On top of being on the other side of the age curve, neither player has ever possessed top end NHL speed.

CONCLUSION

There’s a good chance neither Stajan nor Versteeg are back with the Flames next season, and you can understand the reasoning. Calgary has already overhauled their coaching staff and is looking to improve significantly upon their disappointing 2017-18 campaign. Re-signing veteran bit players isn’t really the way to accomplish that.

Seeing both players back next year would be a head scratcher for me, but I do think there’s an interesting conversation to be had about re-signing one of them. I’d lean towards Stajan in that scenario for a few reasons: he fills a specific role, he wants to be in Calgary, and he’d almost certainly be okay with taking a reduced role.

  • Off the wall

    I love Stajan and Versteeg, let me say that first.

    In today’s NHL, speed has become the dominant theme.
    Neither one will fit this team if we’re moving forward…

      • Cfan in Van

        Both being established family men in Calgary, I’m assuming that remaining in town would be their priority at this point, if they’re not under contract as players.

    • deantheraven

      I hear they may be looking in Stockton.. But Both these guys want to stay in Calgary.
      It’s fair to say “1 but not both”, but if other roster moves are made to allow space for the likes of Mangiapane, Foo, Klimchuk, Phillips, or even the nearly-deads Poirier and Shinkaruk, those two would be a good 13/14 to have. At a reasonable price, too, I bet.

      • deantheraven

        These ‘other roster moves’ might serve to ‘change the culture’, as many here seem to think is necessary (and when I say ‘here’, I don’t mean just FN Faithful. Tre seems to be hinting at it a lot in interviews).
        There’s something to be said for having a bona fide Cup Winner (x2) in your room, and Steeger brings that experience plus undeniable chirping prowess.
        And nobody’s ever accused Stajan of being anything less than a consummate pro, a good mentor, a great team guy, etc…
        If you don’t sign one of the two, who will take the 13/14th spots? If they come from within, I’d be ok with Hrivik in one of those roles (although I believe he has much more to show). And I suppose Hathaway could also be a solid 13/14 at a reasonable price, but his physical edge would need to be replaced, too. The rest of the prospects need to play, and to be seen playing for a lot of games. There are too many guys in the ‘A’ that need time in the NHL to be truly evaluated. That seems to be a recurring theme in BPeters’ and Tre’s “out loud” talk. It seems like they’re willing to give the kids a chance. To Play.
        So, if you don’t replace the 13/14th FWD from within, who do you bring in to be Staj and Steeger, and at what price(s)? If the Flames find a replacement (or two) for a top 6 player, my money says they won’t be only looking at analitics, they’ll be seeking character. There’s a need and a desire to reform some chemistry, some culture, and if they see 1 or 2 players that will upgrade the team on and off the ice, that’s who we’ll see starting in October.
        Staj and Steeger can stay, as long as someone else goes.
        Go on, ask me who.

  • redwhiteblack

    Life in the NHL is so very short. Most don’t outlast a dog’s lifetime. It is a who is younger and faster reality.

    If these 2 are done certainly Brouwer should be.

  • I wouldn’t bring either back, but I’m glad you acknowledged the value that Stajan brought to the team. I saw a lot of people mad that he would be in the lineup, and I think it was for sure only because of his contract. And I get that. You don’t pay 4th liners as much money as Stajan made. But you can’t deny on-ice he was an ideal 4th liner, especially when he was saddled with wingers that likely shouldn’t have even been in the NHL.

    Nick Shore should be back as the 4th line center next year, and that’s the right move, so he’ll make Stajan superfluous, but I think it’s important to give Matty Franchise some kinds words as his NHL career likely comes to an end.

  • JMK

    Even though I like both players, I hope neither are re-signed. You have to imagine a scenario where BT adds to the top 6 (externally), whether that’s a centre like RoR, Tav or a RW. Once that happens where is the room for prospects like Mangiapane, Dube, Foo, etc? And that’s without adding Stajan and/or Versteeg back into the fold. The only way I could see either of these guys coming back is if there is a large enough exodus from the forward ranks. Problem with that is Calgary has a few ‘untouchables’ and the ‘touchables’ all have low value right now. Random forward ranks to show the lack of room:

    Gaudreau – Monahan – RW
    Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
    Bennett – Jankowski – Ferland
    Mangiapane – Shore – Lazar
    Brouwer/Hathaway (Foo, Dube pushing)

    or

    Bennett – New C – Tkachuk
    Gaudreau – Monahan – Ferland
    Mangiapane – Backlund – Frolik
    Lazar – Jankowski – Shore
    Brouwer/Hathaway (Foo, Dube pushing)

    • JMK

      The more I think about adding a centre like RoR, I think it makes the team better than just adding a RW. Perhaps there will more movement than I can imagine but this line-up is something that would get me real excited for next season:

      Gaudreau – Monahan – Ferland (Top scoring line – high offensive starts)
      Mangiapane/Dube – Backlund – Frolik (Shutdown line – high defensive zone starts)
      Bennett/Mangiapane – RoR – Tkachuk (Secondary scoring line with bite)
      Dube/Lazar – Jankowski – Shore (Secondary shutdown/energy line)
      Not mention Foo slipping in somewhere. Brouwer buy-out or keep health scratched. No dire need to re-sign Hathaway.

      • calgaryfan

        Totally agree a top end center gives the Flames a new look and the coach more options. Look at the Capitals center depth that is where the Flames need to go.

        • Rudy27

          And with a top new center we may have 2 lines that could interchange as the 1st line. Which adds great insurance should one of our top 3 centers gets injured.

    • deantheraven

      Fair enough, but I’d rather have Matty F. as an extra than Brouwer. If he’s bought out, the sum total with Stajan @ $1mil (+/-) would still be less than 2/3 of what Brouwer makes, and Stajan can play centre or either wing.

    • Mitchell

      Why push jankowski to 4c though? It would stagnate his development, and we might as well say goodbye to whatever potential he has. If Calgary gets a new center I wouldn’t be opposed to playing him as a left wing on backlunds line.

  • Snitch

    I just don’t see the need to sign either of these guys. I agree that Shore would be a serviceable 4th line center. We need to run with some of our better prospects instead of Versteeg. Mangi could certainly work as a PP specialist.

    I will continue to lobby the Flames dig deep in the war chest and pay for John Taveres. Their are ways to make the cap work. Not signing Stajan and Versteeg is at least 2 million right there. Move Brodie and Stone for whatever you can get in picks and prospects. Buyout and you have the space.

    If Tavares makes it to free agency, 7 years X $10 million is worth it. He would make this team so much better. If Backlund is worth $5.35, then Taveres is worth $10!

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      “Mangi could certainly work as a PP specialist.”

      I don’t think that’s certain at all. While there has to be some maturation of our prospects in order for us to be successful next year, I don’t think we should bank on anyone stepping up specifically for any role.

      Who knows where Mangi might actually find success, so penciling him in as a specialist might not be the best idea. Could be damaging to his development, even.

    • Raffydog

      Tavares wants to play for a team that has a chance to win it all, and the Flames motto is “forever a bubble team, and hope for the best”. Can’t see any reason he would ever want to come to Calgary.

  • Mas Bennett

    If Stajan is a positive locker room influence then I think it would be smart to bring him back on a minimum deal as 13F. You don’t want to stick a developing player in that role so it might be perfect for the veteran.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Agreed. If Stajan is happy with $650,000 to ride pine, the Flames should be happy to have their prospects actually playing as opposed filling that same role. Game day injuries might see Stajan only get into 20 games. Still a heck of a way to make $650,000!

    • IUsedToHaveAName

      I’ve long held the same opinion. If Matty is fine with only playing 20-25 games next season at league minimum then having him in practice to show all of these young guys how to behave as professionals, at the very least, is worth that contract alone. Also, as the article has stated, he was an ideal 4th line center.

    • StajansFinalPaycheck 3.5

      No! Enough good guy contracts. Stajan got his final paycheck and they should keep it that way. He can join the boys for beers after the game or host a potluck dinner every second month. This “good guy” garbage is not what championship teams are made of.

  • everton fc

    Peters is familiar w/Versteeg…

    Personally, I think bringing Versteeg to camp on a PTO, would be wise, if he’s healthy. What do we have to lose, if no one signs him this summer? Shore replaces Stajan? Or do they try Lazar in the 4th line centre role?? Shore certainly seems the safer option, based on his experience and his “ultility role”, when w/the Kings…

    Or could we do better??? Last season, Stajan was the best 4th line centre we had.

  • snotss

    again no no no to stajan..how does this sound??? use the millions stajan was getting for near nothing and use it to sign reeves..we need toughness and he can score every now and then and we wont be pushed around…just a thought

  • freethe flames

    I was not a fan of resigning Versteeg last year even though he had been a valuable asset the year before; why because I felt he was bound to break down and I turned out to be right. Bringing him make is just like making the same mistake again; so no thank you.

    Stajan; form everything we are told a great man and team mate. He even had some moments last year I thought he played reasonably well when he was with the kids. But in saying that we were a team that did not make the playoffs and having him as either your 4th center or 13th man again looks like you are prepared not to make the play offs. So again no. It’s BT’s job to upgrade both the bottom 5 (13/14th man and 4th line) and the top 6. If not we remain a bubble team at best or a team golfing in April.

  • Versteeg is an ideal 4th liner that we should be looking for! Some skill and not a total liability for the 8 minutes he sees a night. I agree with coming to a PTO to see how healthy he is and if he has lost another step. Shore should be the 4th centre.

  • FL?MES

    So is it just me or should the 4th line be used as a ‘graduation’ line to slowly introduce some of our prospects to the NHL? Put one vet on the line to show the kids the way.

    • Depends. High skill players like Mangiapane shouldn’t be a fourth liner to start. He should be given ample opportunity to thrive. If he turns out to be a replacement level type player in time then sure, put him on the 4th. Same with Foo. Others like Hathaway, Lomberg? Sure.

  • TheWheeze

    Stajan provided the Flames with some years of reliable steady service. You have to give him that. But you also have to stare reality in the face and realize it’s time to exit stage left…….he’s made a fortune he’s had a good career, but age and time finally catch up.

  • Vinnsanity12

    Buh bye! Need a powerplay guy? Find someone who can win a faceoff! Game 3 of Cup final, Washington wins 5 faceoffs in a row on 1 powerplay! They had the Knights pinned for the whole 2 minutes, ironically enough they didn’t score on this one. I’d love to see Monahan’s stats on faceoffs to begin a powerplay. More often than not the draw was lost and the puck was in the Flames end.

  • OKG

    If Versteeg was healthy last year, we make the playoffs. Undoubtably.

    Should we re-sign Versteeg? Absolutely.
    Should we bank our season on Versteeg being healthy? Absolutely not.

    He’s the perfect depth forward.