59Tobias Rieder
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports

FlamesNation player evaluation: Tobias Rieder

After infamously being called out by Edmonton Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson near the conclusion of his disastrous 2018–19 season, Tobias Rieder found a new home three hours down the QEII this year and carved a decent niche for himself.

The Flames signed Rieder to a one-year, league-minimum contract after inviting him to their September 2019 training camp, and, despite being waived in October, he eventually became a key cog of their defensive game.

He didn’t exactly light the world on fire (well, not until the playoffs, at least), but Rieder was a pretty solid presence on the fourth line whenever he played.

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2019-20 season summary

For $700,000, the Flames could’ve done a lot worse than Tobi Rieder this past year.

(Data courtesy of NaturalStatTrick)

55 4 6 10 11:05 48.87 -2.15 47.1 0.951

Rieder is a low-event player at even strength. The Flames didn’t generate much with him on the ice, but they also didn’t give up much. Hey, treading water is better than drowning.

Rieder’s on-ice mark of 2.19 expected goals for/60 (19th on the Flames) just barely surpassed his rate of 2.18 expected goals against/60 (ninth on the Flames). He also fit in nicely on the penalty kill, with his xGF% of 15.13% ranking third among regulars on the units (behind only Derek Ryan and Mikael Backlund).

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Some nights this year, Tobi Rieder strongly resembled a peak Matthew Lombardi. On others, he looked a bit like Curtis Lazar. No Flame last year had quicker boots than Rieder, but his hands often struggled to keep up. He generated a ton of shorthanded breakaways in 2019–20 but only scored a single goal on the PK.

Well, until the playoffs, that is. Rieder emerged as an unlikely offensive contributor against Winnipeg and Dallas, scoring three goals (all shorthanded) and five points in 10 games and seeing spot duty in the top-six. His ice-time jumped accordingly from just over 11 minutes a night in the regular season to 13:22 in the bubble.

Compared to last season

After going unqualified as an RFA by the L.A. Kings in the summer of 2018, Rieder signed a one-year, $2 million deal with Edmonton on July 1 of that year. It looked like a surefire bargain contract for a guy coming off four consecutive 12-goal seasons while playing solid PK minutes.

We all know what happened next. Rieder played 67 games for the Oilers, scored exactly zero goals, and was the reason they missed the playoffs. Well, that last part isn’t really true, but don’t tell Bob Nicholson. (Rieder chipped in 11 assists as an Oiler to go along with his goose egg in the “goals” column).

Then, in a perfect WWE/Kris Versteeg-style turn of the heel, Rieder came to Calgary, immediately scored two goals against the Oilers in a pre-season game, and wound up having a nice rebound year at the league minimum.

What about next season?

It’s going to be a weird summer for the Flames. They’re reportedly in on everybody, including Matt Dumba, Alex Pietrangelo, Jacob Markstrom, and Taylor Hall. Those guys would all come with hefty price-tags and the Flames aren’t exactly swimming in cap space. Something has to give.

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With Mark Jankowski and possibly Derek Ryan nearing the exits, the Flames are going to need guys who can kill penalties, preferably on the cheap. Rieder was a solid constant for them in that role all season long, and he saw his allotment of ice-time increase as the year progressed. He’s a guy who Brad Treliving and Don Maloney are comfortable with dating back to their Phoenix days, and he won’t be expensive.

Speculating here, but the Flames would probably be comfortable giving a 27-year-old Tobi Rieder a two-year contract at around $800,000 (similar to what Curtis Lazar just got in Buffalo) to keep killing penalties and generating breakaways. Of course, a lot depends on whether the Flames keep Derek Ryan around or not and whether they see guys like Glenn Gawdin or Dillon Dube as potential PKers. They wouldn’t be smart to go above $900,000 or so with a depth guy like Rieder (ideally, he should be totally buriable if things go south) but a two-year term seems reasonable for both sides and allows him to help satisfy the Flames’ expansion requirements, if need be.