TJ Brodie has been a polarizing player around these parts the last few seasons. He was also part of a near-miss trade in summer 2019 with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Now, with his contract set to expire Oct. 9, Brodie’s future with the Flames is the most uncertain its been since the team made him a fourth round pick in 2008. I believe there’s a lot of merit to bringing Brodie back on another contract, especially in the flat cap world we’re living in.
Making the case
I thought Brodie had a very strong regular season, if you can remember that far back. In fact, you can make a strong argument Brodie was the team’s second-best defenceman over the course of 2019-20, behind only Mark Giordano. Brodie played steady and consistent hockey against top opposition on a nightly basis and limited the glaring defensive miscues that had been noticeable in prior seasons.
Brodie’s underlying metrics above, courtesy Natural Stat Trick, were strong. His possession rate was fourth-best on the team while seeing the second most defensive starts among d-men, behind only Travis Hamonic (45.9%). Rounding things out, Brodie’s high danger scoring chance ratio placed him top ten on the team.
Also important in this conversation is how strong the pairing of Giordano and Brodie was this season. Together for more than 622 minutes at five-on-five, the two veteran defencemen made up one of the league’s best analytic pairs all season long. Gio and Brodie ranked 11th overall in possession and 24th in high danger chances, plotted below.
The Flames are clearly looking to remain competitive in the coming years. Keeping their best and most consistent pairing together is a good way to ensure that happens. Brodie and Giordano played the hardest minutes on the team last season and excelled at it; something they’ve done many times together in the past.
But say you fancy a pairing of, say, Giordano and Rasmus Andersson. Maybe it’s time for the latter to get his chance playing on the top pairing on a full-time basis. I get that thinking, but it doesn’t mean Calgary should just walk away from Brodie. While most comfortable on the right, which is his off side, Brodie has the important ability to comfortably slot in on either side of a pairing. That adds an extra piece of versatility many don’t possess.
Finally, I think it’s important to underline how impressive Brodie was in August. Brodie had a goal and four points for the Flames in their 10 Return To Play games and, along with Andersson, was one of their two best playoff defencemen. Much like Andersson with Noah Hanifin, Brodie was the key cog on his pairing as Giordano struggled relative to his regular season performance.
What’s the right price?
Based on everything above, I think there’s plenty of merit in exploring a new contract for Brodie in Calgary, within reason. Laying everything on the table, Brodie is now 30 years old and his offence seems to have dipped and leveled off in recent years. Brodie will definitely get interest if he enters free agency, but he’s a tier or two below the 2020 big fish.
Brodie is finishing a five-year contract that carried a $4.65 million cap hit. Something in that ballpark again seems like a reasonable neighbourhood, at least from a team perspective. Knowing there aren’t a lot of hard miles on Brodie’s body, and knowing how well he skates, a four or five-year term doesn’t scare me the same as it would for, say, fellow pending UFA Hamonic. If the Flames can bring Brodie back at around a $5 million cap hit, give or take $500,000, I think it’s something they should pursue.
Perhaps you think that’s unrealistic knowing the open market is staring Brodie square in the face. Well, knowing a flat salary cap is the reality going into next season, I’m not certain Brodie will be getting the type of offers we might have thought prior to the pandemic. That could very much work in Calgary’s favour.
There’s one other factor that could/should help the Flames: Brodie’s desire to stay with the only NHL organization he’s ever known. It’s my belief Brodie would like to stay with Calgary if all things were equal. Does that mean he’ll give the Flames a sweetheart deal? No, but it could certainly be the tipping point if they come to the table with a fair and reasonable offer.