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Calgary Flames Free Agency Review

When I previewed the Calgary Flames, I expected them to be either very busy or very quiet.  As it turned out, the salary cap jumped about $2,000,000 more than I had predicted and the Flames were thus able to do a bit more mid-level tinkering than I had thought possible.  After the jump, I'll take a look at what the Flames have done so far and what I expect from them between now and the start of training camp.

Individual Transactions

Traded the 163rd pick in the 2010 draft to the San Jose Sharks for G Henrik Karlsson and signed G Henrik Karlsson to a one-way contract for one year at $500,000 per year - Karlsson gets his chance at the NHL at twenty-six years of age.  He spent last year with Farjestad of the Swedish Elite League and posted a .914 save percentage.  It was his first in Sweden's top league but the performance was enough to convince the Flames to take a chance on the 6'5'' netminder.  It's interesting to me that the Flames decided to go with Karlsson instead of a more established veteran, but I guess they liked the potential upside in a younger goalie as the full-time backup.  I would generally prefer going with someone a bit more established in that role but the decision here is certainly defensible.

Waived F Ales Kotalik - Man, that trade for Ales Kotalik was dumb.  I guess it was worth trying to lose Kotalik on waivers, but the fact he cleared doesn't come as a surprise.  At $3,000,000, he's definitely overpaid.  I don't know where he'll be playing next year, but it probably isn't going to be Calgary.  My best guess at this point is Europe but it's also possible that he'll spend the year in Abbotsford.

Bought out F Nigel Dawes for a cap cost of $141,667 over the next two seasons - The only thing I can think of here is that Nigel Dawes must be a real jerk because he's a pretty good hockey player who's still young and made very little money and he just got bought out.  He played quite a bit of top six opposition last year, saw the Flames break even when he was on the ice, and he even scored at a pretty good clip (1.59 EV pts/60 was 6th best among Flames' forwards).  On the power play, he was a solid contributor.  Whatever the Flames' plans were for July 1st, I have no idea why a cheap, young and effective player was seen as part of the problem.  What makes it doubly odd is that every general manager in the league seems to agree that Dawes wasn't worth his contract.  And yet Ethan Moreau gets picked up.  These are strange, strange days, my friends.

Traded F Jason Jaffray to the Anaheim Ducks for F Logan MacMillan - This move is a very Oilersesque reclamation project.  MacMillan was taken 19th overall in 2007 and has been just awful so far as a professional.  As in, Ryan O'Marra's first pro season was good by comparison because he could at least score in the ECHL.  He also didn't get booted off the team for driving drunk.  Basically, if you're buying on Logan MacMillan, you are definitely buying low.  Jason Jaffray, by comparison, has established himself as an AHL/NHL tweener.  He had another year left on his contract and probably could have helped in Abbotsford so long as he cleared waivers.  Basically, the Flames bought themselves a penny stock with assets they didn't care much about.

Signed F Alex Tanguay to a one-way contract for one year at $1,700,000 per year - I was shocked he went as early as he did for such a low price.  Tanguay had an off-year in 2009-10, scoring less than 0.5 points per game for the first time in his career.  Some of that is due to Tanguay getting less power play time with the Lightning than he'd been afforded previously.  Some of it was an individual point percentage at even strength that was well below average (62%) and the worst individual shooting percentage (11.0%) of his career (his career average is 18.8%).  Some of it was playing on a poor team in terms of puck position.  Tanguay's Corsi rates were poor, especially considering the cushy zone-start ratio he was afforded, but his rate of -1.16/60 was actually among the team leaders.  I will be shocked if this contract doesn't end up being very good value for the Flames.

Signed F Olli Jokinen to a one-way contract for two years at $3,000,000 per year - I laughed pretty hard when this signing was announced but it's a really good deal for a player of Jokinen's skill level.  Darryl Sutter made a bad decision to trade for him and a worse decision to trade him away, but most folks thought that he had a poor season last year despite scoring 50 points and outscoring his opposition at even strength.  And for $5.25M, maybe you do need more production to justify the cost, especially once you factor in the cost of acquiring him (Matt Lombardi and the picks).  But now?  His salary is much reduced and he didn't cost anything to bring in.  From where I sit, this looks like a very good deal for the Flames.

Signed F Raitis Ivanans to a one-way contract for two years at $600,000 per year - In general, fighters are a pretty bad investment.  One of the reasons for this is their penchant for taking penalties and Raitis Ivanans is a perfect example as he's among the league leaders in each of the last two seasons.  Having a guy like that on your team just doesn't help to win hockey games.

Signed F Tim Jackman to a one-way contract for two years at $550,000 per year - Jackman is a really big guy who has played close to two hundred games in the NHL, most of them in the last two seasons with the New York Islanders.  He didn't get many shifts in those games and when he did they were damn near always own-zone starts.  The Corsi results were about as awful as you'd expect in that situation.  It looks to me like a situation where you have a bad player playing in a tough spot.  He may get slightly easier ice time with the Flames but I don't think that will make him any better.  That he also takes a lot of penalties has me firmly in the "thumbs down" camp on this one. 

Signed F Ryan Stone to a two-way contract for one year at $500,000 per year - This is a great bet by the Flames.  Ryan Stone didn't play much in the NHL last year, but when he did play he was an effective fourth line player.  Among forwards with at least 20 games played, he led the Oilers in Corsi differential and ended the year with a positive goal differential as well.  In addition, he's a physical player who seemed able and willing to get under the skin of his opponents.  Although he didn't produce much offense with the Oilers (0-6-6 in 27 games), he's put up enough offense at the AHL level to be confident that his offensive game isn't a complete wasteland.  At the league minimum, this is a really nice signing.

Named Jay Feaster assistant General Manager - Jay Feaster has won a Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning so calling him incompetent is probably a stretch.  Still, most of my memories of Feaster are from articles where Kent Wilson is picking on him for saying something stupid.  My favourite one is probably, "Now I Know Why Jay Feaster isn't an NHL GM".  I'm going to guess that Kent isn't thrilled with this.


The Big Picture

Those who've read here before know that I like to use the chart below as a cap space guideline.  Because it's based on percentages, we need to set a cap figure for 2010-11.  The cap has been announced at $59.4M, but I like to use $59M because most teams will start the year with at least a small amount of wiggle room.  Here's the chart:

Top 3 Forwards - 27.5% or $16,225,000
Middle 6 Forwards - 20.0% or $11,800,000
Top 4 Defenders - 27.5% or $16,225,000
Goaltending - 10.0% or $5,900,000
Bottom 8 Players - 15.0% or $8,850,000

And here it is again with the players the Flames have signed:

Top 3 Forwards - Iginla, Langkow, Bourque - 25.1% or $14,833,333
Middle 6 Forwards - Stajan, Hagman, Tanguay, Jokinen, Moss, Glencross - 23.2% or $13,700,000
Top 4 Defenders - Bouwmeester, Regehr, Sarich, Giordano - 25.7% or $15,191,667
Goaltending - Kiprusoff, Karlsson - 10.7% or $6,333,333
Bottom 8 Players - (Dawes), Staios, Pardy, Kronwall, Ivanans, Jackman, Stone, Kotalik, ??? - 14.7% or $8,691,667

I left Ales Kotalik in the mix here, but it seems clear that he's not going to be part of the team going forward.  Assuming the Flames are willing to ship him out, they still have just over $3M for two more players.  A lot of that money will likely go to Ian White, a restricted free agent who has filed for arbitration.  That would give the Flames a solid top six defensemen and good top nine forwards as well.  But after that, things go downhill fast, especially up front.  The Flames' success will be very dependent on whether or not their forwards can stay healthy and avoid the cliff that sometimes comes with age.  Given that many of the forwards mentioned have endured some sort of serious injury in the last few years, it doesn't seem like a great bet.  It's almost farcical that Nigel Dawes playing for under $1M is exactly the kind of player the Flames could use for the fourth line to provide them with some insurance.  But maybe that's appropriate.  With the Flames bringing back Olli Jokinen, I know a few Flames' fans who thought that this off-season must be some kind of joke.