Today news has come down from our sister city that the Calgary Flames have re-signed pending UFA Curtis Glencross to a four-year, $10.2 MM contract. According to this report in the Calgary Sun, the winger is thought to have taken a big "hometown discount" to stay in his home province:
"He gave up a lot," said his mom, Robin Glencross, from their Red Deer home. "But the kids will know their grandparents and aunts and uncles."
With a $2.55-million salary-cap hit per season, Glencross can be considered a bargain if he continues to progress the way he has since joining the Flames as an unrestricted free agent July 2, 2008.
Ah yes, July 2, 2008. That was the day after the last time Glencross went from "pending UFA" to "UFA" as his temporary team, the Edmonton Oilers, failed to do due diligence and allowed a real NHLer to walk down the QE2 for the first of what are now two bargain contracts. The Oilers failed to sign the guy in the ~twelve-week post season window when many organizations like, say, Calgary, deal with such matters, allowed their negotiation window to lapse, and - while Daryl Katz and Kevin Lowe chased a whale named Hossa - enabled a solid player to go to an arch-rival. For what turned out to be a "home town discount".
Seems hard to believe that the Oilers didn't know what they had. The acquisition of Glencross on February 1, 2008, from Columbus in a one-for-one deal for Dick Tarnstrom, was one of Kevin Lowe's best deals. Glencross played good hockey in Edmonton from the get-go, just 26 games but his insertion into the line-up helped to revitalize a sagging team. In his time here he played fourth-line minutes, just over 10 minutes a night, but made lots happen, scoring 9 goals and 13 points and posting a +5 rating in his 26 games. Moreover, the Oilers won 17 of those 26 games as they made a late and unlikely bid for a playoff berth, sparked by the Kid Line and the "Crosstiniaks" of Glencross with Kyle Brodziak and Zack Stortini. It was by far the best fourth line the Oilers have iced in at least the last five years, bringing energy, momentum and Actual Goals to the equation on what seemed a nightly basis. They hit, they agitated, they crashed the opposition's net, they defended their own, and in general were a pain in the bad guys' backside.
Shockingly, Oilers management did not consider it a priority to resign Glencross despite his status as a pending Group IV free agent. Despite his playing right under their noses, they didn't seem to see his potential as a top nine player, one who could contribute penalty killing as well as physical play. Despite the fact that he expressed happiness to be playing in his home province and would surely have signed a similar deal here to the one he later inked with the Flames, three years at $1.2 MM per.
Perhaps the thinking was that Glencross couldn't continue to score at the rate he did in Edmonton. He wound up that '07-08 season with 15 goals between the two organizations, an average of 0.24 G/G. In the three seasons since, he has maintained exactly that rate of scoring, lighting the lamp 52 times in 220 games (including a career high 24 markers in 2010-11), while also chipping 64 assists.
Perhaps the thinking was that his +8 between two non-playoff teams in CBJ and EDM was an unsustainable fluke. In the three seasons since he has been a solid plus every year, with a net +31 as a Flame.
Perhaps the thinking was that the 25-year-old winger had no room for improvement, that his solid Relative Corsi and ~2 points/60 were unsustainable, that his upside was as a fourth-liner, that he had no future as a penalty-killer or as a guy who could handle the toughs, or that his asking price was too high. Perhaps the thinking was that if we signed Hossa, everything else would simply fall into place.
Whatever the thinking was, it was wrong.
Unfortunately, the other thing that has proven to be all too sustainable is management error, as the Oilers similarly unloaded Brodziak for pennies on the pound the next summer, also to a divisional rival, and currently seem to be in the same cycle with Stortini. The best fourth line in the team's recent history is a bittersweet memory, as are the days when the Oilers had solid, young, NHL-quality grinders in depth positions.