For Flames fans ready for a change 2012 is a year to look forward to. No less than 10 current roster players will be unrestricted free agents in the 2012 season and the free agent pool as it stands has some pretty good depth to it. During the course of the season obviously trades happen, extensions could be signed and injuries could take a player out. The Flames will have over 20 Million free to re-work around the core of the team.
The center position stands to have the most change to it as Langkow, Jokinen, Morrison are all UFA and Backlund is a restricted free agent free agent. At the center position the Flames are shallow on prospect depth to step up and fill all of these spots and with Langkow and Morrison getting longer in the tooth they seem a long shot to return. Assuming Backlund gets signed it seems likely that Jokinen will make a return at the same or less money. The Brad Richards offer though has made me think that Calgary is finally serious about getting it’s number one Center, the centers available next year do not appear to be of that calibre however the trade route is also available.
During the 2012 Offseason free agents targets might be:
Zach Parise- Sutter is familiar with what he could bring, Parise won’t be cheap and will have at least a half dozen other teams offering him big money. With Tanguay signed there doesn’t appear to be top line left wing room for Parise but he has played Center and Tanguay really acts as the puck distributer on that line anyway. Currently signed to a 6 Million Dollar contract he would command a raise on that based on how his season turns out.
He was injured last season however his last full season was a huge success, his 38 goals and 44 assists put him over a point per game. His underlying stats were also impressive as he finished his shifts in the offensive zone as opposed to defensive (neutral finished wash) more often than not (57% Off/ 54.5 % Def). This fits in with the Sutter philosophy, the defensive zone face off wins were also on the positive side for wins (157w/125l) and the team goals for as opposed to against while he was on the ice certainly speak volumes regarding his defensive play (70/38). All of these underlying stats come against very quality opposition as well. Watching Parise play is a joy, he’s dynamic and dangerous and would be the perfect age to transition to being the team’s star player after Iginla. In short throw the bank at him to come here.
Patrick Sharp- As I write this he signs a five year extension. It will be interesting to revisit this list in 6 months.
Ales Hemsky- WHOA WHOA… I know it’s Ales “Glass” Hemsky, however you cannot deny this guy’s skill. Over the past three seasons he’s averaged .94 PPG however what you can question is his health as he’s played just over half of the maximum number of games he could have. Another question is his defensive play. In most major categories he was just a little better offensively than defensively, almost to the point where it evened out however his team mate quality may have lagged behind the quality of his opponents. What could Ales do on a team where he wasn’t the best player? It’s an intriguing question, on Calgary he would be on the second line and who knows how that would work but having a player of that skill level on your second line may be worth a look at least. His cap hit was 4.1 but given his injury issues over the last few seasons he would be a good bet to still get at least 3.5 Million, so the question is would you pay a 2.2-2.5 million upgrade over Moss for an injury prone Hemsky on your second line right wing behind Jarome?
To give you an idea of his defensive abilities he is negative in face off wins in all three zones, had a negative on ice corsi of -6.59 and finished 52.5% of his shifts in the defensive zone despite starting them in the offensive zone 54% of the time. For the 37 Goals that were scored with him on the ice 35 were also scored with him on.
Shea Weber- There really is not a fit for Weber in Calgary except if you can get Shea Weber you make room. Trade Bouwmeester, or use prospects for the bottom pairing, just get him. Every team in the league will line up for this guy so the competition will be tight. Weber’s point totals are not mind blowing, he had 5 more than Giordano, his intangible leadership qualities coupled with his more subtle stats make this guy a stud. Weber starts the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone, 55% of them, those are the hard shifts. The great thing about him is that only 51.5% of his shifts end up there. The other great thing is his playoff beard which commands its own salary, okay it doesn’t but he may get the first playoff beard clause if someone thinks of it. Cory Sarich is UFA at the end of the year, his 3.6 million would heavily subsidize the signing of Weber.
There will be a few positions that could be filled by prospects such as Lance Bouma, his stats weren’t impressive but hey his heart was there and I’d like to give him a full year of NHL before really dissecting his play. I thought he played very hard but made a few rookie mistakes that showed up on his score sheet. Much the same argument could be made for T.J. Brodie who has talent but looked scared at the NHL level. We will see.
Greg Nemisz is another player that could end up playing third line this year, his size and hands are decent, his speed is somewhat lacking but not atrocious. Either way next year could be a very interesting Summer for Flames fans looking for big changes, especially if the playoffs are not reached again.
Other notable players the Flames could peruse are:
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