Just over a year ago, I put together my list of the best value contracts for the Calgary Flames. Knowing we’re right up on the trade deadline, and knowing how tight Calgary’s cap situation is going to be going forward, I thought I’d revisit the conversation and assess what we’ve seen during the 2016-17 season. Who’s giving the Flames the most bang for their buck this year?
The criteria on this one is the same as last year: players on entry-level deals are excluded. That means no Matthew Tkachuk, because he’d clearly be number one on this list. But even without Tkachuk and Sam Bennett’s deals part of the equation, there are still some solid values on this team. Before we get to the top three, I copped out and went with a few honourable mentions, too.
Dougie Hamilton. He’s Calgary’s best possession defenceman, he’s fifth on the team in scoring, and sits seventh overall among NHL blueliners with 39 points. He’s not bargain basement, but $5.75 million for what Hamilton is bringing this year is pretty decent.
Michael Frolik. He’s on the team’s best line, is second only to Tkachuk with a 56.0% possession rate, and is sixth on the team in scoring. At $4.3 million, Frolik might be one of the team’s best UFA signings in years.
Micheal Ferland. This is timely right now because he’s rolling, but even without his recent hot streak, Ferland probably would have deserved a mention for his season at $825,000.
Now to the top three…
3. TJ Brodie
Last year’s number one contract drops a couple spots here, but Brodie still absolutely belongs on this list. I know his -23 rating doesn’t look good to some, I don’t believe it is indicative of the way Brodie has played this season, especially over the last number of months. Plus/minus is a flawed stat at the very best and I don’t buy that he’s been the worst defenceman on the team.
In reality, Brodie has had a pretty nice season and continues to make his $4.6504 million cap hit look pretty darn good. Saddled with Dennis Wideman and his struggles for much of the season, Brodie still has 25 points in 63 games and was a big reason why the team’s powerplay improved dramatically from mid-November on. Brodie’s impact on the team is still largely positive.
Brodie’s possession rate is still relatively strong and ranks only behind Hamilton and Mark Giordano amongst Flames defencemen. Brodie also sits second on the team in average ice time behind just Giordano and, as you can see, his minutes aren’t sheltered by any stretch of the imagination. While maybe a little less than the last two years, Brodie still sees top opposition on a nightly basis and continues to handle it just fine.
Brodie has played on the team’s number two pairing for most of the season but I still consider him a top pairing blueliner. To get that type of player for well under $5 million doesn’t happen very often, and that’s why Brodie has retained his spot in the top three.
2. Kris Versteeg
When Versteeg signed his one-year deal with the Flames coming off a PTO in Edmonton, I think many of us thought it was a bargain. Now that Versteeg has three quarters of his first season in Calgary under his belt, our initial thoughts have turned out to be on the mark.
Versteeg’s production has gone a little cold in recent games as he’s now gone nine straight games without a point and has just two in his last 15. That doesn’t change the fact that Versteeg has been a nice addition to this team’s froward ranks and has put up points at an efficient rate, especially considering his sticker price.
Despite his slowdown that has contributed to his rank on the team dropping, Versteeg is putting up points at a pretty decent clip. To be doing this for $950,000 is a little more impressive and is the biggest reason why he cracked the top three. In fact, according to CapFriendly’s helpful points-per-dollar ranking, Versteeg sits second at $41,304 behind only Tkachuk.
1. Mikael Backlund
I promise we’re not inundating you with Backlund content by design. Instead, it just so happens that the guy is about as relevant as it gets right now. I wrote about his looming contract extension over the weekend, while Mike Fail did some more Selke tire-pumping in his Embers on Sunday evening. The fact of the matter is, though, we can’t do an article on best value deals without including Backlund.
When Backlund signed a three-year extension a few summers ago, the $3.575 million cap hit looked really good. Now it looks like robbery. Backlund’s work for his price tag got him to number three on this list last season and he’s a resound number one just over a year later.
We don’t need to go over things too, too much because the linked articles above do a pretty solid job of painting the picture. However, just so that everyone gets a chart, here’s what Backlund has done this season while matching up down the middle against the very toughest opposition every single night.
Look, the dude has been Calgary’s MVP this season and to get that for under $4 million is unheard of. He’s anchoring one of the league’s most effective trios and has been the team’s top scorer for quite some time now. Sure, Backlund might not be number one on this list once his new deal is signed, but as it stands right now, he’s leading the pack by a good margin.