In the midst of loading up on depth-defencemen, the Flames signed Brendan Morrison to a one-year $1.25 million contract. It wasn’t a huge headline-maker in the general hockey world, but in terms of dollars and cents, it’s a lot of money for a team that sits in what Jay Feaster calls, “salary cap hell.”
So the question is: Could that $1.25 million have been put to better use?
The answer: Not really, no.
When the Flames signed Morrison during last year’s training camp, when in severe need of a NHL-ready forward, they probably never imagined it would pay off so instantly. No team got better value out of a free-agent last year than Calgary did from Morrison. In 66 games, the 35 year-old bounced back with a 43pt (9-34) plus-13 effort, often times playing his way to the top line with Iginla and Tanguay. All the while he seemed to be able to fill any role Brent Sutter asked of him whether it was killing penalties or playing on the wing. Hence why he’s earned that money.
Looking at the dynamics of the situation, we’ve got a 35 year-old coming off an ACL tear, who will likely miss training camp and the start of the season. What are the chances he’s going to repeat last year’s performance? Logic would tell me the chances are not great.
It’s still a necessary signing. The farm system is by no means close to being re-stocked, and while there are decent young centremen like Mitch Wahl, Lance Bouma, Greg Nemisz etc., there are no clear-cut NHLers. I wouldn’t even say Mickael Backlund is necessarily more than a third-line guy from what we’ve seen so far.
Then there’s the uncertainty of Daymond Langkow, who missed most of last season with a broken neck, at age 34. So, speaking hypothetically, the 2011-12 Flames opening day defensive depth chart looks something like this: Olli Jokinen – Daymond Langkow – Matt Stajan – Mikael Backlund.
They have a lot of bodies to play the centre position. But not a lot of solid depth. There’s not a lot on the free-agency market right now, and if there is anything, it’s probably way overpriced. Calgary got him back at cost. There are probably several teams that would have threw more than $1.25 million at Morrison. We’re looking at you, Florida.
A year from now, when Jay Feaster’s cap leash get significantly loosened , then we’ll talk about bad deals. To this point, I’d say the team has done everything they could with the situation that the Sutter regime put them in. The interesting part is, now, Feaster has to cut a player loose to bring his roster down to 23. He’s going on vacation Aug. 1 and will likely have finished his off-season bidding by then. If he can find away to shed one of the bulky salaries a la Nik Hagman, that would be amazing, almost beyond words.
Editor’s Note: My apologies for the lack of posts in July. It’s been a busy month, personally and I’m currently searching for Flame For Thought staff writers to help alleviate the workload. I will be posting more regularly from here one out. Cheers.