Calgary Flames Free Agents: Will David Schlemko Return?


The Calgary Flames, like all NHL teams, are gearing up for the busiest few weeks of the year that take place off the ice. With the NHL Draft coming up in just over two weeks and free agency opening less than a week after the draft, teams go through the most change in late June and early July, especially when you consider that it has become the busiest time of year for trades as well.

Aside from the draft picks, free agent signings and trades that could be made, the Flames also have to decide what to do with their own free agents. Calgary currently has a handful of RFA’s to deal with at forward, but their only four UFA’s are a trio of depth defenseman and backup goaltender Karri Ramo.

One of those depth defenseman is David Schlemko and though he was actually claimed on waivers twice last season, he makes a compelling case to be re-signed by the Flames.

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Schlemko started last season with the Arizona Coyotes, his eighth year with the organization. He was placed on waivers by the Coyotes on January 2nd after scoring one goal and five points in 20 games. The Dallas Stars claimed the Edmonton native, and after having him suit up for five contests, decided to place him on waivers, where the Flames scooped him up on March 1st.

The 6’1″ and 190 pound defenseman played 19 games with the Flames, and also took part in all eleven playoff contests, chipping in one postseason assist and no points in the regular season. Though his point totals don’t leap off the page and scream contract extension, his performance and advanced stats suggest otherwise.

Apr 19, 2015; Calgary, Alberta. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Schlemko was mostly used on the third pairing in the 30 total games he played with the Flames in the regular and post seasons. In 19 regular season games, the Flames took 53% of the shots when Schlemko was on the ice, which is by far the best of any Flame. In 11 playoff games, though the team was dominated by the Anaheim Ducks in possession, Calgary controlled 54.1% of the play when Schlemko was on the ice, again, the highest mark on the team.

Sure, Schlemko didn’t have the toughest competition while playing on the third pairing, but it wouldn’t cost much to bring him back, and he would be a huge upgrade on Ladislav Smid as the fifth defenseman on the team. Smid, who missed a significant portion of last season with injury, scored just one assist in 31 regular season games, and didn’t play at all in the playoffs.

Smid played more difficult competition than Schlemko in the regular season, but didn’t do it very well. The Flames goaltenders were not so coincidentally pelted with shots while Smid was on the ice, as he struggled to get the puck out of his end. Smid is given some slack from observers because he plays a physical style, but his defensive zone play could be described as erratic at best.

May 8, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Schlemko is not necessarily a rugged or tough, physical player, but he is a good skater who can make a nice pass to get the puck out of his own zone. He may not block as many shots, or get credit for as many hits as some teammates, but he doesn’t have to block as many shots because he can move the puck out of his zone and start the transition up ice much better than those shot blockers.

As a 28 year old, who has scored 50 points in 231 career NHL games and was twice claimed on waivers last season, the Flames wouldn’t exactly have to break the bank to bring back Schlemko. However, just because he won’t be asking for five million dollars per year, doesn’t mean he can’t help the Flames next season.

I would make sure to bring Schlemko back next season, and play him on the third pairing with regularity, possibly alongside rookie Tyler Wotherspoon while Deryk Engelland and Smid rotate in and out. It won’t cost much to upgrade the depth of the team’s blue liners and I would be willing to guess Schlemko would sign a two year deal at $1.5 million per year. He might even sign a one year deal at $1.5 million after two teams dropped him onto the waiver wire last year.

Whatever the contract ends up being, it would be pennies in the eyes of a National Hockey League team owner. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure and after being taken to the curb twice as waiver bait, Schlemko could be a very cheap prize for the Calgary Flames next season.

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