Despite wanting to just focus on the remainder of this season, the Calgary Flames have some interesting decisions to make this coming offseason. Many of those decisions will be made depending on how the team performs in the playoffs, assuming they are able to keep their current pace and get in. One intriguing decision will be what they decide to do with long time defenceman T.J. Brodie.
Brodie has been a part of the Flames organization since he was selected by them in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He began his professional career during the 2010-11 season and became a regular defenceman for the Flames during the 2011-12 campaign. In total, he has played 631 regular-season games, and an additional 20 in the playoffs, all of which have come with the Flames.
Brodie Is a Pending UFA
The Flames have a tough decision to make with Brodie. The 29-year-old is in the final year of a deal paying him $4.65 million, which he signed heading into the 2015-16 season. Though his average ice time has decreased the past few seasons (20:23 currently), he is still a key member of the Flames defence core as he is a steady defensive presence. He also has the ability to provide offense, which he put on display during the 2015-16 season with a career-high 45 points.
As of now, the Flames have under $2 million in cap space. However, due to some of their other contracts expiring at seasons end, they are currently projected to have an estimated $18.4 million in cap space come Jul. 1. Seeing as their only other notable unrestricted free agents are backup goaltender Cam Talbot, along with defencemen Travis Hamonic and Erik Gustafsson, they certainly could lock up Brodie if they wanted to do so.
Should the Flames Move on From Brodie?
The scary thing about signing Brodie to a contract with any type of significant term is that he will 30 years old heading into next season. If past years have taught us anything, it is that signing older players that have lots of miles on them can get ugly in a hurry. Look no further than the summer of 2016, where there were a lot of teams who signed veteran players to significant deals and would certainly go back and do it differently if given the chance.
One other important thing to note in giving Brodie an extension is his decline in play this season. He has put up just 16 points in 60 games, which would be his lowest total since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign. This is a significant drop off from last season where he put up 34 points in 79 games. Part of this could be due to the fact that his ice time is over a minute less per game than last year, however, that in itself is concerning. For example, if his ice time were to drop over a minute again next year, he would be averaging less than 20 minutes a game.
Make no mistake, Brodie has still been a very important piece to the Flames this season and is still a very competent NHL defenceman. A player of his caliber should be able to sign a high paying deal. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Brodie sign a contract very similar to his last, which was a five-year deal worth $23.25 million. The Flames may be better off using that money in free agency this offseason to try and bring in a few forwards, perhaps even a top-six, as theirs have had extremely disappointing seasons.
Could Brodie Be Replaced?
As far as replacements go, the Flames may have an in-house option in Erik Gustafsson. Gustafsson, who was acquired at the trade deadline from the Chicago Blackhawks, is also an unrestricted free agent at years end. There are a few cases for extending Gustafsson over Brodie.
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One is that he is two years younger, so it is more likely he still has a few years of his prime left, whereas Brodie appears to be aging out of his. The other is that Gustafsson provides what the Flames need most, which is offense. The 27-year-old Swedish defenceman put up a career-high 60 points last season and could help get the Flames star forwards going again.
Regardless of what the Flames end up deciding, Brodie will be able to get a well-paid contract if he chooses to do so overtaking a potential discount to stay with the Flames. Teams are always willing to spend big on free agency day, and it will be no exception with him. For now, he and the Flames have bigger things to worry about as they look to stay alive in the playoff race with 15 games remaining on their schedule.