During the summer of 2016, Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving opened his club’s cheque book and acquired five players as free agents at various times. Treliving recruited Chad Johnson, Troy Brouwer, Linden Vey, Nicklas Grossmann and Kris Versteeg from the open market. Midway through the 2016-17 season, an argument can be made that Versteeg was his most astute acquisition.
A Player Without A Home
After a season that saw him split time between the Carolina Hurricanes and Los Angeles Kings, where he was acquired at the trade deadline as additional playoff depth, Versteeg somehow didn’t find himself with a new NHL contract when the dust settled following the initial free-agent frenzy.
Looking for a steady gig, he looked towards Europe and signed a deal with SC Bern in Switzerland but failed the pre-signing physical and found himself back on the open market. He ended up signing a try-out agreement with the Edmonton Oilers – likely tantalized by their thin right-wing depth and the prospect of playing with the likes of Connor McDavid – but he ended up heading south when the preseason was over, signing a one-year deal with the Flames the day before the regular season began. It’s probably worth noting that he’s from Lethbridge, just two hours southeast of Calgary.
A Useful Addition
Versteeg has proven to be a very useful player since joining the Flames, as he’s been used in virtually every situation aside from the penalty kill. He began the season alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, but since then has bounced around the lineup. He’s played both the left and right wing, depending on which players are his linemates, and his status as a right-shot forward has made him really valuable in terms of setting up passing plays or one-timers off of face-offs.
He’s hardly an elite offensive talent, but he’s chipped in with 17 points over the team’s first 39 games. He’s tied with Brouwer in scoring, which is interesting given that Brouwer has played nine more games and accounts for four and a half times as much cap space per season as Versteeg does. Brouwer also plays more minutes per game on average than Versteeg.
Calgary’s Other Signings
Johnson may be the only player that holds a candle to Verseeg among the Flames’ free-agent additions.
- Grossmann was primarily signed to help the Flames maximize the salary cap space they would gain from placing Ladislav Smid on the long-term injured reserve. He dressed for three games and had his contract terminated so he could look for a job in Europe rather than play in the American Hockey League.
- Vey spent two weeks with the Flames as an injury recall, but otherwise has spent the season with the AHL’s Stockton Heat.
- Brouwer has comparable offensive numbers to Versteeg’s, albeit in more games and with more ice time.
On a one-year deal worth $1.7 million, Johnson has been a perfectly solid backup goaltender – aside from a month where he was one of the best goalies in the NHL. Were he slightly less expensive, he might be an easy choice for Calgary’s best free-agent signing. Versteeg’s inexpensiveness keeps him in the conversation.
At just 30 years of age, Versteeg appears to have a lot of value for the Flames – at least in the short-term. With the club hoping to transition from being a playoff bubble team into more of a perennial contender in the next few seasons, having a two-time Stanley Cup winner on their roster as depth would be fantastic. Versteeg’s connection to the local area, his two-way presence and experience make him a valuable commodity, but his solid if unspectacular offensive numbers likely mean he won’t break the bank if the Flames try to retain him on a one- or two-year deal. The upcoming expansion draft is the obvious X-factor in any negotiations but, based on how well he’s fit in thus far with the Flames, you would imagine there is probably some interest in cementing the relationship over a longer span.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.