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Flames Free Agent Targets: The Forwards

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It's a well-known fact by now that the Flames have a fair chunk of change at their disposal on July 1st for the first time in ages, and considering they'll likely be a cap team again this coming season, Feaster won't be afraid to spend it. 

Just how the Flames GM should go about that, however, is up for debate. 

Find a replacement for Robyn Regehr? Attempt to fill that seemingly ever-present hole in the team's top-six? Shore up the bottom end of the roster? 

With only two or three roster spots opening up at the forward position with Fredrik Modin's retirement, Ales Kotalik gone eastward and the likely departure of Brendan Morrison, unless Feaster manages to move and/or bury some more salary, the Flames' forward corps might not look all that different when everything's said and done. Nonetheless, there are a few intriguing names out there on the free agent market that could help them out. 

After the jump, I'll explore a few of those options. 

Alexei Ponikarovsky (Los Angeles--$3.2M)

2010 - Alexei Ponikarovsky 61 5 10 15 1 36 1 0 1 94


I've always been intrigued by Ponikarovsky as a player. Since he left Toronto, teams have appeared to be swayed by his size and physical potential and paid him more than his counting stats would perhaps warrant, but the man they call Poni is more than meets the eye;.Alexei played the third toughest opposition of  all regular Kings forwards last season behind Ryan Smyth and Jarret Stoll, and managed a positive Corsi rate; his ZoneStart ratio wasn't below 50% like teammate Dustin Penner and (ex-teammate) Wayne Simmonds, but he still pulled his load on the team to be sure.

He has seen a decrease in his ice time and only played an average of 10:42 at ES and under a minute on both the penalty kill and powerplay, but at 31-years old, he still managed 139 hits in 61 games with L.A. (yes, I'm using a subjective real-time statistic, deal with it). 

I'm not a huge fan of his most recent price tag, but if the Flames can strike a bargain with him I wouldn't be too upset about having him on the team. 


Michal Handzus (Los Angeles--$4.0M)

2010 - Michal Handzus 82 12 18 30 -5 20 4 0 3 94

Another King set to hit the open market tomorrow, Handzus is certainly a veteran at 34-years old, but there's no question that he does his job and does it effectively. Handzus faced a similar level of competition to Ponikarovsky last season, but was buried in the defensive zone with a ZS ratio of 43.5%. He was in the red where Corsi is concerned, but he finished in the offensive zone more often than he started there, and his 12 goals and 30 points certainly wasn't bad for someone with such a low ZoneStart. 

With a healthy Daymond Langkow back in the fold, the Flames may not require the services of another veteran tough-minutes forward like Handzus, especially at $4M, but he's an option that I wouldn't complain about vociferously. 


Michael Ryder (Boston--$4.0M)

2010 - Michael Ryder 79 18 23 41 -1 26 8 0 6 165


Ryder is another player I've always sort of kept tabs on, maybe because of the incessant rumours about his impending trade to Calgary when his brother Daniel was with the organization. The Stanley Cup champ recorded 18 goals in 79 games this past season, consistent with his totals from 2009-10, including eight powerplay tallies, which would have put him in second place on the Flames behind Jarome Iginla's 14. 

Ryder was given fairly soft circumstances last season to be sure--he faced the second easiest quality of competition of all regular Bruins forwards and had a ZS% just above 50 while playing solely at EV and on the powerplay--and he didn't exactly knock the ball out of the park where possession was concerned. If he were paired with, say, Langkow or David Moss and/or Curtis Glencross however, that could potentially be remedied. 

Plus, if the Flames lose Adam Pardy to free agency, Peter Loubardias will still be able to ramble about Bonavista, Newfoundland at will. 


Scottie Upshall (Columbus--$2.25M)

2010 - Scottie Upshall 82 22 12 34 -7 52 2 0 2 191


One of the more favourable UFA options for most Flames fans, Upshall is just 27-years old and collects a pretty reasonable salary for a 20-goal scorer who has been shifted around the league in recent years, but seems to now be coming into his prime. 

Upshall faced middle-of-the-pack competition last season, split between the Coyotes and the Blue Jackets, and compiled a very favourable Corsi rate of +10.93/60, which led all regular Jackets forwards. Upshall also recorded nearly all of his points--91.2% to be exact--at EV, which is always nice to see from a player at any level. My only concerns with him are that a) he could feel entitled to a raise after a 20-goal season, and b) he might be in line for something of a regression after shooting slightly above his career average last season. Nonetheless, I could see Upshall fitting in well on the Flames' second or third line.