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The Best of the Rest: Should the Flames Gamble on a Risky UFA?

The Flames have been fairly quiet one week into the NHL's free agency period, choosing to lock-up Anton Babchuk, recent acquisition Chris Butler, and minor-leaguers like Carter Bancks and Jon Rheault, and now that the madness has mostly subsided and many big-name UFAs have found new homes, Jay Feaster might just be able to score a bargain or two. 

More often than not, bargains are associated with risks; is the player in question past his prime? Is he coming off a bad/inconsistent season or a career best season? Is he injury prone? 

Earlier today Ryan mentioned the possibility of the Flames going after after Alex Semin, a player who experienced some injury problems last season and saw his point totals take a nosedive from 84 in 2009-10 to 54 in 2010-11, and in this post, I'm going to take a look at two more "risky" forwards remaining on the UFA market in Marek Svatos and Nikolay Zherdev

Marek Svatos

#10 / Right Wing / Ottawa Senators 



Jun 17, 1982

After five seasons with the Avalanche in which he twice scored 20+ goals, former seventh-round pick Marek Svatos bounced around the league last season; after being signed as a UFA by the St. Louis Blues, Svatos was picked up on waivers by the Predators upon making his return to North America, and eventually ended up in Senators silks after then being claimed by Ottawa, where he scored three times and added two assists in 19 games. At 29-years old, Svatos has yet to play a full season in the NHL, and the probability that he ever will obviously declines with age, but there's no doubt he's a skilled player who could probably contribute in a protected role in the Flames' bottom-six.

19 games is a small sample size, so I won't delve into Svatos' underlying stats (apart from the fact that he had a whopping 64.3% ZoneStart ratio) save to say that they weren't exactly impressive, but neither was last season's Senators squad as a whole. Svatos collected just 800K at the NHL level last season, and can be had at a bargain if he wants another shot at redemption in the NHL and easily buried in the AHL if it doesn't work out-- a low-risk move with the potential for reward. 


Nikolay Zherdev

#93 / Right Wing / Philadelphia Flyers



Nov 05, 1984


Late last season when Zherdev was put on waivers by the Philadelphia Flyers, several intelligent minds in the hockey blogosphere including Calgary's own Kent Wilson wondered why no other NHL team took a chance on him at a reduced rate. 

Zherdev scored 16 goals and 22 points in 56 games in his "comeback" season after spending the 2009-10 season in Russia, and as others have noted, his underlying stats were above average. With a ZoneStart ratio just under 50%, Zherdev had the best Corsi rate on the Flyers at +13.85/60 and finished third of all regular Flyers forwards with 1.29 G/60. While there's little doubt Zherdev can be inconsistent and may not be the best two-way forward in the game, he outplayed his opposition last season and drove possession on a level comparable with someone like David Moss or Curtis Glencross, and would probably fit in well on the Flames' second or third unit. 


What do you think--are either of these guys worth the risk?