The Flames qualified six restricted free agents. One went to Russia, so Chad Billins quickly became a non-factor. Four received contracts, mostly in a small flurry of activity in late July. Then there was Lance Bouma, who for some reason, went unsigned until early Aug. 27, not long before training camp opens.
That's been fixed now, as the Flames finally re-signed him to a one-year contract worth $775,000, about a $200,000 raise. He'll be a restricted free agent once again after this season.
Bouma, 24, played his first full NHL season last year, playing 78 of 82 games and scoring five goals and 15 points along the way. Bouma spent most of his time on the fourth line, where he didn't exactly excel, but didn't do a poor job, either.
In contrast to his fellow fourth liners from last season, Brian McGrattan and Kevin Westgarth, Bouma only started in the offensive zone 39% of the time. On the entire team, only David Jones had a worse zone start ratio, at 37.1%. (McGrattan and Westgarth had among the highest offensive zone starts on the team.) When injuries struck, Bouma was also called upon to fill in spots on better lines, and didn't look too out of place.
In addition to being young and with a light scoring touch (Bouma shot at 6.1% last season), he also embodies Brian Burke's favourite word. Bouma is a truculent player. He led the Flames in hits with 181, and was sixth in blocked shots with 87. Bouma put up just 41 penalty minutes all of last season, showing he can play with an edge, and not necessarily hurt his team. He had just one fight last season: a brawl against the Washington Capitals' Tom Wilson in the season opener.
Bouma's contract screams "show me more". He earned a small raise with his play last year, but that's all it was: one year. He's still one of the cheapest (and youngest) players on the roster, making more than only Paul Byron, McGrattan, and, interestingly enough, newest acquisition Devin Setoguchi (which serves to highlight just how cheap Setoguchi is: he'll likely be given more opportunities and score much more than Bouma next season). He makes less than Brandon Bollig, someone who will likely be his linemate (and a player he's probably already better than).
Despite being on just a one-year deal, Bouma should have proven himself for a full time spot in the NHL. He's younger than both McGrattan and Bollig, and more useful as well. He could face competition from rookie David Wolf, whom he's just a couple of months older than, but Bouma is used to North American ice and the NHL, and thus far in his young career, hasn't done anything to deserve to be a healthy scratch. He may turn into a fourth line staple for this team for years to come, and he definitely has the tools to excel in that role.