The Calgary Flames have finally addressed their defensive depth, and it didn't cost them anything to do so. They have claimed David Schlemko, formerly of the Dallas Stars and before that, the Arizona Coyotes, off of waivers. The Flames are the 27-year-old's third organization this season.
This is after the team put Mark Giordano on injury reserve following the Flames' 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils back on Feb. 25. Giordano was injured in the game's dying minute, and hasn't played since. He's returning to Calgary while the rest of his team embarks on the remaining four games of the current eastern road trip, but could be eligible to return as soon as this Wed., March 4. Since he's going back home, though, don't hold your breath on that front.
Schlemko, meanwhile, went pointless over his five games with Dallas, but he did score a goal and four points over 20 games with the Coyotes. He isn't going to be a major contributor to the high-scoring blueline, but he should be able to help shore it up a bit, and that includes when Giordano returns from injury. His current cap hit is just $632,000, and he'll be an unrestricted free agent after this season. He's an extremely low-risk claim.
In the meantime, he helps out immediately. Schlemko has averaged 17:22 of ice time a game so far this season: 18:07 with Arizona, but just 14:25 in Dallas. Either way, that's more ice time than any of the Flames' bottom pairing options this season - Ladislav Smid, Deryk Engelland, and Rafa Diaz - have been allotted, so hopefully this will be a sign of things to come as Bob Hartley will hopefully work to balance out the backend a bit more.
The 6'1, 190 lb. defenceman immediately becomes one of the Flames' best possession players, as his CF of 47.3% is behind only Giordano and TJ Brodie, but it's important to remember these numbers came while he spent time on superior possession teams, and he probably won't be able to maintain that once on the Flames. His CF rel on the season is -3.9%, now second worst amongst Flames defenders. Only Engelland is worse than him, what a shocker.
However, with Giordano's injury, probably the only major change to the backend in the meantime is Schlemko slots in somewhere in the top four: perhaps alongside Kris Russell, whom he played with back in junior when they were Medicine Hat Tigers together for three seasons. Corey Potter will probably return to the pressbox, and Tyler Wotherspoon probably to the AHL, never to actually be played in an NHL game this season. (It would be a delight if he did, though.)
Here's how Schlemko compares to the Flames' regular seven defencemen, via War on Ice:
It's... pretty sad how immediate of an upgrade that is. Schlemko is capable of handling defensive zone starts while playing competition that isn't total garbage. He might even be able to help upgrade that second pairing, although the top pairing's loss of Giordano will definitely make it worse and kind of counter any benefits to be gained. It's unfortunately an avoidable situation.
Tim Erixon, the other defenceman on waivers, was sadly claimed by the Toronto Maple Leafs, preventing us all from reaching peak schadenfreude. Maybe next time.
At least the Flames got the guy with the amazing name. And he's young enough that if he makes a positive impression, might just be able to stick around.