The Calgary Flames' defence situation was thrown for a wild, completely unexpected loop when Dougie Hamilton was acquired. It's still not perfect, though; and while additional improvements to the top four are always welcome, it's important to have solid depth as well. These aren't the older defenders we looked at previously; rather, three guys in their late 20s who can easily shore up the bottom minutes.
They're all familiar guys, as well. Matt Bartkowski is essentially an honourary Flame, even though Jarome Iginla nixed the trade with the Boston Bruins that would have sent him to Calgary. Raphael Diaz and David Schlemko, on the other hand, have both actually played for the Flames: and it wouldn't be a mistake to re-sign either.
Coming off a one-year deal in which he was just paid $1.25 million, Bartkowski could potentially be had for cheap. The 27-year-old only played 47 games for the Boston Bruins this past season, averaging 16:56 in ice time: not big numbers, but certainly more trustworthy than anything a bottom pairing Flames defender was granted. He had a grand total of four assists.
Bartkowski split his time between the offensive and defensive zones, with a slight edge on the offensive. He posted a 49.92% CF, just on the edge of being a positive possession player, but was still only good for 13th out of all Bruins players who played at least half of the season. And with a -1 penalty differential, he may have hurt his team a bit more than helped.
Via War on Ice, here's a look at how Bartkowski has performed throughout his career with the Bruins:
He's only just recently started getting bigger minutes, but relative to his team, he hasn't exactly been a positive possession player. His 2013-14 season was a bit better than his past year, so he may be growing into becoming an NHL regular still, but in the meantime, there's more to be desired.
The good news is the Flames should have enough defensive depth to shelter him if he needs more offensive zone starts to succeed. After all, somebody needs to play a few minutes here and there so the top guys can take a break, and Bartkowski has shown - albeit in just a few games in the 2012-13 year - he can succeed in doing that much, at least.
Really, though, there's not a lot to go off of here. Bartkowski's career is still just getting underway, and it remains to be seen how much growth he has left in him.
Is he a fit?
Possibly. Two things work in his favour: he's relatively young, and he should be relatively cheap. There's a third area showing his effectiveness, too: in recent seasons, he's started to take on more ice time. While ideally he probably wouldn't play in the top four, Bartkowski may be able to handle those minutes in case of injury (and considering what happened last season with Deryk Engelland and all, it's not bad to have that kind of insurance around).
Besides, if he does have to edge in, how about a Bartkowski - Hamilton pairing for a game in Boston? That'd be fun.
Diaz had to fight for his spot on the Flames via training camp invite, and once he earned his one-year, $700,000 deal, had to fight to keep it until Ladislav Smid's injuries forced the Czech out of the lineup. The 29-year-old is therefore already familiar with the system, even though he only averaged 12:01 a game - a career low for him. His two goals and two assists were welcome spurts of offence, but there wasn't much going there.
Diaz played in a sheltered role, and managed to put up a 45.99% CF to go along with it: good for seventh out of any semi-regular Flames. With his +1 penalty differential, he wasn't really a liability on ice either, but didn't play enough to really judge.
Diaz needs to be sheltered in order to have success relative to his team. That's not a bad thing; it shows that at the very least, he is a suitable bottom pairing defenceman. It also shows, however, that he maybe shouldn't be relied upon to step up in case of an injury to the top four.
Diaz played the least he ever has this past season, and in by far the easiest circumstances he's ever faced. He's capable of handling slightly tougher roles, but the more you can keep him out of the defensive zone, the better he's likely to fare.
Is he a fit?
We already know Diaz from his time in Calgary, but unfortunately, Bob Hartley didn't seem to be a big fan of him: often healthy scratching him in favour of Smid and Engelland, and not playing him anywhere near the amount he was used to on his previous three teams. So in that sense, it seems unlikely we'll see him again.
However, considering he's not too old, will absolutely come cheap, and is already familiar with the team, it wouldn't hurt to re-sign Diaz as a depth option.
David Schlemko is coming off of a two-year, AAV of $1.1875 million deal. To add to that, the 28-year-old was waived twice just this past season, showing he had a hard time sticking in a home before Calgary ultimately picked him up. However, once he was acquired, he was shown a bit of love by the Flames to the tune of averaging 12:39 a game - the lowest of his career.
Schlemko didn't score any points with Calgary this past season, but he did score a goal and three assists when with the Arizona Coyotes, a team that he was far more familiar with that gave him more minutes.
In Calgary, Schlemko was more sheltered than a fair number of Flames - including Diaz - but he also posted a 52.99% CF over his 19 games, which is basically unheard of considering how no regular Flames were positive possession players. His -2 penalty differential doesn't reflect well on him, but hey: 19 games.
Schlemko is a bit of a mixed bag, but if he's wildly sheltered, he'll have success. Even if he isn't, though, he's still pretty likely to do some good, and can in fact be trusted more than the Flames trusted him in 2014-15.
He was just learning the Flames when he came on board in early March, but Schlemko should know the team well enough by now, not to mention his role should he stick around. As far as depth options go, he puts up great possession numbers, and doesn't even need to be all that sheltered in order to maintain them. He might just be ideal for someone who is only needed to play bottom minutes.
Is he a fit?
Yes. Yes, he is. He's probably the best option for a bottom pairing defenceman the Flames already have degrees of familiarity with. He's relatively young, he should come cheap, and most importantly, he's good. He doesn't need to be sheltered to make a positive impact, but it certainly helps.
It remains to be seen if Schlemko will actually stay in Calgary, but it's probably in the Flames' best interests to keep him around.