The Calgary Flames have done a lot of good things this offseason. They had a stellar draft, and acquired two huge pieces in Dougie Hamilton and Michael Frolik . All of these moves pointed towards a better short and long-term future for the Flames, and the rebuild looked to have been kicked into high gear.
They have, unfortunately, taken a step back this offseason with Lance Bouma's new contract. Bouma is a career fourth liner - third liner at absolute best - who lucked his way into playing with Mikael Backlund for half a season. That, combined with a career high shooting percentage unlikely to repeat itself, has seen him sign a three-year, $6.6 million deal.
You don't give cap hits of $2.2 million to fourth liners with one good season. You just don't, and yet, the Flames have.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Lance Bouma and <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Flames?src=hash">#Flames</a> settle arb case and agree to deal : $2.1m /$2.2m /$2.3m</p>— Tim Wharnsby (@TimWharnsby) <a href="https://twitter.com/TimWharnsby/status/624298797070458883">July 23, 2015</a></blockquote>
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After going to arbitration on July 22, the Flames and Bouma came to a new deal before the arbitrator ruled. The Flames were offering $1.5 million; Bouma's camp wanted $2.5 million. Bouma's camp inexplicably won.
Bouma, who scored 16 goals and 34 points in what was, by all indications regarding the player's long-term history, a complete fluke year for him, will be in extremely tough to make the top six next season. The top line would appear to be set, with Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Jiri Hudler. He won't be going there, nor should he.
That leaves the second line in question. It revolves around a few factors: does Sam Bennett play on the left wing, or centre this season? If he's centre, then it'll be him or Backlund on the second line. Frolik takes the right wing spot. That leaves the left wing spot wide open.
In the playoffs, Bennett played on Backlund's line alongside Joe Colborne. Colborne has been effectively usurped by Frolik, so it could be a Bennett - Backlund - Frolik second line.
Or, considering what Jack Adams winner Bob Hartley elected to do once Bouma came back to the lineup, it could be Bouma still alongside Backlund.
It should also be noted that the Flames did not miss Bouma one iota in the playoffs, successfully winning a series without him - and with Micheal Ferland, who has so much more potential and for whom a 16 goal season would not be a fluke year, namely because he was actually capable of scoring 16 in junior, taking his place - and lost both games with Bouma in the lineup.
We'll gladly eat our words if Bouma does end up being worthy of his contract, but giving up $2.2 million of cap space for someone who had a single productive year in his career is sheer lunacy.
It won't matter for 2015-16; it may not matter for 2017-18, the final year of his deal.
But it will matter for 2016-17, when the entire top line, not to mention Mark Giordano, will need new contracts. Thanks to this overpayment, they may not be able to keep all of them, and Hudler is the most likely one to be on his way out.
Bouma cannot replace Hudler. He is not a core player, he is not pivotal to any team's success, and you can find a million Boumas out there for less. (Hell, former Flame Lee Stempniak would probably come cheaper, and be significantly better. He's still a free agent.)
This is a bad contract, and the Flames messed up. Hopefully their future contracts will forgive them for it.