On June 27th, at the qualifying offer deadline, we learned that there would be a mass exodus of players from the organization. While thirteen players needed to be qualified in order for the Flames to retain their rights, only Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Tyler Wotherspoon and Freddie Hamilton were. Not qualified were: Joe Colborne, Josh Jooris, Joni Ortio, Kenny Agostino, Kevin Poulin, Bill Arnold, Turner Elson, Drew Shore and Bryce Van Brabant. This meant they would become unrestricted free agents. At time, the sheer volume of players the organization was parting ways with was somewhat surprising. A lot of people were surprised and disappointed about the Flames letting go of Joe Colborne and Josh Jooris in particular, but it looks like Brad Treliving really knew what he was doing. Lets take a look at what has happened with all these players.
Joe Colborne: Signed a 2-Year, $5 Million Contract with the Colorado Avalanche
Stat Line: 24 GP, 3 G, 1 A, 4 PTS, -10, 12 PIM, 24 Shots, 51.4% CF
Based on the amount of playing time Joe Colborne received the past couple of seasons, it looked like the Flames could make the precarious decision of signing him to a multi-year deal, at more than he deserved to get. Thankfully, Brad Treliving is not Bob Hartley and saw through the mirage of Joe Colborne’s percentage driven scoring burst of a 2015-16 season. Colborne posted 19 goals and 25 assists in 73 games, but was shooting 19% and playing with Mikael Backlund, who often makes players seem a lot better than they are (ex. Lance Bouma). The Flames did not qualify him out of fear of what he may get in salary arbitration; it seemed like Colborne was hurt by this and signed with the Avalanche.
Colborne had a hat trick in his first game with the Avalanche, so of course some started to panic immediately and called this a Paul Byron situation. Turns out, it is not at all, Colborne has posted 1 assist in 23 games played since then, is on the 4th line and has been a regular healthy scratch.
Verdict: Huge bullet dodged there.
Josh Jooris: Signed a 1-Year, $600,000 Deal with the New York Rangers
Stat Line: 12 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 PTS, + 1, 6 PIM, 11 Shots, 37.5% CF
Josh Jooris was a likeable guy, an undrafted, hardworking forward, that was defensively responsible. However, after some offensive regression last year and the Flames needing to have money available for Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, Treliving did not qualify him and he eventually signed with the New York Rangers.
Things have not gone well for Jooris at all. After being a decent possession player with the Flames, he has been horrific so far this year. The Rangers waived him and he is now an Arizona Coyote, as they go all in on their tank job.
Verdict: Not the Jooris we knew, but the team is not missing him anyway.
Joni Ortio: Signed with Skelleftea AIK (SHL)
Stat Line: 20 GP, 12 W, 8 L, 2.06 GAA, .920 SV%
After acquiring Brian Elliott, the writing was on the wall for Ortio. Although it was possible they would retain him in a backup role, the Flames signed Chad Johnson on the opening day of free agency. There was no room in the AHL for him, so that was that.
Verdict: Good numbers in Sweden, but I think we are happy with Chad Johnson.
Kenny Agostino: Signed a 1-Year, $625,000 Contract with the St. Louis Blues
Stat Line (AHL): 25 GP, 9 G, 18 A, 27 PTS, 8 PIM, +5
Out of the AHL players the Flames did not resign, Kenny Agostino was probably the most surprising one, given he was Stockton’s leading scorer with 57 points in 65 games. However, at age 24, the Flames apparently decided they had not seen enough from him to think he was going to be an NHL player good enough to be worth continuing to develop. He has had great success with the Chicago Wolves, it will be interesting to see how he might fare if the Blues give him a shot.
Verdict: He is doing well in Chicago, Stockton is doing well without him, worked out well for everyone.
Kevin Poulin: Signed a 1-Year Deal with Barys Astana (KHL)
Stat Line: 4 GP, 0 W, 2 L, 4.36 GAA, .865 SV%
With no room for him in Stockton, the Flames let Poulin go and he did not find a team until later October in the KHL. It has not gone so well for him to this point.
Verdict: David Rittich is a massive upgrade.
Bill Arnold: Still unsigned, reportedly retired.
Verdict: Got into that one first NHL game with Johnny Gaudreau, that was it for him after a couple decent AHL seasons. Best of luck in the future.
Turner Elson: Signed a 1 Year, 2-Way Deal with the Colorado Avalanche
Stat Line (AHL): 4 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 PTS, 4 PIM, Even +/-
Elson was let go as part of the mandate to free up space for younger prospects in Stockton.
Verdict: Nothing of consequence here.
Drew Shore: Signed with Kloten HC of the Swiss League
Stat Line: 30 GP, 18 G, 8 A, 26 PTS, 10 PIM, -3
After acquiring Drew Shore from Florida, the Flames gave him chances to make a mark with the big club but nothing really materialized in terms of offense. At age 25, there was not going to be a big leap forward in development.
Verdict: Switzerland is a nice place.
Bryce Van Brabant: Signed a PTO with the Texas Stars (AHL)
Stat Line: 11 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 PTS, 26 PIM, +2
Van Brabant was signed as a college free agent for some reason, despite never putting up good numbers in the NCAA. He immediately played 6 games with the Flames, which is also pretty confusing. There was no reason to keep him around when the Flames already have players like Hunter Smith and Austin Carroll in the organization.
Verdict: Was not needed, made sense to part ways.
And one last update, on almost RFA, Derek Grant
Derek Grant: Signed a 1 Year, 2-Way Deal with the Buffalo Sabres
Stat Line: 26 GP, 0 G, 3 A, 3 PTS, 17 PIM, -2, 44.1% CF
Derek Grant had an extremely good AHL season last year, but due to missing time with injury, the Flames were not able to get him in enough games to keep him a restricted free agent, and as an unrestricted free agent he signed with Buffalo. I believe the Flames wanted to bring him back, but he went somewhere where he would have a better chance to play in the NHL. While he still has terrific face-off stats (54.1%), he has not succeeded anywhere else really and he is yet to score a goal in 66 NHL games.
Verdict: Stockton is fine without him, hopefully the poor guy can get an NHL goal one day.
Looks Like Brad Made the Right Call Across the Board
Taking a look at all the players that the Flames did not qualify, it looks like the right call was made. In particular, Treliving dodged a major bullet on Joe Colborne, because he is a smart guy. As for everyone else, it is not going too well for them, other than Kenny Agostino being a force in the AHL, Drew Shore in Switzerland and Joni Ortio putting up good numbers in Sweden, but even then, those results do not make you wish the Flames retained them.
Sometimes as a fan you become attached to players that belong to the organization because once they have been acquired, you follow along their careers, you watch them, know them better than the players in the other 29 organizations. Some thought Joni Ortio could be the goalie of the future, that Kenny Agostino could be a top-9 winger, that Bill Arnold could be a 4th line centre, but the truth is, most prospects do not work out. It looks like Treliving not being sentimental at all turned out to be the right decision in every case and with the Flames and Stockton both being much better teams this year than last, we should be appreciative of his decisions.