After a pre-season PTO with the Edmonton Oilers didn’t work out for one reason or another, former Hurricane Kris Versteeg found himself with the Oilers’ Albertan rivals in Calgary. Versteeg turned in a solid season for the Flames, and he figures to not last nearly as long on the free agent market this summer as he did a year ago.
Tale of the Tape:
2016-2017 Season: 15 goals, 22 assists, 37 points in 69 games
Career: (CHI, TOR, PHI, FLA, CAR, LAK, CGY) 146 goals, 204 assists, 350 points in 619 games
2016-2017 Advanced Stats: 47.4% Corsi For, 101.1 PDO, 50% Goals for
2016-2017 Salary: $950,000
Contract Ending: 1 year, $950,000, $950,000 AAV, Signed October 11th, 2016 (UFA)
Making the Case
With Jeff Skinner, Elias Lindholm, Sebastian Aho, and Teuvo Teravainen on the roster, the Hurricanes seem to be set up well in terms of having the four guys who will take up the wing spots in their top six next season.
Where they are not quite as well-positioned is in terms of reliable bottom-six wingers. Lee Stempniak will fill one of those spots well if he’s not taken in the expansion draft, but none of Brock McGinn, Phil di Giuseppe, or Joakim Nordstrom have demonstrated that they can hold down a spot on a third line in a full-time capacity.
That’s where a guy like Versteeg could be of use to this team. We know from his time in Carolina that he is a reliable, if unspectacular point producer. His point per game rate of .54 in Calgary this season re-affirms that.
As a Hurricane, Versteeg spent a lot of his time on the Hurricanes’ top line with Eric Staal (feels like ions ago, in a way). This time around, he probably wouldn’t be forced into top-line duty. He could provide his offensive punch from the bottom-six while being a guy who coach Bill Peters could be certain would be capable of moving up should an injury occur.
On the Other Hand...
Versteeg will certainly be looking for a raise from his sub-one million dollar contract that he signed literally at the beginning of the regular season a year ago, so he won’t come quite as cheap as one might expect. This is an offseason in which Carolina may have the green light to spend some money, but I doubt the depth winger hole would be where they’d do that.
Further, Versteeg’s underlying numbers in Calgary left a little bit to be desired. His corsi share was well below average, and his PDO was suggestive of the possibility that his production may have been a bit inflated compared to his true level of performance.
The Final Verdict
The signing of Versteeg would surely be an upgrade for Carolina’s stable of bottom-six wingers. His style of play is one that you need to have in the bottom six to succeed in today’s NHL, and we know from his previous time here that he’s a versatile player who can move up and down the lineup.
However, the possibility of a slight to moderate decline in Versteeg’s play since his stint with the Hurricanes two seasons ago, as well as his solid point production in Calgary means that his contract would likely be of the multi-year variety and carry a not-insignificant cap hit.
General manager Ron Francis would have to weigh the upsides and downsides of a potential Versteeg signing carefully. Forward depth is so crucial to being a successful NHL team, but at the same time, giving the wrong contract to the wrong player can really weigh down a team’s forward group, especially in the case of a budget-strapped team such as the ‘Canes.
While it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility, I’d lean toward saying that we will not be seeing a reunion tour for Versteeg in Raleigh. Though it wouldn’t be the worst idea by any stretch of the imagination, there will probably be more appealing options out there on July 1st.