With his five year contract now complete, defenseman Cory Sarich enters unrestricted free agency for the second time in his career. The first time lead him to Calgary. Where will the second time see him end up?
Sarich is probably the most feared physical player on the Flames roster and we’ve seen that ability turn into some highlight moments. His hit on Matt Cooke in the season opener back in October is a recent example while his crushing check to San Jose’s Patrick Marleau a few years ago is the most resounding. The fact is, Sarich can hit and uses his strong frame to get forwards to shy away from his corner.
Much like Scott Hannan, Sarich is also very responsible defensively when he’s out there against the proper opposition. He’s no longer going to be used in a shutdown role against the best players on the other side, even though that was a role he was very good at earlier in his career. But, when he’s out there against opposing players further down the depth chart, he can still be a steady and punishing force.
Sarich does bring a ton of experience to the position, which you can see on the ice. But I also wonder how much it translates to the locker room. He’s won a Stanley Cup, he’s been deep in the playoffs, and he has almost 900 NHL games under his belt. In theory, Sarich would be a good voice to have on a team to help teach younger blueliners the finer points of the position.
Finally, he won’t be expensive. I think Sarich realizes at this point that he’s limited at the position and therefore shouldn’t be expecting a new contract paying him close to the $3.6 million he’s made the past five years.
The cons for Sarich are almost identical to those of Scott Hannan, whom we profiled last week. His hard style has taken a toll on his body which has affected his foot speed in a noticeable way. He’s never been the fastest skater, but now struggles to keep up with the speedier forwards on the other side. The speed of the higher end forwards can also force him into making mental mistakes, as sometimes the bosy can’t do what the brain wants it to.
Sarich’s age also plays against him. He’ll turn 34 in August, and while he’s still a capable NHL defender in the right role, there’s a question as to where he fits with the Flames. Is Sarich the right fit on the third pairing going forward? Or are the Flames better served in giving those minutes to a guy like T.J. Brodie or Derek Smith? Or maybe someone who played in Abbotsford last year? I’d lean towards the latter two options myself.
Much like Hannan, I wouldn’t sign Sarich unless other options are exhausted. Those options include finding a tough minutes, top four defenseman on the free agent market this summer or deciding to go with someone younger in the third pairing. If those options aren’t realistic, then the conversation can be had to keep one of either Sarich or Hannan, but not both, if they’re still unsigned. In that case, I’d lean towards Sarich, because I think he brings a little more to a third pairing role than Hannan does.