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  • Next Move Calgary Flames

    The 2010-2011 season was a complete roller coaster ride for the Calgary Flames and their fans. Missing the post season the previous year while the team entertained Cup aspirations tempered this seasons expectations a little. By Christmas the Flames were well out of the post season race as a potential lottery pick was on the horizon and trade rumors were heating up. Then Darryl Sutter was removed as GM and replaced by Jay Feaster and the team started winning. They played well enough to not only move into a playoff berth they even had home ice advantage at one point. Then the roller coaster ride went for a dip and the Flames finished three points short in tenth overall in the West.

    So what's next for the Flames? Where do they go from here? Can they still go for it or has the time come to "blow it up"?

    The fact the Flames have six players with no movement clauses and three with no trade clauses makes the "blow up" difficult. True, several players with such restrictions on movement have been traded before. The clause simply gives the player a say in where he will waive his protection to go. However, several players have exercised their negotiated right to block any trade to any team. Toronto Maple Leaf fans will vouch for this citing Mats Sundin and Tomas Kaberle as prime examples. Assuming Feaster gets permission to move some veterans would anyone want cap hit nightmares like Daymond Langkow $4.5 million, Ollie Jokinen $3 million or Matt Stajan $3.5 million? It is unlikely to say the least. Jokinen and Langkow only have one year left on their deals so a buyout may be an option, costing a combined $2.5 million for the next two seasons. Saving $5 million in cap space.

    At the center position the Flames have Jokinen, Langkow, Stajan, Mikael Backlund under contract. Brendan Morrison who was brought in last off-season was the team's second highest producing center with nine goals, 34 assists in 66 games and discovered chemistry with star Jarome Iginla. Surely Feaster will attempt to re-sign Morrison for this reason and he should be an affordable cap hit only earning $725,000 last year.

    Best case scenario for the Flames at center would be to find a taker for Jokinen regardless of what comes back if anything. Langkow retires or they buy him out. Morrison re-signs as the teams number one, Backlund earns the second slot and Stajan is the best (and highest paid) third line center. That leaves one vacancy for the fourth line to either be filled from within or via free agency.

    On the wings the picture is much clearer. Iginla and Rene Bourque headline a formidable roster complemented by Curtis Glencross, Niklas Hagman, David Moss, Tom Kostopolus, Tim Jackman. Alex Tanguay was brought back and played very well, but he is a UFA and may be tough to re-sign. Again only one real vacancy exists likely to be filled via free agency this summer.

    Defense has long been the back bone for the Flames and is led by long-time Flame Robyn Regher and Jay Bouwmeester. Mark Giordano has emerged as the teams best all-round defenseman leading all defenders in points with eight goals and 35 assists. Cory Sarich rounds out the defense corps under contract leaving just two spots to fill. Steve Staios, Anton Babchuk and Adam Pardy are all UFAs this summer and while Feaster may want to keep one or two of them the Flames do have some prospects who can step in and fill the void, T.J. Brodie may be an option.

    Miikka Kiprusoff anchors the goaltending position. Henrik Karlsson who played well in his 17 games is also an UFA and may leave the back-up spot vacant. Both Feaster and Karlsson have stated they want to return to the Flames so look for that to get done soon. Prospect Leland Irving may be ready for the job otherwise.

    Stajan and Hagman are the only players remaining from the horrible Dion Phaneuf deal and quite frankly has not worked out. If possible Feaster should look to swap these players for another teams failed experiment. A trade our problem for yours and hope for the best scenario. Possible partners could be New York Rangers for Wojtek Wolski, or the Ottawa Senators Milan Michalek.

    Currently the Flames have 17 players signed at a cap hit of $55.815 million leaving $3.5-$6.5 million in space (depending on how high next years cap goes up by) and four players to sign.

    The best moves to make would be purge Jokinen and Langkow by any means necessary. Target free agency to fill second line wing position. Candidates may include Tomas Fleischmann, Tomas Kopecky, Nikolai Zherdev, Simon Gagne, or Sean Bergenheim.

    The top four defense is excellent, round out the fifth and sixth spots from within the organization. This is not a blow up but rather a shake up. Iginla should retire a Flame and Feaster has stated he will not be moved. Regher, Bouwmeester and Kiprusoff have no move/trade contracts and are not going anywhere. Bourque and Giordano are too valuable and affordable to move.

    Bottom line. A blow up is simply not possible but a shake up is and is desperately needed. The Flames are a good team but time is running out on this veteran laden squad. There is time left for one more kick at the can before years of floundering like the Leafs have endured.

    Fortunately Calgary has their first round pick (13th overall) and can use it to help restock a very empty prospect cupboard.

    Best fantasy value. Iginla and Kiprusoff are as consistent as you get. Giordano and Bourque continue to improve and are great value in any pool. They can possibly be picked in mid-rounds and have acceptable cap hits. Backlund has the opportunity to break out. Backlund played 73 games and scored 25 points but scored 12 in his last 24 games, including a three point night against their rivals the Edmonton Oilers. If Morrison is brought back he should be a lock to center Iginla and possibly Bourque making him a great sleeper pick.

    Next moves for the Calgary Flames are:
    • Move Jokinen and Langkow.
    • Sign a winger to increase scoring.

    Pete Harling is and always has been passionate about hockey. He loves to watch it, play it but what he loves the most is fantasy hockey. Email Coach Harling at [email protected].

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