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Calgary, AB • Canada • 22 Years Old • Male
As much as I scoffed at the money thrown at players like Cristobal Huet, Jeff Finger, Brian Campbell, Wade Redden and Mike Commodore, I was also very disheartened in the relative quiet on the Flames' front on July 1. Though today's signings of Jim Vandermeer and Curtis Glencross make the situation a little better, their inability to find a viable 2nd line still makes the playoffs questionable to me.

The Flames ended up losing out on Andrew Brunette, Cory Stillman, Radim Vrbata, and Darcy Tucker, all at prices easily in their range. Regardless of the reasons these players didn't sign in Calgary, it is certainly disappointing and highly disheartening.

At this point, Darryl Sutter's apparent solution to his second line wing comes in the form of Rene Bourque, acquired from Chicago for a future 2nd round pick. Bourque is a Sutter specialty – a big Alberta boy whose specialty seems to be penalty killing (half of his 10 goals were shorthanded). Barring injury, I wouldn't be surprised if Bourque came back to his high of 16 goals and 34 points in 2006. Time will only tell if he is a viable second line solution, though.

They also added Curtis Glencross, on a three year pact – huge props to Mslepp for being first to break this last night. Glencross, a speedy left wing who scored 5 of his 15 goals last year against the Flames, gives the Flames more depth on the left side. I like this signing a lot, but by no means does it make me any more hopeful for the Flames in 2009.

As of July 2, the Flames' forward lines look like this:

Cammalleri – Langkow – Iginla
Bourque – Lombardi – Nolan *
Glencross – Conroy - Primeau
Nystrom – Boyd – Moss

Essentially, they downgraded from 66 points on the 2nd line LW, to a combined 49 points from the 2nd and 3rd line LW. Meanwhile, in the middle of the second line, a center who despite his speed, has never displayed very good puck sense. A statistical downgrade from Kristian Huselius was inevitable, but the Flames' failure to lure any of the good veteran wingers makes it more serious than anticipated.

Combined with the vast improvements of the Oilers (thank God they didn't sign Hossa, or I would have been ready to hang myself), Coyotes, and Blackhawks, the playoff picture looks even dimmer than before for the Flames.

On the defensive side, the Flames re-signed Jim Vandermeer and Mark Giordano to three year deals. Vandermeer got a bit more money than I expected: $2.3 million per, which makes me wonder how much Giordano is going to get. Giordano and Vandermeer give the Flames a more solidified, slightly improved defense.

The Flames now have only a little more than $1.7 million in cap space, as listed on Cap Central. This doesn't count Giordano, who I think subtracts at least a million. With the need for a second line right wing, and Rene Bourque a restricted free agent, it now seems certain that Rhett Warrener, Marcus Nilson, and Anders Eriksson will be sent to the minors to clear $4.85 million in space. So with a presumed $5.55 million in cap space, the Flames have to re-sign Nolan and Bourque. Both players could easily take up nearly all of this space. Unless the Flames can delete one of their cap-crippling contracts, such as Adrian Aucoin, Wayne Primeau, or even Cory Sarich, don't expect any more major moves.

It's been exactly one year since my first blogpost here on HockeyBuzz, which was, coincidentally, an evaluation of the Flames' UFA activity on July 1. I'd like to profusely thank everyone who has left comments and helped my writing since that time. A disturbing thing I'd like to note, though: since 2007's UFA Day, I have become more and more pessimistic about the Flames, and 2008's UFA Day is a new low.

~SKR

(Addendum: some stuff I didn't get to touch on in this post: it was a shame to see the Flames have to give up on Tim Ramholt, given that he was one of the Flames' top defensive prospects only a few years ago...Darryl Sutter says that Kyle Greentree, acquired for Ramholt, has a legitimate chance at making the Flames next year but is there really room for another LW?....the Flames signed undrafted free agent defenceman Ryan Wilson. This is very intriguing to me...he was Steven Stamkos' captain in Sarnia, and it seems he was rated extremely high as an offensive defenseman in the OHL, yet he went undrafted for three years. Will he be another Giordano, or another Richie Regehr?)
Filed Under:   flames   ufa day   skr  
July 2, 2008 7:08 PM ET | Delete
As has been evident for some time, the Flames lose offensive and at best slightly improve at D. It sure feels like almost every other team in the West got stronger, especially Phoenix and Edmonton. It will be a slight miracle if we can make the playoffs this year. We're gonna pay for having our great core signed - but handicapped by signings such as Aucoin and Sarich. Other teams are going to learn our lesson in the future with the ridiculous contracts handed out this UFA period. (6.5 for Redden?! 4 for Ryder?! 5.6 for Huet?!) Eventually they'll run into the same problem we're facing now. Let's hope we learn fast and fix it next year, so we can take advantage when these other teams hit the wall. But I can see this year being a long one for the Flames...
July 2, 2008 9:28 PM ET | Delete
F.A. is not over and I still think that your team will sign someone. Morrison or Bert come to mind.
July 2, 2008 9:42 PM ET | Delete
Good analysis as usual... the one upside of all these moves is the improvement on our forecheck which has been a huge disappointment of recent Flames squad's... we haven't really had a viable forecheck since 03-04 when our playoff success came from just that. The Flames got younger, faster and stronger on D; while taking a huge hit offensively... but remember, when Huselius came to the Flames he was a 40-45 point guy and turned into a 70 point guy. Let's hope one of our pickups can make that improvement. And I said to my Oiler friends after the season and I'll say it again, Curtis Glencross will be a better and more successful pro than Robert Nilsson. Oilers made a mistake letting him go, and I hope it comes back to haunt them 8 times a year (or however many times the new sched sees us facing them) ... great blog!
July 2, 2008 11:09 PM ET | Delete
I couldn't agree with you more. When Sutter said we will be going younger up front was the exact same as saying be prepared to miss the playoffs. With some Western Conference teams 3 lines deep I am quite worried. The last couple Stanley Cup champions have showin us that talent, skill and finesse win. Outside of a couple of players I don't think we have it. Thanks for the thought provoking evening.
July 2, 2008 11:13 PM ET | Delete
We didn't make it out of the first round last year and that wasn't good enough. The problem was we had four guys who could score. I bet if you talked to Sutter he would tell you that the players coming in all add up to another player in terms of goal's they will score. I personally am a bit scpetical of the "scoring by comitee" idea, however I have also heard that Sutter is aware of the shortcoming and is working the trade front this summer to pound out a deal. Free agency is not the way he would like to go as he's more financially responsible than most. The Aucoin contract is massive but what if he signed here next year for say...half?? Maybe we should look to next year already and hope our young guys learn a lot this year? Or hope for a massive trade this summer sometime.
July 3, 2008 12:29 AM ET | Delete
p.s. if commodore is almost 4 mil isn't aucoin completly tradable now??
July 3, 2008 1:49 AM ET | Delete
I feel torn here. Personally I'm tired of the first round exits. This year was supposed to be the push year, and it didn't pan out. I'm happy to see Sutter adding some under 30 year old players to our system. Overall I think our team defense will improve, but our success is really going to hang on our special teams this year. Iggy, Cammy and Langks are going to have to make the most of every opportunity, and the second line is just going to have to keep it simple and drive the net every chance they get.I also have a feeling that Sutter's not done yet, but unless he can pull off a near miracle I see us as a team fighting for that 8th spot all season long. It's time to see if our prospects are any better than what people have been saying they are.*Sidenote* I heard Sutter on the Fan today talking about the Ramholt trade. He said that he was disappointed too. For where he was picked, they're just not happy with where he's at and feel like they have 4-5 other D prospects that are higher on the chart than he is. That's why he was expendable. Hopefully they weren't off the mark on this one.
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