1) Coaching – My first engagement in the Flames’ off-season moves would be to make a coaching change. But, unlike most of the outcry from Flames fans and media, I would not fire Mike Keenan as head coach. I know most fans are calling for Keenan’s head I believe that (other than the constant line-juggling and “strong encouragement” to have Kipper play all the games), the worst thing to do would bring in another head coach. Instead, I would see through to the end of Jim Playfair and Rich Preston’s assistant coaching contracts and break ties. Preston’s special teams were an obvious flop down the stretch and Preston’s defensive systems were never entirely seized by the players. I would bring up Lowry and Otto from the Hitmen to assist under Keenen and bring the success they’ve had from the Hitmen onto the Flames’ bench.
2) RFAs – with the unexpected injury flu that hit the Flames this year, we were finally able to see some of the club’s farm players in action; and for the most part, we weren’t disappointed and got to see some great rising talent in the rganization. Here're a list of the RFA players this summer and my opinion on each:
- Dustin Boyd: SIGN. If the fans' voices aren't loud enough, Boyd's play as a 4th line checking center spoke for itself. A hidden gem in teh organization, Boyd really stepped up his play this year and is starting to use his speed, size, and beautiful curly locks to create chances for the team. I believe he's make a great 3rd-line Center and a possible 2nd-Line center after a few more eyars of experience.
- Curtis McElhinney: LET WALK. Playing under Kipprusoff, McElhinney will not get the required experience to develope him into a better goalie. While he had some very bright spots this year (like his games vs. the Red Wings and Hurricanes), but Curtis needs at least 15-20 games to get him where he needs to be; he won't find that on the Flames' bench.
- Adam Pardy: SIGN. Pardy had a trial-by-fire this year, and came only with 1st-deghree burns. His defensive play vastly impoved by the end of the season and showed signs of a Regehr-type d-man with a few more years of experience. He proved himself as a Flames regular and I him to get 5/6 defenseman minutes again next year.
- Kris Chucko: SIGN. We didn’t get to see much of Chucko this year, but it was encouraging and left us wanting more. Chucko could become a diamond-in-the-rough depth guy, yet also holds enough promise to be part of a good trade package for another player.
- Kyle Greentree: SIGN. Like Chucko, we didn’t see much of Greentree, but he played steady minutes and also left us wanting more. I can’t see Sutter ditching Greentree after acquiring him from Philly last season.
- Adam Cracknell: LET WALK
- Aki Seitsonen: LET WALK
3) Flames UFAs - in the salary cap world, UFAs have become the most valued (and more often, overvalued) commodities in the NHL. The media have made Trade Day and Free Agent Day national holidays for the NHL. UFA-Day really gets rumors mongers and salivating fans the chance to ask "who's going where?" and makes for great commentary. Here's my comments/opinions on the Flames' UFAs this summer:
- Mike Cammalleri: the question is not "does Sutter want Cam back on teh team?", but "can Suter afford to have Cam back on the team?" The unfortunate answer is NO. Mike is coming intohis prime and will get top-dollar offers from teams needing to bolster their offence. With big money tied up in the Flames' core players, Sutter won't be able to match offers from other teams unles he ditches some major cap rom from other non-core players like Langkow, Vandermeer, and Sarich. Cammalleri WALKS.
- Todd Bertuzzi: from what I've been, the jury is out on re-signing Big Bert. He had moments of glory and moments of dissapointment, especially his defensive play. I take the stance that many fans do; if Bert will sign a contract similar to what he did last season ($1.5-$2.5/season), Sutter will keep Bert around. Bert RE-SIGNS.
- Adrian Aucoin: much to fans chagrin, Sutter brought an older, slower Aucoin into the organization with a big $4mil/yr salary. Despite Aucoin's big shot at the point, Aucoin never quite put up the PP points he should have; mostly because of Dion's PP presence. I've heard some request we bring Aucoin back if he would agree to take a big pay-cut. I would disagree as I think we need to get younger & faster in the defence department and his $4mil could go toward filling other roster spots. LET WALK.
- Andre Roy: From what I've heard, Roy is a great guy to have in the dressingroom and his size/presence as an aggressive fighter and 4th-line energy guy is needed. RE-SIGN.
- Jamie Lundmark: while Bourque was out with an ankle injury, Lundmark had some key games and key plays on his time on the 2nd line. From what looked like a career destined to dwell in the minors, Lundmark showed that he can belong in the big leagues. If he's willing to re-sign with a small salary increase, he shoudl stay. RE-SIGN.
- Jordan Leopold: I, along with most people, thought that Leopold (as the 2nd half of a big trade day for Calgary) thought Leopold's presence would puch the Flames over the top as Cup contenders. As the games rolled on, Leoold didn't quite fit in to the system that the Flames had carried over the season and Leopold didn't have any immediate chemsitry with Dion or any other d-pairing for that matter. Unless there's a substantial paycut in Leopold's salary, I wouldn't have him back and use the salary room to sign other players that fit the mold. LET WALK
4) UFAs - there arne't many players this year on my radar. Sure, there're a few superstar players that stick out from the pack, but because of the Flames' tight salrary cap (and with an expected decrease in next years' cap), there isn't much room for many big names to fill the spot. withe the imminent departures of Cammalleri, Aucoin, and Leopold, I believe the Flames are in need of 3 important spots to be filled: a Top-6 winger, a top-4 D-man, and a veteran/experienced backup goaltender. Here're my trop 3 UFA choices for each posistion:
i) Jay Bouwmeester: ok, he's everyone's first choice for a defenceman and possibly everyone's first choice UFA. I can't imagine what a Phaneuf/Bouwmeester pairing would look like, but I can imagine it'd be amazing. If J-Bou can take a "home-province-discount" at about $5.5-$6 mil/year contract long-term, I think Sutter can pull it off from the cap he'd be saving by not re-signing Cammalleri, Aucoin, and Leopold. J-Bou signs for a back-loaded 6 year/35mil contract
ii) Cam Barker: the problem here is that Barker is an RFA, not UFA. So because of Barker's strong presence in the playoffs and a great regular season, I imagine the Blackhawks can and would match any offer put up by opposing teams. However, I would be willing to offer a hefty raise over his $0.975 contract with a new 6-year @ $3.3/year contract
iii) Mike Komisarek: whle I do believe the Flames need a bit more offensive depth on the blue-line, Komisarek bring size, strength, and big minutes to a Top-4 position: 3-years @ $3.15/year
i) Steve Sullivan: although Sullivan’s carreer has been marred by injury, it seems that this season’s surgeries may have cured his ailing back problems. He’s a smaller guy, but has a great scoring touch that may replace that of Cammalleri’s. Plus, he’s a left-wing which fits well between Jokinen and Iginla. 2 years @ $3/yr
ii) Brian Gionta: Gionta probably doesn’t fit Sutter’s “bigger, stronger, faster” forwards, but does have a scoring touch and is fast because of his small stature. He may not fit on the top line, but if Bourque can make the move as the 1st line’s LW, Gionta could play a 2nd line RW very well. 2 years @ $3/yr
iii) Jussi Jokinen: has had up and downs, and this season has been both. From being put on a waivers to helping Carolina have a great end-of-the-season and playoff run, Jokinen may have proved himself worthy of Top 6 minutes. Though not related to Olli, the Finnish countrymen could find chemistry since Jussi can be a playmaker to Iginla and Olli’s scoring touches. Although, Jussi does have a nose for the net which may be more suitable on 2nd-line duty with Langkow and Bertuzzi. 2 yrs @ $1.85
i) Manny Legace: although Manny had a rough year with St Louis (both on and off the ice), I believe he can still play great games and give Kipprusoff a sigh of relief. Kipper needs more games off and needs to play less so as to not burn out come playoff time. Plus, Legace has great veteran experience and that can prove to bode well for quiet-Kip. 1 year @ $1 mil
ii) Ty Conklin: there was a point during the season with Detroit (and possibly last season with the Penguins) where Conklin could have taken the #1 position as goalie. But, Conklin struggled near the end of the year and Osgood prevailed. Yet, Conklin and put up great games and steal a show. 1 year at $1 mil
iii) Craig Anderson: Anderson put up great numbers for the Panthers this year and may even get a shot as a #1 goalie with a team struggling to find a great puck-stopper. If Anderson doesn’t get a #1 job, I’d put my trust in him to help Kipper put up the W’s. 2 years @ $1.6/yr
Kurtis Foster: even though the Flames drafted him and then traded him away, if Foster can overcome his devastating leg injury, he could bode well to help bolster the Flames’ blueline and put up big minutes.
Ryan Clowe: Clowe dominated the Flames in the ’08 playoff series with the Sharks, but as an RFA might be untouchable. He’s a tough, gritty energey guy who can put up numbers, sohe may be worth looking at.
David Booth: although an RFA, Booth proved to put up really good numbers with the Panthers this year and would work very well on a Flames 2nd (or 1st) line as a scorer.
Chris Neil: if Sutter is looking for a 3rd line energy guy who can bring toughness and fists to his game, Chris Neil is your guys and could replace Andre Roy if on re-signed (yet has a bigger paycheque)
5) Trades - my impression is that Sutter has had his trade fill for the year making a big splash at the deadline with acquiring Jokinen and Leopold at the expense of a 1st Rounder, Lombardi, and Prust so I don't imagine he'll make any draft or July 1st trades. However, in order to make the cap work, and in order to get some picks back, I believe there may be some players considered to be moved in lieu of the younger guys who've proved their spots in the roster:
i) Jim Vandermeer: I don't know what Sutter was thiking signing Vandermeer to a multi-year contract worth 2.3 per, but in order to salvage some picks and some cap room, I suggest trading Vandy for a 3rd or 4th rounder.
ii) Wayne Primeau: I enjoyed watching Primeau in in 07/08, but i'mafraid that Boyd may have played Primeau out of his spot. Wayne will either retire because of injuries or get trade for low picks
iii) Daymond Langkow: although I woudl like to see Langkow get traded, I don't think it'll happen this year. In my opinion, I'd like to se Langkow get traded to free up cap space and let rising start Mikael Backlund get some strong minutes as the 2nd line Center, but Backlund may get another year with the Kelowna Rockets before he's ready to take over for Langkow. If Sutter looks to gain a 1st Rd Pick, Langkow may be part of a package to deal for a 1st Rd pick.
- here's my projected roster for the 09/10 Flames and the overall cap outlook:
Sullivan (3)– Jokinen (5.25)– Iginla (7)
Bourque (1.35)– Langkow (4.5) – Bertuzzi (2)
Glencross (1.2) – Conroy (1.05)– Moss (1.3)
Nystrom (.687)– Boyd (0.985) - Lundmark (.750)
Phaneuf (6.5)– Bouwmeester (5.875)
Regehr (4.02) – Giordano (.891)
Sarich (3.6)– Pardy (0.750)
Cap Hit: 57.5