I'll be plopped in front of TSN on Tuesday for the excitement, but if the Calgary Flames manage to make a big splash, it'll just be a bonus. Although the departure of Rhett Warrener, Marcus Nilson and Anders Eriksson cleared up a bit of cap space, the re-signings of Daymond Langkow, Craig Conroy, Curtis McElhinney and Eric Nystrom make huge grabs on the UFA market very unlikely. It's likely the Flames will grab a lower hyped player or two for the second line, but fans shouldn't hold their breath for a great improvement.
Daymond Langkow has signed a four year deal, but the money is unclear. Sutter stated that the rumored price of $5 million per is untrue. Scott Cruickshank estimated $4.5 million, and give or take $500,000 they're probably right.
Craig Conroy, meanwhile, took a discount and will have a $1.1 million cap hit for the next two years. A reduced role will probably come with the reduced price, probably to the third line.
Eric Nystrom and Curtis McElhinney seem to have signed themselves onto the Flames' roster for good. They both signed one-way deals, Nystrom for two years and McElhinney for one. With Curtis Joseph not returning, it appears McElhinney will keep the backup position he had before Joseph signed. Financial terms remain “undisclosed”, but I think a fair guess is about $1 million each in cap hit, rounded down.
Neither Eriksson, Nilson or Warrener have been officially bought out. If they're bought out tomorrow (the final day to do so) the Flames will save $1.6 million in cap space. However, if they are sent to the minors, the Flames will save their full salaries - $4.85M combined. Warrener and his agent seem to be expecting a buyout ($1.56M for two years), and I'm going to guess that Nilson and Eriksson will be demoted (to save $2.5M).
Assuming my estimates so far are correct, the Flames will have $48.952 million committed to 19 players, leaving them with $7.748 million for four players. This space will likely be committed mostly for a short term solution for the second line.
The Flames' biggest need going into July 1 is their top six. With the departure of Alex Tanguay and Kristian Huselius, the Flames are now sorely lacking on the left side. Mike Cammalleri can play left wing to fill Tanguay's spot, but no matter how much cap space they have, Huselius' replacement will be a serious downgrade in points. Despite complaints about the past-their-prime veteran forwards Darryl Sutter has brought in, this year, the reality is that those kind of players are all the Flames can afford, both financially and logistically. The Flames may also need a second line RW to replace Owen Nolan. I would love Nolan back, but I have a feeling he'll end up on a team closer to the Cup. Matthew Lombardi will probably be promoted to the second line, unless Darryl Sutter prefers a past-his-prime vet.
With the context out of the way, time to talk about some rumored UFA targets for Darryl Sutter come Tuesday.
Andrew Brunette - LW - He's been a consistent forward the past eight years with three teams, recording several 20 goal seasons and an 83 point year in 2007. He should cost much less than Ryan Malone. His lack of injuries is remarkable. He's also a consistent playoff performer. A great short term solution. Recent rumors have him returning to Minnesota, but I'm rooting for Sutter to sign him. Only made $1.6M last year.
Cory Stillman – LW – A return to Calgary? Another consistent 20 goal scorer, and only made $1.75M last year.
Ruslan Fedotenko, LW - It would be strange seeing Fedotenko in a Flames uniform after what happened in 2004, but I could definitely see this unless he's offered a long term deal elsewhere.
Michael Ryder, RW – His stock has fallen sharply and he would come cheap. Perhaps he just needs a change of scenery? He likes to sign short term too. Though Sutter may be wary of Ryder after what happened with his brother Daniel, this seems likely to me nonetheless.
Darcy Tucker, RW - He has put up similar point totals as Nolan the past few years and provides similar grit. Very likely unless he wants a long term deal. Apparently, Sutter tried to trade for Tucker a few years ago.
Curtis Glencross, LW - Besides cutting Kipper's GAA in half, this would be a good signing for the Flames as they need youth. I don't know if he would be a viable second line solution though.
Sutter's priority has always been retaining his own players, and he will probably budget for re-signing Cammalleri after this season. While the draft was crucial for the Flames' long term future, I still see this year's UFA period as a band aid solution for the Flames.