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.
(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?)