For the first time since 2003, the Calgary Flames look like they have a viable 1st round draft pick with #17 in the first round. It looks as if the Flames will be looking for a forward in this slot and if the hype for D comes through, they could be staring at a pretty solid prospect being available when their time comes.
But let's look around the draft for a moment and map out what we know going in to next season... assuming Sutter's "gentleman's" agreement with Langkow holds true... this is what our line up looks like in terms of contract players for next season. (salary in millions beside their name. Forwards first.
Tanguay (5.375) Langkow (5.0) Iginla (7.0)
------- Lombardi (1.55) ----------
Primeau (1.4) --------- Moss (0.575)
Nilson (1.0) Boyd (0.65) ----------
FREE AGENTS: Conroy, Nolan, Nystrom, Yelle, Godard
MINORS/OVERSEAS: Grant Stevenson, Krys Kolanos, Brandon Prust, David Van der Gulik, Mikael Backlund
It seems fairly certain that Conroy will be back at a discounted price to act as the 3rd line checking centre. Nystrom, Nolan and Yelle will likely all receive offers to return but may have better luck on the UFA market; Nolan may also choose to retire.
As for the players from Quad City last year; I feel that Grant Stevenson should be brought up to play after scoring 33 goals last season. He would fill one of the spots on the right wing. It's possible he and Moss could duke it out for the 2nd line right wing but they would likely fill the 3/4 line RW positions. Brandon Prust will continue to be a call-up option and Mikael Backlund is probably a year away still.
Personally, I re-sign Eric Nystrom for around 700 - 750,000 to play a checking role. I would love to bring back Nolan, but when it's all said and done, I don't think we'll be able to afford him.
On to defenseman...
Phaneuf (6.5) Aucoin (4.0)
Regehr (3.5) Sarich (3.6)
Eriksson (1.5) Warrener (2.5)
Giordano (contract unknown, likely around 0.75)
FREE AGENTS: Vandermeer
MINORS: Adam Pardy, Matt Pelech, John Negrin, Tim Ramholt
I don't think that Eriksson or Warrener are capable of logging 3rd pair minutes on a team that feels they can challenge for the cup. Unfortunately, I also think it will be difficult to get rid of them (their salaries) because honestly, who's going to take it on? That's going to be a sad truth for Flames fans this off-season.
I'd like to see Vandermeer re-signed with Giordano promoted to the top 6. But again, Vandermeer would likely have to take a cut from his 1.225 in order to stay, so hopefully he enjoyed his time in Calgary being used poorly by Mike Keenan as a make-shift Left Wing... which I doubt.
It looks to me as if Warrener and Eriksson will rotate in the final D spot for the time being with one of the guys in the minors ready to be 8th on the depth chart. Likely Adam Pardy with John Negrin needing one year in the minors before taking that spot over.
FREE AGENTS: Joseph, McElhinney
MINORS: Leland Irving, Matt Keetley, Kevin Lalande
I can't see Joseph coming back so we should see McElhinney re-signed for a cheap price to play 4-6 games. Irving and Keetley will back stop Quad City and compete for time and possibly even competing to be the next back up to Kipper.
Current Team Salary (incl. Langkow and Giordano estimates) 50.73
Estimated Cap 56 million
Leaves 5.27 million to play with. Sutter won't spend right to the limit; but for this case, we'll assume we have all of that money.
Playing the role of General Manager, I think Sutter will re-sign Conroy (about 1 million), Nystrom (750,000) and bring up Grant Stevenson (475,000).
I think the cap does not allow us to make any moves on D.
Goalie, re-sign McElhinney (575,000)
Adding those numbers to the cap leaves us with 2.5 million and one forward spot left to fill. Since the #17 pick will not be ready to fill a role on our 08-09 team, something will have to be done in free agency.
Going through the list of potential UFA's leaves these players as those I feel Darryl Sutter will have some interest in.
Curtis Glencross: He may have just had his breakout season with the Jackets/Oil. Reports are saying that the Oilers will not be able to re-sign him. Curtis was recently the Parade Marshall of the Brooks Rodeo (my hometown and where Curtis played his Junior A hockey) and in talking with close friends of his, it appears he feels he will not be back with the Oilers because he is not one of their top priorities. When asked if he was coming to the Flames, he said he could not say much, only that the Flames were 1 of 3 teams that have showed major interest. (but there's no tampering in the NHL is there?) I think he's tops on the Flames list and I think the Oilers made a huge mistake not re-signing him.
Ruslan Fedotenko: The Flame killer. Scored the 2 goals for Tampa in game 7 against the Flames. Sutter may have some interest in him.
Keith Aucoin: This is a personal choice. I think he has some value as a checker who could score 15-20 goals. I watched a lot of Carolina this year and he always seemed to be buzzing.
The bottom line after breaking all of this down is that regardless of what Daryl Sutter says in the media, we are not looking that good in terms of cap. Unless of course, some of these guys in the minors are actually ready to step up.
The Flames should be looking at cutting salary for the upcoming season and I don't think that Tanguay is the option. Without Alex, the Flames are a bunch of checkers with a decent top line.
Serious consideration should be given to getting rid of Rhett Warrener's salary. Does he have a no-movement clause? Send him to the minors to take his salary off of the cap books.
The Flames have several needs and again they seem to fall in an all-to-familiar place, goal-scoring. But anyway I break it down, barring any major moves. The Flames are going to make all of their draft picks possibly even trading down to acquire a 2nd or another 3rd and then try to re-sign a lot of their current UFA's at discount prices.
However, the fact that Sutter has not done anything, including the Langkow deal, leads me to believe that something is in the works.
Enjoy the draft...