Part 2 of my outlook on the Calgary Flames off-season looking ahead to 08-09...
Sure enough, Daryl Sutter's quiet demeanor leading up to the draft was exactly what I thought it was... he was gearing up for a major deal.
As I pointed out in my pre-draft blog, the Flames are going to be up against the cap in a major way this year and desperately need to shed some salary.
Sutter addressed this early and in a big way at the draft. Shipping Alex Tanguay to the Habs for their 1st rounder, 25th overall and also a 2nd rounder in 2009. Although I felt we could have gotten more for Tanguay, his huge salary was now off our books, but before I had the time to break it all down in my head the news came across that the Flames had acquired Mike Cammalleri in exchange for our 1st rounder, 17th overall... as it turned out later when the Flames were surprisingly picking in the 2nd round, is that we also re-acquired our 2nd rounder that we gave to the Kings in the Conroy deal last season.
Breaking it down, it looks like this. The Flames end up with C/LW Mike Cammalleri from the LA Kings at a cap hit of 3.35 million with one season remaining on his arbitration-winning contract. In terms of prospects, the Flames landed John Nemisz, a goal-scoring centre from the Windsor Spitfires with their first pick, Montreal's 25th and drafted Mitch Wahl, with the Kings 2nd round pick, from the Memorial Cup champion Spokane Chiefs. A play-making centre whom some scouts believe to be highly under-rated due to his competitive nature. Calgary gave up Alex Tanguay, their top LW (although not used like it), and his salary to the Habs while the Kings flipped the Flames 17th pick to the Ducks who selected Jake Gardiner, a smooth-skating American defenseman. Also, the Flames shed 1.9 million in salary for the upcoming season.
Make no mistake about it, Alex Tanguay will likely flourish in Montreal. It's a system that will thrive with a player like him in the lineup and Kovalev/Higgins could be due for a big, goal-scoring season. But I would like to add that the Habs will be receiving a better player than the one that originally came to Calgary from the Avs. His 58 point season is a little deceiving as although he may not been used as the offensive force that he can and will be, but Keenan made him defensively responsible and will be a better overall player because of it. If you're a Habs fan, you've got to be on Cloud 9 right now as giving up a late first-rounder will mean nothing when Tanguay goes back to his point-a-game self.
In return comes Mike Cammelleri, and Flames fans may be excited about this, but again, I have to point out that he is a serious downgrade from Tanguay and has been known to want boatloads of cash for his services. But Cammy brings a lot to the table as well. He's about 3 years younger, 2 million dollars cheaper... can play LW or C, has a great shot and is a very fast skater.
All in all, I'm okay with the moves that Sutter made over the draft and it gives us a little more flexibility going forward.
Our next big date is July 1st, but not because the Flames are going to be major players in the UFA market, but because we have a half-dozen slots to be filled on our current team and several UFA/RFA's of our own. Rumors continue to swirl about the Daymond Langkow deal and whether their actually is something to it. I heard Daryl Sutter say the two had a "gentleman's agreement" and I have to think that's where they stand. What would the terms be of that agreement... my guess, is it's as simple as, let's map this out when we know where we both stand.
As of now, all we can do is speculate... and speculate we shall.
I believe the following players will be re-signed and remain a part of the Calgary Flames, beside their name I will include a ball-park figure of their salary and discuss their current/future role with our organization and the impact it has on the upcoming year.
Langkow: expected to be 5 million... I personally would like to see this at around 4 mil and think that the term of 4 years which has been bantered about is also too long. I think a 3 year deal would be more than sufficient for a 32-year old who has had his best 3 seasons as a pro, with the Flames. He's likely nearing the end of his "prime" and can't be expected to get 70-75 points when he's 36 or 37.
Conroy: I expect him to come back for a 2 year, 2 million dollar deal. He'll take the role as a 3rd line centre but will probably see a lot of special teams minutes, including power-play. Connie loves Calgary, and the fans love him, but more importantly, he's Jarome Iginla's best friend... and guess who phoned him just minutes after hearing he was coming to Cowtown, Mike Cammelleri, who was excited to be teamed with Conroy once again. I'm sure Conroy could also address the issues of how Cammy's attitude is in the locker room.
Nystrom: He finally showed that he is capable of logging important checking-role minutes in the NHL. He would fit perfectly as a 3rd/4th line, penalty killing LW and I expect that he'll be back with a slight raise on his salary from last season. I pencil him in at around 875,000 and I would think he'd also sign a 2-year pact in order to get back to his UFA status with improved stock.
Giordano: He has been signed since mid-December when he realized that he may have made a mistake by leaving North America. But he had a solid season in Russia and was an alternate for Canada's World Championship team. I can only assume that he was given a one-way deal for this season, but you never know. Calgary fans should temper their expectations for Gio, but he will make an excellent 3rd pair D-man and he should see regular time on the 2nd power play unit. I expect this deal to be similar to Nystrom's in that it's just a raise from his last contract year. Yes, many will argue that he's worth 1 to 1.2 per... but he just left our team high and dry, and has only played 55 NHL games. He'll get around 700-750,000 per.
Vandermeer: I'd like to see him back in the fold for the Flames for next season. When he was paired with Phaneuf the Flames played some of their best hockey of the season. It wasn't until Keenan broke them up, started playing him on the LW and made him fight every game that his production decreased and coincidentally, the Flames started losing again. Unfortunately, I don't see him signing with the Flames again unless Sutter can rid our books of the Anders Eriksson or Rhett Warrener deals. Vandermeer would likely cost anywhere from 1.2 to 1.7 million per.
If these deals are made (excluding Vandermeer), the Flames would look like this heading into free agency.
Committed Salary: 51.5
Expected Cap: 56.0
Cap Space: 4.5
4.5 million to address the following needs...
1 top 6 forward
1 3rd/4th line forward (likely to be filled by a prospect from Quad City)
1 3rd-pair defenseman (this is more of a WANT on my part, again, highly likely nothing is done to the D unless Eriksson or Warrener is moved)
1 backup goalie
I expect at least 1 prospect from Quad City to make the jump and I would think Grant Stevenson would top the list.
After the draft, things look a little brighter for the Flames but there's still going to be some sleepless nights for Sutter as he tries to build a squad to get over the hump. I think he's heading in the right direction and a couple small moves could put the Flames in a good position for this season.
I'll be back before July 1st to give my thoughts on free agency... but for a little teaser, here's a list of names I think Sutter may be looking at. This is not my wishlist, just players who I think would fit the mold and may be pursued.
Curtis Glencross, probably the highest on my list as it's heard from Glencross himself that the Flames are interested...
Let's hope for July 1st to be as crazy as the draft was! Here in Calgary, we're just gearing up for the Stampede next week..........
With the Toronto Maple Leafs expected to buy out the remaining 3 years on Darcy Tucker's contract, I expect the Flames to make a pitch for his services. I've written blogs before, expressing my interest in bringing Darcy Tucker to the West. He would be the ideal fit for Calgary and would fill a major void on the right side of our 2nd power-play unit. Depending on how the bidding goes for his services, we could see him sign for less than his current 3 million dollar contract. Although I would think that the New York Rangers would be another team who would seriously consider adding Tucker... and I wouldn't count out the Sens or Sharks.
If the Edmonton Oilers didn't have such an influx of young wingers, I would think that they would also love to have a player like Tucker.
But for the Flames, it seems like he would really help the lack of scoring on our right side following Iggy. I understand his health is a major concern and maybe due to his style of play, he likely can't be counted on for 80 games... but I'd love to give him a chance. He would be a slightly-younger, smaller version of Owen Nolan, except with the capability to score 25 goals.
I'll be very interested in where he ends up... a healthy Darcy Tucker can be the difference in putting a team over the top. You can't deny his fiery, competitive nature... the only thing he ever did wrong for the Leafs was get hurt... he'll give whoever he goes too, everything he has, like he always does.
I really hope Daryl Sutter makes a move for Tucker. Come home Darcy...