***Updated at the bottom of the blog***
The announcement of these 3 players being put on waiver's to start the buy-out process comes as somewhat of a surprise to me, albeit, a very welcome and exciting surprise.
I've written recently that I didn't expect Daryl Sutter to exercise his right to buy out any of the gaudy contracts that were on the Flames books and really handcuffing them for this season.
Times have changed in the NHL and especially in the face of Canadian franchises. No longer are we subject to a dismal dollar that puts our owners at an immediate fiscal handicap to start every season. All 6 Canadian buildings are so sold out that one of the best "side" jobs in Canada is to be a scalper in one of these major cities. Five years ago, the thought of the Calgary Flames buying out a player would have been ludicrous.
I guess that's why I wasn't anticipating those moves.
The reality is that these players severely under-achieved on a team that should be challenging for the Stanley Cup.
Here's a look at each of the players and what they've brought to our team in their tenure.
Rhett Warrener: Acquired in July 2003, Rhett Warrener and Steve Reinprecht to Calgary for Chris Drury and Steve Begin. (side note, The Sabres originally acquired Warrener and a 5th rounder from Florida in exchange for D Mike Wilson... that 5th rounder turned out to be Ryan Miller). Warrener was absolutely thrilled to come to the Flames and I believe he was actually in Calgary visiting family when it was anounced.
He was a welcome addition as a bruising D-man who could clog players in the corner like not many others. He was a crucial part of the Finals run in 2004; paired with Andrew Ference, they were the heart and soul guys that you could count on night in and night out. Warrener had become a fan-favorite and would be signed to a huge extension for a 3rd pair D-man at 4 years, 9.4 million. The next year was lost to the lockout... and it would be all downhill for Warrener after that.
The post-lockout era saw a new breed of defenseman become important... the so-called, "puck-moving" D-man; which could also be referred to as, the Anti-Warrener. No amount of power skating in the offseason could get Warrener to the point where he could be a valuable 3rd pair guy. His contract was way too much. He gave us some great years in Calgary and every player on that cup run will be special to many Flames fans for years to come. Rhett's influence in the community and the way he handled himself as a professional will be missed... I hope he finds a team to give him a solid chance... possibly his old stomping grounds of Florida?
Marcus Nilson: Acquired near the 2004 trade deadline preceding the Flames playoff run. He came to the Flames to add depth to our forward ranks as a checker capable of scoring 15-20 goals. Nilson never did show a goal-scoring touch, but not many did who played for the Flames around that time. He played valuable minutes on the left wing throughout the playoffs and will best be remembered, by me at least, for his goal in game 1 against the Red Wings in overtime that gave us a 1-0 lead in a series that was supposed to be a sweep. Many forget that Nilson also scored the all-important tying goal against the Lightning in game 6 of the Finals, banging one home on the doorstep...
This season was a bad one for Nilson. Keenan never really saw a good role for him and he saw his minutes and then games play dwindle to the point where he was hardly used. I never agreed with it at the time and still see it as a costly mistake by Keenan. Were Mark Smith and/or Eric Godard actually giving the Flames more valuable minutes? I do not think so. Was Jim Vandermeer better used as a left wing in the playoffs than Marcus Nilson? Again, I have to say absolutely not. Another victim of Mike Keenan's coaching style... add Kristian Huselius to that mix and you'd think Iron Mike has something against Swedes... Nevertheless, Nilson has always played strong for the Swedish National team and although I believe he can be a very serviceable NHLer, I think he could field a strong offer from Sweden, and return home.
Anders Eriksson: Acquired via free agency (for the 2nd time) prior to the 07-08 season after a decent season with the Blue Jackets. I hated this move from the start. But here I was last week, studying our roster, and seeing Eriksson and his 1 year, 1.5 million staring me in the face. I was trying to come to terms with the fact that he may be back for another year. In fact, I was doing a pretty good job of trying to tell myself that he could be okay as a 6th guy, used sparingly.
Well, today is one of the most exciting days I've had as a Flames fan. Right up there with the day Andrei Zyuzin was traded.
Anyone who has read any of my previous blogs knows that I have no use for Eriksson. I even made up my own stat this year in honour of Mr. Eriksson ... PLSDAE ... which translates as, Points Lost in the Standings Due to Anders Eriksson. Yes, it was all in fun. But once it hit double digits, I wasn't laughing anymore. His time in Calgary began opening night against Philly, where he coughed up the puck to Daniel Briere who went in alone and broke the 2-2 tie late in the 3rd for a Flyer win. His final game with Calgary will be remembered as one he should have been benched for... he took 2 penalties early in the 1st against San Jose, one of which led to Joe Thornton's tying goal at 1-1. He had played so poorly in game 5 that I thought there was no way he'd be back in the lineup, instead, Vandermeer was once again at LW and Eriksson was poised and ready for another night we got so used to seeing from Bubba.
Eriksson will not be missed in Calgary.
In terms of cap space, Sutter has taken what was to be 4.85 million in cap hit and trimmed it to 1.5 million. Giving us another 3.35 million in space to re-sign some of our own UFA's and look for at least one top 6 winger... in a perfect world, two, although I have a feeling Dustin Boyd may be given that opportunity this season.
Heading toward July 1st, here are the cap numbers... (give or take)
Salary Cap: 56.7
Current Contracts: 45.50 (including Langkow at 5 and Giordano at 750,000)
Remaining: 11.20 million
Needs: Two top 6 forwards, Two checking forwards, One 3rd pair D, One backup goalie.
Another good move by Sutter who's going to be a very busy man leading up to July 1st as he tries to get a couple of current roster players locked up for next year. I expect Craig Conroy, Eric Nystrom and with today's losses on D, Jim Vandermeer, to be re-signed before July 1st.As a Calgary Flames Season Ticket holder, I've just received an Invitation to the Calgary Flames Stampede Kickoff Party which takes place July 4th. Interesting enough, Vandermeer is listed on the invitation as making a special appearance on behalf of the Flames. This will be a few days into free agency, which leads me to believe there could be more "gentleman's" contracts between Sutter and Flames UFA's than we know about.... anyway, something to consider...