I haven't shared my thoughts with the fine readers of Hockeybuzz for quite some time but I've recently been quite impressed with the amount of response given to the Flames bloggers and the great debates and speculation that has taken place.
Unfortunately, I feel that some of the Flames faithful have set the bar too high in their expectations of Sutter during this offseason, and I'll explain why.
Our enigmatic GM has worked himself into a JFJ/Kevin Lowe-like snafu that will take some time to work out of. Horrific contracts for under-performing players, no-movement clauses and trades that made even Craig Button wonder....
Yes, I'm sure the reports of Sutter chasing a number 1 centre are true. I think he's always chasing a number 1 centre. He'll chase one until he finds one or until he's fired. However, there is one fairly significant problem with that goal:
WE HAVE NOTHING TO OFFER.
Simple as that.
The sooner we all wrap our heads around that, the better off we'll be.
I've heard all sorts of speculation about what it's going to take to get Jason Spezza or Marc Savard or others. And for those of you that think this is an option, enlighten me as to what we will offer either of these teams in return to make this deal work. Let's pretend we're the GM's of these teams, Bryan Murray and Peter Chiarelli, and let's try to work out a deal.
1) Jason Spezza: The Sens are going to want either equal value (kind of like the Marian Hossa for Dany Heatley deal) or they're going to want picks, prospects and cap space. To open it up a little more, they may want some defensive help.
Well, we can't offer them equal value. We can't include Daymond Langkow, because, let's face it, he's a 4.5 mil hit while bringing very little in return and he would probably cost more than the Sens would like to bring in and next year, he'd be getting Cheechoo'd out of Ottawa. How about some defensive help? Cory Sarich anyone? This guy couldn't have less value on the market than at the current moment. He is a turnover machine who just might be the slowest skater in the NHL, and he comes in at the bargain price of 3.6 mil. Gio's going nowhere during this offseason so, now what, Robyn Regehr? A bruising, stay at home defenseman with a very manageable and affordable contract. Maybe, just maybe, Regehr could get this deal done... Oh wait! He has a no-movement clause.... and it would cost more than just Regehr.
2) Marc Savard: The Bruins, plain and simply, want something in return for Marc Savard. They don't want other teams' problems. They want building blocks or cap relief and they are in a position to demand these things due to some shrewd moves by their GM. They will keep Savard unless a deal comes that will really benefit them. Again, what can the Flames offer to actually get this done? Our only hope is picks and prospects and we don't exactly have a stack of either waiting to be shipped out... And besides, trading picks/prospects is something that teams with Stanley Cup hopes do and I don't exactly see the Stanley Cup in Calgary's immediate future.
Bottom line is that the Flames have nothing to offer except the only remaining decent pieces of the current puzzle and until Sutter commits to a rebuild, these pieces aren't going anywhere.
How quickly we all forget about everyone's favorite bonehead, Anders (but he's so nice in person) Eriksson and Marcus Nilsson. During the time when those players (along with Rhett Warrener) were put on waivers, the exact same reports surfaced about the Flames intentions to buy them all out. None of these players were bought out and Darryl Sutter went on record as saying that he and the organization do not believe in buy outs (unfortunately, I was not able to find a link to his actual quote). Eriksson toiled in the minors, Nilsson was scooped up by the K and Warrener, luckily, was taken off the cap due to long-term injury.
Yes, buying out Kotalik would save 2 million in cap space for the next 2 seasons and then cost the Flames 1 million for each of the following 2. If the Calgary Flames can afford to buy him out, then they can afford to keep him in the minors. And I fully expect them to do just that until a suitor is found or until the contract runs out.
Sutter has taken his lumps over the past year for his moves and rightfully so. However, I don't understand why Flames fans are so mad at him for not making a "splash" at the draft. How have his previous "splashes" worked out? Had Darryl ran his other drafts the way he ran this one, we might have some prospects ready to make an impact and we might have gotten one of the top defenseman in this years draft in Brandon Gormley.
The one move Sutter did make was a quality one that helps the team cheaply fill a hole.
Again, I reiterate, Sutter had nothing to move to make a splash. No one wants the Calgary Flames problem contracts and players.
I expect that management came down on Sutter during his evaluation and tightened up the ship a little bit. I don't think he has the power to pull the trigger like he did before and I don't think we'll see too much action on the trade front until he gets some help in the front office. And this is a good thing.
The 2010 draft was a step in the right direction for a franchise that went from flourishing to fledgling in one season.
THE 2010 CALGARY FLAMES:
This is an average roster, with average defense, a spectacular goalie and a pretty solid coaching staff. There are holes in the roster; most notable, scoring... of any sort. But, you can still make the playoffs with a team like that, especially if the coaching staff implements a trapping, defense-first system.
With roughly 5.5 million in cap space to fill these roster holes, here are my suggestions on how to improve the team without making any significant trades or moves.
Ian White: Sign to a multi-year deal worth around 2.5 million. Yes, I know that's low, and we should probably expect it to be 3+.
Henrik Karlsson: He basically has to be the man. League minimum at around 500,000 and let him learn under Kipper. Irving comes with a hit of 1.3 mil and Keetley is definitely not ready... so, we better hope Karlsson is....
Craig Conroy: I haven't heard what his plans are yet, maybe some of you have and can fill us in... But I think the Flames should attempt to get Connie back for around the league minimum, 500,000. He can still play a role on an NHL team and, of course, everyone loves him and he's a leader in the dressing room.
UFAs: The Flames would have a little bit of room to play with and there are some very valuable UFA's when it comes to the role-playing, heart type guys. Here's my list of players who could help the Flames next season for anywhere from 750,000 to 2 million.
Jeff Halpern F
Eric Belanger F
John Madden F
Jason Williams F
Ryan Johnson F
Glen Metropolit F
Darcy Tucker F
Manny Malholtra F
Lee Stempniak F
Richard Park F
Arron Asham F
Brett Clark D
Bryan Pothier D
Brett Lebda D
Kurtis Foster D
These guys would be cheap and can help NHL teams.
As for potential moves the Flames should look at making:
Nigel Dawes: I've seen enough. Never have I ever seen someone who can completely blow wide-open scoring chances like this guy. He should have had 25 goals, even in his limited ice time. See what you can get for him and his 850,000. Hello Atlanta!
Cory Sarich: The obvious trade option. 3.6 mil cap hit. I expect he'll be back, but I'd love to see his cap hit gone. But who would take it?
Steve Staios: I actually think the effort he brings to the Flames is worth his bad contract. He was one of the few who gave an effort on every shift. Besides, I ask again, who would take him?
Projection: Another battle in the 7th-12th place level of the Western Conference. A team of Iginla, Bourque and a bunch of 3rd liners? I think that's a fair projection. Somehow sneak into the playoffs and anything can happen.
So let's temper our expectations for this offseason because it hasn't worked in the past. If the Flames can build through what will be a very difficult season, then it will get better and possibly without reverting to a rebuild.
And to fill in the blank for my missing title, I think I'll actually just make a small change and shorten it up to something a little more vague, because frankly, that's where the Flames stand right now.
Calgary Flames: Onward.