STOKING THE FIRE - From Draft to Free Agency

Vintage Flame
July 06 2012 01:48PM

 

While the fans sat back watching the first round of the draft go on, waiting patiently for the 14th pick overall to be announced by their beloved yet maligned Flames, the sound of 1.2 million jaws collectively hitting the floor quickly drowned out Gary Bettman before he could finish, “We have a trade to announce.”

While the Flames opting to trade down in the draft because they could still select Mark Jankowski with the 21st pick, and re-quire their 2nd round pick, may have drawn the ire of fans and hockey people all over Flamesland, the reality is we will not know the success or the detriment of the selection for at least 3 or 4 years.

What we will be able to scrutinize and evaluate is the moves made after the draft. The choices Jay Feaster and his new ensemble have made in regards to free agency are of the “here and now”. The moves are a clear statement to the players and the fanbase that the organization is still committed to the win now philosophy.

Are they any closer now than they were one year ago at this same time?

OUT WITH THE OLD...

Of the plentiful list of unrestricted free agents the Flames had, almost everyone knew that only a select few would be re-signed. The easiest way for an organization to immediately move in a different direction is to shed UFA’s and look elsewhere. For the most part, Feaster did just that, and with little surprise... Little surprise, but there were still some.

 

DAVID MOSS

The departure of Mosser will come with disappointment to some, but surprised very few. I had mentioned back when FlamesNation did our UFA profile on the 30 year old, that Moss was going to be one of those fence decisions. He was a great player for driving the play, but that effectiveness was seeing fewer results for the club due to high injury tendencies. Add to the fact that he was now a 30 year old on a team desperate to get younger and the cons started to pile up. The final nail in the coffin most likely being the re-signing of Lee Stempniak, a player that is a year younger, less injury prone and has a higher offensive potential; another issue the Flames were struggling to resolve.

It sure didn’t take long for Moss to land on his feet. Curiously enough, it would be with the former team of the man that took his job here in Calgary. David signed a two year deal, worth $2.1 Million per season, with the Phoenix Coyotes. The deal re-unites Moss with Jim Playfair, something that David took into consideration when he accepted the deal, from the first team his camp talked to.

”I know him really well. I think lot of the guys who I played with in Calgary that had gone there had really liked it, and had good things to say.”
-David Moss

OLLI JOKINEN

Joker was another player that the fans were prepared to see leave the Flames and apparently so was the organization.

Though it may have been a slam dunk for management to let the ‘Photoshop Friendly Finn’ walk, there were still many that believed Olli still had purpose with the team, and that they should re-sign him. There were a few problems though that I believe countered that notion, and resulted in the parting of ways.

As the issue with many of the UFA’s, Olli’s age had to be a dominant factor in not re-signing him. The soon to be 34 Center, was going to be looking for his most likely last meaningful contract; something many anticipated to be in the neighborhood of 4-5 million and a term of about 5 years. This just wasn’t feasible for the Flames and would have been completely counter-productive for a team trying to subtly rebuild without their fanbase noticing. Imagine the surprise to many, when Jokinen ended up signing with the Winnipeg Jets, for $4.5 million, but a term of only 2 years. Those were numbers being thrown around by many of the Calgary fans advocating for the Flames to re-sing him, if the terms were “reasonable”.

Regardless of how it played out in the end, it was still the right move for Calgary and Jokinen to part ways. Even though he signed what seemed to be that “reasonable contract” elsewhere, the other factor that led to his release was the earlier signing of Roman Cervenka. The acquisition from the KHL is younger, new blood. It’s a big gamble for Feaster and the Flames to take the gamble with a 26 year old player that has never skated on NHL ice before, but as we saw from the draft, Jay is all about rolling the dice this season.

The third factor that led to Jokinen’s departure most likely had to do with the player he was shaped into by two men that are not with the organization any more. It was the faith of Darryl Sutter in Jokinen that brought him back here, and it was the tutelage of Brent Sutter that turned him into the defensive shut-down type center that he is today. With the club bringing in the highly offensive minded regime of Hartley, Cloutier and Gelinas to run the show, it seemed like Olli’s services were no longer warranted, since he was no longer that kind of player... How’s that for irony?

CORY SARICH?

He may be old... but he is not one of the UFA’s on his way out. Instead the Flames decided to re-sign Sarich last Friday to a two year deal, at $2 million per season. This has to be one of the surprise moves by the franchise to the fans, as it was widely seen that Cory would be an obvious casualty for a club looking towards a youth movement.

However, this seemed not to be the case as the management insists that, despite his advanced age and general one-dimensional nature, Sarich contributes something far more intangible to the team; namely leadership skills and true ‘grit’. Both of these qualities are something the Flames need despite their change in philosophy and as it seems today, both Feaster and Sarich on the same page when it comes to that aspect of the team’s re-development.

“I think you need grit in your lineup. You can’t go with just 20 guys who are comfortable players. You need some guys that are not afraid to go into the corners. That’s my job. I’m not afraid to get out there and muck things up.”
-Cory Sarich

While fans may agree with the message but not the messenger, Jay Feaster had no qualms about acknowledging the search for a replacement for Sarich was futile.

“From our perspective, as we look at the free-agent market, we don’t see a better guy to fit that role than the guy that was in our own room,” said Feaster. “So getting him signed . . . we’re obviously very, very pleased to have him back on board.”

I’m not personally fond of the signing, but I can see some merit in the decision. The Flames are likely two years away from seeing enough development in their younger prospects to allow them to step in and be effective everyday blue-liners. Signing Sarich for two years gives them that window of experience without having their younger guys get just eaten alive. TJ Brodie was able to do it relatively seamlessly, but you won’t have that with the majority of the other guys.

That being said, it creates a logjam behind the blueline, as the Flames now have nine D-men on one way deals, and just Brodie on a two way contract. Needless to say something has to give, probably via trades and the exile of Babchuk to Europe, but one of the guys I would have liked to have seen given a good shot in training camp is Brady Lamb. The current congestion of one way deals makes that unlikely.

... IN WITH THE NEW

JIRI HUDLER

When the Flames came calling, Jiri Hudler was listening; though it took some assistance from both a current (Roman Cervenka) and a former Flame (Todd Bertuzzi) to probably convince the Czech Center/RW to commit. Many will see the acquisition of Hudler as a compliment and a way to ease Roman Cervenka into the NHL fold, but the Flames were quick to dispel that idea.

“I can tell you very, very honestly that . . . we don’t look at nationality, we don’t look at country of origin — we look for the best hockey players that we can find,” said Feaster. “It’s just happenstance that both players are Czechs.”

With the Flames not being the only team interested in Hudler, Feaster went for it big time to land him. $4 million per season over four years is nothing to cough at, but it’s likely right around what other teams would have paid to get him as well.

In the end I think it’s a good signing for Calgary. Whether it was intentional or not, Hudler will be a comforting factor for Cervenka, and when you are relying on a guy who has never played a single NHL game is going to be an impact player in his first year on your team, you need whatever help you can muster.

“He was asking me about the NHL,” recalled Hudler. “He was really excited and he had some questions. Coincidence that we end up on the same team. (The NHL) is going to be a little tougher for him than usual, but he’s been around hockey for a long time. Obviously, he’s got a lot of skill. He’s a smart player. He can score goals. But it’s going to be something new for him. I’m all there for him.”

Hudler will be a guy that will help the Flames on the power play and even strength. He is especially going to be noticed at even strength: of his 25 goals scored last year, only two of them came on the PP. Many will give the majority of the credit to his linemates, Zetterberg and Fillpula, but in Calgary he is going to be given more time on ice and increased responsibility. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he remains a 50 pt guy for the Flames, especially if he winds up playing with Cervenka and the two can establish early chemistry.

DENNIS WIDEMAN

Another boost to the PP will be the signing of Dennis Wideman. On the surface, it was a great trade for Calgary, as they gave up Jordan Henry and a 5th round pick in the 2013 draft

The signing showed that the Flames definitely want to generate a lot more shot towards the net with the man advantage. The gamble comes in that they forked out $5.25 million per year for 5 years. Wideman who is now 29, isn’t known for his defensive acumen or his skating speed, but generating those shots is a big thing, and so is his ability to block a lot of shots at his own net.

Two things of note on Wideman. Back in 2004, Dennis was actually in Calgary attending a prospects camp for the Flames. Hours before his physical, he was signed by the St. Louis Blues. That’s how close he was to being a Flame eight years ago; now that he has been traded to the Flames, it’s like his career has come full circle.

”When I was there during the camp, I liked the city," Wideman said. "When I would play games in Calgary, I thought I would have liked to play there," Wideman said. "It's a great hockey town. From talking with my agent, and talking to them about the style of game they want to play with Bob Hartley as a coach, it fits the way I play. I think it'll be a good opportunity."

The other thing of note is the JayBo factor. Does the signing of Wideman spell the end of Jay Bouwmeester as a Flame? It may, but it doesn’t have to. The contract doesn’t put the Flames or Feaster in any cap situation, other than once again the organization is spending near its limits.

That’s nothing new.

If Calgary is done making their splash after signing Hudler, and finally re-signing Mikael Backlund, then there is not the necessity to deal Bouwmeester. It may still happen, and we all hope not, but if a deal is in the making then it will most likely financially benefit the team, but not rescue them.

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Vintage Flame is a Calgary based sports junkie that prefers to call hockey a "religion" rather than an addiction. He believes there are two types of hockey fans. Those who cheer for the Flames, and those who don't understand the sport yet. Follow Vintage_Flame on Twitter
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#1 Stockley
July 06 2012, 02:03PM
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I hope number 4 is still in the lineup next season. I don't think most understand what a hole Bouwmeester would leave on the blueline if he gets dealt. He might not score enough points to justify his salary but he does a lot of little things well. With Hartley at the helm maybe a little offence will return to his game. If nothing else he's durable and eats up a lot minutes that I don't think the rest of the roster is either a) suited for or b) ready for.

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#2 Ravage
July 06 2012, 02:46PM
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Hey VF,

I think what has some fans upset is that Feaster made it sound like a lot of changes would be happening, and when that was said most people likely thought alot of UFA's would be allowed to walk while others on the team would be traded.

It wasn't the mass exodus that many expected. Moss, Jokinen & Hannan out - Cervenka, Hudler & Wideman in. I think the 3 coming in are better than the 3 leaving, but as we've seen with this team in the past...changes in the "supporting cast" haven't changed this teams season ending fate the past 3 years.

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#3 Baalzamon
July 06 2012, 03:07PM
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"From our perspective, as we look at the free-agent market, we don’t see a better guy to fit that role than the guy that was in our own room,"

Matt Carkner. Signed for 1.5.

sigh.

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#4 beloch
July 06 2012, 03:16PM
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The B's might help the Flames improve a bit this year as well. i.e. Backlund and Baertschi. Backlund is in for a big rebound. That kid just has to have better puck-luck this year. Baertschi will almost certainly not score at the same rate he did during his debut last year, but he definitely showed an offensive flair that will make Calgary's third or fourth line a lot more fun to watch than it was last year when they were staffed almost entirely by career AHL pluggers. Injecting some legitimate rookie enthusiasm might be a bit of an X-Factor for the entire team too.

That being said, the biggest difference we're likely to see this year is coaching. If you track the Flames post-lockout stats, they seem to regularly alternate seasons between playing with defensive and offensive focuses. i.e. One year they'll generate a lot of shots but take a lot of shots. The next, they'll generate fewer shots but take fewer shots. Aside from Kipper, who seems to march to his own drummer, the team's better years were almost all offensively focused years, as it sounds like this one will be.

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#5 RexLibris
July 06 2012, 03:59PM
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I knew something was missing, but couldn't put my finger on it. Nice to see the STF is back in the FN rotation.

The only serious criticism I have is you passing up the easy alliteration/misspelling opportunity you set up there with Olli. Fotoshop Friendly Finn, while juvenile, looks pretty funny.

Seriously, I see some areas of improvement around the fringes of the roster and in the top-six with the addition of Hudler. Unfortunately, I haven't yet seen anything yet substantial enough to move the Flames into the top fifteen teams in the league.

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#6 SmellOfVictory
July 06 2012, 04:35PM
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I think my preferences, since the Flames refuse to rebuild, would've been Carle over Wideman and Semin over Hudler. And either no Sarich, or Sarich at half that price.

That said, Feaster's done a pretty good job so far, it seems.

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#7 RexLibris
July 06 2012, 04:59PM
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Just comparing Carle and Wideman, and aside from a lefty versus a righty, they are strikingly similar. Same size, virtually the same age, slightly more penalty minutes for Wideman. Wideman has had more points over the past four years, but Carle has the better +/- over that same time.

I would probably defer to Carle as I believe he is the more complete defenseman. It will be interesting to see how he does this season.

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#8 cLyde
July 06 2012, 05:23PM
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SmellOfVictory wrote:

I think my preferences, since the Flames refuse to rebuild, would've been Carle over Wideman and Semin over Hudler. And either no Sarich, or Sarich at half that price.

That said, Feaster's done a pretty good job so far, it seems.

Has Semin been signed yet? Why not go after him too? Then move some salary to fit him in of the Babchuk, Stajan variety. Clocks ticking if we are not going to rebuild.

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#9 SmellOfVictory
July 06 2012, 05:47PM
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cLyde wrote:

Has Semin been signed yet? Why not go after him too? Then move some salary to fit him in of the Babchuk, Stajan variety. Clocks ticking if we are not going to rebuild.

Main issue is cap/roster space at this point. Someone would have to be moved (Cammalleri being the only one that really makes sense).

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#10 cLyde
July 06 2012, 06:07PM
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SmellOfVictory wrote:

Main issue is cap/roster space at this point. Someone would have to be moved (Cammalleri being the only one that really makes sense).

No, you move Stajan, Babchuk and the next worse player to make it work. You stick the salaries in the minors if you have to. You will make that money back with your continued Iggy and Kipper sweater sales and the Semin novelty t-shirt sales. Plus, the extra revenue from playoff tics. If we are trying to win now, let's go for it. The roster isn't good enough and Semin makes us better. We can't afford not to do these things if the Flames are truly going for it.

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#14 cLyde
July 06 2012, 08:17PM
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Vintage Flame wrote:

They don't have the cap space to sign Semin. They will have to unload some players via trades for picks in order to make room for him.

I am very aware of the cap situation. I am simply saying that if they are going to keep our aging team and go for it, they must field a better team than they have now. If Semin is the top 6 guy needed, they should sign him. They have about 3million to spend and can be 10% over now so have more. Then, go get cap compliant. I personally don't agree with the refusal to trade Kipper, etc but am a Flames fan and if they are trying to win now, then try harder. Perhaps Jay is after Semin and he won't sign.

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#15 meat1
July 06 2012, 09:15PM
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I'm with "cLyde" on his takes here. If we're gonna go, let's go.

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#16 CitizenFlame
July 06 2012, 10:37PM
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I know everyone thinks Feaster is crazy for having so many players under contract (especially wingers & d-men) but I think that he saw how shallow the UFA market was and started locking up assets for trade fodder. Once a few of the domino's fall then everyone starts going crazy looking for the next available player. Except this year there aren't many, so teams are going to have to trade. I really like the Wideman signing, if for nothing else than they targeted their player immediately and made it happen. I'd rather be in that position than Detroit right now. I can hear Ken Holland banging his head on his desk after Suter signed in Minny. Now, not only have all the top UFA's been signed while he wasted time losing on the Suter sweepstakes but the Redwings will have to give up assets to acquire the talent needed to fill the gargantuan holes in their roster. It's better to have too many players and have to ship a few out than have too few and trade from a position of weakness. I think there will be a few draft picks coming back Calgary's way before the season starts or a bigger trade that involves packaging some of these contracts.

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#17 cLyde
July 06 2012, 11:19PM
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CitizenFlame wrote:

I know everyone thinks Feaster is crazy for having so many players under contract (especially wingers & d-men) but I think that he saw how shallow the UFA market was and started locking up assets for trade fodder. Once a few of the domino's fall then everyone starts going crazy looking for the next available player. Except this year there aren't many, so teams are going to have to trade. I really like the Wideman signing, if for nothing else than they targeted their player immediately and made it happen. I'd rather be in that position than Detroit right now. I can hear Ken Holland banging his head on his desk after Suter signed in Minny. Now, not only have all the top UFA's been signed while he wasted time losing on the Suter sweepstakes but the Redwings will have to give up assets to acquire the talent needed to fill the gargantuan holes in their roster. It's better to have too many players and have to ship a few out than have too few and trade from a position of weakness. I think there will be a few draft picks coming back Calgary's way before the season starts or a bigger trade that involves packaging some of these contracts.

I hope you are right but I am not so sure about Jay. We are in a position where we need to win in our transactions. Jay has not shown he can do that. Regehr for Butler and Byron would have been fine. Or even for Butler. But, throwing in a 2nd to move Kotalik was stupid. It left us having to do what we did at he draft this year when we could have possibly been in a position to get the 2 we got and someone else rather than what went on. I am not sold on Feaster. I hated that little act last year when he came down to meet the media with his tie off, shirt un buttoned and hair a little messed up to show us he was working on getting Brad Richards. Is he for real or just for show? We will find out very soon.

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#18 Redmiler
July 07 2012, 01:52AM
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Kotalik was a useless for the Flames. Feaster had no choice but to offer the 2nd pick for someone to take a player past his prime and quite overated. I believe Feaster has done a great job cleaning Sutter's mess. He unloaded a lazy hockey player in Bourque to Montreal for Cammalleri and the Wideman and Hudler siginings are good ones. You may want to realize that most NHL star players avoid Edmonton and Calgary to play in exciting cities like New York, LA, Anaheim, Boston and even Philadelphia. Give Feaster some credit!

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#19 Spot The Loon
July 07 2012, 05:37AM
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Vintage Flame wrote:

They don't have the cap space to sign Semin. They will have to unload some players via trades for picks in order to make room for him.

You would seriously consider signing Semin? The guy has been called lazy, cancerous, a coach killer and unmotivated. How would he, pray tell, help the Flames? If you hadn't noticed, teams are rushing to sign the guy because of what happened with his performance last year in Washington.

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#21 RexLibris
July 07 2012, 08:40AM
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I agree with CitizenFlame in that it is a possibility that Feaster was shrewd enough to start stockpiling assets before the Suter/Parise circus came to a close so that he'd be in a position of strength to negotiate with the unrequited suitors.

I believe I mentioned something like this as a potential strategy after the Wideman signing.

That being said, I'm also with cLyde in that I don't especially trust that Feaster recognizes the surplus of these assets for the Flames best long-term interests. In the same way that Feaster more or less refused to sell off assets at the trade deadline last year.

With regards to the cap, teams don't need to be either under the ceiling or above the floor until the day the season opens (soooo, December this year?). The Flames could sign Semin and move Stempniak instead, as an example. Not sure how happy Stempniak would be, but just food for thought.

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#23 RexLibris
July 07 2012, 08:48AM
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@Vintage Flame

Stajan for picks? What round do you see Stajan's value at? Nashville, Phoenix, Florida and Anaheim are all at the bottom of the salary scale right now and could absorb Stajan's contract. I'm just not sure what any of them would offer for him. His NTC and two remaining years are a bit of an obstacle. If he is to be moved, this time next season would probably be the ideal opportunity.

For the sake of argument I'd probably put Stajan's value at this point in the 3rd round pick range because of the size and clauses in his contract. Barring those I think he'd be worth a 2nd round pick as a depth center (I'm kind of thinking of Belanger as a comparable, correct me if I'm wrong).

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#25 Baalzamon
July 07 2012, 10:03AM
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@cLyde

"It left us having to do what we did at he draft this year when we could have possibly been in a position to get the 2 we got and someone else rather than what went on."

Every indication from what the Flames have said about their draft was that they would have taken Jankowski even if they had stayed at 14th. Aren't you glad they traded down now? I'm reasonably sure (though this is mostly conjecture) that they had Janko in their top 5.

also (re: Stajan, not directed at cLyde) am I the only one who thinks expecting a 3rd rounder back for him is a little much?

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#26 madjam
July 07 2012, 10:49AM
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Vegas odds have Flames well emerging Oilers , and tied with Columbus for last in the West . Aging team getting smaller with very little in prospect cupboard . Window of opportunity continues to by pass Feaster and the Flames by the looks of it . RE built should have taken place after last season , now you just prolong the inevitable with aging talent values also plummeting with poor results . Would have been nice to see Flames rise along with the Oilers , but Flames appear to be on a different track .

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#27 madjam
July 07 2012, 10:51AM
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Missed a word - Should have read well below the Oilers in Vegas odds for this season coming .

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#28 cLyde
July 07 2012, 11:19AM
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Baalzamon wrote:

"It left us having to do what we did at he draft this year when we could have possibly been in a position to get the 2 we got and someone else rather than what went on."

Every indication from what the Flames have said about their draft was that they would have taken Jankowski even if they had stayed at 14th. Aren't you glad they traded down now? I'm reasonably sure (though this is mostly conjecture) that they had Janko in their top 5.

also (re: Stajan, not directed at cLyde) am I the only one who thinks expecting a 3rd rounder back for him is a little much?

I don't know what a team will pay for Stajan but I don't think he is as bad as that. Sutter did not use him properly. Tried to turn an apple into an orange. We may use him in a package or Hartley may think he can turn him around. I would like him gone personally as you will see in my rosters on today's open thread.

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#29 RexLibris
July 07 2012, 08:50PM
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Vintage Flame wrote:
That being said, I'm also with cLyde in that I don't especially trust that Feaster recognizes the surplus of these assets for the Flames best long-term interests. In the same way that Feaster more or less refused to sell off assets at the trade deadline last year

Interesting... But let me ask you Rex. What has Faster done... or not done that leads you to believe this?

I'm going off of past behaviour and statements that the team is going to try and remain competitive.

To that end I suspect that a sell-off isn't in the cards. Moving pieces in or out, perhaps. If he trades Bouwmeester I highly doubt that it is an exchange where a return of picks and prospects is meant as the focus, but rather some NHL bodies in the 25-year-old range to help the team win now.

I'm very specific when I say that I don't trust that Feaster sees the Flames long-term interests in the same light that many others outside the city do. I don't mean that he is going to botch a trade, but rather that it will be a trade for immediate needs when, to be frank, the immediate needs of the team far outstrip what can be acquired by trading their current assets.

This is, of course, only my opinion and therefore has as much gravitas and weight behind it as a fan internet forum can provide. ;-)

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#30 RexLibris
July 07 2012, 08:57PM
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Vintage Flame wrote:

For some reason when I think of Florida it reminds me of Steven Reinprecht going there..(who? Right. Exactly)

Phoenix might be good for him under Tippett.

Personally, I always thought he should go to a place like the Islanders.

As for what kind of return he could garner, I think a third round pick is definitely a starting point. If they could get a second rounder then I would advise Jay to jump all over that action.

Curiously, I actually know quite well about whom you speak. I don't know why, but Reinprecht's was always a name that seemed to stand out for me. Perhaps he played well against the Oilers (who doesn't? *rimshot* there, beat you to it).

Given that Stajan has two more years, I would probably advise the Flames to try and rehabilitate his career under Hartley and then move him as soon as he is willing to waive his NTC.

Much like Belanger in Edmonton, he needs to be put into a situation where he can succeed before the team is likely to move on. Fortunately in Belanger's case his contract is much smaller and he has no restrictions.

Stajan isn't really the worst thing for the Flames, it is just, in my eyes, that they so desperately need a top-six center that his ineffectiveness in that position, as well as the relative glut of other, cheaper players available down the middle, makes him stick out like a sore thumb.

Agreed, if Feaster can get a 2nd round pick for Stajan either this year or next then Flames fans should praise him. At least for a week.

When Tambellini got a 2nd rounder for Cogliano I wasn't sure about it at first. By December I had to change my tune and realize that it was one heck of a deal. Cogliano appears to have maxed out his potential and an Anaheim 2nd round pick in 2013 is looking awfully good right now.

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