Interesting discussion on the FAN960 this morning between Dean Molberg and Rhett Warrener. The issue was the Flames perception in the UFA market and how that might impact the club going forward.
The Flames never had too much problem signing name players during Darryl Sutter’s reign. The 2003-04 cup run, a climbing roster budget and the presence of some notable NHL stars (Iginla, Regehr, Kipper) meant the club never had to profer grossly inflated offer-sheets to RFA’s or produce promotional DVD’s to convince players to sign in Calgary. Certainly the org was probably never at the very top of all players lists, but they were at least competitive and able to attract more than a few desired names over the years.
Warrener noted this morning that the attractiveness of a potential city and organization is highly relevent to UFA players in the current capped environment. The salary and length of the contract is always going to be a prime concern, but quality of life and potential to win have become nearly as important. The Oilers have gone whale hunting more often than not over the past few seasons because they’re perceived to be a loser franchise in a relatively small, inhospitable town. Not even $5-large per season could convince Michael Nylanders wife to move there (which is a shame. how hilarious would it be if they had yet another albatross cluttering their books?).
Keep in mind that Calgary isn’t too far from Edmonton in terms of size and climate. The Flames have been able to land a few big fish from the free agent pool since the lock-out because it hasn’t had stars demand trades or finished last in the league. However, with the Flames marquee players now aging and the playoffs going from a foregone to conclusion to a question mark, the club’s cache to UFA’s might be deteorating rapidly. This probably isn’t a big issue this summer, given the lack of cap room the org has to play with in the short term, but it’s possible the Flames will be looking to spend some money in the summer of 2012 without a lot of takers. Especially if they miss the dance again this upcoming season.
Also of note was Warrener’s comment that the current and on-going dance around the GM-chair might do further damage to players perceptions of the club. As Domebeers reminds us weekly, the confusing and largely unexplained waffling about the GM position makes the Flames appear either indecisive or directionless as a franchise. Neither are great selling features.
Of course, that may not be an issues should the team announce a PC in the next few weeks and make a big, splashy announcement naming their guy and explaining their delay. However, the longer this drags on, the lower the club’s reputation may sink in the eyes of potential future employees.