Most of Wednesday’s reaction to Calgary’s trade of Tim Erixon to New York was emotional and, well, negative. Understandably at that. The Flames lost their best prospect and a guy that could have given them some important roster flexibility heading into the coming season, which sucks, plain and simple. I come away from the day frustrated at the situation, but unable to paint the organization with a fail coloured brush…which may be the most annoying thing of all.
In the days leading up to Wednesday’s deadline, the thought process seemed to be "if the Flames don’t get this done, it’s another failure of the organization." That sentiment only intensified when the trade was finalized around 2 pm; why did the Flames let it get this far? Why didn’t they have contingency plans in place? Why didn’t they do all they possibly could to keep this player around? All fair questions, yes. But also questions I answered with "I believe they did" at the time; then we heard from Jay Feaster, and it became even more clear.
After hearing from Jay, where he lays it all out in black and white, how can we be pointing fingers or assigning blame to the Calgary Flames? Well, let’s go back and answer those three questions above. Why did the Flames let it get this far? Well, it’s not like they weren’t going to sign the kid. Erixon was their top prospect, seemingly NHL ready, and a player fans were excited about. For Calgary not to do their due dilligence in this respect would be foolish and a disservice to the team; and they did.
But at some point the team had to realize there wasn’t as much interest on the other side, and they did. Feaster pointed to a number of reasons why Erixon’s camp was hesitant about signing the entry level deal; they weren’t convinced he’d be playing NHL minutes; he didn’t want to play in the American Hockey League; the Flames recent track record of giving time to young players isn’t great. While all were true, they were things out of Calgary’s control…so question two: why didn’t they have contingency plans in place? Once again, they did. A week out, the team realized this might not be a realistic possibility, and they started fleshing out their other options and deciding which would be best. The prevailing though was the Rangers deal came out of the blue on Wednesday afternoon, when in reality, it had been discussed for at least 24 hours prior. So the sentiment the Flames didn’t have a backup just isn’t factual.
And the final question: why didn’t they do everything they possibly could do sign Erixon? Yep…they did. Feaster revealed the team came forward with two seperate offers, both pushing right to the limit of what they could offer the player. Remember, Calgary’s hands were tied, the same way every other team has their hands tied with the NHL rookie max. The Flames offered him the standard three year entry level deal at the max rookie salary, with lucrative bonus packages involved. Because there’s only so much they can do, does that not qualify as doing everything they possibly could have done?
The bottom line is, the player didn’t want to play with Calgary. It’s very hard to combat that when Erixon held all the cards, which he did in this scenario. A highly touted prospect who had no qualms about re-entering the draft has the ability to control his own destiny; the Rangers were identified and the trade was made. It’s a damn shame because the player is a very good one and he will be a huge boost to the New York blueline, but I just can’t sit here and condemn the Flames for how they handled this situation.
I’ve been plenty critical of the Flames and how they’ve gone about their business over the past 18 months, so the "you’re just protecting the team because you’re the rightsholder" argument is BS. However, I’m also not going to just look for reasons to criticize the organization, and in this instance, they don’t deserve any. Feaster and the Flames maximized their return on a difficult, less-than-ideal situation. They weren’t signing the player despite their best efforts…what else could they have done?