While there was a lot of activity today, the Calgary Flames mostly sat on the sidelines, re-signing Chris Butler and a couple of AHLers to perfunctory deals. Although the club is rumored to be in on the Brad Richards sweepstakes, the truth is a lot of their targets were snapped up today and it’s highly possible Calgary won’t be heavily involved in the 2011 free agent crop.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With demand high and supply low due to a relatively thin UFA field, the prices for many of the players in demand went through the roof. When merely pretty good guys like James Wisniewski are being gifted retirement type contracts, it makes a lot of sense to sit on the sidelines. It’s very easy to sign an instantly regrettable sort of deal in such an environment and sometimes patience and prudence are the the best course of action.
Signing Chris Butler was the most meaningful action by Feaster today. The 25-year old was inked to a two-year contract worth $1.25 million per season. Considering the fact that Adam Pardy landed $4 million (total) over two seasons with Dallas today, there is certainly nothing to complain about when it comes to Butler’s dollars.
The minor leaguers that were inked were Carter Bancks and Joe Piskula. Bancks was an un-signed player out of the WHL last year who made the Heat out of camp and instantly made an impression with Jim Playfair and organization. He was one of the club’s leading scorers before an injury felled him for most of the year (as was par for the course in Abby last year). Bancks doesn’t have a high ceiling given his junior numbers, but is apparently a very strong competitor and tireless worker. The Flames willingness to grant him a two-way, pro contract this season signals they consider him a bit more than AHL fodder.
The Piskula signing is a bit stranger. At 27-years old, he’s well beyond the prospect stage of his career. The 214 pound rearguard has five NHL games under his belt, all of them played with the Kings back in 2006-07. He is an AHL veteran otherwise with extremely limited offense (he’s scored 3 goals in 4 seasons). Despite his age and limited resume, the club apparently feels Piskula warrants a two-way deal and, likely, a potential call-up should injuries strike during the year. Somewhere, the unsigned Matt Pelech is angrily kicking holes into walls.
After day one, there isn’t a lot left for the Flames to target going forward. Niclas Bergfors and Mike Lundin might be the best the UAa pool has left to offer aside from the big fish that is Brad Richards. Simon Gagne is also looking for employment while the Flames own Anton Babchuk is surprisingly still available.
Given what I saw today, I personally hope the Flames sit on their hands and wait for the frenzy to end and a few bargains to pop up once the greediest clubs have gorged themselves and spent their budgets. That’s how the Flames happened upon Morrison last year – after the music stopped, he was left without a chair and took the best (ie; only) offer that was on the table. It’s obviously a gamble to wait to see if there will eventually be any deals left in the scratch and dent bin of course, but it’s a strategy that can pay dividends.
I guess we’ll have to see what happens with the Richards gambit. Stay tuned.