Flames Silent On Day One



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.

  • Canucks Suck

    Kent, I got to see Carter Bancks play firsthand in junior when he played for the Lethbridge Hurricanes, and I got to say, he is a friggin’ hard worker. He always gave it his all and was a very useful penalty-killer. I am a huge fan of his and am happy the Flames gave him a deal. Would LOVE to see him make the big club sometime.

  • Dr. Nick

    The lack of supply is all because of Rick DiPietro and his 15 year contract. If the next CBA limits contract terms to 4 or 5 years, I think that might help the whole high demand + low supply = crazy salaries equation. Then again, owners and GMs are idiots, so the only solution would be to get rid of free agency.

    • Greg

      Beat me to that point :). I think you’re right though, it was the dipietro contract that planted the idea of using term to lower cap hits. Given how lucrative that’s been for the players in creating crazy offers, I’ll be surprised if they can get the term limited to 4 or 5 years. I’m hoping 6 or 7, but thinking about it now, I wouldn’t be surprised the players refuse to give that up at all.

  • Greg

    “thin ufa” markets are the way of the future. Next year, assuming sharp gets resigned before then, is headlined by semin and hemsky, with opening acts of peverly, penner, doan, and smyth. It’s that dearth already, before even giving those teams a full year to resign first. And it’ll be possibly even worse for defencemen than this year’s “Andy Greene sweepstakes”.

    Guys take these retirement contracts with their first crack at free agency, or even sooner, and the only players worth having in your core that ever hit the market come from special circumstances like an absentee owner in Dallas. or Atlanta. (see kovalchuk, 2010).

    I predict the league will go hard after term limits in the next CBA. Which of course means Edmonton will be the first team that has to deal with trying to retain their budding stars without being able to lock them up, in an environment where they are among the only free agents available due to all the grandfathered long-term contracts. And offer sheets will be flying given the league will have to give up more rfa restrictions to get the term limits, and everyone’s memory that “Kevin already did it, so fair’s fair”. Going to be a lot of fun watching them go through that.

  • PrairieStew

    Instead of term limits how about a salary ratio limit for whatever the contract length is. Erhoff making $10 million this year – and down to 1 million at the end. Everyone knows there is no plan for him to play out the last 3 years, so to avoid the cap circumvention brought on by excessively long deals – just make sure that no one year can the compensation exceed the 3 times the lowest year’s compensation. It still allows some averaging and allowing for an aging player but if you want to pay Erhoff 6 per year for 6 years, then 4 at $2m you get the same outcome; but the player is less likely to walk away at the end and teams will think longer about granting the term.

  • PrairieStew

    Joel Ward – $12 million over 4 years!?!

    Sean Begenheim – $11 million over 4 years!?!

    Thomas Fleischmann – $18 million over 4 years!?!

    I could go on…No wonder the Flames were quiet yesterday.

    No movement clauses or not, Feaster is looking pretty good over the Tanguay and Glencross deals.

    Assuming the Flames land Richards, they’re going to have to move out some contracts. We all know who the Ususal Suspects are. That said, we could be living in some intersting times.

  • Just for full disclose I am an Oilers fan but generally like to see the Flames to do well to but just a little worse that the Oilers.

    This Brad Richards chase looks oddly familiar to when the Oilers tried to get Hossa or even Heatly signed/traded. Cap space hell.

    Just short of the playoffs the year before and always thinking there were only player away. Richards will not fix the problems but will only serve to compound them if he is there or not.

    Hate to say it the Flames defense used to be amazing but now does not scare anyone.

    The flames to me have holes all over and one player will not do it.

    I have seen this movie before and it ends badly

    Good luck

    • You got that right. And Jay,please resist giving the likes of Gagner or Connolly the 5 year deals they will be looking for. Next years draft is supposedly way way better than this year. We could be one of the few sellers at the trade deadline as we give a lot of our kids a long over due shot. Lets get as many top 1st & 2nd round picks we can & watch us get 20-25mill in cap space to make a splash.
      I like the fact we will have Iggy/Tanguay/Gio/Backlund leading the way to a new retool & era. yesterday was rediculous & glad we were not part of it.

    • Matty Franchise Jr

      For Richards? $50M in the first 5 years, then $10M over the last 4, so I’d say somewhere after the ’15/’16 season.

      Might the Flames take a look at Tim Connolly? He’s never played a full season I don’t think, but for a contract like Tangs had last year maybe he’s worth a shot.

      • Connolly is going to get a lot more than Tanguay did last year. Many teams are looking at him as plan B, with Richards off the market. It is actually kind of funny, because his numbers and health make him more of a plan D. But if Sean Bergenheim can get 4yrs/$11M then Connolly will get way more than 1yr/$1.7.

      • Dr. Nick

        If the current cap regime continues after the 2011-12 season, there’ll be no reason to buy him out. Richards will have a cap hit of $6.5M, and an actual payout of $2.5M.

        Teams like Florida, Phoenix and Columbus will pay extra in the form of draft picks, to acquire the $4M in excess cap room, so they can get to the salary floor without actually paying that amount.

        That’s $16M they save, simply by having an aging Richards in uniform for the final 4 years.

        • Greg

          Yup, teams have finally perfected the cap circumvention… Reach teams can still pay more than the cap and poor teams can still pay less than the floor (I doubt Florida would shed a tear if Jovo retires and they are left with that contract on their cap hit but off their payroll). Time for a whole new CBA.

  • Greg

    With neither Pardy nor Babchuk back in the fold, what the flames really need is another defenceman. The next move that would make the most sense to me is finding a trade partner to take one of our overpaid centers for one of their overpaid defencemen. Any suggestions on which d-men would have a comparable contract to Stajan that would make a suitable short term plug in our backend? Could be a good FN article (hint hint Kent 🙂

  • I’m happy they didn’t get Richards, not a good fit all around. Flames need a d-man. Don’t like Babchuk as he’s one dimentional. I think Kaberle, while he didn’t play well in Boston, he does play well on bad teams. Gives some experience. So good fit here.

  • Dr. Nick

    My guess is that Tim Connolly will get the same kinda bucks as Tomas Fleischmann. Both players have injury issues but still have some skill. I just hope the Flames are not the ones footing the bill.

    As for us not getting Brad Richards all I can say is we dodged a bullet with that one. We have enough past their prime players and Richards contract would haunt us in a couple years. While Richards would help the Flames, our defence would offset any good he does.

    A lot of moves over the past few years have been made to help Iggy win the Cup he deserves. Unfortunately, the time has come for the Flames to stop focusing on Iginla needs and focus on the Flames needs and we need a new, younger core. I would love for Iggy to stay a Flame but if he really wants a Cup, he will probably have to go somewhere else to get it. The funny thing is, if he wins the Cup somewhere else, I think it would be kind of a hollow victory, like how Bourque won the Cup with the Avalanche.

  • joey joe joe jr shabadoo

    I’m kinda torn over the Richards offer.

    on one hand I agree with the idea that a signing, such as Richards, would have sent a mixed message to fans. Feaster has recently spoken about the need to restock the cupboard, get younger, give young players a chance, and to get out of salary cap jail. So the signing of Brad Richards to a 9-year 60+ million dollar deal is completely the opposite of all those.

    On the other hand Brad Richards would’ve been this organizations best centerman since Joe Neiwendyk/Doug Gilmour. hands down. For those keeping track, he would’ve been the best centerman the Flames have had in nearly two decades. A line of Tanguay-Richards-Iginla would likely be one of the highest scoring lines in the league, and I believe would’ve put this team on par (or not far behind) with some of the best in the Western Conference. Sure, they still would’ve had holes to fill, but the days of having their heads routinely handed to them by the Canucks would’ve been over. Acquiring one of the leagues best centerman would’ve solidified this team’s playoff spot for years IMO.

    For some fans to suggest this is a ‘good’ thing the Flames didn’t sign Richards smacks of being disingenuous. Had Richards chosen to sign with the Flames they would have insantly become a better team for years. Having the chance to sign a player of Richards caliber doesn’t come along every year, in fact it is rare. I ask, who was the last primeir centerman to hit the UFA market? The flames do not have a player anywhere near Richards potential in the system, and unless they fall into lottery territory for next years draft, or the year after they very likely will not have another crack at acquiring a centerman of this caliber without getting very lucky at the draft table and finding a diamond in the rough.

    I guess the silver-lining is the Flames should now remain out of Salary cap jail and Mikael Backlund looks to get some top-6 playing time (as things stand right now). It should be interesting to see if he has the chops to play front line mins consistently. At his age he’s entering the years where we can begin to see if he can live up to the potential and become a legitimate 1st-2nd line centerman. That said, if anyone thinks Backlund will be anywhere near as good as Richards is delussional.

  • joey joe joe jr shabadoo

    @ Chris.

    good point and this is why the Flames should consider holding off on dealing Stajan (which i believe is what they are doing anyway) Stajan’s actual pay out drops by 2 million after this year.

    If Stajan were to rebound this year to his previous form (50 point-sih top 9 forward) he could become a tradeable asset (assuming the Flames want to deal him) to a team like the Islanders who are looking to add salary to reach the floor.

    Stajan’s value is probably at an all time low. Even if he were to preform as poorly next year as he did this year with his actual payout dropping by two million and his cap hit staying at 3.5, he could be an attractive asset to some of the weaker sisters in the league.

    applogies for yet another ‘trade stajan’ post.

    • That makes sense. Stajan is probable next to untradable now anyways, so moving him isn’t in the cards as it is.

      The only challenge for a Stajan rebound is how limited his ice time could be this season. He’ll have to usurp one of Jokinen, Langkow or Backlund (or hope one gets injured long-term) in order to put up better numbers. Given how little Sutter thinks of him, that might be a tall order.

      • joey joe joe jr shabadoo

        Yeah, what kind and how much ice time he’s going to get is the sticking point.

        It will be interesting to see what kind of shape Stajan shows up to training camp in. Sutter took his criticism of Matt’s physical conditioning public at the end of the season. That should serve as a wake up call to Stajan if there ever was one. If you’re a professional athlete and you are recieving criticism about your physical conditioning, that is about as bad a thing someone can say about you. Sutter saying Stajan was not strong enough/had poor conditioning was pretty much a nice was of saying ‘Matt Stajan is incompetent.’

        Hopefully Matt show’s up like he is serious about his career, for his own sake. if he has a good camp/pre-season I could see Sutter giving him some quality, but selective, mins. to start the season in an atempt to raise his trade value.