Five things: Where are we going?



1. The Brendan Morrison trade sends a mixed message

The other day Calgary traded Brendan Morrison to Chicago, ostensibly to lend them some help down the middle so they don’t need to keep playing woefully-ineffective center Patrick Kane at the pivot instead.

In return, they got a 25-year-old offensive AHL defenseman who basically has little to no shot of becoming a reliable NHLer. Which would seem frustrating. Except it isn’t.

What the trade actually does, obviously, is free up cap space, which is at once a scary and bewildering prospect. The Flames didn’t really save THAT much by offloading Morrison — a little less than $100,000 if my math is right. The thing is, though, they have plenty of cap space to spare anyway with close to $4.3 million free today, and more than $5.2 ready at the deadline if they choose to wait that long.

So what, ultimately, was the point of the swap? Jay Feaster says it’s to free up a roster spot, but for who? Yeah, Morrison has often been a healthy scratch for Calgary but it’s not like there’s a logjam of guys who would be so preferable on a night-in, night-out basis that you have to move the guy. Sometimes you probably just have to make deals you want to make when you can, I guess.

2. But the John Negin trade does not

This was a who-cares move, and one that doesn’t even begin to effect the organization’s NHL roster.

To me, this move was mainly designed to shift the organization a bit and get a well-traveled player of at least some value, albeit not much, for a guy who has, at this point, next to none. However unfair that might sound, especially given that so much of Negrin’s lack of career development has to do with him being injured basically all the time, it’s absolutely the truth. He’s played just 95 AHL games in three seasons and this year shuttled back and forth between the AHL and ECHL. That’ll usually just about do it for a 22-year-old.

Frankly, I think this might be a bigger deal symbolically than anything else. Negrin was one of the last picks I really remember Darryl Sutter having made during his reign of perceived infallibility and look how it all turned out. It means something. I don’t know what. But something.

3. So what does it all mean?

Monday on the radio, Jay Feaster said something along the lines of, "Our mandate is to win now." Which is a short way of saying, "They’re making me go forward with this team."

That’s frustrating. Obviously he didn’t specify who it was that was mandating this, but whether it’s coming from Ken King or the owners or both, it sucks seeing non-hockey people start telling hockey people what to do. That is, if you consider Jay Feaster a hockey person. And I don’t know that I do.

But in the end, it means the team is probably going to spend what few prospects and picks they have to their name to acquire someone with a decent-enough name, who will no doubt be thrilled to come to a team where everyone good is also 34 years old. And considering what teams are now asking for, even for the most middling names, I don’t even want to think about this.

Reports came out today that Tuomo Ruutu is on the market, for example. Carolina wants a first-round pick and a high-quality prospect for him. You read that right. A 28-year-old guy who has scored 20 or more goals just once in his NHL career can be had for the cost of a little less than Tomas Kaberle fetched last season. Of course, this is coming from the same organization that was asking two first-round picks for Tim Gleason, then gave him more $16 million for four years instead, so maybe they’re just a little off-kilter.

I just hope that’s not the market, you know? Because if those types of guys could fetch anything close to that, and the Flames aren’t selling because the owners don’t want to, then there needs to be some effigy-burning in Calgary.

If there’s even a thought that someone can get a high prospect and a first-round pick for Tuomo Ruutu, what might Miika Kiprusoff have fetched? Oh my.

4. I swear to god if they trade for Jeff Carter I’m gonna lose it

Teams are staying away because they think the cap hit, term, and Carter’s attitude are all prohibitive to getting a deal done, so why do I get the feeling that Feaster is about to barrel through Howson’s door with a blank check and the contract of every prospect in the system in his back pocket?

Who WOULDN’T want a guy like Carter on the team through 2022?

5. It’s time to stop being surprised

And now, as concerns the team itself, I kind of came to a realization over the All-Star break. Will the make the Flames playoffs? Maybe. Probably not. Won’t they? Tough to say. Will they buy in the hopes of doing the former? Now it appears to be an absolute certainty.

And whatever happens, I decided it won’t be shocking to me. They’ve rolled over a number of very good teams this season for absolutely no reason that anyone seems to be able to figure out, and gotten hammered by some real bottom-of-the-barrel bums for reasons that should be kind of obvious at this point.

Lose 9-zip to Boston? I buy it!

Get stomped by Columbus? Absolutely!

Beat Detroit 4-1? Sure!

All of it makes perfect sense for this team. All because none of it makes sense at all.

  • jeremywilhelm

    I hate to cheer for loss, but if King can’t get it through his head that this team can’t compete, a five game losing streak might force them off the fence and start planning for the future. Because this organizational fence sitting is killing this team.

  • everton fc

    I missed last evening’s contest. I’ll assume Stempniak’s injury is the knee?

    And if the mandate from the owners is “win now”, and the best Jay can do is get us Cammy, move Morrison, after losing Reggie for nothing really, signing PL3, Babchuk, Morrison…

    If Ruutu is worth a 1st round pick, Bourque would be worth the same, or close to it, in theory. Perhaps we could have done better than what we got for Bourque (who we indeed HAD to move), if we had another GM??

    I still can’t get over the deal Jay had approved by the owners for Brad Richards. Absolute madness. Worse than a Darryl-deal, to me.

    Last season, Jay was also told to go for it, to “win now”. He signed Freddie Modin and Carson.

    We are so mired in mediocrity, it’s almost depressing. But its certainly pathetic.

  • wawful

    Doom, gloom, fear, uncertainty and doubt. I get enough of that on the news.

    You may be right that Feaster is under pressure from the owners to win now at any cost, or you might be totally wrong. His “mandate to win now” might simply be lip service paid to the promises he made when he became GM, or simply to allay the fans’ fears of a dreaded “rebuild”. The “win now mandate” is nothing new. Feaster has maintained that the team is shooting for the playoffs since the season started. Like it or not, the fans who want to see the team impload for a lottery pick are actually a small minority.

    The Morrison Trade:
    Brian Connelly is rated by hockeysfuture at a 6.5C. That’s not great, but it’s not quite “little to no shot of becoming a reliable NHL’er”. He has a good shot to make the bottom pair, and has potential to go higher, although that is a long-shot. It’s a roll of the dice, but Feaster got it basically for free. A good GM should be looking for every free roll he can get.

    As far as freeing up cap space goes, Flames fans should remember from recent experience how much it hurts a team to have a bad spate of injuries but lack the cap-space to even bring up two-way contracts from the minors. Also, while bad deals will undoubtedly be in large supply, there’s always the possibility of a *good* deal cropping up, and not having the cap space to capitalize on a good deal hurts. Feaster freeing up cap space doesn’t necessarily mean he intends to use it. If he loaded the team to within five bucks of the limit at this point in the season I’d be more concerned.

    The Aliu/Negrin Trade:
    A tough nobody who actually plays games for a nobody who seems about ready to retire from the minors? I call it a win. You can read into it more, but improving the farm team is also Feaster’s responsibility, even if not every move he makes brings another Baertschi to the roster. Remember, even if Aliu isn’t going to be a NHL’er, he’s going to be helping future NHL’ers like Baertschi learn the pro-game. Negrin was probably demoralizing more than anything else. A player in his situation is bound to be a bit gloomy.

    Other trades:
    If you really want to judge Feaster, you should look at the other recent trades he’s made. Most have been wins. The Cammalleri/Ramo trade is arguably a no-brainer that is good for the team no matter whether the Flames are going to be buyers or sellers. An under-performing second-to-third-liner for a franchise player (albeit an underperforming one) and a top prospect goalie? Win. Mikkelson for Blair Jones? An underutilized spare-part picked up off of wavers for a decent center with some size? Win. Comeau? Another free roll of the dice. Stempniak/Langkow? Stempniak might not be a big improvement over Langkow this year, but he’s not a step down and he’s seven years younger. Win.

    The Future

    Despite his “mandate to win now”, which he had from before the season started, Feaster has made trades that improve the team both now and in the future. While few individual trades have looked like out-of-the-ballpark wins, their cumulative effect has been to make the Flames younger and more skilled. That’s something Feaster has done while hobbled with a lot of bad contracts from the past.

    I like most of what Feaster has done so far and I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think he’ll make any exceptionally bone-headed Darryl Sutter style trades. Something big could be coming, but I think Feaster has shown he’s smart enough to pull the trigger only if the price is right.

    You can choose to expect the worst, but I think you’re just beating yourself up without a good reason.

    • everton fc

      Good response. Points taken.

      I agree Jones and Comeau can be counted as “wins”. Ditto Stempniak.

      We’ll have to wait and see. I hope Feaster’s better than I think. Again, we shall see….

      I am not one, by the way, who says blow this thing up. Nor am I a fan who wants to see the team lose for a lottery pick.

    • Graham

      This!!! Personally, I think Feaster has done a great job juggling the “go for it” mindset while still plowing the field for a major overhaul of this team. He’s walked into a very bad situation with the financial versus performance dynamics of this team & fan favorite players that could could bring as much value to a future rebuild as much as the performance on the ice. I just hope he isnt forced into a block buster deal we are going to regret. We should stay as far away from a Carter deal as possible. Stay the course, if we fall too far out of the playoffs by Feb 19th, I say sell all the UFA’s we can & maybe even some of our RFA’s if the price is right. All of them, no exceptions. The exit interviews with each core member at the end of April will need to determine who wants to be part of an accerated rebuild or who will waive their NTC/NM contracts.

      Right now, this team is competitive on the ice, just not the right mix of horses & young up and comers. They may claw their way back into this, but they are going to have to do it with the way the team is constructed today. There is no miracle trade to get us there. No playoffs for 3 straight years will help Feaster navigate through the owner/fan treacherous waters & make some real tough decisions. Decisions I think that are going to have to be made whether we make the playoffs or not.

  • xeno

    I like the job Feaster has done thus far…

    King still needs fans in the seats and having the team almost make the playoffs puts them there. Frustration does begin to creep in, at least the games are sold out is probably his perception.

  • xis10ce

    Serious question here: I’m not entirely sure on the details behind the amnesty clause for new CBA’s (or if there would even be one again like 2005), but assuming there is one again this year, could we “buyout” Iggys 7mil, and then rehire him for “minimum salary” (750k?) for a one year deal with a full NTC like he has now? That way he’d get a small bonus and we’d free up 6.25mil cap space for next year. Then come trade deadline next year if we are way out of a playoffs spot we could boomerang him (with his consent) to contending team for a great return. He would be a playoff rental and who wouldn’t take Iggy at 750k cap hit? It’s the best of all worlds assuming that management would be willing to pay 750k extra real dollars for some MAJOR cap space opening up and assuming that the amnesty would allow it.

    Obviously it would probably piss off the NHLPA, but no one really gives a shit what they think right?

  • xis10ce

    DAMNIT, comment didn’t post, so here’s attempt #2.

    Serious question here:

    Assuming the CBA’s amnesty would allow it (assuming there will be another amnesty again this time). Could we “buyout” Iggys last 7mil year and rehire him at min salary ($750k?) giving him the same perks he has now (Full NTC) on a 1yr contract.

    That way we’d free up 6.25mil cap space next year, and be able to use Iggy at the deadline as a playoff rental to a contender only so he can boomerang back next year (given his consent) if we were out of it come Late Feb.

    I mean everyone wins and all it really costs management is another $750k? They’ve spent way more on much worse decisions in the past. The only group that might not like it is the NHLPA, but who really gives a shit what they think?

  • CA Flames Fan

    With 3 1/2 weeks to the trade deadline, assuming 100 pts pretty much gets you in the playoffs in the West, with 31 games left, now at 52 points, the Flames need 48 points to get to 100. Yes lots of 1 goal and two goals losses. Speculate what ifs all you want but these are still losses. Water under the bridge.

    With 31 games left, the easy math w/o loser points is 24W – 7L or winning 78% of the remaining games (either outright or from a SO).

    Continued slides in MIN, PHO, DAL and COL helps CAL move up the standings. The rest of the teams below 8th spot in the West are really not a threat(CBJ and EDM).

    10 of the 12 games in Feb are with Western Conf teams (two vs PHO, one vs DAL and ANA). Somewhat favourable.

    Still the most troubling aspect is needing 48 points from the next 31 games.


  • Graham

    With the high Cdn dollar, and the 6th best attendance in the league, ‘Managing for now’ may make business sense. I’m just not sure that it makes hockey sense.

    The Flames have Gio, and two rapidly declining assets in Kipper and Iggy, with no replacements
    in the system. We’ve traded assets like Regehr and Phaneuf for inadequate returns… signed abmissal contracts, and under Feaster filled the club / minor leagues with a host of marginal d men and bottom 6 forwards. For a budget team these additions might make sense, but none of them are going to be impact players at the NHL level. Isn’t that the real issue, sooner or later this club with have to replace impact assets with the impact assets.

    No realistic plan, no vision, poor asset management…this team is about where it should be.

    • wawful

      More doom and gloom. Yes, Iggy and Kipper are getting older, but they’re unlikely to fall off a cliff suddenly within the next season or two.

      Next to Bouwmeester, Iginla has the longest continuous stretch of played games of any Flame. Despite playing a power-forward game he’s still a very durable player. He’s on track for a 60+ point season, and that estimate (points/over games played * full season) is probably low since he’s playing considerably better now than at the start of the season. He’s not the Iggy of old, but he’s still a good player and will continue to be a good player for several years yet.

      Kipper arguably fell off a cliff last season, but has managed to climb back on top this season. Can he keep it up like some other goalies who continue to be excellent right up to 40? It’s hard to say, but the Flames now have some legitimate prospective replacements for Kipper in Irving and Ramo. There is hope for the Flames when it comes to goal-tending. This isn’t long-term hope either. Irving and Ramo are both arguably ready to play in the NHL now. Two decent shots at a Kipper replacement is better than a lot of teams can hope for.

      Let’s not forget that the Flames, while they don’t have any superstar rookies on the squad right now, do have some decent players who are young enough to build around over the next 5 years or so. e.g. Glencross and Cammalleri are both 29. Giordano and Bou are 28. There are also some decent enough rookies like Backlund, Horak, and Brodie who, although they have yet to really hit things out of the park, have at least shown they belong in the NHL.

      Finally, the Flames do have some interesting prospects in the pipe, although some are several years from being ready. We can reasonably expect Baertschi to make the team next season though. Some reports rank him as being the second best pick from his draft year, behind only the Oiler’s Nuge. He’s not proven himself at the NHL level yet, but there is some reason for optimism there. He’ll likely take a few years to develop, but the Flames can manage until then. The real question is whether the Flames got lucky at the last draft or if the new quant boys actually know what they’re doing. This years draft will be very interesting to watch!

      I’m not saying the Flames should stick with every player I’ve talked about above. What I’m trying to say is that these players have value, whether as Flames or as trade fodder. Feaster has shown he can win trades on a consistent basis, unlike his predecessor. No matter what kind of pressure the owners may exert on him, we can only hope he has the balls to continue saying no to trades that are not favorable.

  • xis10ce

    Serious question here:

    Assuming the CBA’s amnesty would allow it (assuming there will be another amnesty again this time). Could we “buyout” Iggys last 7mil year and rehire him at min salary ($750k?) giving him the same perks he has now (Full NTC) on a 1yr contract.

    That way we’d free up 6.25mil cap space next year, and be able to use Iggy at the deadline as a playoff rental to a contender only so he can boomerang back next year (given his consent) if we were out of it come Late Feb.

    I mean everyone wins and all it really costs management is another $750k? They’ve spent way more on much worse decisions in the past. The only group that might not like it is the NHLPA, but who really gives a crap what they think?

  • MC Hockey

    Agree with the folks who give Feaster the benefit of the doubt with his moves to change the chemistry (bye bye Regehr and Bourque) and get younger (even using some “older” prospects like Derek Smith and Clay Wilson, etc). I agree he made a couple crappy moves so far but I would say 80% of trades and pick-ups have been WINS or TIES (e.g. several D-men signed or promoted to play well or OK for Flames and/or Abby at least). Plus some new parts like Rammo (future), Comeau & Jones(not enough time to evaluate fully) are “to be determineds” which could turn out well. Remember he also made conditions right to rid Flames of both Kotalik (in trade with Regehr) and Hagman (waivers) in the past year so just those are major accomplishments right there (and I think Regehr is slow & overpaid & and overrated while incoming Butler is OK and Byron has potential)!

  • MC Hockey

    I’ve said it before: try and reconcile a GM who say we want to win now with a team that he says wouldn’t even be in the playoff hunt (and is still on the outside) without Kipper?

    You’re right, there’s no logic, rhyme or reason to this team anymore.

    • MC Hockey

      Wolf, you are over analysing it. Of course he says he wants to win now, what else is he going to say, especially if higher ups are saying they want to take a swing at it this year. You dont know what the board room conversations are, maybe they are refering to this year only to win now & then Feaster has full support & greenlight to rebuild in the summer. Who knows. But he is also saying the obvious, this team wouldnt even be close if it werent for Kipper. Thats a true statement. Thats Feaster saying he aint blind but that doesnt neccessarily contradict wanting to win now or the mandate he has been given. This sounds totally logical to me. It also puts logic into some of his moves he’s made.

  • RKD

    I hope the Stempniak injury isn’t serious, that would be another blow to our offence.

    Feaster is the puppet and Ken King/Murray Edwards are the puppet masters. “Our mandate is to win now” really means I have to do what my boss and the owners tell me, that is cross our fingers hope the Flames play .650-.700 hockey and squeak into the eight seed.

    I’m 50/50 on Carter, he and Nash have zero chemistry. A change of scenery might me good for him. He would certainly help the offence. With $20 million dollars coming off this summer, the Flames might be able to afford him.

    However, Carter has a lot of negatives, bad attitude, slowed down by recent injuries, and another 10 years left on his mammoth contract.

    Anyone think the Flames sign Huselius at a lower cap hit in the summer?

  • the forgotten man

    The flames were in a dogfight to make the playoffs last year…Feaster brings in Freddie Modin…nothing more needs to be said about him going forward.

    If you sincerely believe a guy who makes this kind of boneheaded move when the chips are down is going to bring you the Cup, then have at ‘er.

    Seriously, imagine the Locker Room last year when they were soaring up the standings, could taste a playoff spot, and then your GM brings in Modin as the missing link to the promised land…it would deflate the hell out of me.

  • xis10ce

    You cant rebuild and win now and do either effectively. All you can do is hope to keep treading water and stay afloat and maybe get lucky.

    Feaster said that from the highest levels of the organization (Murray Edwards) they have been told that they are going to win now and make the playoffs. Feaster said that every move he makes is about winning now, and that they are all just set up to help with the next move that is coming along. Nothing they have done would indicate that they are even looking at a rebuild.

    The biggest question then becomes why not go all in and really look at doing something. The organization has not drafted very well, and has developed players even worse. Why not take the first round pick and use it as part of the package to bring in somebody that is a top three talent. If the prices are high, it does not matter if the only mandate is to win.

    I would not personnaly trade for Carter because of character concerns and a contract that goes for another 10 years. I would put my resources into getting Derek Roy from Buffalo. However, if Carter is the best deal that can be done than the organization needs to make it happen.

    The mandate is to win now. Using any semblance of intellectual honesty would come to the conclusion that the current team is not good enough. They have proclaimed that they are not rebuilding and that they will be in the playoffs. They have a terrible history of drafting and developing first round picks (or for that matter any picks). There are teams that are looking to unload contracts and start a rebuilding program.

    Trading for a pending UFA does not help, because the player is gone in a couple of months. You need to look at a player that has a year or two left on his contract. These players that are guarenteed top three/six talents help with the win now mantra. Anything more than three years becomes an albatross on the organization should things change.

  • xis10ce

    Look at it this way, there is a potential upside for the team in the summer at the draft.

    If you make the playoffs, the “accepted” monetary return is $1M per game to the team. If you go out in four straight you are making $2M to the bottom line.

    The bottom line is all the owners care about.

    The Kotalik deal essentially saved the owners $3M dollars, or the equivalent of a six game first round. So by giving up a 2nd round pick the Flames essentially made the playoffs last year.

    Or at least as it is calculated by the owners pocketbook.

    All they need to do is trade some more draft picks with Stajans contract at the draft this year and it will be like the Flames made the second round of the playoffs.

    Success in sports is easy once you change the parameters for what constitutes success.

    • RexLibris

      I love your logical cynicism.

      Given that the comments here on FN of late have been very thankful that Feaster’s attempt to sign Richards last summer failed, is there any confidence that Feaster would make a wiser decision with the pending UFAs this summer? Were he to offer a player like Parise a similar deal to what was available for Richards would fans be in favour?

      It has been suggested that Lamoriello may trade Parise’s negotiating rights before July 1st. How might Flames fans react to Feaster making that trade given the experience with Bouwmeester?

      I’m curious to see in which direction of the “win now” strategy fans would prefer.

      • xis10ce

        Acquiring Parise’ rights doesn’t seem all that bad depending on the price, worst case scenario if you can’t lock him up quickly you just do what Florida did with Ehrhoff and get your value back and let someone else try to sign him.

  • PrairieStew

    On balance, I am pretty happy with the sum of the moves made by Feaster, I do think he has done a good job juggling the present and future. Moving Bourque’s longer term deal in favor of Cammaleri shows effort towards winning now while you still have Iggy. Adding Jones, Comeau, Aliu and Connelly over Hagman, Morrisson, Mikkelson and Negrin gets the club younger, and the latter 2 help load the farm team up for a strong playoff push; a long run would be good for all prospects down there.

    • Mitch2

      I also am good with Feaster’s moves for the most part. Modin / PL3 and yeah Regehr wasn’t a great trade but for the most part it has been pretty good.

      But LOL at Ryan Point 4 on getting Carter.

      Carter is a potential bargain due to the circumstances and his fit for Calgary is better than most teams out there.

      The ten year monster contract is not as bad with Calgary because they have nothing even remotely close to the dream of a #1 C in the system anyway. He is player that the Flames can anticipate to use past the Iginla era.

      Not like they have a log jam of high end prospects fighting to get those top 6 spots. While Carter is certainly a risk, the fact he is an unattractive commodity to most teams should mean the Flames can get him for a bargain and I am up for that.

      It is interesting to note as Ryan does earlier that the Flames will have 5.2 million in Cap room at the deadline and Carter will fit…

      • Mitch2

        Agree, certainly perceived attitude (and conjecture is all it really is) and his contract are hinderances, but that contract is probably the only thing that gives Calgary a shot at getting a #1 center.

        He can score, he can play both ways and he’s only 26, so you’re right, he can last past the Iggy era.

        Jokinen will re-sign so that gives Calgary 2 top centers for the first time in decades.

        If they are serious about making the playoffs they almost have to do this deal.

        After all, name some alternatives……