Very surprising news announced by the Flames today. The team has signed KHL stand-out Roman Cervenka to a one-year, $3.77M deal. The 27-year old center was never drafted to the NHL, but has managed 20+ goals in each of his last two seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League.
In 2010-11, Cervenka played with Jaromir Jagr on Omsk Avangard scoring a team high 31-goals and and 61-points in just 51 games. He led the same team in scoring again this season with 23-goals and 39-points in 54 games. This is the same squad that features ex-NHLers Alex Perezhogin and Alex Frolov.
The signing is an interesting one from a variety of angles. First and foremost, this isn’t a move the organization would have made under Darryl Sutter – gambling on untested Russians (or, in this case, Czech) was something the jolly rancher was completely uninterested in. So this indicates the club is looking into some novel ways to improve the team, which is encouraging. Here’s what Jay Feaster had to say about the newest Flame:
“Roman is a highly skilled player with great hands, excellent vision and the ability to score goals at an elite level of play…Our scouts in Europe identified him as someone who could slot into our top six forward group and play in the NHL as a top two line centre. John Weisbrod went to see him play early in the KHL Playoffs and came away confirming everything we had heard from our scouts in Europe. We made an aggressive pitch to convince him that Calgary was the perfect place for him to start his NHL career, and we are extremely pleased Roman agreed. We look forward to welcoming him to the Flames and our great city.”
The dollar figure is also noteworthy. Almost $4 million in salary and cap hit is a not insignificant amount of money to commit to a guy who has never played on NA ice. To be fair, he has been a near PPG player in the second best league in the world for two years and it would naturally take a bit of dough to coax someone like that over the pond. Still, it’s a gamble that could potentially blow up in Feaster’s face if Cervanka can’t hack it in the NHL.
That said, I like the move in the sense that the team is being both creative and pro-active heading into the summer. The UFA market for centers this July is going to be thin which would have given Olli Jokinen (or anyone else, frankly) a lot more leverage in bargaining with the team. Now the club has Cervenka, Backlund, Stajan, Horak, Cammalleri (maybe) and a few others in the fold.
Also, the acquisition is of a player known for skill and offense which is something the team needs. If things don’t work out, the contract is only for one year so the risk is limited. In fact, I’m guessing Cervenka won’t stick around the entire season if things go south, so the size of the cap hit isn’t of grave concern either.
Welcome to Calgary Roman.