Flames Cap Crunch Continued...looking at the forwards

After dissecting the backend and goaltending situation of the Calgary Flames I thought I would conclude by taking a further look into the quagmire of grinders and checkers that are the Flames forwards.

Currently the Flames have 10 forwards signed at $28,954,166. The rundown of players looks like this:

Jarome Iginla –Age 31, $7,000,000
Daymond Langkow-Age 32, $4,500,000
Matt Stajan – Age 25, $3,500,000
Rene Bourque- Age 27, $3,333,333
Niklas Hagman – Age 29, $3,000,000
Ales Kotalik – Age 30, $3,000,000
David Moss – Age 27, $1,300,000
Mikael Backlund – Age 20, $1,270,833
Curtis Glencross – Age 26, $1,200,000
Nigel Dawes – Age 24, $840,000

Where do you start?

Well, of those forwards, Iginla and Langkow both have ‘No Movement Clauses’ while Stajan, Bourque and Kotalik all have ‘No Trade Clauses.’ Now, this does not protect these players from being bought out by the Flames; specifically looking at Kotalik who was acquired in the Jokinen deal and put up an astounding three goals and five points in 26 games with the Flames. If you stretch that over an entire 82 game season, he would have almost put up 16 points, roughly $189,000 per point. Buying out Ales’ contract would give the Flames an extra $2,000,000 in cap space with $1,000,000 going towards the cap. Do yourself a favour Sutter and get rid of this useless player.

Side note: If this were to happen and the Flames were to not re-sign Higgins, then the Flames would have traded Jokinen for nothing, which further adds to the horror of the initial Jokinen deal that sent Lombardi, Prust and a 1st rounder to Phoenix. So, basically Sutter would just give the Coyotes those two players and a 1st rounder for a firm handshake…things that make you go hmmmmm.

Now, rumours were swirling that one the Flames core players were asked to waive their ‘No trade/movement clause.’ Much speculation has been that it was Regehr, but let’s just assume it was not and assume possibly that it is Langkow. With the addition of yet another 2nd line centerman in Matt Stajan this past season and the call up of highly touted prospect Mikael Backlund, it would look as if Langks is the odd man out. The reason being is that Stajan is not a first line center and so must play in the 2nd line spot. Backlund would not get sufficient enough ice time on the 3rd line to be developed properly, meaning he would be in line for more 1st line work alongside Iginla. This leaves Langkow with a hefty price tag and no place to play. Expect to see Langkow moved on Draft day, possibly for a couple draft picks.

This would free up another $4.5 million leaving Sutter with further wiggle room when going after some UFA’s.

Getting back to Backlund, he is ready for full time duty in the NHL. He has shown significant improvement in his game and it is time for him to show why the Flames drafted him 24th overall in the 2007 entry draft. I would love to see Sutter utilize him on the first line and on the power play. He has the playmaking ability that would open up room for Iginla and possibly give Jarome that center he has always dreamed of.

Looking at the Flames UFA forwards, Eric Nystrom stands at the top of the list. He has shown drastic improvement in his game year after year and has immerged as a leader on this team. He kills penalties, he scores timely goals, and he cares about winning. Other teams have seen the youth and energy that Nystrom can bring to a team and you can guarantee that he is on many GM’s radar come July 1. Sutter should sign this guy immediately. I would think he would compare with David Moss in terms of monetary value. He hasn’t shown the offensive flare equivalent to Moss, yet he has shown his leadership qualities and strong defensive ability which would counteract the lack of scoring. Sign him in the $1.3 million range for three years.

This all being said, the Flames still lack another top six forward. The Flames other UFA’s and RFA’s should be all non factors in this category. Higgins, Conroy, Mayers…gone, gone, gone and gone. These are all dime a dozen players in the NHL.

You first look at the top of the free agent list where you would find Patrick Marleau and Ilya Kovalchuk. Marleau is coming off of a huge year and will be demanding upwards of $6 million a year while Ilya wants even more. Both unlikely scenarios for Calgary, I believe.

So what about the rest?

There is Alexander Frolov, a talented Russian forward with loads of skill and still only 27 years old. He would add a dynamic element to the Flames power play, something they definitely need and simply provide the Flames with an added weapon. He made $4,000,000 last season with the Kings and would likely be in line for something similar. If Matt Stajan is worth $3.5, than Frolov is definitely his equal and most likely better.

Another option could be Lee Stempniak who is coming off a breakout second half with the Phoenix Coyotes and will probably want a slight raise from his $2,500,000 salary of last year.

What about buying on a low? Well look no further than Alex Tanguay. After leaving the Flames in 2008, he went on to Montreal where injuries hampered his season and was subsequently forgotten about until he signed in Tampa Bay last September. He had his worst year ever offensively, only scoring 10 goals and 37 points in 80 games with the Lightning. He made $2,500,000 last season but would likely take less in 2010-11 and is an ideal candidate for a rebound season.

Tomas Plekanac, Matthew Lombardi, Paul Kariya, Marek Svatos and Pavol Demitra are some other possible candidates. All fast, skilful players who would add some much needed talent to the Flames organization.

Directing our attention to the Flames prospect pool you have a few players that might be ready to make the full time jump to the show.

Brett Sutter would be ideal to fill the fourth line role this year. He is young, at 21 years of age, and he is sound defensively (he has Sutter genes), so he wouldn’t be a liability on the ice like former fourth liners might have been.

Greg Nemisz, Mitch Wahl, and Bryan Cameron are all candidates to challenge for a starting spot on this team. Cameron scored 53 goals this season with the OHL Runner up Barrie Colts. Wahl put up 96 points with Spokane this season, while picking up 4 points in 4 games with the Abbostford Heat at the end of the season. He also picked up 6 points in 12 playoff games with the Heat. Nemisz is coming off of back-to-back Memorial Cup Championships with the Windsor Spitfires. He was relegated to more of a checking role late in the season as he was a little overshadowed by someone else on that team…I think his name is Tom, or Tyler, or is it Taylor…I don’t really recall. Nemisz still picked up 70 points this season and has scored at least 34 goals in three straight seasons.

It is time for the Flames to buy in to the young revolution in the NHL. The Flames are the 7th oldest team in the NHL. By comparison the Chicago Blackhawks are the youngest team in the NHL; seems to have worked out alright for them.

With all the changes I have proposed, the Flames forward core could look something like this:

Jarome Iginla –Age 31, $7,000,000
Alexander Frolov – Age 27, $4,000,000*
Matt Stajan – Age 25, $3,500,000
Rene Bourque- Age 27, $3,333,333
Niklas Hagman – Age 29, $3,000,000
David Moss – Age 27, $1,300,000
Eric Nystrom – Age 26, $1,300,000*
Mikael Backlund – Age 20, $1,270,833
Curtis Glencross – Age 26, $1,200,000
Mitch Wahl – Age 20, $883,333*
Nigel Dawes – Age 24, $840,000
Brett Sutter – Age 21, $600,000*
Brian McGrattan – Age 28 , $500,000*
*projected contracts

(I left McGrattan in there because I know Sutter likes having a goon at his disposal)

With the buyout of Kotalik’s contract, which would count $1,000,000 towards the cap, the Flames would have 13 forwards at $29,737,499.

This would bring my projected total cap number, using my defence and goaltending assumptions, to a grand total of $54,262,499. It would leave Sutter with just under $4,000,000 to play with throughout the season and some flexibility when it comes to trades and free agent pick-ups.

All I am asking for is a change in mindset. The game, as I have stated time and time again, is no longer about grinding and checking. Look at the four teams in the conference finals; every single team relies on their speed and skill to win them games. Every team has various offensive weapons that could strike at any moment.

The Flames, on the other hand, were a very one-dimensional team last year and other teams exposed that. Their power play was very static and has little to no creativity, which resulted in other teams controlling the tempo and breaking up the Flames chances before they even cross the blue line.

I just hope Sutter has realized this. He has been quoted as saying the Flames will be “tweaking” a bit this summer when it comes to the roster.

Tweaking…hopefully he meant fixing.

This has been,

Newman on the Flames

All numbers for this article were taken from capgeek.com. and nhlnumbers.com