Flames Summer Might Bring Huge Change
There’s a chance the Flames could still make this playoff race really interesting however the pragmatist side of me has to believe that they will end up somewhere close to where they are today which would leave them with the 10-15th over all pick at the entry draft. This summer is shaping up to be a very busy one for the Flames organization.
Should the Flames not make the playoffs as expected then it certainly seems likely that Brent Sutter will be fired, this will be more about his results than his ability. It should be noted that in my opinion no coach will be successful in Calgary until the entire culture of the organization has changed and to me that means ripping out what remains of the “core”. There has been too many players who have come from loser organizations to expect this team to be winners. Cast off from the Leafs, The islanders, The Panthers from when those teams were poor make up an un-coachable squad. So Sutter being fired for not making the playoffs is fairly certain however I personally do not lay a huge amount of blame at his feet.
This summer could also mean at least one huge piece moving out, Kiprusoff. The fan base is very split on a move that involves the franchise’s best goalie since Vernon, however the signs and tea leaves seem to point in a direction that means a new home for Kipper next year. The first is that his no movement clause is lifted after this season, the second is he is not getting younger and his value is high after a season where he played lights out.
His cap hit will be higher than his salary, this is important to note because it greatly increases his value to the poorer teams of the league who are looking to hit the cap floor but pay less in salary, as Kipper is only making 6 Million over the final two years of his contract he is a great value. The final year of his contract pays 1 Million dollars, often looked at as his “retirement” option year, the Flames know that Kipper has value today but it may be diminished by age and contract status following next season so the time to trade might be right now.
With Irving showing decent results at the NHL level and the Kari Ramo acquisition as part of the Cammalleri deal you have to think the Flames have been eyeballing this idea for a while. Ramo is perhaps the best goalie in the KHL which may not be saying a ton but he does have some interesting trends like a better save percentage every year and a better goals against average every year. A Ramo/Irving one two punch might be what the Flames are looking for next year. Kiprusoff would bring in the return this club needs, Darren Dreger commented he would bring back more than Iginla would, I have to think a 1st round pick and either a decent prospect or a top six forward or a top 4 D.
The Flames have had a need for number one center since they traded Joe Nieuwendyk, the thought has always been a playmaker to play with Iginla, this thinking has to change. Iginla is, as I’ve stated, the anti-chemistry and only very few players ever find it with him. The thinking should be not about who plays with a 35 year old player but who can be THE guy for years to come up front regardless of who plays with him. Unfortunately number one centers do not grow on trees. The Flames tried for Brad Richards last year knowing that this year would present no clear cut number one centers in free agency so the only way is to get one via trade, which is next to impossible, or via the draft.
With a pick in the 10-15 range every year it is unlikely the Flames will ever draft that guy so something has to change, preferably sooner rather than later. The Kipper linchpin this summer might represent the best opportunity for that. The draft is defenseman heavy in the top 10 with 6 of the top 10 projected to go most likely being a D and the few Centers that are there will probably go before Calgary picks however teams like the Lightening, the Leafs and Columbus all have netminder issues and a top 10 pick that Calgary would covet.
Just for fun I put together some ideas for trades that I think would be ideal, all trades would be for Calgary’s first pick and Kiprusoff:
Tampa Bay: 1st Pick and Connelly- Lecavalier and Stamkos will fill the spots Connolly is ideal for. Tampa would get a goalie of high caliber. Calgary would get a scoring Center and a top ten they would covet and possibly use for another Reinhart family member.
Leafs: 1st Pick and Colbourne- Again the Leafs have spots filled already that Colbourne is ideal for, he is a huge strong Center from Calgary that would have a spot here. The Leafs getting Kipper would blow up Leafs nation for sure and leave Calgary wondering if they didn’t lose ANOTHER trade to the Leafs but in the end it would be good for both teams.
Now Columbus have a first over all pick, in my experience if they get traded it’s to move down one or two spots but there are some things in play here. Columbus have had a huge goalie meltdown this year, they have had horrible history with other Russian players, they are trading Rick Nash for possibly a lot of good forwards. Should Nash get traded for a bevy of players, mainly forwards and getting Calgary’s pick which could mean a decent D prospect would they look at getting a franchise goalie like Kipper? It’s hard to say. If Calgary did get that pick, which is a very, very remote chance, they situation of drafting Yakupov may be too tempting and they look for a center elsewhere.
At any rate this summer will not be as boring as the Season has been for Flames fans!