Rebuild or Re-Tool. What should the Flames do?


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Thanks for a great season Flames fans! Though it’s been another tough one with no post-season appearance from the Flames, it has been fun to connect with so many of you online and in person. I’ve learned that there are a thousand different opinions on what it takes to make a good hockey team and a thousand more opinions on what it takes to make a Stanley Cup Champion.

While it’s clear that Flames aren’t one of the elite teams in the NHL this season, the jury is still split about whether they have it in them in the near future. Whenever I talk to Flames fans I find that there continue to be two trains of thought: Blow it up or re-tool. Some fans believe that it’s time to trade away all our assets and to make like the Edmonton Oilers and rebuild. Others think that the Flames could have it in them with a bit of tinkering. The other thing that is clear is that everyone has their opinion and that nobody agrees.

So with that in mind, I challenge you to come up with your own off-season plan for Jay Feaster (or whoever the new Flames GM may be). My own personal plan is below and it’s somewhere between re-tooling and rebuilding. I’d say it’s more towards re-tooling, with some trimming of excess fat that doesn’t serve any purpose. I don’t expect you to agree with it, but if you have a better plan, leave a comment with your own “who to trade and who to keep.”  If you’re really ambitious, throw in a few trades to indicate who you’d add to the Flames roster to make them a better team.

First, let me say that I don’t believe in blowing up the team. I think some changes are necessary to bring in some youth, and shed some salary that’s way overpriced, but I don’t think we should trade away our biggest assets. I’ve used my favourite salary cap calculator to determine how much each player is worth, and I recommend you check it out if you’re wondering how much we’re paying each player.

Here’s who I think we should keep (total cap hit ~$33.5M):
Iggy (7M)
☑ Morrison (re-sign 1 M, 1yr) [Morrison re-signed for $1.25M, 1yr]
☑ Tanguay (re-sign 1.7M, 2yrs) [Tanguay re-signed for $3.5M, 5yrs]
Bourque (3.33M)
Backlund (1.3M)
Moss (1.3)
☑ Glencross (re-sign 2M, 3 yrs) [Glencross re-signed for 2.55M, 4yrs]
Jackman (550K)

Giordano (4M),
☑ Babchuk (re-sign 1.4M, 2 yrs) [Babchuk re-signed for $2.5M, 2 yrs]
T.J. Brodie (740K)
☒ Pardy (re-sign 800K) [Pardy signed 2 year contract at $2M/year with Dallas]
Carson (500K)
☑ Mikkelson (re-sign 750K, 2yrs) [Mikkelson re-signed for $721K, 1 yr]
☒ Staios (resign 1M) [Flames let Staios go free as UFA and signed Scott Hannan to a $1M, 1yr contract instead]

Kipper (5.8M)
☑ Karlsson (re-sign at 700K, 2 yrs) [Karlsson re-signed for $875K, 2 years]

Here’s who I think we should trade or let go (total cap hit reduction~$32.3M):
Kotalik (3M) NTC [Kotalik sent to Buffalo with Robyn Regehr]
Stajan (3M) NTC [no luck here]
Jokinen (3M) NMC [no luck here either, but at least Olli's on Twitter now.]
Hagman (3M) [definitely no luck here]
Ivanans (600K) [still no luck here]
Langkow (4.5M) NMC [I'm secretly glad he's staying]
Kostopolous (916K) [he's staying and better play hard]
Modin (UFA) [Modin was not re-signed]

Bouwmeester (6.68M) NTC
Regehr (4M) NMC [Regehr traded to Buffalo with Kotalik for Chris Butler ($1.25M, 2yrs) and Paul Byron (prospect)
Sarich (3.6M) NMC

You’ll notice that I’ve slashed a lot of cap hit on the defensive core, most notably by getting rid of Regehr, Jay Bo and Sarich. My idea is to get rid of some excess salary on the back end and shift it up front to pay for some better scorers. Spending $6M on offence is always better than spending it on defence unless you’re able to miraculously convince Niklas Lidstrom to sign with the Flames. I also realize that we can’t get rid of players without taking others in return, and I think that the magic number is to replace the $32M with about $20-$25M of newer, younger players that can revitalize the Flames offence.

Here are a few thoughts on the guys I’d get rid of…

As far as I’m concerned Sarich is a non-negotiable item in my off-season success plan. We don’t call him “lead foot” for nothing and his one big hit on Patrick Marleau in the playoffs a few years ago don’t make up for continued poor play, atrocious give-aways and a general lack of effectiveness on the ice.

I’m a big fan of Regehr for his influence on the team, but in the new NHL, I don’t think that there’s really such a thing as a true “shut down” defenceman. The whole team needs to be involved when you’re playing in your own end, and one guy smashing the opposition’s top players is no longer an effective way of playing defence. Regehr’s main deficiency is offence and puck control and it really hinders the Flames ability to move the puck out of their own end when he’s on the ice.

Jay Bouwmeester sounded really good when Darryl Sutter signed him just before he entered free agency, but the $6.68 million price tag is looking a little steep for a guy who skates like he’s 10 feet tall, but hits like he’s 3 feet tall. I now understand why Michael Peca said he liked playing against Jay because he was soft. If we moved Jay up to the wing on the 2nd line, he’d probably be more effective than he was this season.

The only big surprise on the front end is Daymond Langkow. I have been a big Langkow fan for a long time and his play after his return from injury at the end of this season was pretty amazing, but I think that his age is going to start becoming an x-factor soon. I don’t belive that you get as much for guys like Langkow, but you may get more for him now than you do in a year or two. So being the ruthless GM that I am, I think it’s time to trade him for someone younger and a bit cheaper.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I think we should get rid of Stajan, Hagman, Kotalik and Jokinen. I think that Jokinen made a valiant effort at the end of the season, but his inconsistency still troubles me and I think we’d be better without him. I sure hope that someone else is dumb enough to pick him and his $3M contract up, but if they don’t we’ll have to keep him and hope that he finally figured out that making the playoffs doesn’t come without a full season’s effort.

I have no idea why the Flames thought that it was a good idea to sign a 2nd/3rd liner to a $3M contract, but I think that Matt Stajan isn’t worth his cap hit and needs to go. Who’s going to pick him up? I don’t know, but maybe we can send him to with Jay Bo in exchange for some young, promising goal scorer. That would make for a good deal.

Ales kotalik is a waste of $3M even if he does have the hardest shot on the team. He doesn’t have a place in the new culture that the Calgary Flames want to build since he is notorious for putting in the minimum amount of effort on a daily basis. All I have to say to him is Buh-bye. Enjoy your time in the KHL.

Hagman is one of those guys that I was on the fence about. He is skilled and shows some amazing hands sometimes, but 11 goals and 27 points for $3M isn’t my idea of a steal of a deal. For the same offensive production we could spend $600K to $700K on Jeff Halpern who is a UFA this season. I’m not saying that Hagman is a bad player, but he’s not playing like the other $3M hockey players in the NHL.

As difficult as it seems, my keepers and sweepers is pretty simple. Keep the guys who are playing well, and sign the guys that need to be re-signed. Just don’t over pay them. At the same time, we need to get rid of the overpriced players who aren’t performing and trade them to teams with cap room. Since most of the teams with cap room also haven’t made the playoffs for a while, there’s a chance they have some good young talent that they’ll be willing to part with.

Hopefully we can get a few high draft picks in return to make up for all the 1st and 2nd round picks that Darryl Sutter traded away to bring in all these guys, and we’ll be no worse off than we were in the 2004-2005 season. Oh, wait… that season never happened… but the ’04-’05 Flames on the Xbox were really good that winter. No matter what happens with the Flames this off-season, I’ll be happy to see them return to the ice this fall and will always choose Flames hockey over poker on TV.

(UPDATE, 11 April 11): I added the No Trade Clause (NTC) and No Movement Clause (NMC) info beside each player’s name with one of them in their contracts. For definitions, please see FAQ #13. I don’t subscribe to the notion that an NTC means you can’t trade a player. More details in the comment section below.

(UPDATE, 16 May 11): Curtis Glencross signs contract extension for $10M over 4 years with NTC. That’s $2.5M per year for those who failed math. I was only $500K and one year off. I didn’t expect the NTC though.

(UPDATE, 24 June 11) Robyn Regehr takes Ales Kotalik with him to Buffalo. That’s the first two off the list…

(UPDATE, 25 June 11) Alex Tanguay re-signs at $3.5M per year, for 5 years. That’s a lot more than I expected. I guess Regehr+Kotalik was to make a bit of room for him. Depending on what happens with Chris Butler (850K, RFA) and Paul Byron ($550K, Abbotsford-likely), the Flames could net out with $3.5M in extra cap space.

About Greg Hounslow  (509 Posts)

Greg is the founder of Red Mile Blog has been following the Flames through good times and bad since they arrived in Calgary in the early 80s. He has written hundreds of articles on the Flames since 2005 and considers himself an expert on hockey inconsistency and frustration. He shoots right and usually plays defence, but has been known to jump up in the rush. He is a 2-time CAHL men's league champion and knows the sweet taste of beer from a Cup.

  • Drewpoliwczuk

    Sure evryone is so harsh on another disapponting year, so lets shoot the dog again.  How about thinking this through logically.  langkow, jokinen, backlund.   iginla, bourque, moss,  are signed. lets talked about the rest.  Tanguay wants to stay to see if he will take 2.2million  huge raise,  glenross 2.2million as well hope he takes it.  defense     bowmester sarich regier giordano, signed     tj brodie   erickson ready for nhl  pardy babchuk carson      could resign         
    so lets talk structure     trade  boumeester and stajan for tavares, islanders might go for it.
                                          trade hagman to washington for fehr.
    lines are                         Tanguay          Taveras                Iginla
                                          Bourque          Jokinen                moss
                                          glencross        Langkow              Fehr
                                          rainhart           Backlund               Jackman/konstopolis/nemiez
                                                Giordano  Sarich
                                                Regier      Tj Brodie
                                                Erickson    Babchuk/ pardy/ carson pelach
    With tavares only making 3.75, team save alot of cash for free agents,  plus fehr onlymakes 2.2 compared to 3 for hagman.    kotalik buy out,

    dont need a new coach     sutter is good with brother being so to mcdonald for a small hamburger and fry

  • Joe Giuffre

    article in today’s ny times about canucks not being the darling of canada…should be read…am a strong believer that cup belongs in canada – when the rangers can’t have it…but this year won’t go that way unless it’s canucks v. lightning…cup does not belong in sand…hate san jose as well…my problem with canucks is that they play rote hockey…no flair, excitement to their game……real good but boring…and except for kessler and borrows don’t really own north american guts and style….but do love and appreciate their rink/stick logo…a month to summer break…enjoy the pucks…  

    • Greg @ Red Mile Blog

      Jeff’s article is great. I actually just did a post about it because he emailed me (and others) looking for a Canadian fan’s opinion and he used a quote from me in his article. Have a look: /2011/05/conference-finals-who-are-you-cheering-for/ You may hate me for saying this, but I’m cheering for San Jose. My reasons: 1- they aren’t the Canucks. 2- they have a good contingent of hard-working Canandian players, which is my default once the Flames are out of the race.

  • OldeBuffalo

    Karlsson looks like he’s ready for Prime Time and will probably be picked up by a team that needs a #1 goalkeeper at a much higher salary.

  • OldeBuffalo

    I just completed my player choices for the 2011 NHL playoff pool.
    Didn’t choose any Canucks (not even either of the sisters) because I expect Vancouver to exit the playoffs early.
    The Sedin sisters will disappear again as soon as the heavy lifting begins and Louongo will look longingly toward getting back to Florida where is real home is.

  • OldeBuffalo

    Karlsson is probably ready to be a starter on some other team, probably for a lot more than he’s getting as a back up.
    I think we’ll see a new back up to Kipper next year.

  • Ryan P

    If you think Tanguay can be re-signed for 1.7m, Morrison for 1m and Glencross for 2m – you’re crazy. You’re even more nuts for wanting to keep Staios.

    By the way, J-Bo and Reggie faced the opposition’s top line every night – who’s going to do that now?

    • OldeBuffalo

      Tanguay and Morrison were great additions to the team this year, but neither of them have youth on their side and they’ve both recently been rejected by other teams in the NHL . What other team would pay them bigger bucks to sign them to play with their number one star or to play on the 3rd or 4th line where most teams develop their young players.

      Both Tanguay and Morrison are nearing the end of their careers and neither wants to uproot their young families again.

      If the Flames want Tanguay and Morrison back, it will be at a price the Flames want to pay.

      Staios is getting a little long in the tooth and the Flames are not short of young talented defencemen.

      I’d like to see Bouwmeester stay, but at a lower salary, which may not be a possibility. He plays big minutes and his defensive abilities far outshine his lack of offensive numbers. He and Jokinen are two Flames that have the ability to carry the puck out of our end and force the other team to back off when they do. I’ll take that ability any day over a player that constantly fights to make that first important play, is forced to cough up the puck or ices it as a last ditch, desperation play.

    • Greg @ Red Mile Blog

      I am crazy and I’ll admit it, but I definitely think Tanguay & Morrison can be signed for that much. They’re older and have already made their money. Both of them are coming towards the end of their careers and want to play with familiar players and not move their families. Calgary offers both so I think we’ll see both of them compromise on $$ to stay here.

      Glencross will probably get bigger offers from other teams. I’d like the Flames GM to resign him, but I don’t think it’s worth paying more than $2M just to keep him. The average NHL salary is around $2M and Glencross is an average player

      I’d say Gio is up to the task of facing the opposition’s top line. Anybody can face the top line as long as they have help from their forwards. The system of play will change next season, so it won’t be 2 D-men trying to hold off 3 forwards like it was so often this season.

      Staios is 37, and I say we resign him because he will bring a little more veteran presence (at a good price) for what will inevitably be a young defensive core. Plus, he’s a little more skilled with the puck than Sarich. He’s not a goal scorer, but paying for blue line goal scorers fills up your cap space real quick.

  • Stephen

    One of the many problems with your retool is all of the no trade and no movement clauses that darryl handed out.
    Jay bo, Kotalik, and Stajan all have no trade so they have to agree to go or the flames have to eat the salary with them in the minors. And the list for no movement is worse Jokinen, Langkow, Regehr and Sarich. Gonna be tough.

    • Greg @ Red Mile Blog

      I was wondering if someone would bring that up. It will certainly present a bigger challenge for the GM if he wants to move a player to another team, but I agree with what Jay Feaster has said numerous times: if you tell a player that the team is moving forward next year and that they aren’t part of the team’s plans, they’ll move. No player wants to stick around on a team where they are not wanted.

      • Stephen

        It may be true he can get them to move but who will take on those contracts with the clauses in them and how much smaller will the return be. Look at Ottawa and what happened with Phillips, Murray begged him to go so he could get good return but he said no this is my home. I’m of the mind that this will be a blow up process. And the Flames are gonna have to bottom dwell for a couple if not more years. Especially with the current lack of draft picks and quality up and comers in the system. If we look down at the heat there is not too much down there we want up here next year. Just think its gonna be about sucking large for awhile in order to make it big down the road.

        • Greg @ Red Mile Blog

          Ottawa is actually a perfect example. Look at what happened with Alex Kovalev (NMC), James Neal (no clauses) and Mike Fisher (NTC). Murray let them know that wanted to trade them and asked where they would consider going. Though Neal had no clauses in his contract, they all ended up where they wanted to be and Murray was able to trade them. Phillips wanted to be in Ottawa, and be part of a rebuilding team and that’s his choice. For a few of the Flames players who are frustrated with constant mediocrity, it may be an easy way out for them. There are a lot of good teams without a lot of dollars committed to their rosters for 2011-2012, so we may be surprised….

          • Stephen

            Agreed hopefully as many as possible take the way out. I just really think this is gonna be a long term rebuild and not a retool. We will have to wait and see. The biggest disappointment will be that Iggy will never raise a cup as a flame.

  • Hockeyfan_4_8

    Keep langkow and kostopolous and maybe regehr or sarich one of the 2 D, tanguay should get more than glencross, try and trade to a contending team get younger guys who can play right away and I think playoffs could be in site next year. Plus I would like feaster to get a chance to stay. Wht do you think about a coaching change not saying i want it but what are odds of it happenin?

    • Greg @ Red Mile Blog

      Olde Buffalo makes a good point in the comment above and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did replace Brent Sutter. A good young coach may be a good thing for the Flames. You only have to look as far as the 2009 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins to see that Dan Bylsma had a positive impact on the team. I wouldn’t be opposed to keeping Langkow or Kostopolous because they were both playing well at the end of the season (and Kostopolous has the right price tag). I put them on the trade list because I think that we could get better (or younger) players for the same price.

  • OldeBuffalo

    After we get all these new players, how long do you think it will take Brent to re-program them to start playing outdated Sutter hockey?

    I agree we need to undergo some player changes, however, of even more importance it getting a coach that understands the new NHL and installs a system that can compete with lesser skilled teams that are coached in the new style of play i.e. Canucks, Coyotes/Jets, Blackhawks, Predators, Kings, Capitals, etc.

    If we have the puck…they don’t!

    • Greg @ Red Mile Blog

      I’m not convinced that Brent Sutter needs to go, but if he does, who should we replace him with? I don’t know who would be a better coach to lead the Flames…

      • OldeBuffalo

        First you get your President in place – Ken King is the right guy.

        Then you confirm Jay Feaster as your General Manager.

        Then you find the right head coach and hire him.

        Forward thinking coaches can come out of the American Hockey League (and I exclude Abbotsford). You might find him in University hockey, or one that is presently employed as an NHL assistants or is a successful head coach in the junior leagues.

        Then your new head coach hires the assistants that he wants to work with.

        Then the General Manager starts putting the right players in place by trading the ones that don’t fit the new system.

        You can always move players by working with them and their agents when you tell the player they no longer fit in the teams plans. Players want to play and they want to be wanted. They’ll move to another team if they’re included in the process even it they have a no-trade contract.

        • Greg @ Red Mile Blog

          Good points about the AHL and university hockey coaches. I think that the problem has been that Darryl Sutter built what he thought was a Stanley Cup Finals team, but he forgot about making the playoffs (and/or getting past the first round). Now that the rest of the teams in the west are more skilled and faster than the Flames, and have a different style of play so the Flames can’t keep up.

          I agree 100% with your last point. I think that the NMCs and NTCs won’t have as big of an impact as some fans think. Feaster has made it clear that he has no problems telling a player that he’s not wanted anymore, and that will change even the most die-hard Calgary-loving hockey player’s mind.

          • OldeBuffalo

            Darryl put together a very skilled group of players, then he forgot that his job stopped there. His constant interference inside the dressing room destroyed the ‘will to play’ of most of the players. As soon as he was gone this team found its ‘will to play’ again and started winning more than its share of games.

            If the decision to replace him had come sooner, would the turnaround have started in time to get them into the playoffs? We’ll never know.

            If they had, I doubt they would have lasted very long given their inconsistent play and the style in which they were coached to play.

          • Stephen

            Where it does affect you is in the return and it always limits you in where they go. Why would some other team want to take on our overpaid, under performing castoffs. And those teams willing to take them, will they be accepted by the player. It is really just going to limit the return and make it that much harder. Oh well it’s all just talk anyway right now. Time to dust off the golf clubs and wait for Draft day and July1st.

    • Stephen

      Lesser skilled teams??? Are you nuts. The flames don’t stack up well against any of those teams. Time to take of the flame coloured glasses and wake up. We are too old, too slow and overpaid. If you gave us the same team next year with Ken Holland (maybe the best coach in hockey) you think we be that much better. That type of thinking has kept this team handcuffed to the regular season.

      • OldeBuffalo

        How do you account for the fact they were one of the best performing teams since the departure of Darryl Sutter?

        What’s your answer to why the Flame’s played so well over the last 4 months if they didn’t have some some highly skilled players on the team. Are you telling me the Coyotes/Jets are a team with better player skills?

        Maybe you’re only good at using the term “are you nuts” and haven’t got a clue about what a skilled player really looks like?

        • Stephen

          Gimme a break. The coyotes/preds maybe, but saying this team has more talent than the canucks, hawks or capitals, come on. The reason this team did so well in the last half of the season? Easy Iggy Kipper Bmo and Tangauy and team desperation. They started playing playoff hockey right then. Sure there is lots of talent on the team. But its aging and not getting any faster year after year. This is not a team ready to compete “in the new NHL”. All that being said, I think we can agree that this team needs to be better. Both coaches and players. Hopefully Feaster can get it done and we don’t have to sit on this side of the playoff line again.

          • OldeBuffalo

            I admit I’m a little prejudiced against the Canucks, probably because I live in BC and I’m forced to listen to Canuck drivel all winter. I don’t expect them to go very far in the playoffs and consider them to be ‘less skilled’ than the Flames but with a far more progressive coach who I consider was the difference in the Flames/Canucks games this season.

            Give me this Flames team with Vignault as the coach and I’ll show you how much skill they really have.

            Your coaching plan can’t be successful if you leave the points wide open game after game, while your two wingers are back helping Kipper play goal. Vignault figured out that little detail years ago and he’s the main reason why the Canucks have enjoyed their success in spite of having to ice half a team of AHL call-ups this season.

            Your coaching plan can’t be successful if your team constantly gives up possession of the puck and then has to work its ass off trying to get it back. Slapping the puck up the boards to a waiting uncovered opposing defenceman is a boneheaded, panic driven strategy when trying to exit your end.

            Long stretch passes have a very low success percentage and usually get intercepted, go for an icing call or result in your own player getting checked off the puck as soon as it arrives.

            How many times did the Flames try these boneheaded plays this season? Too many and that means it’s a coaching strategy problem.

            I’m not worried about having a veteran team. Veteran, skilled hockey players can out think a young fast skating team on most nights. Ask the ‘young’ fast skating Oilers how they did against the old, slow veteran Flames this season.

            Some player changes are obvious but blowing up this team isn’t going to happen. A coaching change of attitude or an outright coaching change is this team’s biggest challenge.

            Give the veteran Flames a forward thinking coach and see how they compete in the new NHL.

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