Hockey Updates

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Does a Jaromir Jagr return to the Rangers make any financial sense?

The New York Rangers, are reportedly interested in bringing future Hall of Famer and hockey great Jaromir Jagr, back to the NHL. Jagr first came to the Rangers, after GM Glen Sather, back in the days when he did not believe in draft picks, or the notion to spend wisely on his players, traded Anson Carter for him in 2004. Jagr played his way out of Washington, to the point that they were willing to pay $20 million of his salary, in the trade. Jagr enjoyed some very successful seasons in New York statistically, but was never able to lead his team deep into the Playoffs. After the Rangers lack of offence against Washington in this years Playoffs, rumor has it that they are one of three teams in the running, if he would return to the NHL.

Does a Jagr return make sense for the direction of this team? Simple answer is no. Signing Jaromir Jagr to a contract will be detrimental to the newfound mentality that has been instilled by Coach Tortorella. After years of having a reputation of trying to buy championships, most recently with the atrocious contracts of Gomez and Drury, (the jury is still out on Gaborik) they have finally replaced this mentality with a hard working commitment to  a defensive system. Guys like Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan have become the face of the franchise, and spending money to bring in a player like Jagr may ruin the new look Rangers.

The real area that Jagr would damage the new style Rangers, is the salary cap implications that such a signing would entail. Acording to CapGeek, with the current salary cap at 59.4 million, the Rangers have a little over $18 million to spend on 10 players to fill out their 23 man roster. While that is more cap space than the average team, the Rangers need to re-sign certain key players that have really excelled in their current system. Callahan and Dubinsky, both RFAs, are the two faces of the team on the offensive end, (sorry Gaborik, you lost that title) and need to be compensated accordingly. They will both receive in the neighbourhood of $4-5 million per season. Both of them, especially Callahan, play a defensively responsible game, and provide the two way game that Sather expected from Bobby Holik, when he gave him perhaps the worst contract in NHL history. The other two RFA forwards are Artem Anisimov and Brian Boyle. Boyle, a former sixth overall pick, has developed nicely after he looked like a bust on the Kings, and is a central piece to their penalty kill that ranked 6th in the NHL this past season. Together with Brand Prust, they combined for 12 shorthanded points this season. Anisimov is another player that made big strides in only his second season in the NHL, and at the age of 23, looks to be a big part of the bright future for the Rangers. Here is what I would say is the approximated breakdown of the four salaries that must be given out:

Ryan Callahan- $4.5 million per season
Brandon Dubinsky- $4 million per season
Brian Boyle- $2 million per season
Artem Anisimov- $2 million per season

Total: $12.5 million

With an expectation that the salary cap will be raised to $62.2 million, after signing the four aforementioned players, they will have a little less than $9 million to spend on the remaining six spots on their roster. With a number of higher caliber players being unrestricted free agents, (Frolov and Prospal) the Rangers will need to try and find bargain priced veterans, and players from their farm system, to help fill out their roster.

The obvious question that needs to be asked, is how much money will Jaromir Jagr ask for, to come to play again in the NHL. His first two years that he played for Avangard Omsk, Jagr was making $5 million dollars a season. It is also important to remember, that the tax system in Russia, allows for athletes to keep a larger portion of their salaries tax free. This past year, he received a very similar salary, which was more performance based, and less guaranteed salary. Well, lo and behold, he had his best season for Omsk, averaging over a point a game with 50 points in 49 games. Another thing that we know about Jagr, is that he does not take discounts to play. In 2001, he signed a 7yr/$77 million dollar contract with the Washington Capitals, a contract which crippled the ownerships ability to surround him with the pieces necessary for a championship contender. After having a fantastic season for Omsk, expect Jagr to command the same money he was making there, to return to the NHL; around $5 million.

If I was writing this article a year from now, in the summer of 2012, I would be more inclined to say that it is worth it for the Rangers to take the risk on Jagr. The reason for this is because at the end of this season, the albatross of a contract of Chris Drury will come off the books. The Rangers are paying him over $7 million dollars a season, to essentially do nothing. He is consistently injured, and has not provided any value to this team at any point in the last two years. Drury holds a no-movement clause, which does not allow for him to be traded or sent to the minors to be Wade Redden's roommate without his consent. Drury, is hoping for a new contract from someone for next season, so there is about a zero percent chance that he allows himself to be demoted and not showcase his talents for an audition for next year. With over $7 million already tied up in a player that does not fit the structure of the team, it is an extremely risky proposition to spend the necessary money (even if they can actually fit him under the salary cap) to bring in Jagr.

 Rangers fans should be excited for next season even without Jagr in the lineup. The team made the Playoffs, despite Callahan and Gaborik each missing over 20 games, and aside from Lundqvist none of the stars played to the best of their abilities. Michael Del Zotto, suffered from the sophomore slump, and is looking to have a huge bounceback year, and together with Staal and Girardi, look to anchor the Rangers backend for many years to come. Up front, the team is brimming with up and coming talent. Derek Stepan is looking like he is the real deal, and Callahan and Dubinsky play with their hearts on their sleeve every game. Marian Gaborik has the ability to be one of the top ten best scorers in the NHL, when he is properly motivated and should be having a bounceback year next season. The Rangers still have one of the best goalies in the NHL, in King Henrik and with him around they are always in contention. Prust, Boyle, and Erik Christensen are three of the best glue guys in the entire NHL, and provide fantastic depth for this organization. Also, the Rangers had Prospal and Frolov injured for most of the season, and continued to play well with them on the sidelines.  With two players in Wojtek Wolski and Drury coming off the books, combined with their almost $11 million in salaries, the Rangers after the 2012 season will have all that money to spend on players to improve an already solid core.

By bringing in Jagr this season, the Rangers may jeopardize the solid young core that they have put in place, as well as they will create a reversion to their old habits. Sather, my message to you is; unless Jagr is playing for the veterans minimum, which would make him an impossible bargain to pass up, do not bring him in. You will take away from the work that Callahan and Dubinsky have done, and destroy the dynamic of the team that you have created over the past three years. A couple more years in this direction-especially when the team recovers from your Drury mistake, and you have a legitimate championship contender.

Then again when was the last time Sather listened to anyone....

Hope you enjoyed!!

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Sharks may have got bitten this series, but they have built themselves up for long term success

The San Jose Sharks suffered a heartbreaking defeat at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks, to lose for the second consecutive year in the Western Conference Finals. Most analysts will look at the way that they played in the series, and decide that the five games defeat was not indicative of  the strong performance put on by the Sharks. For some unexplainable reason, this assessment is meant to offer some condolence to their fan base. I also believe that the best days for the Sharks lie ahead, but not due to their play in the series. The cause of my excitement is because of the structure of salaries of their team. For this the fans should get excited.

The San Jose Sharks from a salary cap standpoint, are built for long run success. The biggest problem facing most teams recently like the Red Wings a few years ago and the Blackhawks last season, was that their players were all coming into their primes at the same time. Toews, Kane, Keith and Seabrook all needed big contracts at the same time, and in the new salary cap era, it is an unsustainable formula, which has lead to the semi collapse of a team that otherwise could have been a dynasty.

The Canucks are faced with a very similar problem with their defence this off-season. After signing Hamhuis this past offseason to ensure that they have the deepest defence in the entire league, the Canucks will need to re-sign Ehrhoff, Bieksa and Salo this off-season. While Salo, may not get the big bucks again because of his injury concerns, Ehrhoff and Bieksa are both looking for their long term most expensive contracts. With the inexplicable acquisition of Kieth Ballard and his ludicrous 4.2 million dollar deal this past off-season, it will be almost impossible for them to maintain the services of both stars.

Parenthetically, that may have been the weirdest trade in the entire NHL in the past five years. The Canucks, felt the need to go after a 4.2 million dollar player that would be the sixth defenceman on their team, and gave up Steve Bernier, Michael Grabner and a 1st round pick. Sounds like Florida got a steal right? Wrong. They promptly waived Grabner and allowed the Islanders to pick up a player that had the most goals in a season for a rookie since Alexander Ovechkin. I think both GM's must be kicking themselves these days and rightfully so.

The Sharks on the other hand, have their players coming through in waves, which will allow them to maintain longevity of their successful team for many years to come. Right now the team has Marleau, Thornton, and Heatley all playing (albeit Heatley has been on vacation for a while) in the prime of their careers on their big money contracts. While they are receiving their big money, the team has young players like Devin Setoguchi (who is an RFA looking for a raise this summer) and Logan Couture playing on their entry level deals. Also, Ryan Clowe and Joe Pavelski are already playing on contracts that will run through the 2014 season. With all of their top players locked into long term contracts until 2014, the Sharks are not obligated to give raises to their young guys while paying the veterans on the team heavy duty contracts. This recipe will allow the Sharks to continue to hold onto all of their offensive star talent. When Heatley is on your third line, you know that you are a pretty deep team, and the ability to hold onto all of those players is a luxury most teams have not allowed themselves to have.

The defence for the San Jose Sharks which was 4th in the NHL in goals against, also has their glue guys locked up for the foreseeable future. The salary cap situation is very similar on the defensive side of their game. Dan Boyle is still locked into his megadeal for the next few seasons, M.E. Vlasic and the upcoming Douglas Murray (I still cannot believe with a name like that, that he is Swedish) already finished their entry level deals,and  there are no big money players getting older that they need to give a raise to. The defence is actually in line for a significant influx of new talent. Ian White ($3 million) Nicklas Wallin ($2.5 million) and Kent Huskins ($1.7 million) are all coming off of the books this season and if they do come back, will be at significant discounts. With Jason Demers looking like he is ready to join the top six, the Sharks may be willing to throw the extra money available on defence at a star player. Would it not be an amazing story if Kevin Bieksa was somehow lured to San Jose for next season? He sure made a good impression this series.

The goalie situation is very stable as well for the Sharks. Antti Niemi, after his rough start acclimating to the Sharks, ended the season on a very strong level. He had some rough patches during the playoffs, but I think, as does GM Doug Wilson, that Niemi is their goalie of the future. A couple of months ago he received a four year deal that will pay him roughly $3.8 million per year. An extremely fair number for a goalie that has proven that he is capable of leading a team deep into the Playoffs. Also, with Anterro Nittymaki as his backup, the Sharks are set in goal. (Great Sharks trivia: Who is the last Canadian born goaltender to play in a game for Sharks?)

My message to Sharks fans is the following: Over the next three years, the Canucks will need to find a way to fit Burrows, Bieksa, and Ehrhoff into their tight salary cap. The Red Wings were beaten by you this year and are only getting older. The Flyers, do not have a goalie that can stop a wiffle ball never mind a puck. The Lightning are saddled with some bad contracts and will need to shell out top money for Stamkos and Hedman in the upcoming seasons. Boston is really the only team that is in a similar situation financially to the Sharks. Most of the serious competition is not going to be able to afford to seriously improve from the current team that they have now, or even keep all of their top players that they have now. With some savvy free agent signings this off-season and an increase in production from star rookie Couture and a rejuvenation of Dany Heatley, the Sharks core may be the most talented come the end of 2012. For that you should be excited for.

Hope you enjoyed!
Follow on Twitter @realhockeytalk

Monday, May 9, 2011

While the answer may not be obvious, there really is no question: the Flyers need a top notch goalie

The first round for the Philadelphia Flyers, almost ended in an absolute disaster. It took them a full seven games, which included a come from behind win in Game 6, to eliminate the injury-rattled Buffalo Sabres. Missing Derek Roy, losing Jason Pominville, and playing with a concussed Ryan Miller, the Sabres really gave the Flyers all that they could.

After escaping by the skin of their teeth, the Flyers had a semifinal rematch with the Bruins. Let's just say the epic comeback of last season did not see a repeat. The Flyers were outscored 20-7 in the four game sweep, and played like the Flyers of 2007 that ended the season with 56 points. One stat the certainly jumps off the table is that the Flyers actually outshot Boston in the series 149-129. The goal differential in light of the shot differential highlights the Flyers long time problem; goaltending.

Paul Holmgren, in what many consider to be the most comical comment of the Playoffs said. "I don't think that we can fault our goaltending at any point in this series." While he is right that the backchecking amongst the forwards was not as good as it should have been, to not blame your goalies that have a collected a 4.50 GAA and an 877 SV%, goaltending is clearly a problem for this team. It always has been, and unless Holmgren can man up and realize it is an issue that needs to be fixed, it may always be a problem.

Just like I did in my last article about the Calgary Flames, (I recommend checking it out if you have not seen it already) I am going to go through the makeup of this Flyers team and what opportunities are available to the Flyers, to improve their goaltending woes.

The Flyers clearly need to get a frontline top goaltender to answer there woes. They have tried the Chicago, and Detroit track, where you put no money into the goaltender, and it has failed them miserably. There are two star goaltenders in Illya Byzgalov and Thomas Vokoun, that are going to be on the open market and will ask approximately $5 million per season. The problem facing the Flyers is how to sign them to a contract. Here is a list of the salaries that the owe to their top 11 players for next season:

Daniel Briere: $7 million
Mike Richards: $6.6 million
Jeff Carter: $6 million
Scott Hartnell: $3.7 million
Kris (crippling trade) Versteeg: $3.1 million
Claude Giroux: $2.75 million
Kimmo Timonen: $5 million
Chris Pronger: $7.6 million
Andrej Meszaros: $4 million
Matt Carle: $3.8 million
Brayden Coburn: $3.2 million

Total: $52.75 million
Note: This is a list of actual salaries, the cap hit on the contracts are varying in both directions.

With the suspected cap hit of 62 million, the Flyers are left with less than 10 million dollars to fill out over half of their roster. This is before they re-sign Ville Leino, their top UFA. Thanks to Holmgren's short-sighted trade for Kris Versteeg without giving up a penny from the current roster, he has left his team in contractual problems that makes the Hawks woes of last year look like nothing. The Versteeg trade made even less sense when you realize that they had absolutely no need for another offensive player. It fails me to understand what the Flyers had to gain.

There are two scenarios that can arise that may allow Holmgren to sign either Bryzgallov or Vokoun. Either they are able to option a player making a lot of money, like Matt Carle or Brayden Coburn to the minors, or trade them. These guys, especially Coburn who is an absolute beast on the penalty kill, may garner attention from teams looking for a young and steady defenceman that carries a short term contract into the new CBA.

The other scenario that may arise, that will allow for the Flyers to sign a goalie, is if the market suffers from the "Turco, Nabokov syndrome." Essentially there is nobody in the market that is willing to pay for a goaltender, so you can either accept minimum veterans salary, or go play for a couple of weeks in Europe, before promptly requesting to come back to the NHL, only to be claimed by the least desirable destination in perhaps all of sports. Hmm....

I do not believe that the Panthers have any interest in re-signing Thomas Vokoun. They have the number one goalie prospect Jakub Markstrom in their system, and in a full rebuilding mode, there is no need for a 35 year old goaltender that will not contribute to any long term success. The only way I see him returning, is if the Panthers give him a huge one year contract. Again, from a hockey standpoint, it makes no sense for either side ti bring him back.

Bryzgallov is a very interesting case. If the Coyotes end up moving to Winnipeg, he has said that he has no intentions of playing there and will move on from the organization. While he may end up getting swayed by money, he has eliminated one of the few teams that will be in the market looking for a goalie. Also, with the ownership in limbo, it may be difficult for them to lay out the money they will need to bring him back to the desert, especially with Kieth Yandle as an RFA that they need to sign.

The only teams that I can see actually interested in investing and pursuing a top notch goaltender, are the Flyers, Avalanche, Blue Jackets and Islanders ( interested in pursuing a healthy goaltender). The Flyers are the only ones that actually have realistic championship capabilities, and will be a huge draw to any goaltender looking for a new home. So while the asking price may be $5 million, the Islanders may be scared off by paying for another goaltender, the Jackets might think that Steve Mason will remember how to play hockey, and the Avs might decide that they can find another one hit wonder like Craig Anderson, and keep their costs as low as they possibly can. With a very limited market, the Flyers may get away with making a lowball offer of about $3 million. While I think Bryzgalov will go to the KHL, I think that Vokoun may bite.

If these avenues do not work out, the only other option left for the Flyers is to make a trade. The one thing that they most definitely have on their side, is that they have a significant amount of assets. While I do not usually like to speculate, the one glaring trade scenario that really seems to work, is the Flyers acquiring Jonathan Quick.

As documented as the Flyers inability to procure a top notch goaltenders has been, the inability for the Kings to land their much coveted partner for Anze Kopitar has been almost as emphasized.The Kings have tried absolutely everything, they have signed Alex Ponikarovsky, traded for Marco Sturm and Dustin Penner, and lost out on the opportunity to choke themselves by signing Illya Kovalchuk to an enormous contract.

With the most heralded and top young goalie in Jonathan Bernier, the Kings should be looking to trade Quick, while he still has value on his low contract. Quick is signed for another two seasons at 1.8 mil each. The Flyers can afford this, and can also provide the Kings with the top line players they need. The Kings have an extensive number of restricted free agents to sign, highlighted by superstar Drew Doughty, and the best young third liner in the game Wayne Simmonds. After all the internal signings are completed the Kings will be left with approximately only 3 million dollars in cap space to begin the 2011 season

With not much flexibility to play around with, it seems the best option for them to acquire is James Van Riemsdyk. He is a on his entry level contract this season, and will be looking for a big pay hike, at the end of the upcoming season. By then, the Kings will be able to afford to pay him the money, with almost 18 million dollars coming off the books at the end of the 2011 season. Ryan Smyth (6.25 mil) Willie Mitchell (3.5 mil) Dustin Penner (4.25 mil) and Jarret Stoll (3.6 mil) even if re-signed will be at a discount from what they are currently making, and will free up some money for the Kings. JVR has certainly showed that he is developing into one of the premier power forwards in the entire NHL, and is the best asset that the Flyers can dangle to acquire a top notch goaltender.

While it will hurt the Flyers in the long run to lose a player pf JVR's ilk, the future for this team is now. With Briere, Pronger and Timonen on the wrong side of 30, this team is built to compete for a championship at this juncture, and must sacrifice a little for the future. The future is not completely lost however, with Carter, Giroux, Richards up front, there is still plenty of talent for the Flyers to continue to score with the best of them. However as is always the case, their success is contingent on finding a goaltender, and that is what they need to do. In essence, when Holmgren traded for Versteeg and the addition of his $3 million salary, all he was doing is ensuring he will need to lose a key piece of his future, it is time for him to admit his mistake and finally do it the right way.

Homlgren- go find a goaltender, and do whatever you have to do to get him. Your comments about goaltending not being the problem makes you sound foolish and in denial of the reality.

Who do you think they should sign?

Hope you enjoyed!
Follow on Twitter @realhockeytalk



Sunday, May 1, 2011

Calgary Flames looking a lot like the 2007 Maple Leafs.........In case you could not figure it out that is not a good thing.

As everyone is talking about the Playoffs lately, I wanted to ensure that Canadian fans did not think that we forgot about the rest of the league. (I mean how could we, isn't Toronto the hockey mecca?!?) Anyways, I was thinking about this article for a while, thought it was very interesting:

Since the free spending days before the lockout, the Leafs have been a total disappointment to their loyal fans in Southern Ontario. The most frustrating thing that faced Maple Leafs fans, was the frustration of knowing that their team was constrained by the cap, from actually gaining talent and growing into a Stanley Cup contender. The Leafs were shuffling in the 11th seed in the Eastern Conference: not bad enough for a great pick, but not good enough to come to the Playoffs. But the truth is, that even had they made the Playoffs, they would have gone absolutely nowhere. They had a less than stellar Toskala in net, as well as the Muskoka Five on exorbitant contracts, not allowing this team to gain any new upper end talent.

Then Brian Burke was brought in and everything changed. The most tenured player on the Leafs roster is Nikolai  Kulemin with 233 games. Whatever you may want to say about Burke, and some of the acquisitions that he has made, everyone will agree that he is not the kind of person that is looking to hedge his bet: he is in it for the big fish. That is the biggest difference between Ferguson and Burke. Burke would never sign a player like Jason Blake, he is another player that falls under my well-documented Stephen Weiss theory. Paid as a top line guy, that can only be a top-liner on a bad team. (Which explains the faults with the Anaheim team, they had too much money tied to a second line, and were left with no depth whatsoever, eventually losing to a franchise with values completely opposite. A different story for a different day). Burkie, as well as Fletcher realized that all of these players had to go, along with their insanely long no-trade clause contracts. He broke this team down to their bear bottom and decided to build up from total scratch. 

Look at the product, gone are the days when Ponikarovsky is masquerading as a legitimate second line player, and McCabe is living on his 5.75 million dollar contract because he defended with the patented can opener in 2002. The new Leafs are no longer middling thirty year olds wallowing in mediocrity, they are a young group of talented players that are growing as a team. Even though Brian Burke has never had the measured success of  JFJ in the standings, there is not a single Leafs fan that believes they were better off before. He has placed them in a situation, where they actually have 2 first round picks as well as 25 million dollars in cap space. When was the last time that happened?!!? 

Our counterparts in Calgary, are starting to look eerily similar to the dark days of mediocrity in Leafsland three seasons ago. Both teams had a legitimate star player towards the end of his career that was still performing, as well as a set of defencemen that were overpaid and tied into very long contracts. The Flames have already decided to bury Ales Kotalik and his $3 million dollar deal in the minors, in a move that was designed to free up some much needed cap space. Keep in mind that this past season the cap was 59 million and is expected to rise to 62 mil, take a look at the numbers for 2012, of the following eleven players:

Jarome Iginla: $7 million
Matt Stajan: $4.5 million
Daymond Langkow: $4.5 million
Nik Hagman: $3 million
Rene Bourque: $4 million
Olli Jokinen: $3 million
Jay Bouwmeester: $6.6 million
Mark Giordano: $4 million
Robyn Regehr: $4 million
Corey Sarich: $3.3 million
Miikka Kiprusoff: $6 million

=49.9 million dollars

While that is not their actual cap hits, some are more, and some are less, the team is paying eleven of their players, which amounts to 40% of their team, over 80% of the budget. This was the kind of general manager that Darryl Sutter became later in his career. My take on it is, that he became nervous about his job and was hoping that if they could sneak into the 8th seed he would be able to save it. That is what caused him to cripple his team with the Dion Phaneuf trade in the end of January. He did not save his team any money on the deal, as is proof of the contract that he was paying Hagman, and that he handed out to Matt Stajan. Rather he was hoping that by adding three decent players, he can balance out a team that will be a low end playoff contender. What has become obvious is that his plan failed, and horribly.

 Compounding the problem is that they need to re-sign or replace their third and fourth best goal scorers: Alex Tanguay, and the hardest working player on the team Curtis Glencross, as well as upcoming star Anton Babchuk. This is all while they are supposed to go out and sign new players so that they will actually get better. What should they do? To perhaps figure out the best plan of action for Jay Feaster to take, let's look at the top eleven players salary-wise on the Leafs 2007 roster. Keep in mind that the salary cap was $50.3 million that season.

Bryan McCabe: $7.15 million
Mats Sundin: $5.5 million
Jason Blake: $5 million
Pavel Kubina $5 million
Tomas Kaberle: $4.25 million
Darcy Tucker: $3 million
Hal Gill: $2.075 million
Mark Bell (what a bad player eh?): $2 million
Andrew Raycroft $2 million
Nik Antropov: $1.95 million
Alex Ponikarovsky: $1.575 million

Total= 39.5 million dollars

These eleven players represented 40% of the team, and 79% of the total team salary. Jay Feaster can learn a lot from the job that Cliff Fletcher and Brian Burke did so quickly the previous three seasons. One thing that he should not do, is sign high priced free agent defencemen like Jeff Finger and Mike Komisarek, it will only hinder the rebuilding process (Sorry, I needed to make my token Komisarek line). Aside from the Mats Sundin contract, the Leafs did a remarkable job of erasing these expensive contracts. While I am in the class that believes that Mats Sundin did enough for this franchise, that we have no right to be frustrated with him when he refused to waive his no trade clause, I still believe that something more could have been done. The two worst contracts on defence were both moved the same way: get nothing in return from a team that does not mind paying a large amount for a player for a short time span. For Kubina and McCabe, the Leafs got Garnett Exelby and Mike Van Ryan in return: a player that was constantly injured, and another that was so bad, it wouldn't have matter if he was constantly injured. Brian Burke traded Tomas Kaberle after holding on to him for so long, acquiring Joe Colborne, a 1st rounder and conditional 2nd round pick, in a deal that is starting to look like highway robbery. Alex Ponikarovsky was traded for Luca Caputi, a hard working prospect that provides the type of grit, Burke looks for in all of his players. Antropov was traded for picks, and the team was forced to buy out the contracts of Raycroft and Tucker (a contract they are still paying). 

Jay Feaster is also handicapped with no trade/movement clauses on ten of his top eleven players. The only one that does not have one in his contract is Mark Giordano, aside from Iginla, the best of all contracts, and one I am sure he does not want to move. While it is important for Feaster to understand the need to rebuild, this does not mean he should trade Iginla.He proved this season that he is still amongst the best in the entire NHL. There is no reason to move him as you will not be able to replace his talent, even at the expensive price tag of 7 million. Kiprusoff, is not movable either, not because he is such an important piece (which he is) rather because there is no market for a six million dollar goalie. Rather. Feaster is going to have to request some of his players to waiver their no trade clauses, a request that I am sure some of them will be more than willing to do. Or at least I hope so for Calgary's sake.

So how to free up space?  Well he most likely will look to move Jay Bowmeester and his massive contract. The contract carries a cap hit of 6.6 million for the next three seasons. Trading him would be very similar to trading Bryan McCabe: which means get nothing in return. This would free up some long term flexibility. Another option would be to trade him for a worse player with a bad contract which is shorter term. Feaster is going to have to realize, that just like it took the Leafs three years to recover, it will be just as bad for him, if not worse. 

While I hate predicting trades and things of that nature, one specific trade keeps on coming to mind. The Columbus Blue Jackets, have the most no-name group of defenceman, with a dearth of talent. They also have a clog up front of good second line players. Re-uniting Kristian Huselius, and his 4.75 million salary for one more year with Iginla, seems like the perfect solution for both teams. Gives a solid D-man to the Blue Jackets, and the Flames will get some long term flexibility. 

The Flames in reality, can call the season a wash, and let $11 million in payroll walk at the end of the season, in Sarich, Hagman and Langkow and give them some of that flexibility that they need. However, certain decisions are pressing for this season, before those contracts come off the books. What to do with Glencross and Tanguay, and Anton Babchuk? Tanguay made 1.7 mil last season, and after clicking with Iginla, and scoring 69 points he will be in line for a significant raise. Glencross made 1.2 mil last season, and proved that he is one of the hardest working third line players in the entire league. As a UFA he will command at least 2.5 mil on the open market. Babchuk finally showed some of his potential last season, first on the team in +/- and first in goals amongst d-men with 11. He needs to be re-signed as well. 

How can Feaster do all this? Well one thing that he needs to understand is that he cannot look forward to improving the team in the free agent market this season. He needs to spend the season establishing which players will be here for the long run, and which will he let their contracts run or try trading. Internally, the first thing that needs to be done is to waive Matt Stajan. If nobody picks him up, you need to put him down in the minors with his good buddy Kotalik. His contract is too prohibitive, running all the way through 2014. With this extra money, you should be able to re-up Glencross and Babchuk.

If ownership allows him to pull a Wade Redden, and place Bouwmeester in the minors, that may solve all problems. It would free up almost 18 million dollars after the 2011-2012 season in cap space. However, I get the feeling that will not happen and a more conventional approach may need to be taken. 

With Giordano and Babchuk the top two defencemen, fan favorite Robyn Regehr may be the odd man out. He has a 4 million dollar contract that runs through the 2013 season, and at that salary should garner Kaberlesque attention. The return on Regehr would also be very similar, and could help start off the inevitable rebuilding process that the Flames need if they want to return as championship contenders. Hopefully for the sake of the fans, it will not come to them losing their longtime fan favorite. 

If all works out by the end of the 2012-13 season, Feaster can shave this off his teams salary:
Matt Stajan: $4.5 million (minors)
Daymond Langkow: $4.5 million (free agent)
Nik Hagman: $3 million (free agent)
Olli Jokinen: $3 million (free agent)
Jay Bouwmeester: $6.6 million (trade/waivers/minors/anything)
Corey Sarich: $3.3 million

Total= $24.9 million

With that kind of cap space, it sounds a lot like the Leafs of 2011, just minus the young players like........... Kieth Aulie (ooohh that burns).

As a passionate Leafs fan, my message to all Flames fans is that they should not get frustrated with the rebuilding process. Finishing in 8th in the conference should not be the end result anyways, and it takes at least half a decade to build a championship contender. The Leafs have not been more exciting to watch and follow since the lockout. The city feels that a winner is coming soon, and the excitement is back in the air. The few years of bitterness can easily be replaced with Reimeresque smiles, you just need to play your cards right.  For that I wish Feaster all the luck in the world, Calgary is counting on you. 

Hope you enjoyed!