Calgary Flames Offseason Preview Part 1


Calgary FlamesAt first glance, the 2008-09 NHL season was not kind to the Calgary Flames. Injuries riddled the team down the home stretch causing them to give up a significant division lead (to the rival Vancouver Canucks nonetheless). The team limped into the playoffs as the 5th seed, and proceeded to lose out in 6 games to the young and upstart Chicago Blackhawks.

Despite this, all was not bad in Cowtown during this past NHL season. Look past the injuries and the early playoff exit and there are many gems that were uncovered as the season progressed. Players like Curtis Glencross, Rene Bourque, David Moss, Jamie Lundmark, and Eric Nystrom all made significant contributions at significant times over the course of the season. Had injuries not hit Glencross and Bourque, their numbers (both threw down 40 points each) would have been much higher. One bright spot during the Flames early postseason exit, Eric Nystrom’s coming out party was front and centre against the Hawks.

With all this in mind (and the past), let’s take a look at the upcoming offseason for the Calgary Flames, which will officially start on June 26 in Montreal at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Unless of course Darryl Sutter names a new head coach prior to draft day (hello Brent Sutter?). Part 1 looks at the state of the Flames down the middle.

Returning Centers (ordered from highest to lowest 2009-10 cap hit)

  1. Olli Jokinen (57pts in 76 GP) $5.25m
  2. Daymond Langkow (49pts in 73 GP) $4.5m
  3. Wayne Primeau (4pts in 24 GP) $1.4m
  4. Craig Conroy (48pts in 82 GP) $1.05m

Olli Jokinen was an underachiever last year on a weak team in Phoenix that provided him with little skilled support on the flanks. Following a red-hot start to his career as a Calgary Flame, Jokinen cooled down during the stretch run and his scoring touch was sorely missed. Although he somewhat remedied that during the postseason, Jokinen will need to produce much more for the Flames in 2009-10 in order to justify his $5.25m cap hit. Daymond Langkow falls in the same boat as Jokinen. With a cap hit of $4.5m, Langkow needs to register much more than the 49pts he put up last year. Look for bounce backs in production for both those players, especially Jokinen who will be playing out the final year of his contract. It is tough to fault Wayne Primeau for his lack of contribution as he was felled by injuries all season long. Primeau is a solid 4th line center when healthy, but not much more should be expected of him. Craig Conroy was one of the best bargains on the Flames roster all last season with the 48pts he registered. A reliable two-way skater, Conroy will be counted on as a #3 center once again.

Farm Hands

  1. Mikael Backlund
  2. John Armstrong
  3. Brett Sutter

While Brett Sutter earned a few call-ups during 2008-09, expect to see Mikael Backlund the most significant player of this group in 2009-10. The former first-round draft pick showed strong play and adjustment to the North American style of play during the last half of 2008-09 when he played with Kelowna of the WHL. He is likely to challenge for a roster spot.

Pending Free Agents (ordered from highest to lowest 08-09 cap hit)

  1. Mike Cammalleri (82pts in 81 GP) $3.5m UFA
  2. Dustin Boyd (22pts in 71 GP) $0.742m RFA
  3. Jamie Lundmark (16pts in 27 GP) $0.6m UFA

The good ship Mike Cammalleri has all but set sail from Cowtown. After a bounceback season from his last in LA, Cammalleri is due for a significant raise. With the Flames already bound by a large number of high cap hit players, it is very unlikely that they will be able to take on the $5-6m hit that Cammalleri will likely secure this offseason. Dustin Boyd is still a work in progress and has all the tools required to be a solid second-line NHLer, but he has yet to put it all together. Expect him to re-sign and be given the chance to fill a larger role in 2009-10. Jamie Lundmark proved to be a solid depth player in 2008-09. I would not be surprised to see him back in Flames red in 2009-10, whether its on the roster, or on the farm as a dependable call-up.

On The Market: a collection of 3 players who might fit the budget/holes on the roster (listed from highest to lowest 08-09 salary)

  1. John Madden NJD $2.94m
  2. Manny Malholtra CLB $1.5m
  3. Sammy Pahlsson CHI $1.4m

The Flames are already pretty set down the middle with the players currently under contract. The likelihood of them building this position through free agency, or revamping it during this offseason is slim. However, Darryl Sutter has stressed the importance of defensive responsibility, and players like Olli Jokinen, Dustin Boyd, and Jamie Lundmark have had those areas of their game questioned in the past. All three free agent players above are well known for their defensive contributions on the ice, and could provide Sutter with the extra grit and defensive-mindedness that he is seeking.

Thanks to www.nhlnumbers.com for salary cap information, www.sportscity.com for free agency lists, and to www.calgaryflames.com for statistics. Part 2 will take a look at the right flank of the Calgary Flames and where it stands going into the offseason.

-m.o.b.

~ by manovrboard on June 23, 2009.

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