Denis gone to Dogs

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:08 PM ET

He's a skilled centreman.

He competes hard every night.

And he's an Alberta boy.

So what's not to like about yesterday's acquisition of Daymond Langkow by the Calgary Flames?

Sure, it meant dealing fan favourite Denis Gauthier and Oleg Saprykin to the Phoenix Coyotes.

But it's a 2-for-1 deal that reflects so many positives for the Flames.

"It fits in with our plan," said Flames GM-head coach Darryl Sutter. "One thing we identified in the spring is that we weren't going to go get a high-profile free-agent centreman but we could find a role-player, like Jason Wiemer (acquired last month), to be able to make a deal to get a player that allows us to fit in salary-wise and age-wise.

"To build a team, it's really important to have that 26- to 28-year age-group nucleus. And if you look at that nucleus for us, it's probably as good or better than anybody's in the league."

Better now, many will argue, with Langkow joining the Flames.

"I hope so," said Langkow, a 27-year-old Edmonton native.

"Just coming back to Canada and playing there should help me. It's probably a good time for my career. I hope it sort of rejuvenates me. The city came alive in the playoffs and that's something I'm looking forward to."

Langkow's $2.95-million US salary won't affect the Flames' budget when you subtract the $1.6 million earned by Gauthier and $1.2 million made by Saprykin.

Langkow could fit on the top line alongside Jarome Iginla, or, at the very least, give the coaching staff an option over Steven Reinprecht, a natural left-winger whose health remains a question mark.

"It's got nothing to do with (Craig) Conroy," said Sutter, when asked if Langkow is a replacement for the departed centre. "It's got to do with going forward with our team. One thing we learned last season is we were probably fortunate to be a playoff team considering (the injuries to Conroy, Reinprecht, Stephane Yelle and Dean McAmmond) up the middle. To be able to add a top-line player in Langkow and have Wiemer and (newly acquired Byron) Ritchie, we can move Marcus Nilson back to his (wing) position and we have a lot of centremen. And that's really healthy for us."

So is Langkow's consistency.

The nine-year veteran has enjoyed three straight seasons of at least 20 goals and was a plus-rated player on a losing club last year.

"I think the numbers speak for themselves," Sutter said. "But to get that quality, you've got to give up quality."

Gauthier is a physical defenceman who often ruffled Sutter's feathers by going after the big hit at the wrong time. Saprykin was benched a handful of times last season before finding his stride in the playoffs.

"We've upgraded our left side, so we were going to have an issue with somebody not being happy with ice time. With Reinprecht, Marcus Nilson and Chris Simon probably as our top left-wingers now, it was going to make it tough for Oleg."

"It's business. I understand it," Gauthier said. "If it was up to me, I would've spent the next 10 years in Calgary. But there's no hard feelings toward Darryl or anyone else."

Particularly since the Coyotes are making inroads of their own this off-season.

"We have indeed given up a proven and consistent player in Daymond," said Coyotes GM Mike Barnett, who signed unrestricted free agent centre Petr Nedved yesterday to make the deal with the Flames possible. "In return, we have enhanced our roster with the addition of three large and talented NHL players."


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