And then there were seven

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

Darryl Sutter insists you can never have too much of a good thing.

But with eight quality d-men under contract, there simply wasn't going to be enough minutes to go around.

The Flames GM/head coach trimmed his blueline brigade to seven yesterday by dealing Toni Lydman to the Buffalo Sabres for a third-round pick in next summer's draft.

Sutter has long said the club will operate under its own financial constraints, not necessarily the $39-million cap imposed by the league.

And by wiping Lydman's $1.9-million deal off the books, the Flames will have some room to manoeuvre.

"We wanted the flexibility," Sutter said. "Now, if we want to do something else, this gives us that flexibility.

"Our cap isn't the cap. Our cap is a number that we're going to work with.

"We're in a position where we really want to look at our young guys up front during training camp and exhibition. If we see a couple kids are ready, now we have a spot for them."

Lydman played his entire four-year NHL career in Calgary. The 27-year-old scored 19 goals and 93 points in 289 games but never developed into the powerplay quarterback the team expected him to become.

Lydman's departure frees up more ice time, which will be key for junior standout Dion Phaneuf.

"We're counting on Phaneuf to play on our team," Sutter said. "And with (the other six), we were in a position to do something."

Once the Flames inked Roman Hamrlik to a contract earlier this month, most people expected Sutter to unload a defenceman. But he said he wasn't dealing from a weak position.

"We knew we weren't going to get a player back but we wanted as high a pick as we could get," he said.

"The key was finding teams that had room. So that means you're not dealing with 29 teams, you're just dealing with a handful of teams."

Sabres GM Darcy Regier said he was in the market for an offensive d-man.

"I think he'll fit in real well," Regier said. "We were looking for someone with his mobility, his skating ability and puck skills."

With the new rules, including the elimination of the red-line, Regier said Lydman could take a big step forward this season.

"We are taking the league seriously and at face value with respect to the rule changes," he said. "So the game should move more towards these types of players so it should help someone like Toni.

"I was asked earlier if we expect him to be the anchor on the powerplay and we don't. But he can definitely spend some time on the powerplay."

Under the new financial parameters of the NHL, Regier predicted fans will see a lot more deals where players are shipped off in exchange for draft picks.

"That speaks more to where our game is going," he said.

"With reduced-age free agency, I've seen a pretty significant change in the value of players. You don't get to hold them until their 31 years of age anymore.

"So that's changed the dynamics and value of trades.

"Teams go through cycles and we're in a different place than Calgary in the cycle. And we have different payrolls. Our payroll will probably remain in and around $27-29 million.

"So our needs and abilities will be different from other teams."

Lydman missed all but six games of the Flames' 2004 playoff run due to a concussion.


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