SUN Hockey Pool

State of the Unit

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

Blue sky and warm temperatures -- OK, warmer temperatures -- belied the figurative black clouds over Calgary yesterday.

The Calgary Flames' premature departure from the Stanley Cup playoffs has plenty of people in the Stampede City in sorrow.

And looking back.

It's hard not to, either. The Flames were a division champion team supposedly built for the playoffs and poised to build on the amazing post-season run of 2004.

Another trip to the final may have been too much to ask -- certainly way too much to assume -- but at least a trip beyond the first round was a fair expectation.

From the pyre must come a rebirth and, be assured, Flames GM/head coach Darryl Sutter awoke yesterday and began taking the steps, at least in his mind, to begin building the 2006-07 squad that will be counted on to erase the extreme disappointment of this week.

Some out there may believe Sutter should do a complete rebuilding but it's hard to believe that will happen.

A strip down and reconstruction would only happen if the Flames do the unimaginable and trade away captain Jarome Iginla. Don't bank on that.

Iginla was silenced in the last two games but he was still Calgary's best player through the seven-game loss to Anaheim and the team's demise had more to do with a lack of production from the supporting cast.

Sure, the $7 million US Sutter could spend on other players may work out but the Boston Bruins are living proof why you don't trade away a superstar.

So, expect more of a tinkering job, with far less movement than we saw after the playoffs of 2004 ended.

Here's a positional breakdown:

GOAL:

Miikka Kiprusoff, announced a Hart Trophy finalist yesterday and a certain Vezina winner and all-star, has two more years on his contract. He's a franchise goaltender and the Flames don't need to worry about him.

What must be addressed is the backup position. Brian Boucher may be a pending unrestricted free agent but may not be out the door just yet. Brent Krahn has been in the system six years and the team has invested plenty of time and money in the first-rounder. If Sutter believes Krahn is ready to make the jump to at least be No.-2, it'll happen. If not, Boucher may be back.

DEFENCE:

Sutter's top six are in place already, with Robyn Regehr, Dion Phaneuf, Roman Hamrlik, Rhett Warrener, Jordan Leopold and Andrew Ference all signed through next season and some beyond.

Who'll be No. 7 remains to be seen but it isn't the most pressing concern. Bryan Marchment and Cale Hulse are both pending unrestricted free agents. Marchment may retire and whether it's worth trying to keep Hulse over either Richie Regehr or Mark Giordano is a decision to be made.

RIGHT WING:

Jarome Iginla has two more years on his contract and Darren McCarty is inked for another season. Chuck Kobasew, who couldn't carry the boost of his 20-goal season into the playoffs, is a restricted free agent and developing into a second-liner. Next on the depth chart are Shean Donovan and Craig MacDonald, both UFAs. Sutter will likely turn to younger players for those spots but Tomi Maki spent the season in the minors and Kris Chucko has left university but both are still at least a year away.

LEFT WING:

Veterans Tony Amonte and Marcus Nilson have one year left on their contracts, while Kristian Huselius is a restricted free agent. Expect all three to be back and all given higher expectations. There is a team option on Chris Simon and it would be somewhat surprising if it's picked up by Sutter.

Mike Leclerc is a UFA and probably played his last game.

Eric Nystrom, the 2002 first-rounder, will be given a serious look next season, as will David Moss after a strong season in Omaha.

CENTRE:

Daymond Langkow has two more years on his deal, while youngsters Matthew Lombardi and Jamie Lundmark are both RFAs with a future in the organization and Byron Ritchie has another season left on his pact.

If a sure thing exists about a UFA remaining, it's Stephane Yelle. One of Sutter's favourite foot soldiers still has mileage left on him and won't likely leave unless another team grabs him with an offer the Flames can't match.

Dustin Boyd is the lone youngster on the cusp of making it to the show but, still in junior, he would likely be better off spending a season in the minors.

All that said, it should come as no surprise the Flames will make a big move or two. The lack of offence must be addressed in some way, whether it's by bringing in a free agent from elsewhere or by dealing away a young player for a forward capable of adding 30 goals to the ledger.

The free-agent pool won't be all that deep so watch for a deal.

Sutter's made no secret of wanting to concentrate solely on his GM duties. There are plenty of obvious candidates to replace him, with assistant Jim Playfair and Brent Sutter being the most likely.


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