Sutter says No Deal

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

A dismantling in Detroit aside, Darryl Sutter is convinced his squad is now good enough to win the Stanley Cup.

It better be, because he said he's done dealing.

"From a management and pro scouting standpoint, we've certainly given them every opportunity to be successful," said the Flames GM yesterday of a team that got deeper late Saturday with his second sizeable deal of the fortnight.

"The shoes are on the feet of those who are in the dressing room now."

That's his way of saying he's done his part, now it's up to the players he's assembled.

Adding depth capable of giving his club a chance to slug it out with the conference's elite, Sutter shipped out Andrew Ference and Chuck Kobasew for two pending unrestricted free agents who could amount to being rental players: Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau.

"That's not even part of the equation," said Sutter, unconcerned with keeping them on board past June.

"You want to try and win now and take care of business later. You evaluate them while you have them and they evaluate you and let it fall where it may."

As someone who drafted Stuart third overall in 1998 and coached him for almost four years in San Jose, Sutter may have an inkling the defenceman will choose to stay in Calgary where he got the Hitmen within a goal of a Memorial Cup in 1999.

Regardless, Sutter's rationale for the deal is sound: There isn't a top-four defenceman coming up in the organization so he grabbed one with two players low on his depth chart. While Ference can be replaced as a fifth or sixth defenceman by Mark Giordano, Richie Regehrw or Andrei Zyuzin, Stuart is capable of logging 25 minutes a night.

"He's a top-four defenceman who can play a lot of minutes, special teams and has a big shot," said Sutter of the 27-year-old.

"As well as they've played, the minutes allocated to (Roman) Hamrlik and (Dion) Phaneuf were hurting us."

Primeau adds much-needed size to the checking line while the slumping Kobasew (who was scoreless in the '04 playoffs) is out another month with injury and can easily be replaced down the line by either a surging Omaha sniper like Dustin Boyd or a hotshot junior prospect like Dan Ryder. Simply put, Sutter's re-stocking of prospects opened the door for the deal.

Those puzzled by the addition of a defenceman to a crew that already seemed stacked haven't been paying attention to the shot totals registered against Miikka Kiprusoff of late. Nor have they thought back to the 2004 run when injuries forced Steve Montador, Mike Commodore and even Brennan Evans to step in.

Truth is the playoffs are a war of attrition that most often claims defencemen as casualties. Look no further than the Buffalo Sabres last year for proof.

The deal also takes what was arguably the best available defenceman off the open market, away from rivals like Edmonton, which has also been searching for a high-end blueliner for months.

"I don't look at it like you're bidding against another team -- you make a fair offer and if it's a fit it's a fit," said Sutter, who added the deal took two days after it was clear Stuart wouldn't re-sign in Beantown.

"I don't know how many defencemen are available -- I haven't talked to a lot of teams. But with only four or five teams mathematically out of it most teams are trying to decide if they're buyers or sellers -- it makes it tougher to find players."

Regardless, he found them. Now he'll sit back and see if the sum of their parts is worth its weight in gold.


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