SUN Hockey Pool

Mystery the meat of market

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

Are Flames fans ready to welcome Ryan Smyth into the fold after all those years he played for Edmonton?

What about welcoming back Chris Drury after his unceremonious season here a few years back?

Or embracing the always hated Todd Bertuzzi?

Does anybody think any of those scenarios will happen?

In theory, it's possible. In reality, not likely.

But hey, that's what the opening day of unrestricted free agency brings.

It sure is a funky coincidence the display of hockey's stupidity is launched on Canada Day.

Today marks the start of Christmas in July. The presents -- really truckloads of cash -- begin being handed out all over the place

Smyth is going to be given big bucks and a long-term deal from some team. So will Drury, Daniel Briere, Brad Stuart and Sheldon Souray.

It's a good bet the Los Angeles Kings are going to dive into the market like they never have before. Likewise, Colorado will be a player and Edmonton intends to.

What about the Flames?

Well, good luck figuring it out. General manager Darryl Sutter will never tip his hand.

What he has said in the days leading up to today is the Flames won't be a big player in the free-agent frenzy.

So, whether you believe him is the key to deciphering what he says.

Our guess is he'll make a splash. More than a ripple, that's for certain.

It's a hunch, but the only real chance we'll see a tsunami revolves around Smyth. With all those rumours linking him and the Flames, there has to be some fire creating the smoke.

Smyth has a love for his home province and you just know Sutter likes him.

It's most probable Smyth will get the coin and length he wants somewhere but don't completely rule out him donning the Flaming C. Just don't bet the farm on it happening, either, especially since his arrival would necessitate the departure of a front-line left winger -- quite possibly Alex Tanguay.

Other than Smyth, there aren't too many high-profile players easy to envision with the Flames.

More likely is the thought of a second-tier player, or two.

The biggest need is on the blueline. Once Mark Giordano agrees to a new deal -- he's a restricted free agent and won't exactly break the bank -- the Flames will have six NHL-calibre defencemen in the fold: Robyn Regehr, Dion Phaneuf, Adrian Aucoin, Rhett Warrener, David Hale and Giordano.

That isn't enough, which means Sutter will target a top-four defenceman.

A great scenario would be the return of Brad Stuart, who found a groove with Regehr and has more offensive potential than he showed during his brief time here.

His most likely destination is California but Calgary isn't being completely ruled out by the former Calgary Hitmen.

Scott Hannan's name has been bandied about but he'll have plenty of suitors to drive his price far beyond what the Flames want to shell out.

More likely will be the signing of an affordable veteran such as Cory Sarich, who's coming off a deal that paid him US$1.9 million season, or -- going a little lower -- Tom Preissing.

Another possibility is acquiring a signed d-man through trade, the route Sutter took in grabbing Aucoin.

The need for a forward isn't as pressing but still important.

Sure, the Flames have in place their top three lines, but he would be well served to find another top-six winger, especially on the right side behind captain Jarome Iginla -- who is reportedly close to signing an extension for another few seasons.

Which is most likely going to be the biggest splash of all in which Calgary hockey fans can bathe.


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