Flames willing to deal?

History has shown Flames GM Darryl Sutter refuses to overpay for impact players at the trade...

History has shown Flames GM Darryl Sutter refuses to overpay for impact players at the trade deadline. SUN MEDIA/Kevin Udahl

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 3:48 PM ET

Articles at this time of year should come with a warning labels.

Everyone wants to know what kind of deals they can expect across the NHL as trade deadline day approaches. It's like Christmas, or better, for some feverish fans.

But curious questions, shared opinions, and debates over a franchise's apparent needs between members of the media can quickly become speculation.

Speculation turns into rumour -- and those can take on lives of their own.

Calgary Flames general manager Darryl Sutter calls it "echo journalism," and doesn't hide his disinterest in answering any questions about his team's potential transactions until they're complete.

And sometimes even after the fact.

"It's like listening to a magpie in the morning," deadpanned Sutter on Wednesday regarding all the trade chatter. "As long as it doesn't wake the kids up, it doesn't bother me."

But it's human nature to try and guess which big names are going where.

Plenty of marquee players are rumoured to be available right now, ranging from 'rentals' due to become unrestricted free agents this summer, underachievers in need of new scenery, to big-money stars whose dumped contracts could offer some salary-cap breathing room for next season.

Pending UFA Marian Hossa is the most likely to find himself with a new address next week. The Flames could use more consistent scoring, but aren't desperate for it and wouldn't make a good partner for the Atlanta Thrashers to deal with as both teams are looking towards the playoffs.

Interest in Toronto's Mats Sundin is also rampant -- with the Flames being mentioned in the bidding for every centre potentially on the market because of their lack of a true No. 1 pivot -- but again the price will be too high. There's also a chance the Maple Leafs captain will refuse to waive his no-trade clause, although he ultimately would do so if it meant a better team in Toronto to come back to in July.

Olli Jokinen, one of the most talented veteran centres in the league still under the age of 30, has been linked to Calgary in rumours for years.

Again, the lack of an undisputed top centre is the likely source, but the addition of former Panthers GM and head coach Mike Keenan to the Flames staff has just fueled things further this season.

Any team would jump at the chance to pry the captain away from Florida, but Panthers GM Jacques Martin would need a huge return. The Flames couldn't add Jokinen without parting with at least equal salary -- which is why Alex Tanguay's name gets mentioned in any Flames rumour -- but the Cats could justifiably ask for more because of the rarity and importance of a star centre.

Salary hog Brad Richards, who will make $7.8 million for another three seasons, has been mentioned as available recently, but Bolt Vaclav Prospal, a pending UFA, is more likely to be moved. He'd be more along the lines of what Sutter may target for a playoff run.

Montreal's Michael Ryder is another player being linked to Calgary and Tanguay. Out of all the rumours involving the Flames, this one seems the most likely as both a salary dump and a player who can help the Flames this season. His salary for a potential extension before free agency would also be much less than Tanguay's or what Kristian Huselius might get.

Buffalo's Brian Campbell and Tampa's Dan Boyle are attracting suitors as potential free-agent d-men, but unless the Flames have plans for one or more of their own blueliners -- eight regulars on one-way deals after Wednesday's addition of Jim Vandermeer -- they're set on the back end.

When it comes to Sutter's Flames on deadline day, that warning label should read: 'Prepare to be disappointed.'

Although the Flames likely will be working the phones and kicking tires right until the clock strikes 1 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, history has shown Sutter refuses to overpay for the impact players most readily available at the deadline.

The biggest name brought aboard in the second half of a Sutter season here was Chris Simon in 2004, a few days before the actual closing date.

That year, he also added Lynn Loyns in January, Ville Nieminen in late February, then Marcus Nilson the day before the deadline.

The big day last year saw only David Hale brought aboard. The year before it was Jamie Lundmark.

If this is the season that trend changes, consider it a 'Christmas' bonus.


Videos

Photos