Flames farm trio out

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

BANFF -- Taking the time to chat after holding court for interviews, Darryl Sutter showed how much he wants to see Rhett Warrener on a NHL roster even it wasn't with the Flames.

Said Sutter about the chance of another team claiming Warrener off waivers or making a trade to get him: "I'd drive him there."

However, it's likely the veteran defenceman will start his season with the AHL's Quad City Flames.

The first step was taken yesterday when Warrener and fellow defenceman Anders Eriksson -- along with forward Jamie Lundmark -- were all placed on waivers, with an eye to send them to the farm team.

Warrener and Eriksson were put on waivers in the summer with no takers.

The Flames need to pare three players off their roster to get down to the maximum number of 23 before opening the season Thursday in Vancouver. Placing Warrener, Eriksson and Lundmark on waivers is the first step in that process.

Reassigning the trio -- even though Warrener and Eriksson are on one-way contracts -- puts the club's NHL salary hit about US$2 million below the cap, although they'd be on the hook to pay all of Warrener's US$2.5-million and Eriksson's US$1.5-million contracts even if they're in the minors.

Obviously, the Flames would prefer the defencemen be claimed before they clear waivers today at 10 a.m. or make a trade, but Sutter made it known he expects the vets to honour their contracts and report to the minors if that doesn't happen.

"Quad Cities is not gone or not on our team. I think we have one team. Twenty-five are here and 20 are in Quad Cities," GM Darryl Sutter said after the club's practice in Banff. "It's a tough pill to swallow for a player when he's a veteran, but, at the same time, we expect them to show great leadership.

"At some point, maybe that evolves into them playing in the NHL again."

Neither Warrener nor Eriksson spoke to the media after practice.

If all three players are reassigned as expected, the Flames roster would include 14 forwards, seven defencemen -- including rookie Adam Pardy -- and two goalies.

There are teams in need of defencemen due to injury -- Pittsburgh and St. Louis, to name a couple -- so there are potential trade partners. The Penguins will receive salary cap relief after both Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney miss 10 games due to long-term injuries.

Another option for the Flames players is to go to Europe, and have the team overseas reimburse the Flames for a portion of the contract.

Eriksson's agent J.P. Barry said his client would prefer to find another team in the NHL.

"He'd like to play in the NHL, so I think we have to make sure we exhaust every possibility of finding him an NHL job. Anders believes he can help another NHL team and I think he can, also. Right now, we need to find another team that needs help," Barry said. "We're aggressively trying to see if there's some possibilities out there right now. If not, we'll see if we can work with the team on a trade later."

Barry negotiated a deal with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl for Marcus Nilson when it became obvious he was no longer in Calgary's plans despite having one more year on his contract worth US$1 million.

Warrener's agent, Pat Morris, didn't return a phone message or e-mail.

Warrener, acquired in July 2003, is a veteran of 714 regular-season games in which he's collected 24 goals, 106 points and 899 points. He's also played 101 playoff games and gone to the Stanley Cup final on three occasions, including the Flames' run in 2004.

Eriksson was signed to a two-year deal in the summer of 2007. He's skated in 552 regular season games and collected 22 goals and 171 points. He won a Stanley Cup title with Detroit in 1998.

Sutter said the decision was as much about adding a player who's developed to the point of being able to play in the NHL -- Pardy -- as it was about the salary cap.

"(You're) not changing your long-term vision, your game plan," he said. "I think it started five years ago and you stick with that. We're starting to see the fruits of our labour now."

Eriksson's training camp performance was reduced by a finger injury.

In three games, he registered one assist and a plus-2 rating.


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