First time for everything

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

Timing is everything when it comes to making a blockbuster deal at the trade deadline.

At least where Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter is concerned.

But while the talking heads and ink-stained scribes are raving over his swaps for centre Olli Jokinen and defenceman Jordan Leopold, Sutter is taking a wait-and-see approach to his most-impactful deadline day with the Flames.

"Everybody (evaluates) emotionally and spur of the moment. You will do that, and I won't do that," he said, directing a jab at the media gathered in front of his microphone. "You evaluate trades based on how your team does."

Sutter's harshest critics will suggest he overpaid for the pair. Leopold is a pending unrestricted free agent, while the underperforming Olli Jokinen has a hefty $5.25-million cap hit for another season.

For the first time in his reign as GM here, however, Sutter had the tools to make the kind of trade that could put his team over the top.

"Quite honestly, it's the first time we've been able to put ourselves in a position to trade draft picks for top players," said Sutter, whose staff has been stocking the shelves since taking over in 2004.

"Basically, that's what I've done the last three weeks, is travel to see our (prospects). I had to be comfortable we had those good, young players to be able to miss that one year (of top picks at the draft)."

Sending a second-round selection and defencemen Lawrence Nycholat and Ryan Wilson to the Colorado Avalanche for the 28-year-old Leopold, then parting with a first-round pick, centre Matthew Lombardi and winger Brandon Prust for Jokinen and a third-rounder, the Flames have given the Avs and Phoenix Coyotes more youngsters for the future.

Sutter feels it won't hurt his team's outlook.

"I think we have nine, and maybe 10, guys that are every bit as good as where we would have picked this year," Sutter said of giving up his top two selections. "Getting the third back from Phoenix was important."

More important was crossing off both positions he determined were in line for significant upgrades.

"It's what we wanted. We wanted to get a centreman, and we wanted to get a defenceman," said Sutter.

"We knew we were going to have to pay a price."

The price didn't include mortgaging the future, and that's the difference between yesterday's action and potential deals for the 30-year-old Jokinen which Sutter scuttled in the past. Leopold gives the Flames options on the blueline. He formed a strong duo with Robyn Regehr for three seasons in Calgary between 2002 and 2006.

Helping take away the sting of losing Lombardi and Prust are the performances players such as David Van der Gulik, Jamie Lundmark and Warren Peters have had with the big club. And Sutter has other strong prospects.

"I'm totally comfortable with all the players we call up," said Sutter, who returned Van der Gulik to the AHL yesterday. "When you see Mikael Backlund, Mitch Wahl and Jonathan Armstrong, you know where you are going forward. It's not just about now."

The trades, however, give them their best opportunity to do just that, and win now.

OLLI JOKINEN -- NO. 21

Team Year GP G A Pt

Coyotes 2008-09 57 21 21 42

Panthers 2007-08 82 34 37 71

Panthers 2006-07 82 39 52 91

Panthers 2005-06 82 38 51 89

Panthers 2003-04 82 26 32 58

Panthers 2002-03 81 36 29 65

Panthers 2001-02 80 9 20 29

Panthers 2000-01 78 6 10 16

Islanders 1999-00 82 11 10 21

Kings 1998-99 66 9 12 21

Kings 1997-88 8 0 0 0

JORDAN LEOPOLD -- NO. 40

Team Year GP G A Pt

Avalanche 2008-09 64 6 14 20

Avalanche 2007-08 43 5 8 13

Avalanche 2006-07 15 2 3 5

Flames 2005-06 74 2 18 20

Flames 2003-04 82 9 24 33

Flames 2002-03 58 4 10 14


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