New plans for Nigel

RANDY SPORTAK, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 8:32 AM ET

If you believe the chatter the past couple of years, Nigel Dawes has been in the sights of Flames GM Darryl Sutter for a long time.

How he's ended up a Flame, though, comes with a bit of a twist.

Dawes, originally drafted by the New York Rangers and traded to the Phoenix Coyotes last season, was claimed off waivers yesterday by Calgary.

Sutter, once again, eventually got his man.

"Being in the States, you don't hear as many of the rumours in the media, but I have heard small rumblings," he said from his off-season home in Winnipeg. "Probably not as much as you. It's exciting. I'm happy he made that move."

A restricted free agent who filed for arbitration, Dawes was made available by the Coyotes, who apparently didn't want to give the 24-year-old a one-way contract. Dawes still has a hearing scheduled for Wednesday but doesn't believe it'll happen now that he's a Flame.

"Calgary has talked to my agent (J.P. Barry), and I think we'll be able to sort something out before Wednesday so we won't have to go to arbitration," he said.

Probably just as well. No sense starting off a relationship on a potentially sour note. Besides, the 5-foot-8, 190-lb. left-winger is more concerned about the potential this transaction creates for his career.

The Flames are looking at a collection of wingers to fill out their top two lines. Jarome Iginla is a lock for one spot, while Rene Bourque is probably ahead of the rest of the field, but a couple of spots are there for the taking.

Dawes, who played a season of junior in Kootenay for incoming Flames assistant coach Ryan McGill -- the Ice won a Memorial Cup that season -- and was on a gold-medal World Junior team coached by Brent Sutter, is in the mix along with the likes of David Moss, Curtis Glencross, Dustin Boyd and Fredrik Sjostrom.

Time will tell whether Dawes is a legitimate second liner or more of a third-line player, but coming off a 10-goal, 21-point season which included a dozen games in Phoenix after spending the bulk of the year in New York, Dawes hasn't yet proven he can regularly light the lamp in the NHL.

But he is excited to be given a look.

"As a player, that's always something that gets you going -- the challenge of being a top-six player or being on the top line," he said. "It's stuff you grow up hoping of doing, and when you're presented with it, you have to take full advantage of that. It's something I have to come into camp and earn."

Drafted in the fifth round, 149th overall, by the Rangers in 2003, Dawes has played 133 NHL games, in which he's netted 25 goals and 26 assists. He was traded to Phoenix at the deadline along with Dmitri Kalinin and Petr Prucha for Derek Morris.

Having played only a dozen games for the Coyotes, Dawes never really had a chance to firmly grasp what was there.

Now he has to learn about another team's depth chart. What he knows about the Flames is exciting, especially the addition of Jay Bouwmeester to give his new team a deep defence corps.

"Any time there's a big signing like that, the whole hockey world knows about it," he said. "I figured I'd be going back to Phoenix, so you don't really follow much all the other teams. Now that I'm with Calgary, I'll have to look up all their moves and the players they have."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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