SUN Hockey Pool

Flames cash in with deal

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

Nearly US$1 million against the NHL salary cap.

Space the Calgary Flames dearly needed.

The trade yesterday that sent Wayne Primeau and a second-round pick in the 2011 draft to the Toronto Maple Leafs for forward Colin Stuart, defenceman Anton Stralman and a seventh-rounder in 2012 was all about the Benjamins.

It saves the Flames a critical amount needed to shore up the roster.

Oh, yeah, it brought in a solid blueline prospect, too. Whether Stralman becomes a top-four defenceman is yet to be seen, but that concern comes down the road. He's still on an two-way, entry-level pact and can be shipped to the minors without clearing waivers.

The importance stands with the options Calgary has for the coming season.

By sending Primeau and his $1.4-million salary to the Maple Leafs, the only one-way contract that comes in return is Stuart's $483,333 hit.

And there's no guarantee the energy forward will remain in Calgary. He's spent the last couple of seasons splitting time between the Atlanta Thrashers and the minors -- he was dealt to Toronto earlier this month in the Pavel Kubina swap -- so it wouldn't be all that costly for the Flames to take that route.

That leaves the salary cap space needed to re-sign restricted free agent Dustin Boyd, keep another forward in the Stampede City if required -- even Mikael Backlund and his potential bonuses -- and leave some space for the eventual call-ups when needed.

Don't think that's a big deal? Guess again.

When the Flames were icing a short roster in the final couple of weeks of last season, it was because they would have gone over the salary cap with a full complement of players.

Ideally, they'd have even more space when the season opens Oct. 1, but unless the club deals a blueliner such as Mark Giordano or Cory Sarich simply to get rid of a salary, that's as good as it'll get.

Adding Stralman gives the Flames even more skill and competition on the blueline.

Calgary doesn't have to keep him here for a full season, but should he supplant Giordano, Adam Pardy or Staffan Kronwall, the Flames have an option to make another move.

If not, it gives the AHL's Abbotsford Heat even more talent and creates more competition among the crew down there when the time comes for a summons to the Flames.

For all those who love to question the job GM Darryl Sutter has done, consider how impressive this move is. Sure, he put himself in a bind with the three-year deal to Primeau and surrendered a second-round pick yet again, but essentially trading away a fourth-line player for a fourth-line player and saving that cash is an impressive escape.

You could say Calgary gave up the second rounder for Stralman and a seventh rounder.

It's a final chapter to a disappointing time in Calgary for the affable Primeau.

Brought to the Flames with Brad Stuart and a fourth-round pick (used to select T.J. Brodie) for Chuck Kobasew and Andrew Ference, Primeau suffered through a pair of injury plagued seasons in Calgary.

He skated in only 24 games last year, garnering four assists, and missed most of the season due to a broken foot suffered Jan. 26 after being hit by a puck in practice. X-rays came back negative and he tried playing through the problem until the seriousness of the injury was discovered and he required season-ending surgery.

Stralman, meanwhile, has climbed beyond expectations for a seventh-round pick. The 216th selection in 2005, Stralman turns 23 next month. He has to work on his defensive game and become physically stronger, but he appeared in 38 NHL games last season and netted one goal and 12 assists.

Stuart, a fifth-round pick of the Atlanta Thrashers, has collected eight goals and five assists in 51 NHL games.

At worst, he gives the organization depth. At best, the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder is an energy player with size, can kill penalties and chip in some offence.

Either way, it's an opportunity for Stuart to be part of a winning NHL team.

"It's incredibly exciting," he said from his off-season home in Chicago. "To be around a franchise like the Flames is a whole different scene than coming from Atlanta. It's gonna be a challenge. Any time you go to a contender, there's a lot of guys pushing for the same spots. It's a great place to play and a challenging place to stick around."

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SALARY SENSE

FLAMES CAP HIT FOR 2009-10

FORWARDS

Jarome Iginla $7 million

Olli Jokinen $5.25 million

D. Langkow $4.5 million

R. Bourque $1.35 million

David Moss $1.3 million

C. Glencross $1.2 million

Craig Conroy $1.05 million

Nigel Dawes $850,000

F. Sjostrom $750,000

Eric Nystrom $687,500

Brian McGrattan $547,000

Brandon Prust $500,000

Colin Stuart $483,333

DEFENCEMEN

Bouwmeester $6.68 million

Dion Phaneuf $6.5 million

Robyn Regehr $4.02 million

Cory Sarich $3.6 million

Mark Giordano $891,666

Adam Pardy $700,000

S. Kronwall $500,000

GOALTENDERS

M. Kiprusoff $5.83 million

C. McElhinney $535,000

TOTAL

$54,727,832

SALARY CAP

$56.8 MILLION


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