SUN Hockey Pool

Sutter loads up on d-men

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

Seen as a problem a year ago when the Calgary Flames had eight blueliners signed to one-way contracts, this summer's logjam on the back end is being looked at differently.

No one is complaining about the acquisition of another rearguard this week when Flames GM Darryl Sutter picked up young defenceman Anton Stralman from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the deal that sent forward Wayne Primeau to the Buds.

Joining Jay Bouwmeester, Dion Phaneuf, Robyn Regehr, Cory Sarich, Mark Giordano, Adam Pardy and Staffan Kronwall, who all have one-way deals, Stralman adds another wrinkle to the competition set to kick off a little more than a month from now.

Unlike those new teammates, Stralman is still bound to a two-way contract.

But with 88 NHL contests to his credit, the Swede who turns 23 Saturday would be subject to waivers should the Flames decide to send him to their AHL affiliate, the Abbotsford Heat.

Because he turned 21 the year he signed his entry-level deal, Stralman needed just 80 games to lose his free pass back and forth from the minors.

Immediately, visions of another deal sending someone like Sarich and his hefty $3.6-million salary packing come to mind when looking at the big picture. Keeping eight blueline bodies around full-time isn't common.

But after last season's blueline was decimated by injuries -- Giordano, Sarich, Regehr, Phaneuf and the recently-traded Jim Vandermeer all missed time -- carrying a big group like this one gives the team options.

And a heap of healthy competition, too.

If Kronwall or Stralman --or both -- earn spots in training camp, they could allow Sutter to make another deal to bring in more proven scoring to help the forward ranks that will depend heavily on Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen, Daymond Lankgow and a cast of relatively unproven support players, such as Rene Bourque, David Moss, Curtis Glencross and Nigel Dawes.

With young defencemen such as Matt Pelech and John Negrin seeing some big-league action with the Flames late last season and faring well enough to earn a long look this fall, the position is as deep as this organization has ever boasted.

Only the big three of Bouwmeester, Phaneuf and Regehr appear to be locks for logging a lot of ice.

Coming back from a serious shoulder injury that required surgery and cost him most of last season, Giordano might be feeling a little heat already.

The 26-year-old will make $1 million this season, and the 6-foot, 200-pounder plays a style similar to Stralman.

Kronwall is a little more hard-hitting but will have to impress early in September to avoid a potential trip through waivers and demotion to the minors if all are healthy coming out of camp.

Earning his one-way deal this summer after a strong rookie campaign, Adam Pardy combines physical defending with a knack for getting involved on the rush, and he has improved at every level so far.

There's no room for complacency now.

Maybe that's Sutter's biggest statement of the summer.


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