SUN Hockey Pool

No guessing Sutter's next move

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

Attempting to guess what Darryl Sutter's plans are should come with a warning label: Predicting the Flames GM's moves could be hazardous to your sanity.

One week he's declaring he has no intention of trading Dion Phaneuf, the next he's sending the cornerstone defenceman to the Toronto Maple Leafs and adding four new players to his own lineup.

Sutter followed up the Phaneuf blockbuster with a deal that sends forwards Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust to New York to join the Rangers for Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins, a move that was finalized following Monday's 3-0 loss to the Flyers.

And now, the other shoe is expected to drop any minute.

Don't put it past the realm of possibility a big name ultimately lands in Calgary -- be it Ilya Kovalchuk or a more unexpected star.

And almost anyone you talk to who hangs around this team believes there's more to come.

But what's the end game?

Where is Sutter heading?

Based on his actions over the years, a cynic would suggest asking the man himself and then proposing the opposite.

History suggests enough action on Sutter's part to anticipate at least the effort of landing a big fish.

Whether he pulls it off is another story.

He worked for years on getting Jokinen away from the Florida Panthers. Before adding the big Finn on deadline day last season, most of Sutter's splashes had come during the offseason.

But by finally paying the price necessary to scoop up a star -- much as the sparkle has faded in Jokinen's case --the Flames GM showed he's willing to gamble.

Considering he did the unthinkable and traded a young, up-and-coming defenceman like Phaneuf from his core, it's not out of the question he takes another bold step out of his comfort zone and bids for a rental like Kovalchuk.

Others he could have his eye on in the pending-unrestricted free agent category include one of Wednesday night's opponents, Ray Whitney, who's been lighting it up in Carolina lately and has a salary significantly lower than Kovalchuk's.

Alex Tanguay fits the bill and has had success with Jarome Iginla in the past.

And let's not fool ourselves, it's all about complementing Iginla from now until the playoffs. He needs another star or setup man to split the offensive duties and make the team's top line live up to the billing -- which it hasn't all season.

If Sutter goes the traditional route, he'll be kicking tires looking for a flashy addition with at least another year or two on his lease.

With the standings so close on both sides of the continent, however, it'll be tough to pry anyone with real appeal away from any team that isn't the Hurricanes, Edmonton Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets or Toronto Maple Leafs.

And the Flames have already raided the Leafs kitchen.

Kristian Huselius anyone?

Considering Sutter wasn't willing to shell out the $4.75-million a season the soft but skilled left-winger wanted when he left the Flames as a free agent, it seems unlikely he'll return with two more years at that price -- assuming the Blue Jackets would even part with him.

Pickings are slim behind Kovalchuk and Whitney this season.

But if there's ever been a year Sutter would be willing to overpay, this might be it.

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA


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