SUN Hockey Pool

Sutter kick-starts NHL wheeling and dealing

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:46 PM ET

Whether you agree with the trades Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter made this week, you can’t argue he finally set the NHL’s trade winds in motion.

Thankfully.

Sutter’s deals — one whopper with Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom and prospect Keith Aulie off to the Toronto Maple Leafs for four players and another being called “junk for junk” which saw Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust go to the New York Rangers for Ales Kotalik and Christopher Higgins — can be debated for their effectiveness, but they sure started perculating other situations.

It’s not likely a co-incidence it soon became known Atlanta GM Don Waddell told pending UFA Ilya Kovalchuk he’ll be traded. It could be a negotiating tactic to force Kovalchuk to reduce his salary demands ($11 million per season for a decade? Seriously) but more likely a case of Waddell looking to ignite the auction because the offers haven’t been close to his liking.

Just like deals for soon-to-be free agents such as Ray Whitney, Matt Cullen and Marty Turco will soon buzz louder.

Sellers are caught in an interesting spot. Deal away before the Olympic roster freeze — which begins the afternoon of Feb. 12 and ends at midnight after the Feb. 28 gold-medal game — and they’ll save money against the budget. Or wait for the two-and-a-half-day frenzy leading up to the March 3 deadline and possible receive a better return.

Buyers, naturally, could probably find a better deal within the next week, but will have to pay the incoming players during the Olympic break. The benefit will be those players will also be able to practice with their team for a few more days, since clubs can gather as early as Feb. 24.

Sutter’s actions weren’t spurred by wanting to go shopping early. It was to give some kind of life to a team which was falling apart, but the offshoot is he’s managed to open the doors on the marketplace.

Flaming C-notes

Worst part of Calgary’s Monday’s awful 3-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers? Hearing players were disappointed about being booed. Maybe they should see what it’s like to spend a day’s pay for a ticket only to watch a team coast around the ice with no interest. About a dozen of the Flames should have raced to the concourse immediately after the final buzzer and given fans money out of their own pockets as an apology ... Curtis Glencross may wish he had a bigger role than being on what’s essentially the fourth line with Eric Nystrom and Jamal Mayers, but his offensive numbers, and the Flames fortunes, will increase dramatically if he takes advantage of facing weaker opposition in the manner that line did against the Carolina Hurricanes in Wednesday night’s 4-1 win. Glencross netted his first hat trick ... One offshoot of all the trades is the Flames are now better on faceoffs. Don’t think that’s a fluke, either. Having a player as strong on faceoffs as Mayers will help the penalty kill, and Matt Stajan will help the powerplay in the same manner ... By the way, rookie Mikael Backlund is good on draws, too ... If the Flames can make hay with their final five games before the break, they’ll benefit greatly by a handful of days practice before action resumes in March. Think of what happened in November after all those days to practice in October.

Hockey talky

The fact Dion Phaneuf had an impact game in his Toronto debut is no surprise. Phaneuf always wants to be a factor — often he ends up doing so at both ends of the rink — and the extra emotion he showed in the 3-0 win over New Jersey Tuesday night was a perfect example of what he can achieve. However, anybody saying this trade will work out like the infamous Doug Gilmour deal between the Flames and Leafs is out to lunch. Phaneuf is no Gilmour and it’s hard to believe Matt Stajan and/or Niklas Hagman will be as much of a detriment to a team as Gary Leeman was while with the Flames ... Getting back to Kovalchuk, if he really wants to win at the NHL level, he’ll reduce his contract demands. In his defence, the Thrashers have not shown they can actually build a team around him to make it worth him taking less money in a new deal ... What’s a bigger surprise, Boston falling to 12th in the Eastern Conference or Detroit battling to be a playoff team. Even with the injuries, we figured the Red Wings would be in tough to make the playoffs, but pull it out in the end. But the Bruins looked like the best team in the Northeast Division. Who would have guessed Buffalo and Ottawa would be battling it out for that perch? ... Interesting to see the two surprise teams in the Western Conference last season — St. Louis and Columbus — have now both fired their head coach ... An interesting name to think about as trade deadline nears — Dan Hamuis of the Nashville Predators. The Preds will have to deal a defenceman for some offence, and he’s due to be a UFA.

You don’t say?

“Unfortunately, on the last one, I stopped the first four (shots). I got a piece of the fifth one, but not enough.”

— Vancouver goalie, and captain, Roberto Luongo. He was being tongue-in-cheek and admitted he needed to make more saves in the 3-2 loss Tuesday night to Montreal, but it’s quite the way to tell a team to tighten up


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