SUN Hockey Pool

Now or never for Flames

The Flames have 40 games left to turn their season around. (QMI Agency/Stuart Dryden)

The Flames have 40 games left to turn their season around. (QMI Agency/Stuart Dryden)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:45 AM ET

CALGARY - With 40 games remaining, the path of the Calgary Flames is uncertain.

Will the team actually go on a real winning streak and push for the playoffs?

Will the Flames continue to sputter along, stay in 14th spot in the Western Conference and draft in the top eight?

Will acting general manager Jay Feaster start a dismantling or simply tinker until the summer and make a sweeping move?

Let's take a look at each player's season so far, their contract status moving forward and what to watch for in the final 40 games of the season.

Goaltenders

#34 Miikka Kiprusoff

It's been a mediocre season for Kiprusoff. A 2.65 goals-against average and .904 save percentage are OK, but the team needs better. Plus, Kiprusoff has surrendered more than a few of those "how didn't he stop that?" goals. Should he want to be traded, he would be a big target for Stanley Cup contenders, but don't expect him on the block. The Flames don't have a bonafide No.-1 waiting in the wings and Kiprusoff's contract is worth a salary cap hit of US$5.833 through three more seasons.

#35 Henrik Karlsson

Karlsson is due to be an unrestricted free agent, and the club's 2006 first-round draft choice, Leland Irving, is having a strong AHL season. Is that a tandem which makes Kiprusoff expendable? Should the season go off the rails, watch for more starts for the lanky Swede so the club can make a read on him going forward. He's had some strong games, but also a couple of disappointing starts en route to a 2-3-2 record with a 2.74 GAA and .894 save percentage.

The Defence

#33 Anton Babchuk

Seven points in the last seven games is the offensive upside the defenceman with the big point shot provides. However, Babchuk is due to be a UFA after this season in which he has a $1.4 million salary. The former first-round draft choice could very well return to Europe after this season or sign with the Flames or another NHL team. He could be trade bait down the stretch if a team needs a powerplay boomer and the Flames must be looking at all avenues.

#4 Jay Bouwmeester

His offensive numbers again aren't up to expectations, on-pace for about 30 points, especially for a salary of $6.68 million. That salary would prevent a trade with most other teams, but the Flames likely can't afford to deal Bouwmeester given his role with the team. He's become the cornerstone blueliner -- sitting fifth in the NHL for ice time per game. There are reasons Brent Sutter plays him so much and Bouwmeester is providing steady defensive play. Now, if only he'd score more often. The team could really use it.

#5 Mark Giordano

A future Flames captain? Giordano is becoming a bigger piece of the puzzle by the day. Next season is the first of a five-year, $20.1 million contract, and since inking that deal at the end of October, Giordano has elevated his game. Watch for him to remain the club's top-scoring defenceman and the anchor on the second pairing.

#29 Brendan Mikkelson

Mikkelson returned following a four-game conditioning stint in the AHL, which came after being a healthy scratch for 14 straight games. He may be sent to the minors -- and would need to clear waivers -- when Steve Staios returns. However, with three defence-men on the team pending UFAs, Mikkelson, due to be a restricted free agent himself, may also see more playing time to get a chance to solidify a spot next season.

#7 Adam Pardy

Another pending UFA for the Flames, Pardy fits the role as a sixth/seventh defenceman. However, he's due to turn 27 this March, so the club may opt to look elsewhere, especially younger, for that spot next season. Pardy -- one of only three players on the roster actually drafted by the Flames -- may be potential trade bait down the stretch, and must use the next month to prove to the new regime how much he wants to remain in Calgary.

#28 Robyn Regehr

The second-longest serving Flames player has been steady all season. He has two more seasons on his contract worth $4.02 million per year and would be very valuable in a trade for a team needing a steady shutdown player. He's just as valuable to the Flames, and has a no-movement clause, so he can dictate his situation. Regehr's name will pop up in trade rumours between now and the Feb. 28 deadline. If the situation is right, he may want to go elsewhere. If he stays, he'll remain a big part of the organization.

#6 Cory Sarich

One more season with a $3.6-million cap hit and a no-trade clause would make it tough to deal Sarich, but the Flames may not want to since he's bounced back this season. They don't have a player waiting in the wings for his position. If they could make a trade, the Flames likely would, but could do worse than having Sarich for one more season.

#27 Steve Staios

Injuries have put a major damper on a struggling season for the 37-year-old. He will be in tough to get back in the top-six when he returns from a shoulder/rib injury. Staios is due to be a UFA and even with a $2.7 million salary may fetch a draft pick if the Flames start selling.

Offence

#11 Mikael Backlund

The club's lone rookie by NHL standards has not provided the offensive punch people have hoped for (four goals, nine points), but has gone through solid spurts. Expect him to be prepared for a third-or second-line role next season with more ice time in the coming months.

#17 Rene Bourque

What's a more disappointing number at this point: 13 goals or minus-11? Bourque, in the first season of a six-year, $20-million deal, should be a 30-plus goal scorer with his size, speed, skill and opportunity, but hasn't. Inconsistency has been a major issue. He may go on a roll, but has struggled for the past couple of months.

#24 Craig Conroy

The veteran former captain is in his swansong season. Fans will hope for one last hurrah for Conroy, but he's been a healthy scratch in 19 of the last 20 games.

#22 Curtis Glencross

He's still on pace for a career season in goals, but a month-long slump derailed what seemed like a slam-dunk 20-goal season. Glencross is due to be a UFA and very likely will be traded down the stretch if the Flames feel they're out of it. He's a valuable player, but inconsistency has him often in the coach's doghouse. A team that acquired him for the stretch drive wouldn't likely be disappointed.

#10 Niklas Hagman

From 25 goals last season to eight so far this year. Another member of the under-performing crew that needs to step it up. Hagman has one more season at $3 million and the Flames may be looking to move him if a team believes it's just a case of a bad spell since coming to Calgary.

#12 Jarome Iginla

The captain is on pace for a 10th straight 30-plus goal season, which would put him in a truly elite category. Acting GM Jay Feaster has said repeatedly he has no intention to trade Iginla, who would be a much-sought player if he was on the trade block. Iginla has two more seasons worth $7 million after this year.

#41 Raitis Ivanans

He hasn't returned from a concussion suffered in the season opener. Ivanans has another season worth $600,000 on his contract.

#15 Tim Jackman

A career best six goals to go with 11 points and a regular physical presence from the fourth liner has made him one of the few over-achievers this season. Jackman has another season worth $550,000 and the Flames are thankful for it.

#13 Olli Jokinen

A nice run through December has him at eight goals and 21 points, but it's still not enough for the centre whose reacquisition in the summer -two years, $6 million -caused all kinds of uproar. Jokinen has no points in the last three games and is minus-5. He has a no-movement clause, too, so get used to seeing him another full season.

#16 Tom Kostopoulos

The fourth-line winger, who is currently suspended, has three goals and four points in 25 games for the Flames. He has another year on his contract with a $917,000 cap hit, which is awfully pricy for that role when you could pay league minimum to a youngster. He could be a coveted depth player worth a draft choice, but likely will be with the Flames next season.

#26 Ales Kotalik

Of Darryl Sutter's acquisitions, he remains one of the most disappointing. Kotalik has another season worth $3 million and could be a candidate for a buyout or placing in Europe next season if he doesn't regain his form. One goal in 14 games this season and four in 40 as a Flame just doesn't cut it.

#8 Brendan Morrison

Calgary can't complain with the 20 points he's delivered, but the pending UFA may be worth a much-needed draft choice or even a prospect as the deadline nears. Feaster wants to accumulate picks and Morrison is a perfect candidate to garner one.

#25 David Moss

That 20-goal 2008-09 season sure seems like a distant memory. Moss has been solid since he was put in a fourth-line role at centre. It's a pricey spot for a player with another year on a $1.3 million contract, but Moss does have ability to play on third or even second line.

#18 Matt Stajan

Two goals in 36 games. Even with a couple of injuries which cost him time, that's not enough. Stajan is in the first season of a four-year, $14 million deal, and Calgary couldn't move that contract if they tried. Therefore, they'll try to get his game back on track.

#40 Alex Tanguay

A 20-goal, 60-point season -Tanguay's pace-is a great return for $1.7 million. What do you do next? Tanguay is due to be a UFA. Though would be hard-pressed to get a better role than he has by being on a line with Jarome Iginla, the Flames may not be able to find the right deal to re-sign him. Tanguay has a no-trade clause in his deal, but could be on the market. The Flames will need his skill moving forward, especially for Iginla's sake, but it will need a deal to make it happen.

5 players who need to step up

* Rene Bourque: Strong first month and not enough since. Should be a 30-goal guy.

* Matt Stajan: One of a handful of forwards -- Kotalik, Hagman -- who can deliver more.

* Olli Jokinen: A couple of weeks does not a season make. Must bury more chances.

* Miikka Kiprusoff: He has to steal a few games in the very near future to keep hope.

* Mikael Backlund: Not that he's disappointed, but can be a factor when he shows some moxie.


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