SUN Hockey Pool

Flames shopping or selling?

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:47 PM ET

VANCOUVER — If the Calgary Flames fall back toward the bottom of the Western Conference before the trade deadline, Jay Feaster’s job becomes obvious.

Watch for Feaster to sell like a stock trader trying to rid himself of shares in the Egyptian market.

Should the Flames keep on trucking the way like they have the past eight weeks until the Feb. 28 deadline arrives, the acting GM can enjoy adding something to the mix and hope it’s enough to become a Stanley Cup squad.

However, if his team stays around eighth spot, hovering around the final playoff position but never with solid footing, Feaster must become a soothsayer.

Is it the right move to add a player or two to get over the hump or prudent to waive the white flag and sell assets for the future?

Talk about a difficult conundrum.

“No question,” Feaster said. “That comes back to the intellectual honesty I talked about when I took over. If you’re not realistically in the playoff picture, the scenario and plan you’re talking to (president) Ken King and ownership about is entirely different than if you sitting in eighth, a couple of points out of sixth or fifth, and you’re legitimately back in the mix.

“If we continue what we’ve done since the end of December, the trade deadline is a totally different set of circumstances.”

It’s certainly a nice problem for Feaster, considering how bleak things were when he took over for Darryl Sutter just after Christmas. Acing the test over the coming month will make it time to erase the ‘acting’ part from his title.

Then again, whether the Flames are a buyer or a seller at the deadline may be over-simplifying things.

Considering their situation — a veteran-filled roster and lack of slam-dunk, high-end prospects — the Flames may be looking to add at the deadline but can’t afford to deal away high draft choices or top up-and-comers.

Selling would also require a tight-rope walk, because it could mean the difference between making the playoffs or watching from the sidelines despite a terrific run — 14-3-5 heading into Saturday night’s clash in Vancouver.

Either way, don’t expect a massive purchase on credit.

“We can’t continue, in my mind, to deficit spend,” Feaster said. “You can’t continue to go to the draft table every year without a second- and third-round pick. That’s an issue. We have to be mindful of how we can improve our team right now — help ourselves now, but without mortgaging our future.”

The flurry of trades this week certainly brought the deadline to the forefront.

Toronto sent Francois Beauchemin to Anaheim for Joffrey Lupul and prospect Jake Gardiner.

The sputtering Chicago Blackhawks shook things with a five-player swap.

Ottawa started its rebuild by sending Mike Fisher to Nashville for a couple of picks, including a first-rounder.

That’s more action than we can expect in the early hours of deadline day.

You bet Feaster’s been sizing up the price tags, wondering whether we’re talking prices from Holt Renfrew or Winners.

“When you make a determination that’s the player you want, you as the acquiring club have to decide what you’re willing to give up,” Feaster said.

Other aspects Feaster must consider is his team’s pending unrestricted free agents, a list with three defencemen — Steve Staios, Adam Pardy and Anton Babchuk — and a trio of forwards in Curtis Glencross, Brendan Morrison and Alex Tanguay.

Feaster’s history in Tampa was to keep players, try to re-sign them in the summer and sometimes lose them for no compensation.

In the salary cap world, at least you can look at the situation in a bright light.

“If you lose a guy making $3 million, for example, because somebody signs him for $5 million a year, you’re getting $3 million of cap space, which is a real asset,” he said. “There are a couple of ways to look at it.”

At least the Flames have options.

Ales Kotalik’s banishment to the AHL provides some salary space, and with Craig Conroy’s retirement and minor-leaguer J.D. Watt’s release from the organization, they have two openings under the 50-contract limit.

“We’re in good shape, in terms of being able to take on a significant contract.”


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