SUN Hockey Pool

No deal = big deal for Flames

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:53 AM ET

Spin it any way you want, the departure of Tim Erixon is an embarrassing development for the Calgary Flames.

Whatever the club’s plan is going forward, this wasn’t part of it.

The failure to sign one of the few legitimate prospects the Flames have — make that had — illustrates just how precarious a situation the Flames find themselves in in terms of personnel and cap space.

What’s more, it’s an example of a player wanting to avoid a situation full of uncertainty and inflexibility in Calgary, which is the last thing the organization wants out there.

Considered by many in the hockey world to be NHL-ready at age 20, the Flames’ first round pick from 2009 rejected a standard entry-level contract from the Flames before Wednesday afternoon’s deadline.

At the tail end of two relatively amicable years together, the defenceman’s agent essentially sprung on Flames GM Jay Feaster news that his client didn’t want to remain a Flame as he didn’t feel there was any way the team would fit him in under the cap.

So, before the deadline to sign such players, Feaster shipped Erixon’s rights to the New York Rangers, where his father Jan happened to have played. He signed with the Rangers immediately.

So, why wouldn’t he sign with Calgary?

Perhaps he felt slighted by the fact he never received an invitation to go horseback riding with president Ken King.

Fact is, he simply didn’t see a future here, telling Feaster he thought young players didn’t get a chance in Calgary — a horrible reputation to tag a franchise with.

With just US$3.5 million left to spend under last year’s $59.4-million salary cap, the deal Erixon was tabled for the rookie maximum $1.75 million ($810,000 in salary, $90,000 in signing bonus and $850,000 in potential bonuses) would have been moot as he figured he’d be shipped down to the minors (at $67,000 annually) for cap reasons.

Insisting he thought Erixon would make the Flames, Feaster said the youngster still balked when he was given assurances he could return to Europe otherwise.

Erixon was worried that with the cap issues and the no-movement clauses in the contracts signed by defencemen Robyn Regehr, Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano and Cory Sarich, he would’ve been odd-man out.

“We believed Tim is NHL-ready,” insisted Feaster, admitting he was disappointed with the day’s events. “That’s a player we believed would be on our blueline. No matter how many ways we expressed it and tried to assure him, there wasn’t a comfort level that Tim or the agent had.”

Feaster and assistant Craig Conroy even flew to New York Friday to no avail (“That’s a long way to go for lunch, albeit a tasty lunch,” joked Feaster.)

Asked if the turn of events hurt the club’s image, Feaster said, “you never want to lose a first-round pick you feel will play.”

Full marks to Feaster for exhibiting fast feet at the deadline, ensuring the club got some value for the New York-born Swede.

Instead of getting a second round compensatory pick (54th overall) from the league had Erixon gone back into the draft, Feaster got two second rounders from the Rangers (projected at 43rd and 57th). The Flames also gave up a fifth-rounder for 20-year-old Roman Horak, who just so happened to have been a fifth-round pick himself.

The 6-foot-1, 160-lb. forward had 26 goals and

52 assists in 64 games last season playing alongside Flames prospect Ryan Howse in Chilliwack.

In other words, because a compensatory pick was forthcoming, the Flames essentially swapped fifth rounders and traded away a first-rounder for a second rounder — hardly the type of transaction the aging Flames were hoping for.

“I truly do not have any concerns moving forward — I believe this was a one-off,” said Feaster, buoyed by having three picks in the top 60 now.

“I think, in a lot of ways, it was a perfect storm. I’m happy to say it won’t happen again under my watch.”


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