SUN Hockey Pool

Flames are 'open for business'

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:24 AM ET

CALGARY - Jay Feaster spent the weekend in St. Paul, Minn., but it’s almost like he went to Las Vegas.

The Calgary Flames GM now has money to spend like he hit a jackpot or something.

With about US$7 million off the books for next season thanks the Robyn Regehr trade, Feaster has the flexibility to be one of those players in both free agency and the trade market.

“We’re open for business,” Feaster said Monday upon returning to the Saddledome from the draft in St. Paul, Minn. “We wanted to create that flexibility. We’re in a much better position today with flexibility than we were going into the draft.”

The Flames have some holes to fill and could obviously upgrade at a several positions. Feaster has already made a big splash when it comes to remaking a team that has missed the playoffs the past two seasons.

In shipping out rugged blueliner Robyn Regehr (cap hit $4 million) and underachieving winger Ales Kotalik ($3 million) to the Buffalo Sabres, Feaster got himself out of a salary-cap crunch for next season.

With about $7.5 million to play with before clearing out a contract such as Niklas Hagman’s ($3 million), the Flames could be players on the free-agency market.

What intrigues Feaster more is waiting to see if he can snag a decent value by waiting. That’s happened in the past few years but the Flames were usually up against the cap by July 2.

“There were some players who didn’t get the high offers on July 1,” Feaster said. “As time wore on, they were available for reasonable prices.

“We saw it with players on waivers. They went on to be claimed and had good seasons.

“When you are sitting that tight against the cap that you can’t manoeuvre, those deals aren’t available to you. That was one thing we did this weekend. As we approach July 1, we’re in a much better situation with our flexibility.”

Feaster is also working at freeing up space on the roster. With a limit of 50 NHL contracts the team can hold at any given point, that meant saying goodbye to some of the prospects brought in by the previous regime.

John Armstrong, Gord Baldwin, Hugo Carpentier, Josh Meyers and Matt Pelech are restricted free agents who weren’t given qualifying offers.

Former first-round pick Kris Chucko is an unrestricted free agent to whom the Flames won’t make an offer.

“You need to decide how to use those 50 contracts,” Feaster said. “We’ve been constantly up against it. We tell players (in the AHL) if we’re happy with them we will convert it to an NHL deal. We had a player in Abbotsford who did everything we asked and we didn’t have an NHL contract to give him.”

Feaster is also remaking the front office, as the Flames hired John Weisbrod to be the assistant GM.

In adding defenceman Chris Butler from the Sabres in the Regehr deal and stocking the system with five draft picks, Feaster feels the team is on the right path.

“We have improved the hockey team,” Feaster said. “We needed to start getting some young players in the lineup. We talked about having to add to depth. We’ve done all that.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ianbusby57


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