Flames signing jams up roster

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:36 PM ET

CALGARY - After working the phones for hours of Canada Day's free-agent frenzy, Jay Feaster unveiled part of his summer vacation plans.

The Calgary Flames GM said he wanted his team's roster pretty much set by Aug. 1 so he could have enough downtime before training camps opened.

By re-signing veteran centre Brendan Morrison to a one-year deal worth US$1.25 million Friday ($850,000 in salary and $400,000 in potential bonuses) Feaster probably has just one more item on the to-do list before packing the sunscreen.

With so many forwards inked to one-way contracts, it's looking obvious Feaster must jettison a player with a substantial price tag -- say, Niklas Hagman and his $3-million salary -- before the season begins.

Not only do the Flames have too many forwards, but they're in a dangerous spot around the salary cap, especially if they want some of their prospects to believe they have a chance to make the club.

Assuming Raitis Ivanans won't return from his concussion issues and won't count against the salary cap -- which seems likely -- the Flames have 13 forwards signed to one-way contracts, plus youngster Mikael Backlund.

When you tally up the salaries of the two goalies and six defencemen on one-way contracts, the Flames have less than $2 million in cap space. A chunk of that will go to the seventh blueliner on the roster.

Sure, you could make that work over the course of the season with luck, but that kind of salary structure would make any sort of injury wave a major problem.

Also, there would be little hope for adding a key piece for a playoff run, should that be a possibility, which is what the Flames experienced last season.

Thus the need to find a way to rid a contract.

The worst-case scenario would be to send a player or two to the minors. To the credit of the Flames ownership group, that step was taken last year to get rid of the moody and underachieving Ales Kotalik, but it's not the way teams want to spend money.

The best-case scenario would be to find a team which believes Hagman or Matt Stajan are capable of finding their form and willing to fire a draft pick of value in return.

OK, the ultra best-case scenario would be for those players to actually rebound in Flames silks and make those salary cap worries moot, but that looks pie-in-the-sky based on the way things have worked out for both them since coming to Calgary in the Dion Phaneuf trade.

Thus the need for Feaster to conjure some magic.

Re-signing Morrison, even with the knee injury which required surgery and is not expected to be ready when the season begins, was a wise move. The centre collected nine goals and 43 points in 66 games in seemingly every role imaginable. He played on the wing as well as at centre on every line, skating between Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay before suffering torn knee ligaments on March 2, which started the team's fatal spiral out of the playoffs.

Being a one-year contract, it's a low-risk deal for a team which doesn't have forward prospects who are sure-fire full-time NHLers just yet.

But keeping Morrison in the fold should mean another one-way contract forward should be packing his bags for another local.

If Feaster can do that by the end of the month, he deserves to sit back and enjoy a frosty umbrella drink.

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