Flames break out of salary-cap jail

Flames general manager Jay Feaster speaks with the media following the club's trade of forward...

Flames general manager Jay Feaster speaks with the media following the club's trade of forward Daymond Langkow to the Coyotes in exchange for forward Lee Stempniak, in Calgary, Alta., Aug. 29, 2011. (STUART DRYDEN/QMI Agency)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:22 AM ET

CALGARY - It wasn’t so long ago the Calgary Flames were suffocating against the salary-cap ceiling.

Handcuffed, strapped in a straightjacket and locked in a box filling with water.

When GM Jay Feaster took over officially in the spring, he inherited a team with no monetary wiggle room, and a few holes to plug on the roster.

He called it “salary-cap jail” as he addressed his issues moving forward before the draft.

With almost a dozen of his players owning no-trade or no-movement clauses, the chances of Feaster wriggling out of his straightjacket appeared slim for the short-term.

Many burdensome contracts are set to expire after the 2011-12 season, so talk was of patience before real changes could be made.

Then change started taking place, despite the odds.

First, Robyn Regehr and Ales Kotalik — who both had no-trade clauses — and their combined US$7-million-plus contracts were sent to the Buffalo Sabres on the second day of the NHL Entry Draft.

That allowed Feaster to re-sign winger Alex Tanguay to a nice little raise before July 1, and make a serious pitch for the services of the most highly coveted unrestricted free agent on the market, coming up just short in the Brad Richards sweepstakes.

Being mentioned as the runner-up certainly got the Flames fanbase’s attention, and made the bitter taste left by the departure of Regehr a lot more palatable.

Feaster shed the straightjacket completely with the departure of Daymond Langkow — a 34-year-old centre just a few games into his comeback from a fractured neck — to the Phoenix Coyotes in return for a 28-year-old winger capable of scoring 20 goals for less than half of Langkow’s $4.5-million cap hit this season.

And while Feaster seems like Harry Houdini this summer after pulling off one of the greatest escapes of the NHL’s salary-cap era, he had an assistant in the Coyotes, loosening the straps of that cumbersome jacket behind the scenes when they decided to look into the possibility of re-acquiring Langkow.

“We didn’t go out and shop Daymond. We didn’t say we had to move Daymond. This was an opportunity that was presented,” Feaster said when asked for likely the hundredth time this summer whether the team was done making moves.

“As I had said before, we’ll continue to monitor and look at any situation that may come our way.”

The best result of all this action — which also included the addition of veteran blueliner Scott Hannan, and the re-inking of centre Brendan Morrison and defenceman Anton Babchuk — is there is now even more room to make moves.

Having missed out on Richards, the Flames may be able to pitch for any other big name that hits the market over the next few months.

“What is good about having the cap space is whether it’s something that happens before camp or it’s something that happens on the waiver wire or it happens in October or November or the trade deadline, simply having space available means now we can participate and consider things that if you don’t have the space, you can’t do,” Feaster said.

“I go right back to the whole thing with Brad Richards. If, in fact, we don’t clear the cap space that we did in that trade at the draft, we’re not even having that conversation.

“The same thing is true here. If an opportunity comes along to improve our hockey team, at least now with what we’ve saved in this transaction and the space we had available — we had just over $1 million of cap space that we still had available, so now it’s about $3.6 million.

“Again, that gives us greater flexibility.”

And both of his arms free to work.


Videos

Photos