CALGARY - Those shocked or upset the Calgary Flames did nothing on trade deadline day simply havenít been paying attention.
Jay Feaster essentially had no choice.
Half his players have no-trade clauses or cost-prohibitive salaries, and the other half might as well have such restrictions as none of them classify as legitimate trade bait in todayís cap-tight NHL.
Complicating things is the fact Feaster also finds himself straddling the line between trying to make the playoffs while also craving the chance to start building for the future.
So they were neither buyers nor sellers.
As they have been the last three years, the Flames are stuck in neutral. Some would say purgatory (noun, a place or state of temporary suffering or misery.)
To be fair, Feaster made quite the splash in the trade pool mid-January when he brought back Mike Cammalleri in exchange for an underachieving Rene Bourque.
Yes, the price tag on olí Cammy is steep going forward, but heíd proven to be a good fit here in the past, making it a calculated gamble.
That acquisition ought to count for something, as it addressed both the future (two more years left on his deal at US$6 million per season) and the present.
So much for cap wiggle room, ultimately preventing any deadline deals.
One thing Feaster isnít is scared, proving already heís willing to be as active trade-wise as Darryl Sutter was while running the club.
And Feaster will have plenty more room to maneouver this summer when 10 of his regulars hit some form of free agency or another.
Just as the Columbus Blue Jackets will be better off dealing Rick Nash come June or July, Feaster will have far more flexibility then, too.
Obviously, none of the Flames core players were up for grabs Monday ó nor should they have been. Guys like Jarome Iginla, Miikka Kiprusoff, Cammalleri, Curtis Glencross, Mark Giordano, Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen are the core of a club battling for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
This team has worked too hard to get back into the playoff hunt to have one of their key players ripped from the room. Trading Jokinen was not an option, nor is the possibility of allowing the UFA to sign elsewhere, as he is the teamís top centre by a long-shot.
Players like Matt Stajan ($3.5-million cap hit), Jay Bouwmeester ($6.6 million), Anton Babchuk ($2.5 million) and Blake Comeau ($2.5 million) make too much money for anyone to consider adding them down the stretch.
Pending free agents David Moss, Lee Stempniak and Mikael Backlund are all hurt, thus eliminating them from deadline deals.
Sure, Cory Sarich, Scott Hannan or Tom Kostopoulos may have landed a fourth- or fifth-round draft pick at best, but they are needed in Calgary for the stretch-run and hardly make such deals worthwhile.
The most fans could have hoped for was the addition of a depth forward, but given how much the team has mortgaged the future the last handful of years, that made no sense.
So Ö life goes on.
Surely the players appreciate not losing any key cogs in their wheel, even if it does seem at times to be spinning in mud.
Feaster says he still hopes to recoup one or two of the second rounders his club has traded away, and that would certainly serve his team well, assuming someone in their expanded scouting staff can now recognize talent on draft day.
How heíll do that is anyoneís guess, but thereís reason to have faith that with increased flexibility will come a much more defined approach moving forward.
On Monday, sitting on the fence was the right thing to do.
It was the only thing to do.
But come summer, it will no longer be acceptable.
On Twitter @ericfrancis
- Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada