June 25, 2012
Flames face free-agent decisions
By RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Summer fun will have to wait for the Calgary Flames braintrust.
It will still be a couple of weeks before things slow down enough for GM Jay Feaster, assistant GM of player personnel John Weisbrod and the rest of those running the team to be able to enjoy the season.
(Then again, why should they be any different than the rest of us who are wondering whether the arrival of the summer solstice will actually mean warm temperatures?)
The now completed 2012 NHL Entry Draft is the kickoff to the coming season, so the race to the Stanley Cup title has already started.
In fact, amateur scouting director Tod Button headed to Rochester, N.Y., Sunday to attend the U.S. development team’s under-17 camp.
But coming fast and furious are more tangible events which will greatly impact the club’s on-ice product for the 2012-13 season.
Monday is the deadline to have qualifying offers for pending restricted free-agents filed with the league.
It’s hard to believe the Flames would make the same mistake made by the Chicago Blackhawks a few years ago and be late delivering notices, so it’s most likely that paperwork is done. However, Feaster has been unwilling to publicly divulge any information, so we have to guess what the Flames will do.
It’s hard to believe the club won’t keep the rights to ’07 first-round draft choice Mikael Backlund, ’06 first-round pick Leland Irving and fellow forwards Akim Aliu, Paul Byron and Blair Jones.
However, don’t be alarmed if the club allows a trio of potential RFAs to walk in the likes of Blake Comeau and minor-leaguers Logan MacMillan and Ryley Grantham.
Comeau, who the club claimed off waivers in late November, is a serviceable NHL player, but he’s coming off a season in which he collected just five goals and 15 points — well off the 24-goal, 46-point campaign he garnered the previous season with the New York Islanders. The Flames aren’t likely to guarantee the 26-year-old winger another season with a salary of US$2.5 million.
Should Comeau be willing to sign a lower salary, the Flames should listen.
As for MacMillan and Grantham, neither have proven they are anything more than career minor-leaguers.
MacMillan, whose father, Bob, is a Flames scout, was the Anaheim Ducks first-round draft choice in ’07 — 19th overall — but has fallen behind pretty much any other of the club’s prospects. He spent the bulk of the year with the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies and managed just 10 goals and 24 points.
Meanwhile, Grantham — a sixth-round pick in 2008 — spent the season in the ECHL, with teams not even affiliated with the Flames organization.
The real buzz will come July 1, when the free-agency season opens.
The Flames have a lengthy list of pending unrestricted free agents, led by veterans Olli Jokinen, Cory Sarich, Lee Stempniak, David Moss, Tom Kostopoulos and Scott Hannan.
A case can be made to cut ties with all of their pending UFAs, who may either command more salary or longer term than their worth — Jokinen, Sarich and Stempniak would appear to be candidates for this category — or coming off injury issues, as is the case with Moss.
That’s not to say the Flames would be best served to not try keeping any of those players in the mix. But unless the price is right, they should turn the page.
The need for a rebuild is obvious, and if the club not’s willing to burn it down and jettison the big-ticket faces of the franchise in Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff, then refusing to re-sign the pending UFAs add up to the moves needed to get that ball rolling.
On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak
The potential free-agents
Pending restricted free-agents
*Flames must provide a qualifying offer or they become unrestricted free-agent
Player 2011-12 salary USD
LW Blake Comeau $2.5 million
RW Akim Aliu $815,000
C Mikael Backlund $787,500
*C Logan MacMillan $787,500
*G Leland Irving $600,000
*C Paul Byron $570,000
*LW Ryley Grantham $550,000
C Blair Jones $525,000
Pending unrestricted free-agents
Player 2011-12 salary USD
D Cory Sarich $3.3 million
C Olli Jokinen $3 million
LW Lee Stempniak $2.3 million
RW David Moss $1.3 million
RW Tom Kostopoulos $1.1 million
D Scott Hannan $1 million
*D Jordan Henry $600,000
LW Raitis Ivanans $600,000
*D Bryan Connelly $525,000
*LW Guillaume Desbiens $525,000
LW Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond $550,000
LW Stefan Meyer $525,000
*Two-way contract. Spent most of the season in minors