SUN Hockey Pool

Special offer for Flames' Comeau

Flames GM Jay Feaster said he's

Flames GM Jay Feaster said he's "cautiously optimistic" the club will re-sign Blake Comeau to a contract before free agency kicks off Sunday. (Mike Drew/QMI Agency/Files)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:16 AM ET

CALGARY - The Calgary Flames want Blake Comeau in the fold.

Just not at the US$2.5 million the winger was paid last NHL season.

Comeau was the only roster player who didn’t receive a qualifying offer as the Flames announced their moves Monday, making the left winger an unrestricted free agent.

However, GM Jay Feaster said he’s “cautiously optimistic” the club will re-sign Comeau to a contract before free agency kicks off Sunday.

“We think very highly of him, think he’s our kind of guy,” Feaster said. “We’re not prepared to do it, however, at the number he was on.”

The Flames made qualifying offers to forwards Mikael Backlund, Blair Jones, Paul Byron and Akim Aliu and to goaltender Leland Irving.

The club didn’t extend offers to Comeau and minor-leaguers Logan MacMillan and Ryley Grantham, making them unrestricted free agents.

Comeau was claimed off waivers from the New York Islanders in November and netted just five goals and 15 points. He was told at season’s end he wouldn’t receive a qualifying offer. He had a 24-goal, 46-point campaign in 2010-11 with the Islanders and signed a one-year deal.

“That’s not the basis for our wanting to retain him, that he’s going to get 20 to 25 goals for us,” Feaster said. “We like the fact he is a very, very good skater, has great speed and quickness to get in on the forecheck, causes problems for defenceman and when he hits, you know you’ve been hit and he’s a player who’s responsible defensively. We’ve talked to him about things we believe can help his productivity offensively, but we like things to his game outside of the 24 goals he scored.”

The headliners among the club’s restricted free-agents are Backlund and Irving, a pair of first-round draft choices.

A broken finger suffered in training camp and season-ending shoulder injury limited Backlund to just 41 games last season, and he collected four goals and 11 points. Feaster wants more — much more — from the three-year veteran.

Irving signed a one-year contract last summer and supplanted Henrik Karlsson as the No. 2 goalie behind Miikka Kiprusoff by the end of the season. Expect a showdown for the backup job.

“In our minds, he took another step, and that’s a good thing, but now he needs to take another step,” Feaster said of Irving, who posted a 1-3-3 record in NHL games. “The fact of the matter is, whoever it is, we need a backup goalie who can play, can legitimately start 20 to 25 games and who can win half of those games.

“We have a lot of problems, but one of our problems is we have not had the productivity from our backup goaltender that we need. We haven’t had it early (in the season), and that puts us behind the eight-ball, because our coaching staff says, ‘We’ve got to keep running with Kipper, because we need the points.’ It’s a very, very important position with us.”

he July 1 free-agency chase is also fast approaching. Feaster wouldn’t divulge which of his team’s pending UFAs he wants to retain — a list which includes Olli Jokinen, Lee Stempniak, David Moss, Tom Kostopoulos, Cory Sarich and Scott Hannan — but said the club’s braintrust has a set plan.

“We’re not going to have everybody back because we need to make changes to this hockey club,” Feaster said. “I pretty much allowed the group to stay intact ... and we missed the playoffs again, so we’re not going to keep running with the same group and keep having the same results.

“We’ve identified the players we would like to go after and have our lists in order.

“We’ll be active ... as soon as the gun fires.”

On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak


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