Flames re-sign three players
WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency
|Flames defenceman Cory Sarch speaks with the media after signing a two-year deal with the club, June 29, 2012. (BRENDAN MILLER/Special to QMI AGency)
CALGARY - Cory Sarich could've tested the free-agent market, but the rugged rearguard didn't want to leave Calgary.
Apparently, he wasn't the only one.
On Friday morning, Sarich signed a two-year deal worth US$2 million per season to remain with the Flames, accepting a significant paycut from the $3.6-million he earned at the Saddledome the past five winters.
That started a bit of a signing spree for Flames GM Jay Feaster, who also hammered out a two-year deal with soon-to-be unrestricted free agent winger Lee Stempniak, who'll earn $2.5-million per campaign, and restricted free agent centre Blair Jones, who inked a pact for two years with an average annual value of $650,000.
Sarich brings a much-needed physical presence to the Flames blueline brigade. The 33-year-old scored one goal and added six assists in 62 regular-season outings during the 2011-12 NHL campaign, while also racking up 144 hits and 66 penalty minutes and blocking 60 shots.
I’m really excited — Calgary’s my home," Sarich said. "I love it here. I love playing hockey here. I’m really pumped to be able to stick around and play in the red uniform again.”
After acquiring offensive-minded Dennis Wideman in Wednesday's trade with the Washington Capitals and re-signing Sarich, the Flames have nine defencemen on one-way deals for next season. That list also includes Anton Babchuk, Jay Bouwmeester, Chris Butler, Brett Carson, Mark Giordano, Derek Smith and Clay Wilson. T.J. Brodie is on a two-way contract but is expected to see full-time duty with the big club.
"When we set about the process of improving our blueline, we identified the need for a puck-mover who could play the point on the powerplay and help us offensively, and we also wanted a time-space eliminator who hits and competes and brings a sandpaper element to his game," said Flames GM Jay Feaster in a statement.
"We took care of the first need (Wednesday) by acquiring and signing Dennis Wideman, and we checked the box on the second need (Friday) by re-upping Cory Sarich.
"Cory is a true competitor who plays the game the right way — with fire and grit. He is capable of delivering the big hit and, as such, keeps opposing players honest. He eliminates time and space down low. He moves the puck well with a good first pass. He is one of the leaders in our room, and he is a well-liked and well-respected teammate.
"We are thrilled to have Cory back in the fold on a contract that fits within our plan and enables us to continue to improve our hockey team."
Stempniak had 14 goals and 14 assists in 61 regular-season appearances with the Flames last season before suffering an ankle injury that kept him out of the lineup for a month-and-a-half. The 29-year-old has 129 goals and 146 assists in 517 career NHL outings.
“We like what Lee Stempniak brings to our lineup, and our team missed him a lot with an injury last year,” Feaster said. “We believe Lee continues to have strong upside offensively, and he has demonstrated that he can be responsible at both ends of the ice. His skating style and willingness to get in on the forecheck will fit in nicely with Bob Hartley’s up-tempo style, and he provides the coaching staff with more options on the powerplay.”
Jones, 25, was acquired in a trade last season with the Tampa Bay Lightning and suited up for 21 games with the Flames, scoring once, adding three assists and becoming a valuable asset in a checking role. He'll never challenge for the team scoring title, but he seemed to find a niche at the Saddledome.
“Blair Jones is the type of ‘hard to play against’ player we want in our line-up,” Feaster said. “He is a big body. He is fearless. He drives hard to the net and takes defenders with him. He uses his body effectively in both zones, and he is versatile in that he can play on the third or fourth line, kills penalties, blocks shots and can be spotted occasionally on the powerplay for net-front presence.
"In addition, we believe he is only going to continue to get better as he works on other aspects of his game such as faceoffs and being an irritant to play against. We are pleased to have him signed.”
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