Character study

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:57 PM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Sure the Calgary Flames loaded up on character players.

Every skater they selected in this weekend's draft has moxie.

But that's not all they were looking for.

"Yeah, character is important but we're getting some guys who can score, too, and have ability," said Flames scouting director Tod Button. "We're not just getting character, leadership, banger guys, we're getting guys with skill.

"It's easy to look at the stats but these guys have done it under crunch time and key times of the game. You watched the playoffs and know what a war it is out there, so you want the guys that compete every night and these guys do, plus they can put the puck in the net."

To make his point, Button notes the team's first-round selection Kris Chucko potted 32 goals this season plus another 10 in the playoffs.

Second pick Brandon Prust racked up 20 points in 15 playoff games and was a plus-20. Third pick Dustin Boyd led his midget league while still a bantam.

"People look at (Flames GM-head coach) Darryl (Sutter) and say, 'Oh, he just wants hard workers,' but it's not true," Button continued. "We've got skill on our team -- (Matthew) Lombardi, (Chuck) Kobasew, (Oleg) Saprykin -- and they've learned the other part of the game, too. In the end, we've got all-around players."

Which is what Sutter expects from a few of the young men added to the fold with Calgary's 10 picks at this year's draft.

With the draft finally over, now the Flames can look toward the future. Up first is the July 1 free-agency deadline.

On top of five looming unrestricted free agents (Craig Conroy, Dean McAmmond, Chris Simon, Krzysztof Oliwa and Dave Lowry), the Flames have a handful of restricted players, led by Jarome Iginla, Miikka Kiprusoff, Jordan Leopold and Denis Gauthier. Sutter said qualifying offers have been sent out for all but one restricted free agent.

"You don't have to wait until July 1. Most teams do but I felt last year it didn't serve any purpose," he said. "Get them out and get going. Four or five days makes a big difference in terms of talking to guys."

Which included conversations this weekend with agent Don Meehan, who represents a few players in the Flames fold, most notably Iginla.

"We'll have lots of discussions but I'm not going to talk about it in the newspapers," Sutter said. "I think everybody's trying to see what the temperature is but that's not going to affect us.

"We have a plan and and the players who fit in that plan will be part of it. If they're not, they're not. Guys that we can negotiate with, we will.

"Guys we can't, we'll do what we did last summer."

That would be a trade, such as the one that sent Chris Drury to Buffalo.

During the weekend, Sutter did admit to have been eying a trade but nothing has been finalized yet.

"I talked to a lot of teams about a centre," he said. "It wasn't something that was going to affect the draft, I wasn't going to give up a first (round) draft pick to get it. Everybody has needs and there is some consistency with both teams how much money is tied in and what they can do and what you can do.

"It's identifying with teams and trying to work with them."


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