Flames boast plenty of cash to make a splash

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

Adrian Aucoin: -$4 million.

Michael Cammalleri: -$3.6 million.

Todd Bertuzzi: -$1.95 million.

Jordan Leopold: -$1.5 million.

Room to add another key player to an already talented Calgary Flames lineup: Priceless.

Those four Flames are likely to hit the open market next week, taking their substantial salaries off the books for the coming season. Add the subtractions to yesterday's pre-draft announcement the salary cap ceiling will jump $100,000 to $56.8 million, and the Flames are in prime position to make a big move or two this week.

Maybe even today.

Flames GM Darryl Sutter was relatively quiet on the trade front yesterday -- he made a splash last year by grabbing Cammalleri and dealing away Alex Tanguay at the start of the first round -- dealing down three spots from 20 for the 23rd and 84th overall selections.

That third-rounder could come into play on a bigger deal this afternoon.

Word has it the Flames are in the running for the exclusive negotiating rights to Florida Panthers defenceman Jay Bouwmeester.

That could happen as early as today, with a third-round pick expected as the price just for the right to talk to the Alberta product, with more to be added to the deal if or when a contract is hammered out.

The Flames have no second-rounder today, but now own three third-round options for Day 2 at the Bell Centre.

Paying big money to another franchise-type blueliner rather than Cammalleri -- who fell slightly out of favour in management's eyes in the playoffs after a 39-goal season -- fits with GM Darryl Sutter's philosophy of building a team from the goaltender out.

He'd still be able to make a smaller splash in free agency for a forward to complement Olli Jokinen, Jarome Iginla, Rene Bourque and Daymond Langkow, but Sutter also said this week he believes his stars need to make those around them better this season.

Before leaving town, Sutter suggested he didn't have to make any big trades to shed salary. The biggest reason is Cammalleri hitting the open market.

That was made all but official yesterday.

While one or two of those pending free-agent Flames mentioned at the top could come back at a discount price, news on the draft's first day included a comment from Cammalleri's agent Ian Pulver suggesting his client is done in Calgary one year after being acquired in a draft-day deal with the Los Angeles Kings.

"There doesn't seem to be a strong indication there's a deal to be made prior to July 1st," Pulver said yesterday. "Mike's prepared to start a new chapter in his career."

So are the Flames.

After unveiling an all-new coaching staff this week, the team has a few spots to fill with almost $10 million available to spend.

If Bouwmeester doesn't land in Calgary, there are plenty of options available next week in unrestricted free agency.

Same goes for the forward ranks. And Sutter still says he wants to add a kid or two to the lineup every season.

While the 23rd pick yesterday, defenceman Tim Erixon (a Swede whose dad, Jan, played a decade with the New York Rangers in the '80s and early '90s) will be groomed for a few years, another European might make a push to join the big club this fall.

Mikael Backlund had a strong showing in the WHL playoffs and Memorial Cup tournament.

Kyle Greentree's impressive campaign in the AHL also makes him a frontrunner to stick around in a top-six role.

So if Sutter makes the splash today, the blueline is the most likely landing spot.

Good defencemen, in his eyes, are priceless.

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA

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UNDER CONTRACT

FORWARDS (10)

Jarome Iginla

Olli Jokinen

Rene Bourque

Daymond Langkow

David Moss

Curtis Glencross

Eric Nystrom

Craig Conroy

Wayne Primeau

Kyle Greentree*

DEFENCEMEN (5)

Dion Phaneuf

Robyn Regehr

Cory Sarich

Jim Vandermeer

Mark Giordano

GOALTENDERS (2)

Miikka Kiprusoff

Curtis McElhinney

RFA

F Dustin Boyd

*two-way deal


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