Another step 'forward'

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

Darryl Sutter has warned not to expect much of a splash today when the free agency period kicks off.

The Calgary Flames general manager continues to tweak his roster, however, and yesterday added another challenger to the forward ranks when he dealt defenceman Tim Ramholt to the Philadelphia Flyers for left-winger Kyle Greentree.

"Kyle has a legitimate opportunity of playing on our team this season and hopefully Tim has a shot with Philadelphia," Sutter said in a statement.

He said the same to the 24-year-old Greentree, who scored a league-best 62 goals for the Victoria Salsa in the BCHL in 2003-04, then led the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Nanook in scoring for three seasons before signing with the Flyers as a free agent in March 2007.

"For him to say that, I'll use that as motivation to work hard this summer and make sure I prepare myself to come into camp," Greentree said yesterday. "I don't have a spot, and I don't want to go in there thinking that. It's all about how you play in training camp."

Greentree said Sutter has seen him play in college, where he competed against a couple of Flames prospects in David Van der Gulik and Kris Chucko. Now, they'll compete for spots on the same team.

Ramholt, a second rounder, was once considered a promising prospect for the Flames.

"This move is a continuation of our work to upgrade up front," said Sutter.

"On our depth chart, we believe a couple of our young defencemen in the AHL and a couple of our juniors had moved passed Ramholt."

Saying he would focus on re-signing some of his own pending unrestricted free agents leading up to today's open-market blitz, Sutter came through with contracts for four guys last week -- forwards Daymond Langkow, Eric Nystrom and Craig Conroy, as well as goaltender Curtis McElhinney -- but will certainly let a few walk.

Kristian Huselius fell out of favour, Mark Smith didn't make as much of an impact as an energy player and suffered a concussion late in the year, and it would surprise many if gritty vet Stephane Yelle was welcomed back.

The club will have to find a replacement for tough guy Eric Godard, whose agent Michael Wulkan said yesterday will hit the free-agent market and likely get a more attractive offer than the one the Flames were willing to provide.

Owen Nolan could return, but the gap between the two sides on the weekend left a little doubt. The 36-year-old winger won't be the hottest commodity on the market today, though, so a deal could be worked out in the coming days or weeks.

One of defencemen Jim Vandermeer and David Hale could come back, but Rhett Warrener's agent Pat Morris said yesterday the Flames decided not to buy out his client, which brings up more questions regarding a back end that ties up about $22 million for six players.

Warrener could still be moved in a trade or sent to the minors to get his $2.35-million cap hit off the books, and Sutter alluded to the possibility of buyouts later in the summer via an extension, but for now Warrener remains a Flame.

If he can't re-sign the guys he wants to return, Sutter will go to market. But, he doesn't have much money to spend.

The Flames have almost $52-million counting against the cap next year. The team typically spends to a percentage of the cap (this season $56.7 million) that has averaged between 90 and 95%.

Forget a splash. The most Flames fans can hope for in the free-agent pool today, or in the coming months, is a ripple or two.

ESTIMATED FLAMES PAYROLL HEADING INTO JULY 1

LEFT-WINGERS

Nilson ($1M); Boyd (.75); Greentree (.735); Nystrom (.70*)

CENTRES

Langkow (5*); Cammalleri (3.35); Lombardi (1.8); Conroy (1.05)

RIGHT-WINGERS

Iginla (7); Moss (.5); Primeau (1.4)

Total forwards: $23.285M

DEFENCEMEN

Phaneuf (6.5); Regehr (4); Aucoin (4); Sarich (3.6); Warrener (2.35); Eriksson (1.5)

Total defence: $21.95M

GOALIES

Kiprusoff (5.8): McElhinney (.75*)

Total goaltenders: $6.55M

*Estimated cap hit

2007-08 cap hit: $51.785M


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