Over the first few years of Darryl Sutter’s tenure as Calgary Flames GM, the running gag was guessing which current or former San Jose Shark would be next to the Stampede City.
Now, Sutter is recycling former Flames to fill his roster.
Sutter turned back the clock on the first day of free agency, signing Olli Jokinen to a two-year deal exactly five months after dealing him to the New York Rangers. He also inked Alex Tanguay two years after trading him to the Montreal Canadiens.
Tanguay, the slick-passing left winger who suffered an injury filled season in Montreal before a disappointing year in Tampa, wasn’t that big of a surprise signing.
Jokinen’s two-year, US$6-million contract was a jaw dropper. Even to him.
Asked what he would have said if he was told five months ago he’d be back, Jokinen replied: “I would have probably said you’re out of your mind.”
There was talk the club was also trying to acquire another former player, Marc Savard, from Boston in exchange for Robyn Regehr, but so far, no deal has been done.
Also Thursday, the Flames lost left-winger Eric Nystrom via free agency. The club’s 2002 first-round draft choice signed a three-year, US$4.2-million deal with the Minnesota Wild.
Jokinen had a tumultuous one-year stint with the Flames before being dealt to the Rangers along with Brandon Prust for Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalik.
He arrived from Phoenix in a deal that cost Calgary a first-round pick and centre Matthew Lombardi, went on an immediate scoring tear, but then struggled mightily under the scrutiny of a contract worth US$5.25 million annually.
In 75 games for Calgary, he collected 19 goals and 50 points.
“I’ve seen four teams in the last three years and it’s tough when you get traded, but you keep your eyes open and see other places and it’s an easy decision to come back to Calgary,” Jokinen said.
Tanguay — who inked a one-year, US$1.7-million deal — felt the same way, even though he twice asked to be traded during the second of his two seasons in Calgary.
“I knew I’d be getting that question,” Tanguay said with a laugh. “A couple of years ago, when I was playing in Calgary, I was playing with Mike (Keenan) and making a lot of money, and I felt the role Mr. Keenan wanted me to play didn’t give me an opportunity to justify my money, the money I was getting paid at the time.
“It was not about Calgary, never about the team.”
Tanguay, whose passing abilities have been sorely missed, is coming off a disappointing 10-goal, 37-point season with the Lightning.
“After the season I had (in Tampa), there’s a lot of people doubting my ability. When I spoke with Mr. Sutter and (president Ken) King, they have a belief I can get the job done. I’ve always had that belief in myself.
“I feel like I’ve got some unfinished business in Calgary. It’s a great opportunity with the year I had last year, and I’m looking forward to getting back to a certain level of play.”
Tanguay had a career best 81 points with the Flames in 2006-07.
“This is a great opportunity,” Tanguay said. “When I sat down with my agent at the end of the year and were looking at the opportunities and the places I would see myself fit into, Calgary was at the top of the list.”
Tanguay knows what’s expected of him.
Now that he’s had some time away from Calgary, so does Jokinen.
“I’ve just got to be myself. I’ve got to play the way I’ve been playing the past. The first 10 games when I came to Calgary (from Phoenix), that’s the way I should play every single night,” he said. “There was a lot of pressure and maybe I wasn’t ready to handle that kind of task, but my mind is pretty clear right now.
“The price tag is not as heavy as last time and I know things are going to work out.”
The Flames have also reportedly signed enforcer Raitis Ivanans to a two-year deal worth US$1.2 million and Tim Jackman to a two-year pact worth US$1.1 million.