With another season ending in disappointment for the Calgary Flames, their lineup could face a shake-up in the off-season.
THE GLOBE & MAIL: Eric Duhatschek wonders if the Calgary Flames inability to win close games could once again prove a red herring for ownership and management to fool themselves into believing the club is close to respectability, while the rest of the hockey world “ see a middle- to lower-echelon club whose primary stars, right winger Jarome Iginla and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, are one year older and one year further removed from their respective primes.” Duhatschek pondered the status of Iginla and Kiprusoff and where they fit into the club’s future, suggesting both are reaching a turning point in their careers with the Flames. He also points out the Flames lack depth in their system to begin their rebuild.
CALGARY SUN: Randy Sportak reports the Flames will face changes this summer but it remains to be seen how big they’ll be. “They have six pending unrestricted free-agents currently with the club — Olli Jokinen, Lee Stempniak, David Moss, Tom Kostopoulos, Cory Sarich, Scott Hannan — as well as three forwards due to be restricted free agents in forwards Blair Jones, Mikael Backlund and Blake Comeau.”
CALGARY HERALD: Vicki Hall reports on “ten burning questions” facing the Flames heading into the off-season. Of note: Will coach Brent Sutter return? Should the Flames re-sign Olli Jokinen? Where is the relief for Kiprusoff? Is it time to move him and/or Iginla? Do they rebuild or maintain the status quo?
George Johnson believes Feaster can no long put off making the tough decisions necessary to turn this team around, believing significant changes are in order. Johnson also believes Jokinen’s streaky performance and inability to produce when the chips were down are reason enough not to re-sign him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I’ve said before, in a fair and perfect world, Iginla and Kiprusoff would retire as Flames. But it’s painfully obvious this team is in need of a significant rebuild, and Iginla and Kiprusoff are their most valuable trade chips. Given the lack of quality depth in their system, moving both guys could fetch good returns in promising young players, picks and/or prospects to commence the rebuild properly.
As for their UFAs, only Jokinen merits consideration for re-signing, and then only if his salary demands are reasonable. Moving “Iggy” and “Kipper” frees up over $12 million in salary cap space (I realize the latter’s salary is a little cheaper next season, but the cap hit of $5.833,333 million remains the same). Perhaps more can be cleared via buyouts (Mike Cammalleri? Matt Stajan?) if they wish to go that route.
The bottom line is the Flames cannot maintain the status quo any longer and hope things will get better. It’s been three seasons of the status quo, with no improvement. Now is the time to commence a genuine rebuild in earnest, using their two best trade chips to kick-start the plan this summer.