Flames GM doesn’t expect to make Hollywood splash
LOS ANGELES — News flash for all those Calgary Flames fans panting over the possibility of a blockbuster trade involving their favourite National Hockey League team: general manager Darryl Sutter, king of the draft-day deal, says he personally expects a quiet weekend on the trade front at the Staples Center.
“To be quite honest, I don’t see us being very active here at all,” Sutter said Thursday in a break from meeting with his scouts. “We have one or two guys who we’re really going to try and work with and get something done — on our own team.”
Keep in mind: Sutter said last year that he planned on selecting a forward in the first round of the draft.
He proceeded to take Swedish defenceman Tim Erixon.
He also spoke of quiet times on the Friday in Montreal, only to trade the next morning for the negotiating rights to Jay Bouwmeester.
So read into his comments what you will.
“Even though we weren’t a playoff team, it’s really a good team, and we’re one player away from being a top team again,” Sutter said, cryptically, in relaxed conversation at the team hotel.
Meanwhile, the Southern California rumour mill raged Thursday with names like Marc Savard and Jason Spezza apparently available. Both would immediately upgrade a Flames team lacking in scoring acumen — although Sutter downplayed any and all trade talk.
“I don’t see us in this market right now,” Sutter said.
Instead, Sutter spoke to the importance of working things out with his own guys.
Matt Keator, agent for unrestricted free agent Christopher Higgins, said Thursday that he plans to meet with Sutter this weekend. Gerry Johansson, representative for restricted free agent Ian White, also plans to talk contract this weekend with Sutter.
Wade Arnott, agent for the unrestricted Eric Nystrom, is also involved in ongoing discussions with the Calgary GM.
“As long as we’re talking, it’s a good thing,” Sutter said, before adding, “ I’m not going to overpay.”
For good reason. The Flames have already committed $53.9 million US to 18 players for 2010-11. With a salary cap of $59.4 million, the club hardly has a bank account brimming with extra dollars.
They also have no pick in Friday’s first round thanks to the Olli Jokinen trade, and no pick in the Saturday’s second round thanks to the Rene Bourque deal.
Barring a trade this weekend, the Flames don’t pick until third round (64th overall) with the pick obtained through the Anton Stralman deal with Columbus.
They also own another third-rounder (73rd overall) and two fourth-round picks (103rd and 108th overall.)
And Sutter doesn’t sound keen on trading up.
“It’s a very deep draft, but it’s not a star-laden draft,” he said. “There’s two or three boys who will play in the NHL next year. And then after that, there’s 75 more who have a chance.
“With two thirds and two fourths, are we willing to do something to go up to 40? Right now, I would say not. It wouldn’t be worth giving up two for one.”
And he’s not thrilled about the price tag of moving into the upper echelon of the draft.
“I’d say there’s a high probability we’re not going to go in the first round, because that’s going to cost you a star player.”
One potential star — who just might still be available in the second round — is Russian Kirill Kabanov. Considered one of the most talented players in the entire draft, Kabanov’s stock plummeted this winter after he left the Moncton Wildcats to play for Russia’s under-18 team — only to have the Russians cut him for alleged “discipline” problems.
Kabanov trained in Calgary this spring and he has tremendous offensive upside.
“Here’s a boy who was close to being a lottery pick,” Sutter said. “Because he’s not sure where he wants to play or where he is playing — that’s why he’s dropped. It really had nothing to do with the calibre of player.
“He could go top-10 or he might go 115th.”
And Sutter might make a trade. Or he might not.
“You’re just making sure you’re staying in on everything — that you know what’s going on,” Sutter said. “There might be a player who pops up that you thought wasn’t going to be available.”
And maybe, just maybe, that player will fit Sutter’s criteria — of a guy who can elevate a good team into a great one.
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