Quiet draft for Flames GM



LOS ANGELES — From the outset, Darryl Sutter laughed off suggestions of making a Hollywood splash at the National Hockey League entry draft.

Turns out the Calgary Flames general manager proved true to his word and stayed quiet throughout the annual talent festival.

Talk about acting out of character in the spotlight at the Staples Center.

“The only splash I would have made is off the surfboard,” Sutter said Saturday as the seventh round drew to a close. “There’s not much happening here.”

According to the ever-churning rumour mill, the Flames entered the weekend as potential suitor for Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators and Marc Savard of the Boston Bruins.

Both players would fit the bill as a No. 1 centre for Jarome Iginla, although Sutter said that finding a playmate for the captain is not his top priority.

In fact, Sutter believes he might already have a suitable pivot in Mikael Backlund.

“I don’t really tie it to Jarome Iginla,” Sutter said. “I think we have to be prepared to make sure that Mikael gets a good opportunity to play in our top group of players this year.

“That’s pretty much how it goes.”

The 21-year-old Backlund scored one goal and 10 points last season and finished the year on a line with Iginla and Rene Bourque.

Head coach Brent Sutter heaped praise on the strapping Swede and singled him out as one of his best players down the stretch, but that won’t stop Flames fans from panting over the possibility of Sutter obtaining a superstar pivot to cure the offensive woes of a team that finished a dismal 29th in goals last year.

“I don’t know too many great players that are for sale,” Sutter said. “If you want a great player, you have to trade a great player. And we’re not trading either one of those two guys.”

We can only assume those two guys are Iginla and goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.

As for the Flames trading up in this draft, Sutter said he chose not to exercise that option due to the exorbitant asking price.

“We could have had a first and a second, but it was just too much to give up,” Sutter said. “That pick would have been in the late first, and we just felt there was a real balance with players late in the first to the end of the third round.”

The Flames lost their first-round pick (13th overall) to Phoenix last year in the ill-fated trade for Olli Jokinen. The Coyotes proceeded to select defenceman Brandon Gormley of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Moncton Wildcats.

The Flames also dealt their second pick (43rd overall) to Chicago in exchange for Bourque. The Blackhawks peddled that pick to Toronto for right-wing Jimmy Hayes. Toronto general manager Brian Burke then claimed Western Hockey League sniper Bradley Ross of the Portland Winterhawks.

Calgary head scout Todd Button finally cleared his throat in the third round and selected centre Maxwell Reinhart of the Kootenay Ice (WHL) at No. 64. Maxwell is the eldest son of former Flames defenceman Paul Reinhart.

“Reinhart is a boy we really hoped would stay right where he was,” Sutter said. “We knew we had a good shot at him. Obviously, he’s an elite scorer. He’s a western Canadian kid.”

Sutter opted to claim Reinhart instead of swinging for the fences and selecting the enigmatic Kirill Kabanov.

Blessed with undeniable talent, Kabanov is a Russian kid with the distinction of being kicked off his country’s under-18 team and the Wildcats, but he’s a pure goal scorer and could turn into a star for the New York Islanders, who selected him with the 65th overall pick.

“I don’t know, sometimes somebody thinks I’m bad like a devil,” Kabanov said. “I’m pretty good, like an angel.”

The Flames returned to Kootenay with their second pick in the third round (73rd overall) and picked defencemen Joey Leach.

In the fourth round, they selected Wisconsin defenceman John Ramage, the American-born son of former Flame defenceman Rob Ramage.

“I like his character,” Sutter said. “I like what he did in world junior last year.

“I’m happy. When I saw him at world juniors, I thought I could have a shot at him in a later round. There were a lot of Canadian boys who were not anxious to be out there when he was there — that was evident.”

The Flames selected Brandon LW Michael Ferland in the fifth round before trading for a potential backup to Kiprusoff. Sutter shipped Calgary’s sixth-round selection to San Jose for Swedish netminder Henrik Karlsson.

The six-foot-five, 200-pounder is expected to leave the Swedish Elite League this year for a shot with the Flames.

“He’s a big kid that we have interest in that we’ll bring over and give him the opportunity to play in Calgary.”

Sutter returns home to Calgary on Sunday with the July 1 free agency deadline looming. Restricted free agent Ian White and unrestricted free agents Eric Nystrom, Christopher Higgins, Jamal Mayers, Craig Conroy and Brian McGrattan remain unsigned.

Calgary Herald


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