Johnson: Biggest NHL trade deadline news for Flames was who stayed put — Mike Cammalleri
Brian Burke tried to deal veteran with expiring contract but wasn’t going to give him away
Brian Burke doesn’t anticipate any residue bitterness or gnawing disappointment to compromise these curtain-dropping 21 games.
He doesn’t foresee Michael Cammalleri going into pout mode or slamming on the binders for what’s left of a season or curling up quietly in a fetal position and whimpering softly at the capricious injustice of life.
He expects him to get on with the business.
“First off,” explained the ‘interim’ general manager, “because he’s a professional. Mike Cammalleri’s been an ultimate professional in the time I’ve been here. And this gives us a chance to continue our contract talks. I’ve already spoken to his agent once since the deadline and said ‘The good thing about this is we can sit down again.’
“I said early in the day on TV — I don’t know which (network) it was — that if we didn’t do anything, it wouldn’t be a catastrophe. And that’s how I feel.
“I’m not sitting here going ‘Damn! I wish I could’ve moved Mike Cammalleri!’ ‘Cause he’s a quality person and a quality player.
“I’d rather take a chance on keeping him here and signing him than giving him away on a terrible deal.”
Easy and predictable to say in the aftermath of a can’t-miss sale that somehow failed to fizz to life. The Calgary Flames were more than willing to accommodate potential suitors — even to the point of taking on a portion of salary owed for the remainder of the season — and still couldn’t find a taker for Cammalleri.
That in itself is somewhat illuminating.
Burke was expecting to move Cammalleri. Actively sought to off-load him. Cammalleri expected to be moved. Had no qualms about the possibility (inevitability?). No doubt, approaching 32, he privately welcomed the idea, facing more stark, lean years of rebuild ahead here.
“I think,” reasoned Burke, “it was primarily due to two reasons. One, the logjam. With two players moving, Thomas Vanek and Matt Moulson, very late I think it kept a lot of teams out of the bidding process and, two, the prices on all of these packages dropped from yesterday.
“We reacted to that. I think if you don’t react to the market moving you’re going to miss out. But nothing materialized that made sense to us.
“I think the fact that the Vancouver Canucks entertained offers on Ryan Kesler also contributed to the logjam. And a lot of it was simply cap-related. There were a lot of teams I think that would have interest in Mike Cammalleri that weren’t in a position to acquire him. We had one, two teams ask if we’d retain salary to move him and we said we would.
“So I don’t think it’s a question of the team not reacting to the market or setting the bar too high.”
And so they’re still married to each other. At least until July 1st when unrestricted free agency opens for business.
When asked if Cammalleri would be amenable for a media chat before Wednesday’s 7:30 p.m. deadline-day date against the Ottawa Senators (all the players had left the building), the reply was: “Not available.”
Funny. He’d been available all day.
Well, at least until the 1 p.m. MST deadline, anyway. But as a raft of other players that fit the same mold — Marian Gaborik, Ales Hemsky, Matt Moulsen, Thomas Vanek — got their wish and moved on. Mike Cammalleri stayed put. And not by choice. His. Or theirs.
Nobody was expecting a queue to form right round the block, but it seemed a foregone conclusion that some team looking for an offensive injection would roll the dice on Cammalleri knowing that if things didn’t work out there was always the ‘out’ for either party of shaking hands and walking away come July.
Just goes to show.
In all honesty, he hadn’t exactly been showcasing himself to uber advantage during the lead-up to the deadline. For the last couple of months press boxes across the league had been stuffed with pro scouts assessing possible additions. But two points, both goals, since Christmas — one on each side of a nine-game concussion-mandated absence — obviously wasn’t enough to sway teams in search of that missing offensive spark. And if Cammalleri was banking heavily on a “body of work”, on his monster playoff run with Montreal or those career watermark 39 goals and 82 points here in 2008-2009 being enough to sway the thinking, win the day, he figured wrong.
“I think everyone needs a couple days for the dust to settle,” said Burke, thrust into the reluctant role of peacemaker Wednesday. “I’m sure Mike’s disappointed — not to be a Calgary Flame, because he loves it here — but to go somewhere and get some playoff hockey in.
“So I think everyone needs a couple days to sit down, have a cold drink and settle down a bit.”
If Cammalleri was disappointed by what didn’t happen Wednesday, he wasn’t alone. Brian Burke’s bold talk of oodles of cap space to play with, of being a “banker”, absorbing salary one way or t’other to get what he wanted, of acquiring tangible assets over draft picks to fast-track the rebuild, failed to pan out.
Burke did receive fair value out of Pittsburgh for 31-year-old Lee Stempniak (third-round selection) and made off like a bandit in the night securing a second rounder for a goalie who has the grand total of one NHL regulation-time win to his name, Reto Berra.
But he couldn’t do more, do enough, in particular to consummate a trade for his prized upcoming UFA. So doubtless many in this city will consider this deadline day more a case of half empty than half full.
Others are bound to rate it an outright failure.
“I don’t pay attention to that,” Burke countered stoically. “The fans are entitled to criticize anything that they want. The people who follow this team are entitled to have their opinions.
“I think that criticism would be muted if (Cammalleri) re-signs here. It didn’t happen today. Not for lack of effort. Not for lack of moving the price. I’m comfortable we did everything we could do to move him short of giving him away. And to me the value of having here for the rest of the season and the enhanceability of maybe signing him to an extension is way preferable to giving him away from nothing.”
Perhaps in the harsh reflection of this deadline-day disappointment, Burke can convince Cammalleri that this team, this town, still represent his best interests. It’s hard, though, to imagine him not yearning for the chance to recapture that addictive buzz he experienced one magical rush in Montreal, though.
Stanley Cup dreams have a tendency to turn to ash in the blink of an eye if a fella allows enough years to slip softly, silently by.
As Brian Burke said, it just didn’t happen Wednesday for Michael Cammalleri. Maybe July 1st will be different.
For the next month, anyway, he’ll wake up, roll over, clamber out of bed, rub the sleep from of his eyes and find himself in . . . Calgary.
Of all places.
George Johnson is the Herald’s sports columnist. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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