Johnson: We all can play GM of the Flames, but it’s now time for Jay to play Jay


Names which could make sense for Calgary include Mason Raymond, Tyler Bozak, Valtteri Filppula and Stephen Weiss

Cochrane’s Mason Raymond could make sense as one of Calgary’s top targets when unrestricted free agency opens on Friday.

Cochrane’s Mason Raymond could make sense as one of Calgary’s top targets when unrestricted free agency opens on Friday.

Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, NHLI via Getty Images

It’s this city’s favourite pre-Stampede Guess-What’s-Deep-Fried-Today? parlour game.

You Play Jay (not available in Wii or X-Box versions).

Yes, despairing Calgary Flames’ devotees actually are more than willing to stand in Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster’s well-polished brogues and decide how best to continue the Joan Rivers-degree of cosmetic surgery the organization is undergoing at present.

Everyone can’t wait to take a turn.

Which unrestricted free agents to avoid today. Which to flash the cash on.

And Jay has cash to flash: $17,421,667 according to the Wall Street Journal of hockey financial news,

Free Agent Frenzy Friday is upon us. And given the pre 48-hour window teams were allotted to speak to pending UFAs, make pitches and forge alliances, there’s bound to be a flurry of activity right off the hop.

How deeply Jay Feaster gets involved remains to be seen.

Caution, though, would seem to the watchword.

“We’re not going to go out and say ‘Well, we have to sign four guys at $4 million each so we can say we spent $16 or $17 million’,” Feaster vowed on Wednesday. “We want to get better, we want to improve the team, and the good news is that we have the financial resources to do that.

“From our perspective, that’s how I think we got in trouble. We spent freely and we committed to long-term deals. That’s not a place we want to go again.

“If there are players out there we think help the team and it’s at a term and a dollar-figure we’re comfortable with, we do it.”

The key, as Feaster emphasized, is not merely to spend money, but to spend it wisely.

From a Flames’ standpoint, leading the list of potentials is Vancouver Canucks’ lickety-split winger Mason Raymond. And the demographic certainly fits: Born in Cochrane, only 27, and a goodly amount of big-league experience (374 regular-season games and 55 more in playoffs).

Some inscrutable west coasters are adamant that this one is already done and just waiting for today’s go-ahead to be announced. And Raymond would certainly be a nice addition to an attacking set that has cut ties with both its identity (Jarome Iginla) and a good deal of its panache (Alex Tanguay) over the past few months.

From there ...

None of the golden oldies in search of new digs — Jagr, Alfredsson, Selanne, Iginla, Morrow — make a lick of sense, for a variety of reasons. Both theirs, and Feaster’s.

After the last lockout, remember, GM Darryl Sutter went out and stockpiled bought-out veterans — Darren McCarty, Tony Amonte et al — and anyone who was here at the time can fill you in on how splendidly those additions worked.

Leaf Tyler Bozak’s name continues to swirl, as does Detroit winger Valtteri Filppula, who just might be enticed for big dollars to join his old Red Wing comrade Jiri Hudler. At 29, he’s sure to be much sought-after, though. As will Florida’s Stephen Weiss, who would, it must be said, fill an aching need at centre down at the ’Dome.

Mike Ribeiro? Talented but erratic and sure-to-be costly. Uber-expensive Toronto buyout Mikhail Grabovsky? Ditto. So proceed with the utmost caution.

Nathan Horton of the B’s and Jersey’s David Clarkson are going to have their pick of destinations and the slim pickings on offer this July means their dollar-figures are bound to skyrocket. Hard to fathom Dustin (Pancakes) Penner choosing to give Alberta another fling after his short stint up north in Edmonton.

Among the defensive candidates, Washington’s Jeff Schultz has that local Hitmen tie, but even at 6-6, 227-pounds doesn’t fit that sandpapery style Feaster is trying to cultivate. Still, a quick glance tells you that Flame blueline’s looking mighty thin, particularly erasing Jay Bouwmeester’s 28-minutes-plus per night over a full 82-game campaign.

There’s always Andrew Ference, whose name evokes memories of better days, but age, 34, is against him as a fit here. Ron Hainsey of the Jets, perhaps, but he’s 32. Power play point specialist Pierre-Marc Bouchard, late of Minny, is intriguing but his cap hit last year was $4 million.

On Wednesday, Feaster was keeping his likes and dislikes close to the vest.

Should the GM add a piece or two, great. But if he does nothing, that would be OK, too. No one player available is going to turn this rebuild on its head, time-warp/fast-track it forward substantially. Some out there, however, could obviously help the process along.

This isn’t going to get fixed in day. Not even a day as hyped as Free-Agent Frenzy Friday.

The parlour game of You Play Jay has passed. All turns are over.

Today, Jay Plays Jay. Not an easy game to win at, by any means.

The trick on Feaster’s part being, naturally, to patiently construct a collection of players — young players — capable of moving forward, building together, and not merely a haphazard hodgepodge of different faces recruited solely because change was the only available option.

George Johnson is the Herald’s sports columnist. E-mail him at

Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH

Cochrane’s Mason Raymond could make sense as one of Calgary’s top targets when unrestricted free agency opens on Friday.

Cochrane’s Mason Raymond could make sense as one of Calgary’s top targets when unrestricted free agency opens on Friday.

Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, NHLI via Getty Images

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