Cammalleri’s future with the Flames is up in the air
Forward could end up being a key veteran leader, but his soon-to-be-expiring contract could make him a tradable asset, too
Given where the team is at, where he is in life, and where he is in his career — and, of course, given the choice — Michael Cammalleri is interested in remaining a member of the Calgary Flames.
“I would consider (staying), for sure,” Cammalleri was saying as the Flames officially checked in for the season on Tuesday at the annual Celebrity Charity Golf Classic at the Country Hills Golf Club. “I have a big role on this team. (Head coach) Bob (Hartley) has put a lot of trust in me and if you can be part of something, it could be a really rewarding experience. I really like the core group of guys here that I think will be here. I get along very well with them.
“I’m close friends with guys I trust on and off the ice. You don’t find that every day in this league. I love this city . . . it’s a great place to live. There are a lot of reasons why I would (stay).”
The decision, however, may not be up to the 31-year-old centreman, now the team’s lone player who has scored over 30 goals in the National Hockey League (twice). He’s a marketable asset for the Flames, an organization that is fully committed to a total rebuild in the upcoming campaign. Already this past summer, he was the subject of trade rumours at the NHL draft.
But, the fact is, his five-year contract that pays him $6-million per season is set to expire at the end of 2013-14.
So already, without a stick being taped or a skate being laced at the Calgary Flames training camp, Cammalleri has that looming in the background.
Pending contract negotiations, however, are the least of his worries at the moment. It’s out of his control and he doesn’t see it becoming a distraction, at least this early in the season.
“Honestly, I don’t think it will,” said Cammalleri, who married his longtime girlfriend Jennifer in the off-season, the mother of their two-year-old daughter Chloe. “I could be wrong. It might bother me. At this point, I’m very matter-of-fact about it. It is what it is. It isn’t what it isn’t. I have no answers for anybody. My only answer is I’m going to play the best I can and that’s in that hands of the powers that be. One day when I’m a coach, in management, or something should I ever do that, then maybe, yeah, I’ll be the one making those decisions.
“But, at this point, it’s just about me playing hockey.”
Which finally, after a long and busy off-season, is what will be happening for the entire group.
On Wednesday, veterans report for fitness testing and physicals at the University of Calgary. Then, on Thursday and Friday, the veterans and rookies hit the ice at WinSport for the start of main camp. The Flames’ first pre-season game is a split-squad match against the Edmonton Oilers Saturday at the Scotiabank Saddledome and Rexall Place.
But it doesn’t seem that long ago that Jarome Iginla was shrugging on a Pittsburgh Penguins jersey. Just yesterday, people were frantically googling Mark Cundari and Reto Berra and trying to research the products of the Jay Bouwmeester trade. And didn’t Sean Monahan’s name JUST get called by Flames general manager Jay Feaster at the NHL draft in New Jersey?
It’s true. After months of talking, talking, analyzing, and more talking, the rebuild is finally here.
These are exciting times for the organization, the city, the teams’ fans. And veterans like Cammalleri, Dennis Wideman, and Shane O’Brien are on-board.
“As a player, you can clearly see what’s going on here,” said O’Brien, who was part of an off-season trade that continued the trend sending Alex Tanguay and Cory Sarich to the Colorado Avalanche. “They’re trying to go younger. But, at the same time, personally, I want to come in every night and give the team a chance to win.
“We don’t have too many expectations and sometimes that can be a good thing for a team when you come in. People don’t expect much from ya. Maybe we can surprise some teams and hopefully we can do that. Hopefully, our younger guys can step up and veteran guys can lead the way.”
Which is exactly what needs to happen with so many rookies advancing to the team’s main camp and a large chunk of which stand a chance of making the big club.
“You’re trying to help them out if they have any questions,” Wideman added. “You try to help them out whenever you can. Younger guys get a little upset if they had a bad practice or a bad scrimmage and you just try to talk to them and help them. If you can see someone’s getting a little upset or whatever, you try to take them aside and know that there is still lots of time.”
For everyone, it’s the first fall without Iginla since 1996 and, now (officially), the first without Miikka Kiprusoff since 2005 (he missed the 2003 main camp because he wasn’t traded to the Flames until later that winter. Then, the 2004-05 lockout happened.).
There are new faces and new jobs available that haven’t been vacant in the past. In other words, the culture at the Scotiabank Saddledome is changing — really fast.
“Undoubtedly,” Cammalleri agreed. “And that’s kind of where we’re going. Whether you like it or not, that’s where we’re at right now. It’s exciting for a lot of reasons. If you’re part of creating that and feel like you’re a part of that and it could be a pretty rewarding experience.”
When asked if he had wrapped his head around the idea that with rebuilding could come challenges, even struggles, Cammalleri shook his head.
“No, I don’t look at it that way,” he said. “I have nothing but optimism for our on-ice product. There’s no reason to have anything but that. I think just because people might not think we’re going to win as much, we don’t think that.
“We will prepare to play as well as we can and win as much as we can. I don’t look at it as such a struggle. I think there are a lot of people that do struggle on this planet and us playing hockey for a living in front of these fans is not much of a struggle.”
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