Flames Offseason Analysis: Calgary's Cap Woes

Jason HackettAnalyst IMay 18, 2008

The Flames definitely didn't have a great season like everyone expected. The Flames had another roller coaster season where consistency couldn't be found and was ultimately their downfall.

Another season, another first round exit. Where did the Flames go wrong, and what to expect next?

The Flames stumbled into the playoffs only after stringing together back-to-back wins twice since March 1st. Unable to secure a division title that they were battling for most of the season, the Flames spiraled into seventh place.

A battle against Joe Thornton and the Sharks ensued. Many questions were floating around as to whether the Flames would be able to muster anything against a cup favourite like the Sharks. In the Sharks boat, many were wondering if the Sharks would be able to put together a good cup run this season.

As anyone who followed the series would know, the Flames ran into penalty problems often. This includes the six straight penalties in the 2nd period of game 2, during which the Sharks were only able to pot one goal with a handful of seconds left in the final penalty.

The Flames were unable to come back in that game. If the Flames were able to hold on, they would have only been down by one goal and would have had gargantuan momentum after killing off almost half the period straight with penalties. Couple that with the amazing comeback in game 3 and you're looking at a 3-0 series lead instead of a 2-1.

What's done is done and back to the topic at hand. The offseason for the Flames wont be an easy one, by anyone's imagination. With a plethora of players to re-sign including Langkow, Conroy, Huselius, Yelle, Joseph and Vandermeer and little cap room, the Flames with have many questions to fill.

The seemingly undying rumour is the Tanguay to Montreal deal that has been around for a couple of years. Rumoured to be Tanguay for Kovalev obviously wont materialize after Kovalev's comeback season.

With Tanguay's inability to produce like he did in Colorado, his 5.75 million dollar contract comes into play. With little cap room, shipping out Tanguay is a possibility—although it is never easy to just replace your 58 points.

In my mind the odd men odd out would be Yelle and Conroy. With Huselius and Langkow being their number two and three point scorers and Lambardi's potential, Yelle and Conroy could be expendable.

Lombardi has shown great defensive skills over the last couple of seasons and if he is able to start putting up the offensive numbers, I believe he can he could easily secure the number two centremen position like he has for parts of the season.

I would not like to see Yelle go as his shot blocking and veteran leadership are key on this team, but the price will probably be higher for him on the market.

Conroy never did put up the same numbers he did with Iginla back in '03-'04 and probably never will. A great locker room guy and good friends with Iginla, but sometimes being friends just doesn't cut it.

Jim Vandermeer, brought in at the trade deadline, fit perfectly into the lineup. He can hit, fight, shoot and keep his own in the defensive end. Would hope to see him back with the Flames next season.

There are a couple of players who could fill the void this upcoming season. Most notably, Curtis McElhinney to replace Cujo as back-up, as he was back-up during the beginning of the season. He put up decent numbers in the nine games that he saw action this season, posting a 2.00 G.A.A.

Next on the list would be Krys Kolanos after he was posted just under a point per game for Quad City last season with 63 points in 65 games. Although he is under contract to Quad City, he will definitely be getting some calls for tryout this season.

Also, look at Grant Stevenson who was ranked 10th overall for points this season in the AHL. Including some AHL player of the month and player of the week awards through out the season, he is a logical choice if he can make the grade in training camp.

For internal defense they have Tim Ramholt and Adam Pardy. Tim Ramholt put up career numbers last season with 24 points. Both have been recalled for short stints by the "big" Flames this season, with Pardy being the larger of the two 6ft4 214 lbs.

The Newfoundland native is large body that can hit and isn't afraid to do so. Look for one if not both of them to crack the lineup if they are unable to re-sign Vandermeer.

They may also give Rhett Warrener another shot into the lineup after only playing 31 games last season. He may also be on the trade block to shore up some more cap room. His 2.5 million dollars is quite a lot for a 5th or 6th defenseman.

Finally, after signing Mikael Backlund a couple days ago, he will be getting some looks during training camp. He is currently ranked the Flames number two prospect according to Hockey's Future. He is young and new to North American hockey so he may play a couple seasons with his WHL team, the Kelowna Rockets.

It could also depends on if the Flames bring back Yelle, Langkow and/or Conroy. Losing 3 centremen isn't an easy task to fill, so Backlund could slip into the lineup depending on how the Flames tackle the free agent market.

The Flames are no doubt looking to rekindle their '03-'04 run to the Stanley Cup. The only question is, how do they go about doing that? They have signed the core of their defense down to lengthy extension with Iginla and Kipprusoff signed to extensions as well. It is now a matter of the supporting cast to pick up the slack.

Many questions have risen as to whether or not Langkow is a true number one centremen. After putting up a career year in points, the Flames should be trying desperately keep him aboard to see if he can bring his game up to an even higher level.

If not, the Flames will be in dire need to fill the number one centremen slot. The question being: will the Flames be able to bring in that talent with little cap room?

The bigger question will be what will the new cap be for next season? With 44.8 million under contract right now and 9 holes to fill, the question remaining is: how much can you sign to very little and get the most out of them?

This brings up again my point that the Flames will probably try to bring in talent from within their organization in an effort to leave more room to resign Huselius and Langkow.

At this point in the game, it is all about the numbers.


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