Calgary Flames Roster News: Old Flames, New Faces - Sutter Shakes It Up

M MacDonald HallSenior Analyst IJuly 3, 2008

Love it or hate it, the Calgary Flames will have a slightly different look heading into the 2008-09 NHL season. Flames GM Darryl Sutter has been busy the past few weeks, tweaking his team bit by bit, player by player.  The key components have remained the same, but their supplement has gotten younger and hopefully hungrier. Want to know what to expect next season, as of this moment? You asked for it! It’s a bit of a mash, but here are all the details:

To start off, here's a quick look at one-time Flames who won’t be playing for Calgary next year.

Most recently, forward Kristian Huselius was signed by the Columbus Blue Jackets and, as expected, will not be returning to Calgary in blazing red. The UFA was not offered a contract by the Flames, but found a four-year deal worth approximately $4.75 million per season in Columbus. The silky Swede found the best consistency of his entire career in Calgary, though he still received criticism for being an on-again, off-again player. Watch Huselius next year to see if he can continue to improve, or falter under pressure.

Also in Columbus, former Flames defenseman Mike Commodore was given a ridiculously inflated contract, receiving $18.75 million over the next five years. Commodore, a 2004 Calgary Cup-run call-up, only played 18 regular season games as a Flame, notching just one assist and four penalty minutes.

Veteran goaltender Curtis Joseph has returned to the Toronto Maple Leafs, earning $700,000 to play back-up to Vesa Toskala this year. Joseph, who arguably had his greatest successes in Toronto, will receive a warm welcome, and likely play a greater proportion of games to what he did in Calgary.

Former Flames penalty-shot hero Shean Donovan was inked to a two-year deal in Ottawa on the second day of free agency.  Dono had his career season in Calgary in 2003-04 with 42 points, and was known for his nifty breakaway shots.  He has not approached those point totals before or since.

Back in Calgary, Sutter has made it clear that gritty centreman Stephane Yelle won’t be back in the Fall. Saying he was sure he would work with 34 year-old Sandbox again, he added the move came down to a matter of age. Yelle, an indispensable checker, has made a great impact on the team’s defensive mentality, and will easily find another position elsewhere. Able to work forward or even drop back to defence, he is a versatile role player in any game situation.  He will be missed on the third-line forecheck, as old Yeller has left some big skates to fill.

Meanwhile, veteran forward Owen Nolan remains a question mark as his future with the club remains uncertain. In an interview with local sports radio The FAN960 yesterday, GM Darryl Sutter said that while he personally likes and respects Nolan, business must be conducted without emotion. He added that an offer has been made to Nolan and his agent, and he’d be glad to see him back in the Calgary locker room. An added veteran presence can’t hurt, though Sutter is confident his troops have a fair dose of leadership within the current roster. 

(*Author's note:  Nolan did not re-sign with Calgary and will face the Flames over already drawn battle lines as a member of the Minnesota Wild.  The veteran power forward signed a two-year deal with the Wild worth a reported $5.5 million, just days after this report was filed.)

Defenseman David Hale has moved on to the Phoenix Coyotes, where he will play for $1.4 million over two years.

Marcus Nilson (LW), Rhett Warrener (D), and Anders Eriksson (D) were all placed on waivers a few days before free agency (26 July), but their contracts were not bought out by the team. Other clubs may put in an offer to match their current salary, otherwise they may remain on the roster to start the year as QC Flames in the AHL. All three saw limited ice time last season; Nilson was held to three goals and five points over 47 games, Warrener played just 31 games (four points), and Eriksson had one goal and 18 points in 61 games while being the most maligned rearguard on the Calgary roster for his repeated defensive mistakes.

Each still have at least a year on their contracts.  [See below for a list of Calgary Flames player salaries.]

In case you hadn’t heard, Alex Tanguay became a Montreal Canadien on Draft Day 2008. (Read about Draft Weekend moves here.) In a telling moment, Tanguay was quoted by the press as saying he was looking forward to not always being the go-to guy.  Since stars generally accept and enjoy the fact that there are great expectations on them, it may speak to why he didn't make the major impact he was expected to in Calgary.  A talented player, Alex's playmaking ability dominates his game, though he has been urged to shoot the puck more often.

And so, there were vacancies to fill.  For those of you hoping Sutter would reunite the 2004 squad and take another shot at the Cup, relax. At this point, it really isn’t about reliving the past, it’s about finding some magic formulae moving forward. Besides, Sutter’s got the corners covered.

Moving ahead, Jarome Iginla, Miikka Kiprusoff, Robyn Regehr, and Dion Phaneuf are all tied to long-term contracts.  Forwards Craig Conroy, Eric Nystrom, and Daymond Langkow were each resigned in the past few days under reasonable terms. Langkow, a potential All-Star who apparently signed before the frenzy of 1st July, will reportedly earn approximately the same amount of money per year as Mike Commodore in Columbus. An incredible deal for the Flames, as many of their key players agreed to a “home-town discount” in order to stay and help the club win.

The fact is, this year's free agency - like many before it - have wildly inflated the average NHL salary.  Luckily, most of Calgary's big names signed their long-term contracts ages ago, and raises will not come into effect for a while.

The team also signed defenseman Jim Vandermeer to a new contract, and also added Jimbo’s elder brother Pete (F). Fans will remember Jim’s performances last season as a defenseman-cum-winger, who would move up the line to take on a physical role. Sound defensively with an occasional offensive spurt, Jim will solidify the back end.

Pete Vandermeer, a life-long AHL/WHL/ECHL stalwart, brings a fearsome reputation to the Quad City Flames, Calgary's top affiliate farm team. Having recorded only two NHL outings so far in his career, the 33 year-old has racked up over a thousand penalty minutes in other Leagues. In a single season, he notched 457 PIM in just 58 games as a Richmond Renegade, and has made an indelible impression on many a noggin every single year.

Prospect centreman Daniel Ryder, brother of former Canadien/current Bruin star Michael Ryder, has decided to come back to Calgary Flames training camp. Dan, who was drafted by Calgary in 2005, walked away from his position on the AHL roster last season as he reconsidered his future in hockey. The organisation received no explanation when he left, and the situation was left fluid until Ryder’s return. When he first walked out on Quad City, he stated he wasn’t likely to play hockey again, but the exact reason for his departure was never made clear; apparently, he’s had a change of heart and has been welcomed back with open arms.

Defenseman Mark Giordano has also decided to return to Calgary. An early fan favourite, this highly touted come-from-nowhere rearguard registered seven goals and fifteen points in 48 games in 2006-07, his first prolonged taste of the NHL. Excited for his return to the blue-line in 2007-08, locals were disappointed to hear Giordano would play that season in Russia. The headstrong young man had been offered a two-way contract with the Flames, which he found unacceptable, and went on to sign with Dynamo Moscow. This time around, the 24 year-old received a three year, one-way offer, which he duly accepted. With the one-way terms in place, fans will get their fill of the Toronto product to make up for last year's absence.

Big man Brandon Prust also found a new contract, and could see a bit more NHL action this year according to Darryl Sutter. The scrappy forward, who has had his jaw broken in a hockey bout, has only ten games worth of NHL experience but has been keeping in fighting trim in the AHL.

Also on the Quad City front, goaltender Curtis McElhinney was re-inked and will be looking to appear in the big leagues as a possible relief back-up.  With one start in five NHL appearances, improving AHL stats and the departure of Curtis Joseph, McElhinney may get his chance.  He is currently listed on the Calgary Flames roster.

Additionally, a flock of new (and newish) players are headed to Cowtown to spice things up. In an early Draft Day move, Sutter finagled a three-way trade with the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, and opened the weekend with the first big move. (You can read about Calgary's Draft Weekend 2008, including signings, trades and draft picks right here.)  

Bringing aboard 26 year-old centreman/winger Mike Cammalleri from LA in exchange for Calgary’s first round pick (17thoverall), the Flames have become that much faster. “Cammy” or “Shorty” has impressive NHL, AHL, and CCHA numbers and has tallied 205 points in 283 NHL games. He will be expected to add supplemental scoring, speed, and youthful hunger. Sidelined by the occasional injury, Cammalleri will need to stay healthy if he hopes to approach his NHL career high 80 points. Overshadowed only by Anze Kopitar in LA, this will be the young forward’s best chance yet to improve his game by playing with some of the best players in the League today.

As a trivia note, Cammalleri was the very first player to score a regular season goal in Europe, in a 2007 match overseas.

Kyle Greentree, one of many left wingers signed by Calgary this week, will be added to the Flames roster and expected to play in the AHL and occasionally the NHL. 6’3” - 215 lbs, the Victoria native has only played two NHL games thus far (for Philadelphia), but has put up decent numbers in other leagues and Sutter hopes to help him become a regular call-up.

Greentree, Prust, and Nystrom are expected to rotate turns for the fourth-line left wing spot.

Day Two of the open market began with yet another headline Calgary move. Former Flames-killer Curtis Glencross has been added to the exclusive list of players expected to suit up in Calgary next year. Picked up on the second day of free agency, fans will either love this left winger for what he can do for the Flames or hate him for what he has done in the past. Regularly victimising Flames goaltenders as both an Edmonton Oiler and a Blue Jacket, it will be a welcome change to see him aim the other way. Yet another speedster added to the line-up, his overall NHL point totals are not high, but he has a way of making himself useful when he’s needed.

Also on 2 July, the Flames picked up Alberta native and former Chicago Blackhawk Rene Bourque, cousin of NANBoxing Champion Wayne Bourque. He was traded from Chicago for a future draft pick. 

Hailing from Lac La Biche, Rene is considered to be another underrated young player plagued by injury trouble. He was involved in an on-ice pile-up in 2006 while playing against Columbus, which resulted in his neck being slashed by Nikolai Zherdev's skate blade. He was taken to University Hospital, where it was eventually announced that his jugular vein had indeed been gouged after muscular penetration of the blade, and though listed as stable at one point, he nearly lost his life. 6’2” - 213 lbs, Bourque has recorded 75 points over 183 games with Chicago since 2005-06. He will need to stay healthy and use his big body in play to stay on the roster, but Rene could easily be a good Flames fit.  At this point, it appears that he remains an RFA until he comes to specific terms with Calgary. 

Distant yet relevant, 2002 Flames draft pick David Van Der Gulik (LW) and prospect blueliner Ryan Wilson have both been signed to the Quad City Flames. Wilson has recorded fantastic numbers in the OHL, and notched 71 points in 58 games with the Sarnia Sting last season. However, the biggest knock against him is that he is defensively lax… not the best quality in a defenseman. Both prospects will need to work on their game if they want a future in the NHL at some point. Until then, they will work to improve in the AHL.

In an interesting trend, many of Calgary’s recent signings first came into the League undrafted. Jim and Pete Vandermeer, Glencross, Bourque, Giordano, and Greentree are among the players who originally signed directly into the NHL rather than being selected at a draft. It isn’t necessarily significant, but younger, underrated players often have a bit more drive to prove themselves. We’ll have to wait to see what talents these men can bring to the team dynamic.

In any case, a number of on-ice issues have been addressed, others still need some work. Indications are that Darryl may make another medium-sized deal before the end of summer. Right now, we have a fairly clear view of the club’s plans for the near future. Lots of left wingers, lots of never-say-die players, lots of speed, youth, and skill. Let’s hope all the dots connect this season, and the fans and the team get the best out of every man on the roster.

**  On the coaching front, assistant/development coach Wayne Fleming is currently working overseas but is expected to return to Calgary for next year.  Otherwise, the coaching staff remains the same for the Calgary Flames and the Quad City Flames organisations. 

**  Most other Calgary players who are not mentioned here are still under contract - see below for details. This does not preclude future trades. 

Calgary Flames player-contract details as of 3 July 2008  [Players listed in order of salary]:

Jarome Iginla ($7m /2012-13), Dion Phaneuf ($6.5m /2012-13), Miikka Kiprusoff ($6m /2012-13), Daymond Langkow ($4.5m /2011-12), Robyn Regehr ($4m /2012-13), Adrian Aucoin ($4m /2008-09), Cory Sarich ($3.6m /2011-12), Mike Cammalleri ($3.5m - 2008-09), Rhett Warrener ($2.5m /2008-09, on waivers), Jim Vandermeer ($2.3m /2010-11), Matthew Lombardi ($1.8m /2009-10), Anders Eriksson ($1.5m /2008-09, on waivers), Wayne Primeau ($1.4m /2009-10), Curtis Glencross ($1.2m /2010-11), Craig Conroy ($1m /2009-10), Marcus Nilson ($1m /2008-09, on waivers), Dustin Boyd ($.742m /2008-09), Eric Nystrom ($.69m /2009-10), Brandon Prust ($.5m /2009-10), Curtis McElhinney ($.65m /2008-09), Mark Giordano (unknown). 

Legend: (2008-09 approximate cap hit {$million} /last full year of contract)

Kyle Greentree and Pete Vandermeer's salaries will fall under Quad City purview.

Current Calgary UFAs and RFAs:

Stephane Yelle (UFA), Owen Nolan (UFA), Mark Smith (UFA), Adam Pardy (RFA), Rene Bourque (RFA), Brent Krahn (RFA-VI)

Legend: UFA - Unrestricted Free Agent (means any team may make an offer to the player, which they are free to accept or reject).  RFA - Restricted Free Agent (means other teams may make an offer, but the Flames retain the Right of First Refusal [they can match or deny the outside offer] and/or the option of a Draft Choice Compensation from the other offering organisation).  RFA-VI - Restricted Free Agent, Group VI.

Contract details gathered from various news sources regarding 2007-08 contract signings, and confirmed by

M MacDonald Hall is the Bleacher Report Calgary Flames Commuinty Leader, and will be adding to the NHL Department over the Summer.  Future articles include an analysis of Calgary's 21st Cenury playoff performances, further roster changes and player bios, and various trivia topics.  M's Bleacher Report archive includes an assortment of Flames/NHL articles. 

M also writes on various other topics, sport and non-sport related. Enquiries regarding NHL writing or other subjects may be directed to M’s Bleacher Report profile or via email.