The Calgary Flames may not be headed to the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but that is no reason to not start looking ahead for next season, and taking a dip into the NCAA free-agent pool is something they should seriously consider.
On the heels of the Ottawa Senators signing the NCAA's leading goal scorer, Bobby Butler, the Leafs signed 6'5", 205 lbs, University of Vermont forward Brady Irwin. Not wanting to feel left out, the Canadiens then followed suit and signed Brendan Nash from the Cornell Big Red.
They may not become the next Tyler Bozak, but the Calgary Flames desperately need to get younger and faster, as well as stockpile some prospects due to successful years in which they did not get a high pick in the NHL Entry Draft.
Not to mention the fact that, as of now, they do not have a first-rounder in this year's installment of the draft.
If nothing else, the Flames could bolster their roster in Abbotsford, as the Heat have a mediocre record at 35-29-5. Their leading scorer, Jason Jaffray, wasn't even amongst the top 25 scorers in the league (54 points in 72 games).
Could University of Minnesota-Duluth center Justin Fontaine not be of some use to Darryl Sutters' club?
The Bonnyville, Alberta native had a great season this year, scoring 21 goals and adding 25 assists in 39 games for UMD, and it's no secret the Flames are weak down the middle.
The small center is said to have excellent hands and finishing ability around the net, and is not afraid to go into the high traffic areas. It's also said he has a knack for scoring timely goals.
The knock on him may be his size (5'10", 175 lbs), but it's not 1997 anymore, and guys like Derian Hatcher don't exist.
If they want size and scoring down the wing, then Ferris State University, and Kamloops, BC native Blair Riley may fit the bill. The 6'0", 210 lbs left winger racked up 18 goals and 20 assists in 40 games this year, and is described as a power forward with soft hands, great hockey sense, and a cannon of a shot.
Then there is 6'3", 210 lbs power forward Mike Testwuide from Colorado College. He is a danger to score both on the power play and penalty kill, as that's where half of his 21 goals in 36 games came from this season.
He uses his size and strength well when it comes to protecting the puck, and shows a great deal of grittiness. Sounds like a Sutter player to me.
Calgary needs to get active, plain and simple, and going this route is not going to hurt the club...especially when all three would be signing entry-level deals. For a club that looks like they will have cap issues in the near future, the price is right.
Fans in Cowtown are devastated by missing out on the playoffs, but moves such as these would at least give them optimism moving forward.
Not to mention these moves would help Darryl Sutter keep his job in Calgary, which hopefully will be the case.
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