A day after the NHL free agency signing period opened hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent, players are looking for real estate agents in their new homes and agents across the league may still be suffering from their celebrations last night.
And the Calgary Flames have inked a single player in Chris Butler, the restricted free agent acquired in the Robyn Regehr trade.
I understand why some fans are antsy. Teams all over the league are drastically changing their rosters (I'm looking at you, Florida Panthers) and the Flames haven't even made a ripple, let alone a wave.
Let's face it - this year's crop of free agents can be described as underwhelming ... at best. Brad Richards is really the only big name in the class and given the amount of teams reportedly in the running for the pivot, he'll likely fetch around $8 million per season mark and will get a long-term deal. That kind of contract doses cold water on the thought the club may take a run at Richards but when general manager Jay Feaster shipped Robyn Regehr and Ales Kotalik to Buffalo, he opened up $7 million in cap space.
"We wanted to create that flexibility," Feaster said on Monday. "We're in a much better position today with flexbility than we were going into the draft."
Right now, the Flames have 13 forwards and four defencemen under contract next season. RFA blueliners Chris Butler and Brendan Mikkelson have been given offer sheets. While both RFA's give the Flames more depth, they won't be filling a top-four role. With the departure of Regehr, the team is likely in the hunt for a shutdown defenceman who can slip into that role.
My guess is the team will look at adding to the defence via trade and will look for forwards through the open market. While the entire UFA crop is thin, there are hardly any top four defenceman available. The forward group has a bit more depth so it's easier to get more bang for your buck at this position.
Here are a few players I think the Flames may take a look at on July 1st:
A glimpse inside the Flames war room in St. Paul, MN (An Alex Ruiz photo)
During the Darryl Sutter era, the NHL Draft always held excitement thanks to his last deals that often brought in a high profile player expected to make an immediate impact on the club.
With Jay Feaster at the helm, the excitement is still there but instead of buzz surrounding new players brought to Calgary in exchange for draft picks, the anticipation stems from the potential to land a blue chip prospect in the first round and immediate organizational depth thanks to two second round picks.
Goodbye Calgary, hello Minnesota! (An Alex Ruiz photo)
If you're involved in hockey and living in Calgary, there's a good chance you were on a Delta flight to Minnesota on Tuesday. As soon as we walked into the airport, we were surrounded by hockey coaches, players, scouts and media. While passing through security, the attendant's first question actually was "You headed to the draft too?" before waving me on after I gave a nod.
Jay Feaster's hands were tied.
The Flames General Manager tried every possible angle to get defenceman Tim Erixon inked to an entry-level deal but as the 5:00 PM ET deadline crept closer, it became apparent there was nothing he could do to convince the 20 year-old to sign on.
If no deal was able to be made, Erixon would be put back into the NHL Entry Draft this month and the Flames would end up with a compensatory pick in the second round which would be equal to the number the player was drafted at.
"He was drafted 23rd. The pick would have been 53rd," Feaster stated. "There's already a player that was drafted ahead of him by Montreal who is not going to sign with them from actually a while back because this player went to college. So the pick probably would have slipped back one."
Not feeling particularly satisfied with that option, Feaster moved on to the next choice. The New York Rangers had been "aggressively" pursuing Erixon over the course of the last season. Earlier in the year, the Flames had told the Rangers, and every other team that inquired about the blueliner, that they had no intention of trading him but desperate times called for desperate measures so Feaster gave the Blueshirts a call a couple days ago.
It is one of the worst days in a season. It's called garbage bag day. We'll call it clean-out day. It is the day, at the end of an NHL season, when a team cleans lockers, does exit interviews with coaches and management and gets the off-season workout binder.
It means the season is over. And, for the Calgary Flames, it means a second year in a row with out the post-season.
Throughout the day, Torie Peterson, Mike Board and Alex Ruiz will post here as news occurs.
Christian Ehrhoff scored the winner in extra time with a shot through a screen.
Shots: 39-36 Canucks
"Obviously, it's the same situation. They're a team, they're going to be trying to get ready for playoffs so they're going to try and bring their A game," Mark Giordano said. "Obviously last year wasn't a good feeling. We want to have a better feeling going into the summer than what happened last year."
Head coach Brent Sutter believes the loss last year stayed with his club long after their season had finished and knows his team will use that as motivation tonight against their divisional rivals.
"It was a real stinger," he said with a shake of his head. "Just with our total, overall effort. That's what not what you want to see your team play like at any point in time. The stakes, I know, aren't the same as if you were getting ready for playoffs or fighting for a playoff spot but nonetheless, you want to see your team compete hard and play hard."
A big issue the team will be grappling with is knowing they are essentially playing for nothing. Olli Jokinen acknowledged this but was sure the club will be able to come through with a great effort.
"We're all professional athletes. We need to win this game to have a good feeling for summer. Obviously we're all disappointed that we didn't get in the playoffs. It's been really frustrating the last couple days to know the fact we're not in the postseason. On the other hand, we want to finish the season with 95 points. We want to leave here going for summer with a positive note and have that feeling for the whole summer. Have that positive feeling and feel after what we did here for the last 50 games for the next season and carry that over.
"I know it's a long summer and there's going to be changes, that's part of the game, but you've got to play for his logo in front of the jersey tonight. The way we play tonight is going to show a lot about what kind of team we have over here. I believe we have a high character team here and we have guys who want to win and want to be part of this team. Tonight is the last chance to show this."
On Wednesday, Miikka Kiprusoff tied a franchise record set by Mike Vernon for most wins by a goaltender. Many thought he would be in net against the Canucks to search for win #263 to break the record but head coach Brent Sutter has opted to hand Henrik Karlsson the goaltending reigns.
"Karl will play in goal tonight," he stated. "After having a discussion with Miikka and not being totally 100 per cent, I made the decision that we would go with Karl tonight."
With Lance Bouma and Greg Nemisz reassigned to Abbotsford, the Flames will be double-shifting forwards in order to fill holes up front. Niklas Hagman, who hinted at a possibility of returning to the lineup last week, has suffered a setback and will not suit up. Brett Carson has stepped in to play on the wing on the fourth line before and that may happen once again tonight.
The Flames didn't skate a fourth line on Friday but did complete line rushes for the other three. Here are our projected lines and defensive pairings from yesterday's full practice:
Tanguay - Backlund - Iginla
Bourque - Jokinen - Jackman
Glencross - Langkow - Kostopoulos
Carson - Stajan - X
Regehr - Bouwmeester
Giordano - Sarich
Babchuk - Staios
Despite seeing the discouraging scores in the Blackhawks and Ducks games during the intermission, the Flames came out flying for the final 20 minutes.
Tanguay took a beautiful pass from Backlund (15) to score his first of the night. Iginla (43) also assisted on the goal at 0:59.
The Oilers finally got themselves on the scoreboard when Magnus Paajarvi whacked the puck past Kiprusoff after a frantic scramble in front of the net. Time of the goal was 3:47.
Curtis Glencross (24) gave the Flames their fifth of the night at 6:24. Greg Nemisz assisted, getting his first NHL point, as did Babchuk (24).
Iginla potted the hat trick 6:47 and the Iggy chants started as the hats flew to the ice. Tim Jackman got on the scoresheet with his 13th assist and Tanguay added assist #46.