The Erixon Saga
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.
He and Glen Sather threw offers back and forth before they came to an agreement: Erixon and the Flames 5th round pick at the 2011 draft would go to the Rangers in exchange for prospect Roman Horak and two second round picks this year (43rd and 57th respectively).
"As much as we were going into this draft without a second round pick or third round pick, to be able to do it and now have three picks in the top 60, in the top two rounds of this draft, and have a prospect, we felt we made the best of a very, very difficult situation."
This situation began long before the signing deadline. Feaster has been trying to work out a deal for well over a month but Erixon and his agent had several issues they could not reconcile with.
First of all, Erixon did not want to play in the AHL. He wanted a European assignment clause that would allow him to go back and play in Sweden if he did not make the roster. This request is quite common among European players and Feaster had no issue with it.
"The American Hockey League is often not seen as the preferred option for them. We immediately addressed those concerns and indicated that during the term of the deal, if he didn't make our club, we would in fact assign him back to Europe. The other thing that we indicated was that I really felt it was an easy give because I thought it was a moot point. We feel, our scouts feel strongly, that he is NHL ready and certainly we looked at it as a case of a guy who would play on our team this upcoming season."
The next problem was the Flames salary cap issues. Erixon was under the impression he would not be kept on the roster if the team got too close to the cap come next season.
"Whatever kind of a contract we gave him with whatever bonuses, whether they were A or A & B bonuses, those bonuses count against the average annual value. So typically for teams against the cap, that can be a problem - finding salary cap space. We expressed that it wouldn't be because we really felt Tim is going to make our hockey club."
He also wasn't comfortable with the high-priced blueliners the Flames already have signed with no trade and no movement clauses. He was worried he'd be the first one sent down to the Heat thanks to his two-way entry-level deal. Feaster was quick to assure Erixon's camp that they would make it work because he felt Tim was going to be valuable member of the defence corps.
Erixon also did not like that in recent years, the Flames have opted to go with an older lineup. He thought his rookie status would work against him despite Feaster telling him that under the new administration, youth would have the opportunity to play with the team while noting there were reasons some prospects have yet to make the jump.
"From our perspective, it's because some of the young players simply weren't ready. Some of the young players that were brought in, such as a Dion Phaneuf for example, have been traded so they're not here right now but the concern was that when push comes to shove, we're a team that is more comfortable going with veterans."
Feaster and his team hoped he could help persuade the Erixon camp into signing on but nothing worked out.
"From the time those concerns were expressed right up until and including today, we have tried in very way possible to alleviate them. To address them. We tried to be creative. Craig Conroy and I flew to New York and met with the agent, tried to come up with different ways to give Tim and his camp comfort level and we were unsuccessful in that."
That being said, Feaster is quite happy with the return he was able to get for the former first-rounder, particularly the addition of Horak.
"He has a nose for the net. He scored 26 goals this year in Chilliwack. He plays a very hard game as far as his work ethic. He competes, he battles, he takes hits to make a play, he delivers hits. There's no quit in his game. We like his grit. We like his passion, compete."