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Free agency: Will the Flames be busy?

Tuesday, 06.29.2010 / 11:23 AM MT / News
By Mike Board  - CF.com Digital Content Director
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Free agency: Will the Flames be busy?
The Calgary Flames signed a big free agent -- defenceman Jay Bouwmeester -- last year as NHL free agency hit on July 1. This year it would appear they will be a little quieter.

"I don't think we will be that active in (free agency)," said Flames general manager Darryl Sutter.

While there might appear to be some good free agent fits for the Flames, the salary cap and other contracts -- including those of unrestricted free agents Eric Nystrom and Chris Higgins, both of whom played for the Flames last season -- are on the priority list for the Flames hockey operations department.

"We haven't been a real big unrestricted player," said Sutter.

At the 2009 Entry Draft, the Flames made a splash to acquire the rights to Bouwmeester, who was becoming an unrestricted free agent. They then signed him shortly after. A year earlier the Flames signed Todd Bertuzzi during the free agent frenzy. However, Bertuzzi had been bought out by Anaheim so the Flames did not have to spend a bundle of money to get the big winger.

That seems to be more of Sutter's style when it comes to free agency -- finding a fit that is cost effective.

"The biggest reason we have made trades at the draft and before July 1 is that I think that July 1 is a day that players get overpaid," said Sutter.

Indeed, when the Flames signed Bertuzzi it was a week into the free agent season.

So, if we were to go out on a limb, we would suggest Sutter will be listening and working the phones but not making a big, big splash in free agency. Sorry, we know,  that kills all the Ilya Kovalchuk rumours.

But there may be some bargains out there. How about left wing Alex Tanguay, the former Flame. He played 80 games this past season for the Lightning, but scored only 10 goals and added only 17 assists.  Yes, a disappointing year which means his value is likely low. Playing in Calgary he had 22 and 18 goals in two seasons. The question is whether or not the price will be right.

The Flames may have looked at the free agent goalies on the market, but likely won't after trading for Swedish netminder Henrik Karlsson at the recent NHL Draft. With a couple of decent 'tenders in the minors, there doesn't seem a need to buy one on the open market.

Same goes for right wingers although Colby Armstrong might be an interesting fit on the Flames.

Calgary already has a strong defensive core and some blueliners developing nicely in the minors -- Matt Pelech among them. While there are, again, some interesting players likely available for a good price in this category -- Jordan Leopold, Derek Morris, Kurtis Foster and Joe Corvo included -- this isn't an area the Flames are looking to shore up.