The most interesting thing that Calgary Flames acting general manager Brian Burke revealed during Tuesday's pre-trading deadline press conference was that he was prepared to act as the NHL's banker. By that, Burke meant that organizationally Calgary was authorized to spend to the salary cap and is nowhere near it today. Hence, any general manager that needs to dump a contract to make his trade-deadline dreams come true can contact the Flames and they are prepared to help. They won't do it for free, but they can assist a team stuck in salary-cap purgatory.
So, for the purposes of illustration, here is a possible scenario involving the Minnesota Wild, a team that's looking to add a scoring forward and would have a lot more options if somebody would just take $7-million worth of Dany Heatley off their hands. Why not Calgary? Heatley is, after all, from here. In Minnesota's scheme of things, Heatley is now a bit player, playing on the fringes of their lineup, and they would like an upgrade at forward if at all possible. The plugged-in Minneapolis Star-Tribune reporter Michael Russo suggested today that the Buffalo Sabres' Drew Stafford is a likely target, and that would make sense. But what if Minnesota wanted to reach higher and say aim for former University of Minnesota star Thomas Vanek, who still has ties to the area and wants to play for a winner?
For much of the year, the suspicion has been that Vanek wants to play in Minnesota next year anyway, and it would be a fairly simple matter, once Heatley's contract disappears off the books this year, to fit Vanek into that slot. But if Minnesota could find someone to take Heatley off their hands today, they wouldn't have to wait. They could either get Vanek now, or if they can't make a deal for him because the price is high, turn to one of the other forward options out there. Maybe even Marian Gaborik makes a return - although Gaborik appears to be high on the Los Angeles Kings' wish list as well.
The Flames represent a real wild card today. It could be quiet here, or it could be wild. Most believe that Michael Cammalleri will go as soon as some of the other scoring dominoes fall – Vanek, Matt Moulson, Gaborik, possibly Ryan Kesler, possibly Martin St. Louis. Lee Stempniak, a streaky scorer who started the year on the No. 1 line, could be a secondary option at forward for some teams and Chris Butler could be a secondary option on the blueline.
But there are two other Flames' players that would attract attention too – forward Jiri Hudler and defenceman Dennis Wideman – both of whom make too much money on contracts with too much term to be swapped even up for other players. But there's that 'banker to the NHL' thing again. If Calgary was prepared to absorb a portion of those contracts, suddenly both players become far more attractive trade commodities. Hudler is a smart, crafty player who leads the team in scoring and has a playoff pedigree, based on his years with the Detroit Red Wings. Wideman can be a defensive liability, but he does have high-end offensive skills. For a team seeking help on its power play, he could be a good fit.
So it could be an interesting day in Calgary, depending upon where all the chips fall. Stay tuned.
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