The Calgary Flames have been weak at center for ages, but things might get downright ugly for the team’s pivots to begin the 2010-11 season. We already passed along reports that the outlook is not very good for gritty two-way forward Daymond Langkow, but the team shared some disconcerting news about their other top center, Matt Stajan.
Stajan injured his shoulder in last night’s preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks, but the Flames hesitated to speculate on the matter until today. Pat Steinberg of Flames Nation shares the team’s announcement that Stajan will be out indefinitely with a separated shoulder.
The Calgary Flames announced today forward Matt Stajan will be out indefinetely after suffering a seperated shoulder in a preseason game in Vancouver Tuesday night. Stajan joins Daymond Langkow on the shelf, and both players don’t have a set timetable to return at this time.
Head Coach Brent Sutter says Mikael Backlund will move to Stajan’s spot centering the second line for the time being, so we should see that look for the first time Saturday night when the Flames host the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It’s never easy to guesstimate what “out indefinitely” actually means. Maybe it will only mean a few weeks, but it could also indicate that a player will miss most of the regular season. It’s unclear if the Flames are waiting on more information before they give a solid timetable for his return, but at least Stajan’s injury is a little less scary than Langkow’s.
The team doesn’t have much cap space to make a move for a center. Really, they only have a little space if they do what I assume they might and move Langkow to the long term injured reserve, as they are currently about $2.35 million above the cap ceiling with a full 23-man roster according to CapGeek.com.
If Langkow is moved to the LTIR, they would gain about $2.2 million in wiggle room, so perhaps they could grab a free agent center willing to sign a two-way deal? Looking through a list of free agent forwards for a cheap center, I came across some training camp invitees such as Brendan Morrison and Kyle Wellwood as well as the skilled but somewhat decrepit Robert Lang.
In the event that Darryl Sutter sticks with his current roster, the Flames will gamble big that Olli Jokinen will work things out. Jokinen, Craig Conroy and Mikael Backlund will make for what would be – on paper at least – one of the NHL’s weakest center groups.
It’s far too early to shut the door on a playoff bid for Calgary before the season even begins, but don’t be surprised if some fans hit the panic button soon.